Photographs by Pulaski County sheriff's office
Thursday, October 12, 2017
A 45-year-old Little Rock man who stabbed his aunt to death last year was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in prison and also for a series of unrelated armed robberies in Little Rock and North Little Rock.
Michael Dewayne Gardner, with previous convictions for manslaughter and armed robbery, cannot qualify for early release from prison, said deputy prosecutor Amanda Fields.
In exchange for the 30-year term, Gardner pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, reduced from capital murder, four counts of aggravated robbery and a sexual-assault charge.
Gardner, who was arrested three months after Gwenda Yvette Moorman's body was found, will be 74 years old when he completes his sentence. Moorman, 62, and Gardner's father are siblings.
Moorman, a mother of two with five grandchildren, was found stabbed to death in her West 11th Street home in May 2016. She had been dead for up to four days, and it took authorities more than a day to confirm the remains were hers.
Police had gone to the home because a neighbor called 911 to report that she had not seen Moorman in several days and that there was an open door at the residence. Officers went inside and smelled a strong odor.
The kitchen entranceway was covered by a bedsheet, and behind it was Moorman's body on the bloody floor.
The neighbor said she had seen Gardner driving Moorman's 2014 green Fiat during the past week and had seen him sitting with Moorman on her porch.
The car was missing, but the next day, Little Rock police found a North Little Rock couple driving the Fiat in the 2600 block of Gaines Street.
The driver, Sahaya Datru Pharoah, 44, was cited for driving on a suspended license while his passenger, Rose Marie Flowers, 51, was arrested after officers reported finding her with crack cocaine and a drug pipe. She pleaded guilty to drug charges in November in exchange for probation.
Gardner, who was on parole for armed robbery and drug possession, also was arrested that same day on charges related to three Little Rock armed robberies along South University Avenue over a four-day span earlier in May 2016.
He was not arrested for Moorman's slaying for another three months, and police did not divulge the evidence against him, although court records show Flowers was listed as a witness in the murder case.
The robberies were a carjacking at the Fun Wash laundry at 3702 S. University Ave., a robbery at the Shell convenience store at 3200 S. University and a holdup at the Tobacco Outlet at 1508 S. University over the span of about a week.
At the tobacco store, Gardner also stole one employee's Kia Soul and made a second worker leave with him. According to police reports, he forced that woman to strip at gunpoint in the car, then groped her before releasing her in the 1900 block of Sixth Street in Little Rock.
Gardner was subsequently charged in a fourth May 2016 holdup, the knife-point carjacking of two women in a car in the drive-thru at a McDonald's restaurant at 600 E. Broadway in North Little Rock.
In that robbery, police said, Gardner put a knife to the throat of the driver and cut her before she and her passenger escaped the car. That holdup occurred a week before Moorman's body was found.
Court records show that in 1991, Gardner, then known as Michael Garrett, was part of a group of young men responsible for the May 1991 death of 37-year-old Varnia Don Williams in Little Rock.
Authorities said Gardner, then 19, and the other men, ranging in age from 15 to 21, attacked the older man at a convenience store at 12th and Woodrow streets. They chased him into the road, where he was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
Prosecutors said that the assailants were trying to steal Williams' jewelry and a package of wieners he'd just purchased.
Gardner and three co-defendants were initially charged with first-degree murder but were convicted of manslaughter, with Gardner accepting the maximum sentence, 10 years in prison.
In 2000, Gardner was sentenced to 11 years in prison for clubbing an England liquor store employee with a bottle and stealing $500 from the cash register. He was sentenced to prison a third time in April 2011 when he received a six-year term for drug possession.
Metro on 10/12/2017
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