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Court reports: Bakersfield man charged with killing wife before making attempt on his own reportedly admitted crime to medical staff

Slide Court Report

A Bakersfield man charged with murder in the killing of his wife in December before making an attempt on his own life admitted the crime to medical staff while being treated at a hospital, according to multiple law enforcement officers who overheard the conversations, which are cited in police reports.

John Gardner, 64, told a medical resident attempting to treat his self-inflicted wound he had intended to kill himself before he turned his thoughts to harming his wife because “why was he going to (kill himself) just because he wasn’t happy with her,” a statement from an officer guarding Gardner at the hospital said.

The statement is contained in newly available Bakersfield Police Department reports filed in Kern County Superior Court.

Gardner has been charged with first-degree murder for the death of his wife, Jane Harnett Gardner, 58, who was found dead at 4:51 a.m. Dec. 6 in the 7700 block of Vaquero Avenue. He is next due in court March 18 for a pre-preliminary hearing.

Statements from officers first responding to the scene describe a grisly situation.

One detective said in his statement, part of the reports filed in Kern County Superior Court, that he kicked open the garage door leading into the residence during a welfare check and proceeded to the bedroom where he found a dead woman with blunt force trauma to her head and body on the bed and a man suffering from an apparent self-inflicted wound to his wrist on the floor.

Later identified as John Gardner, the man moaned the word “sorry” several times before being taken to Kern Medical in an ambulance, the detective said in the reports.

Gardner later told detectives he had taken eight or 10 grams of Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication, and would sometimes take tranquilizers when he and his wife “had words.” According to the detective’s statement, Gardner acknowledged being bipolar.

A family member of Jane Gardner told a police officer Gardner was controlling and said the relationship between he and his wife was toxic, according to the investigatory documents. The family member added that because Gardner and his wife had been stuck in the house due to the coronavirus pandemic, Jane leaving the house for a hair appointment the day before the homicide could have “triggered” him.

In an email chain between Jane and her family, the investigatory documents say, Jane complained Gardner accused his wife of not telling the truth about her hair appointment once she arrived home.

While still in the hospital less than a day after his wife’s death, an officer guarding Gardner overheard a conversation he had with a nurse.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” Gardner said, according to the officer’s statement. “I’ve done some wacky things but… I’m still responsible. You do something like that, you’ve got to admit it.” The statement says Gardner began crying at this point.

“I can’t believe I killed her,” he said, according to the statement. “It’s really crazy, it’s beyond crazy.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.