The three-week hunt for an alleged killer led authorities Monday to Las Vegas, where the man suspected of killing his former girlfriend in Winters was apprehended early this morning following a standoff involving two hostages, police said.
William Carl Gardner III was taken into custody after more than six hours of negotiations with local and federal officers at the Camden Pointe Apartments on Tropicana Avenue, about six miles east of the city’s famous casino strip, where Gardner had holed up with a woman and a small child, according to Winters Police Chief Sergio Gutierrez.
No injuries were reported during the incident.
Now, the 30-year-old Gardner is expected to be returned to Yolo County to face murder charges stemming from the brazen daylight shooting of Leslie Renee Pinkston on Nov. 18 outside her Railroad Avenue workplace.
“I didn’t realize how much I was affected until I heard they caught him. I’m stunned. I don’t really know how I feel,” Pinkston’s mother, Carla Crane, said in an interview Monday night as news broke of Gardner’s pending capture. “It’s a combination of relief for my family, and for everybody, that he’s off the streets. Just total relief.”
It was not immediately clear how long Gardner had been in Las Vegas and whether anyone had aided him during his 21-day run from the law.
Gutierrez, whose department joined with the U.S. Marshals Service in the nationwide manhunt for Gardner, said both agencies would hold a news conference today to discuss the circumstances surrounding Gardner’s arrest.
Gardner’s discovery occurred the very day he had been scheduled to stand trial in Yolo Superior Court on charges that he stalked and threatened both Pinkston and Crane during a Jan. 13 incident at the women’s Winters home.
During the standoff with authorities in Las Vegas, Gardner placed a phone call to CBS 13 in Sacramento, during which Gardner suggested there was more to the story of Pinkston’s murder than what has been reported.
“I know that, even if I tell the police the full story, the full story is never gonna come out,” Gardner told the television station. He claimed the January dispute stemmed from money of his that had gone missing and that, during a jailhouse visit, Pinkston said she had him arrested “to prove a lesson to me.”
Gardner has been wanted on a murder warrant since shortly after the shooting, when, authorities say, he approached Pinkston’s parked sport-utility vehicle and fired several shots through the driver’s-side window. Pinkston, a 32-year-old mother of a young girl, died of a gunshot wound to her head shortly after she was airlifted to the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office later confirmed that Gardner had been released just three days earlier from the Yolo County Jail. He had been remanded into custody on Oct. 22 on a no-bail warrant out of Sacramento County, where he had violated the terms of his probation in an unrelated domestic-violence case.
A week after the shooting, it was disclosed that Gardner’s release was the result of a $130 bail reassumption fee that may have been paid by Pinkston two days earlier. Her family and friends expressed doubts over the claim, but also acknowledged that Pinkston at times had difficulty extricating herself from the abusive relationship.
Domestic-violence experts told The Enterprise it’s not unusual for victims to face complicated pressures “on multiple fronts.”
“They can be under pressure from friends or family who want to protect them, and they may be under pressure from their batterers who may have threatened them or coerced them into acting in ways that might not make sense to others,” said Lynnette Irlmeier, executive director of the Yolo County Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center.
She added: “Finally, there are the internal pressures victims face, and the guilt they may feel when their abusers are arrested. They may not want their abusers sent to jail or to ruin their abusers’ lives. They just want the violence to stop.”
— Reach Lauren Keene at email@example.com or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene. Winters Express editor Debra DeAngelo contributed to this report.