Texas executes man convicted of shooting estranged wife to death in 2005

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - A man was executed by lethal injection in Texas on Wednesday, 15 years after authorities say he fatally shot his estranged wife who had told friends she did not expect to get out of the abusive marriage alive.

John Gardner, 64, was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m. at the state's death chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement. He was the first inmate in the United States to be executed in 2020.

"I hope you find peace, joy and closure. Whatever it takes to forgive me. I am sorry. I know you cannot forgive me but I hope one day you will," he said before he died, according to the statement.

Gardner was convicted and sentenced to death in November 2006 for the killing of his wife, Tammy, a year earlier.

Soon after they got married in 1999, Tammy Gardner began showing signs of physical abuse that included bruising, headaches, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression, prosecutors said.

Her friends told authorities that Tammy at one point had a black eye after John shoved her into a bookcase. In another instance, she had a large bruise across her face after he hit her with a hammer, court documents said.

She told friends on many occasions that she would not get out of her marriage alive, prosecutors wrote in a court document submitted during a recent appeal.

On Jan. 23, 2005, about a month after she filed for divorce, Tammy Gardner, 41, asked a co-worker to help her "disappear" so no one could track her. That night, her husband came to her home and shot her once in the head, prosecutors said. She died two days later at a hospital.

The next day, Gardner turned himself in to police in Mississippi. Investigators matched evidence from the crime scene to evidence they found in the truck he had borrowed from his brother-in-law, court papers showed.

Prosecutors said Gardner also used his brother-in-law's .44 magnum, which his brother-in-law kept fully loaded with live bullets under his mattress. When the gun was found back under the mattress after the crime, it had one spent shell.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio and Peter Cooney)

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