What: Memorial service for Leslie Renne Pinkston
When: 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26
Where: St. Anthony Catholic Church, 511 Main St., Winters
Memorial fund: Has been established in her name at First Northern Bank in Winters
The search for a suspected killer gained national status Wednesday with the addition of the U.S. Marshals Service to the hunt for William Carl Gardner III, Winters Police Chief Sergio Gutierrez announced.
Gardner, a 30-year-old Sacramento resident, is wanted on a murder warrant stemming from Monday’s brazen daylight shooting of his former girlfriend, Leslie Pinkston, outside her downtown Winters workplace. She was due to testify against Gardner in a stalking and criminal threats trial next month.
“We are working diligently through every hour and opportunity we have to locate him,” Gutierrez said in an interview Wednesday. “We still consider him armed and dangerous, and a threat to the community.”
Other police and sheriff’s departments in the region are assisting with the homicide investigation, and having the Marshals Service on board is expected to give the search for Gardner a nationwide reach — and possible international exposure as well — as public alerts are issued and fliers with his photo and description are posted in high-traffic locations such as airports, Gutierrez said.
A “wanted” poster issued by the federal agency instructs anyone with information about Gardner’s whereabouts to call the Winters Police Department at 530-795-4561 or the Marshals Service headquarters at 877-926-8332.
Gardner — who also goes by the alias Malik Mahammad — is described as an African-American male, about 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. Anyone who sees the suspect should report him immediately and avoid confronting him on their own, Gutierrez said.
Pinkston, a 32-year-old Winters High School graduate and mother of a young daughter, died of a gunshot wound to the head she suffered during the 9:30 a.m. shooting, which occurred as she sat in her parked vehicle on Railroad Avenue. The alleged murder weapon has been described only as a handgun.
Witnesses reported seeing the gunman — believed to be Gardner — flee the area in a tan van that had been parked across the street from the shooting scene. It was unclear whether an accomplice was involved, and Gutierrez said he didn’t have any information to offer on that possibility.
The chief also was mum about a house in north Sacramento that police searched Monday night, only to come up empty-handed. A resident there later told a Sacramento news station that Gardner had arrived at the house at about noon Monday and offered to sell or trade his car, but Gutierrez said he couldn’t confirm any reported sightings.
Court records reviewed by The Enterprise this week showed that Gardner — who also had a recent domestic-violence conviction in Sacramento County, in addition to the Yolo County stalking case — was able to repeatedly post bail despite a history of missing court dates and violating the terms of his probation. A yearlong county jail sentence handed down in May resulted in little, if any, actual incarceration, records show.
More recently, Gardner had been in custody at the Yolo County Jail from Oct. 22, when he was remanded in Yolo Superior Court on a Sacramento County violation-of-probation warrant, until his release Friday evening, three days before the fatal shooting.
Gutierrez said it’s uncertain whether California’s prison realignment program, in which certain convicted felons serve their sentences in county jail rather than state prison, sometimes resulting in the early release of other inmates deemed lower-risk, played any role in Gardner’s custody status at the time of the shooting.
But while he wasn’t prepared to connect realignment to the Pinkston slaying on Wednesday, “I would say there are some definite concerns about the level of protections that realignment has,” Gutierrez said.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene