A 32-year-old Fort Worth man has been arrested, accused of killing his wife as the couple’s children slept in a nearby room.
Elanceia “Lana” Gardner, 32, was discovered dead by her children about 8:37 a.m. Thursday inside the family’s home in the 1700 block of Fairmount Avenue.
A cause and manner of death are still pending, however, Fort Worth police said Friday that the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office has indicated to detectives that the woman’s death is a homicide.
Shalen Gardner, who had voluntarily talked to detectives Thursday, was arrested Friday afternoon on a murder warrant by fugitive officers.
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In a subsequent interview with homicide detectives Chris Brashear and Tom O’Brien, he admitted to strangling and sexually assaulting his wife, then trying to cover up his crime, O’Brien said.
Shalen Gardner was being booked into the Mansfield jail Friday night.
Tarrant County court records show Shalen Gardner had a troubled history, including threatening a family member with a knife in November 2010.
Five months later, he killed the family’s pet pit bull by striking the dog in the head with a hammer.
In May 2011, Shalen Gardner pleaded guilty to terroristic threat of a family member, a Class A misdemeanor, and cruelty to animals/torture, a state jail felony.
He received two years deferred adjudication probation in both cases.
But his probation in both cases would be revoked in August 2012 after he violated several conditions, including failing to enroll in anger management classes and submitting to urine drug tests. He was sentenced to 180 days in county jail on the misdemeanor case and 180 days in state jail on the felony, records show.
In September 2015, Shalen Gardner was jailed again, this time for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
He pleaded guilty and was later sentenced by State District Judge George Gallagher to five years deferred adjudication probation in February 2016,
But abiding by the conditions of his probation once again proved too difficult, court records show.
A year later, in February 2017, Shalen Gardner was ordered into SWIFT probation (Supervision with Intensive Enforcement), a stringent program aimed at probationers who have repeatedly violated the rules and are likely candidates for revocation.
Still, the bond violations continued.
Repeatedly, court records show, Gardner was ordered to be confined in jail as an amendment to his probation —ranging from a couple days at a time to 30 days.
In April, State District Judge Mollee Westfall ordered Gardner to wear a GPS monitor.
The next month, Westfall ordered Gardner confined 45 to 120 days in a substance abuse facility for felons, an alternative to prison for felony offenders facing probation revocation.
‘I’m not a bad guy’
While held in the Tarrant County Jail in late May — awaiting bed space to free up at the facility, Gardner wrote Westfall a letter — a copy of which is included in his case file.
In the letter, he asked the judge to reconsider his sentence, explaining “I’m not a bad guy, I’ve just made a couple mistakes.”
He wrote that he’d found a job at a nearby sandwich shop. That he has a wife of 10 years and two children whose birthdays were coming up.
“I’ve never in life missed any of that. It hurts me right now that I’ve missed Mother’s Day,” he wrote. “I hate I have to put my family through this. My wife and kids are all I have in this world. If I lose them, I would be so crushed.”
Gardner also told the judge that his repeated incarcerations are hard on his children and depressing to both he and his wife.
“We just got back on good terms, working through our marriage and I was on a good track,” he wrote. “I just made a couple mistakes smoking because of some problems between me and my mother-in-law. I pray and read my Bible every night.”
If released, he promised, he’d commit no more bond violations.
The judge didn’t change her sentence.
Gardner went to the substance abuse facility for three months and was released in September.
Two months later, he’s now accused of murder.