• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

      Columnist
    • October 31, 2014 in Columnists

    He shot us through the heart

    No, I didn’t report on the trial for the murder of Leslie Pinkston. That was expertly handled by Davis Enterprise reporter Lauren Keene. But I did read Lauren’s stories, and got angrier and angrier with each one. The shock and trauma I still carry with me from the day a woman was murdered in cold blood at the doorstep to my office started giving way to fury.

    I called Lauren on Wednesday after the defense and prosecution rested, and she told me that closing statements and possibly a verdict would happen the next day.

    “I think you should go,” she said.

    I hadn’t attended the trial yet. For one thing, I didn’t have anyone to cover for me at work. For another, it would just be a duplication of effort, and besides, Lauren was the best person for the job. But another reason was that I just didn’t want to be propelled back to one of the worst days of my life — the first time I ever experienced horror. I keep trying to forget it, but it follows me around like an unwanted shadow. The last thing I wanted was to let it catch up with me.

    But then I got mad.

    It started with Lauren’s story about how Gardner stalked and terrorized Leslie over many months, and while in jail on stalking charges, he was allowed to make over 1,000 phone calls to Leslie in the span of 24 days. This is nuts. Why isn’t each of those phone calls a count of harassment and stalking? How about muscling up stalking laws: If someone is incarcerated for stalking, if he contacts the victim from prison, each incident carries an automatic extra year of incarceration. For Gardner, that would have landed him a thousand years behind bars.

    Boom. Done.

    And Leslie would still be alive.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again and again: Our stalking laws must change.

    If only there was a way to keep Gardner alive for a thousand years, just to extend his misery. I want him to suffer. Endlessly. Yes, I’d make a lousy Buddhist. And no, it’s not a pretty thing to admit. Here’s something even less pretty: I hate him. Hate isn’t a familiar feeling to me. But, there it is. And that’s what compelled me to follow Lauren’s advice, and attend the closing arguments and wait for the verdict. Unlike Lauren, I didn’t have to wear my cool, objective reporter’s hat. I wore my columnist’s hat to court. Lauren can write about the facts. I’m writing about the feelings.

    If ever anyone deserved the death penalty, William Gardner did. He is a cold-blooded executioner. For whatever reason, DA Jeff Reisig chose not to pursue it. I give myself solace in considering that life in prison may actually cause Gardner more grief than a quick execution. In his closing arguments, Reisig reemphasized how Gardner controlled and manipulated women, commanding them like obedient, frightened dogs. Imagine the stress it will cause for him to be forced to wear the collar for the rest of his life. It will be torture, every moment of every day, for as long as he lives.

    Good.

    May he have a long and healthy life.

    Reisig’s blistering closing statement was airtight. He annihilated any hope for Gardner’s defense attorney, J. Toney, to proclaim his client’s innocence and frankly, Toney didn’t even really try. Maybe Mr. Toney isn’t like other defense attorneys — maybe he has a soul. Maybe he couldn’t look himself in the mirror knowing he’d spoken any words that might paint Gardner as anything but a monster.

    Yes, Reisig was on fire in his closing statements. He’s an elected official, you know, and he has won my support forever. He’s the Man Who Brought William Gardner Down. He’s got my vote. He batted those guilty verdicts home. When the first was read — guilty for first degree murder — I wanted to jump up and scream “YES!!!” But the audience was ordered by the bailiff not to cheer or show joy when the verdicts were read, so each verdict was met with stony silence… except for the sobbing of Leslie’s friends and family.

    I started looking around the room at them, their weeping faces in their hands, their shoulders heaving, and considered the magnitude of the pain caused by one person. So much agony. So much grief. William Gardner shattered all of their lives and left a little girl without her mother. Besides Leslie, he assaulted Leslie’s friends and family, emotionally and psychologically. In a perfect world, he would have been charged and convicted of emotional assault for each and every one.

    Beyond this first circle of harm and assault, Gardner is responsible for traumatizing the entire Winters community. Most people knew Leslie, and if they didn’t, they know someone who did. Six degrees of separation? Not here. Two, tops. We’re all connected here, some way, somehow. Leslie’s murder touched us all. And, it touched our town.

    Winters isn’t a place where people are gunned down in broad daylight. The sound of gunfire is so unusual to Winters residents that some didn’t even recognize the sound. Bad things just don’t happen here. Winters is Mayberry and Shangri-La all rolled into one. Our little town is warm, welcoming, friendly — innocent as a kitten and safer than your grandmother’s arms.

    Was.

    William Gardner changed that forever. Everything we believed about our town shattered on Nov. 18, 2013 like the window on Leslie’s car. Everything we knew about our lives lay in pieces on the ground. The day he shot Leslie in the head, he shot the entire community through the heart. We may heal, but we’ll always hurt. And we’ll never forget. And we’ll never be the same.

