After nearly four weeks of trial at the Ellis County Courthouse, Sandra Louise Garner of Maypearl has been found not guilty on murder charges related to the January 2018 death of her husband, Jon Garner. The judgment was handed down by presiding judge Cindy Ermatinger after more than three hours of jury deliberation.
The mood in the courtroom on Oct. 10 as the State and defense prepared for closing arguments was one of exasperation. The trial was initially anticipated to be a two-week affair, but numerous witness testimonies and pieces of documentary evidence significantly prolonged the process.
The State, represented by lead attorney Ricky Sipes and Chief Felony Prosecutor for the 40th Judicial District Court Lindy Beaty, presented nearly 400 exhibits over the course of the trial.
Sandra Garner was arrested on Jan. 10, eight days after her husband Jon was shot three times in his bed at their home in the 100 block of Creekview Circle in Maypearl. She was indicted for the murder on Mar. 21, 2018.
Garner told police that after going to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. the night of the shooting, she “was awakened by two gunshots and saw a masked male holding a gun and flashlight inside of her residence.”
A report by the Daily Light from Mar. 30, 2018, noted that Garner told investigators that the masked intruder spoke to her after firing on her husband, letting her know that he was a disgruntled former employee of Jon’s at WEPAK years earlier. According to Garner, the intruder then forced her to remove $18,000 from the family’s safe and hide or he would take her life.
Evidence seized from the home upon an initial search included consumer electronics belonging to Sandra Garner, from which investigators recovered Internet search inquiries from the month of December, such as “how can I kill someone in their sleep,” “16 steps to kill someone and not get caught,” as well as searches for “fentanyl” and other medications. These searches punctuated other routine inquiries like “espresso machine” and cappuccino recipes.
Investigators searched the Garner home crime scene over the course of several days. On Jan. 5, law enforcement recovered a .38 Taurus handgun wrapped in a paper towel inside two plastic bags inside a Ford Mustang at the scene. Witnesses testified that the gun and vehicle belonged to Sandra Garner, and a laboratory analysis revealed that the weapon had been used to kill Jon Garner.
The defense acknowledged evidence, such as gunshot residue found on both of the defendant’s hands and a frantic 911 call she made after the shooting, but claimed that the prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense attorney Thomas Pappas underlined Garner’s failing health due to multiple sclerosis and the lack of established motive for the crime.
“People don’t get to their dream lives and then shoot their husband,” Pappas said, describing the Garners’ comfortable financial situation. He repeatedly referred to Sandra Garner as a “60-year-old nana with MS” who relied on her husband rather than his money.
The State’s closing arguments were led by Beaty, who refuted Garner’s original statement and arguments from the defense regarding the possible involvement of Jon’s step-son, Wes.
The verdict was handed down shortly after 5 p.m. on Oct. 10.
Pappas spoke to CBS shortly after the verdict outside the 443rd District Court.
“I can’t believe what she has been through,” he said, noting as he did in his closing arguments that he believed that Garner was arrested too quickly. “A lot of her life is gone that she can’t get back.”
Pappas said that the next step in the case should be picking up where earlier investigations had left off.
“We’re not done,” he said. “She wants to see that the person who killed the man she loves truly gets justice.”