    One man — William Gardner — caused all this incalculable pain. May karma be his cellmate until he draws his last breath.

     


      • Jesse Loren

      • October 31, 2014 at 1:42 pm
      • Reply

      The shared pain is real. Winters might have lost its innocence, but it’s still Mayberry with that killer behind bars.



      • True… but… now we know that bad things can happen. We didn’t know that before. And… that murder was the Pandora’s Box of bad things for Winters. After that was the crane accident, and then the suicide. Our town has been beaten up over the last year.


      • Sarah

      • October 31, 2014 at 2:33 pm
      • Reply

      Incredibly written. Thank you.


      • Kathryn Branscum

      • October 31, 2014 at 4:41 pm
      • Reply

      Very well written Debra! There is no one who could of wrote it better than you! Winters will never be the same, when we all drive by that spot we can never forget about Leslie’s last day on earth. That killer Gardner, hope he rots in hell!



      • I totally agree. And, I’m looking forward to the day they tear our buildings down to build the new hotel. Someday, we won’t even have to see the building anymore. But yes, we will all drive past that spot in the street, and never be able to forget.


      • Dawn Barrera

      • October 31, 2014 at 8:10 pm
      • Reply

      You once again wrote a fantastic editorial on the most horrible event in Winters history. I hope that William is terrorized in prison by the meanest of mean in there. He will have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. He will have to look over his shoulder day and night. He will have to sleep with one eye open. May he never ever have another peaceful day in his life.


      • Heather Pinkston Mccants

      • October 31, 2014 at 8:21 pm
      • Reply

      As you and I have previously discussed. Thank you for the beautiful article. And thank you for the heartfelt words personally. I appreciate it beyond measure. Our family appreciates everything that winters has done for us in our time of utter horror. But as I have already said to you, we will all heal, in time, in our own ways.
      Those lucky enough to really know les, carry pieces of her soul deep within us. It’s just learning to have that be enough to move forward with. It’s learning to love her from present to spirit. The one thing that I have learned from this nightmare is that while violence can rob a person from their loved ones, the love itself lived on. And grows.



      • Yes, the love lives on. Leslie will NEVER be forgotten by anyone in the community. I am hoping that stalking laws will change in her honor. And, I am so glad you liked this column, and if it brings a tiny bit of comfort to any of Leslie’s friends and family, it will please me immensely. Any time, any way, I can be of support… all you have to do is ask.


      • Maya North

      • October 31, 2014 at 11:17 pm
      • Reply

      I don’t think there’s a mother alive who doesn’t understand the bared-fang, claws-out desire to rip that monster into tiny, bleeding pieces, grinning savagely all the while. It’s difficult to allow the justice system to do that for us (symbolically, at least) when our every instinct is to exact our revenge ourselves. He STOLE her life. He robbed her loved ones — especially the little girl she loved more than breathing. He did this because he hates women — views them as property and when property misbehaves, property must be destroyed. It’s men like that who tarnish all men with distrust, and yes, he also stole an entire community’s sense of innocence and safety. Be comforted by the fact that there are criminals in prison who are, at heart, decent-enough people who have wives and daughters and mothers and other female relatives they adore. They will make sure that Mr. Gardner’s time in prison is spent with an appropriate amount of misery. With luck, you’ll hear all about it. And smile. <3



      • Maya, I will smile hugely. I will write a 90-point headline on the front page too: JUSTICE IS SERVED. Gardner said he was delivering “street justice” to Leslie for the crime of trying to leave him. Street justice pales in comparison to prison justice. May he meet his much-deserved sentence there.



    • Thanks Debra for putting into words the feelings of so many of us Winters residents. Your article is heart wrenching in its intensity and I think will start the healing process for many of us!



      • Thanks, Betty. I am still having trouble wrapping my head around how you “heal” from this… but “one day at a time,” I suppose.


      • Tammy Ables

      • November 1, 2014 at 4:56 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks for writing this beautiful article. Leslie will never be forgotten. I cried when she was killed but had happy tears when the “murderer” was convicted. I agree the stalking laws have to change!


      • Emily Back

      • November 1, 2014 at 7:41 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you for this Debra ❤️



    • God bless this dear family! I am from Ohio, and guess what? I lived the life of what Les must have lived, to some degree. I was a lucky one, and I got away. I know the terror, the living hell of the fear, constant torment, wondering when….when will it be? I just know he’s going to…. well, his butt is in prison now, and this is year 24!!! My thoughts and prayers are with the family. I, too, am from a small town (in Ohio.) I celebrate with you on this verdict. Trust me, he will get his in prison. That’s just how it goes in there. He brought it all on himself. Prayers go out to Les’s daughter, too.



      • Dear Micah, I’m so sorry you had to live with mental terror, so you can relate to what Leslie was going through. But… so glad it turned out differently for you, and that your tormenter is in prison. I hope he gets what is coming to him in prison – just like Leslie’s killer.



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