Tarrant County

Man Pleads Guilty to Assaulting, Killing Estranged Wife Found by Kids the Next Morning

Killer agrees to spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole for the woman's 2017 murder

NBC 5 News

A man has agreed to spend the rest of his life in prison for the capital murder of his estranged wife in November 2017.

The Tarrant County District Attorney's Office said 37-year-old Shalen Gardner plead guilty to sexually assaulting and strangling Elanceia "Lana" Gardner at their Fairmount Avenue duplex as their children slept in a nearby room.

The DA said the children found their mother's body the next morning.

Gardner will spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

According to prosecutors, Gardner, who also admitted to trying to cover up the crime, has a lengthy criminal history that includes threatening family members, hitting the family's pet pit bull with a hammer, at least one parole violation, and unlawfully possessing a handgun.

Neia Roland-Hill, Lana's mother, read a letter during the allocution Monday morning saying Gardner was welcomed into their family as one of their own and he took away the very person who made life worth living.

She wrote how the children, who were left to find their mother's body before school, "will never forget how you took their mother's life."

"You may have taken their mother away, but you can never steal their joy, their spirit, their future or happiness or their hope," Roland-Hill wrote.

Prosecutors said two months before the murder Gardner had been in a substance abuse facility and that he and his wife were separated and planning to divorce.

"Intimate Partner Violence is never limited to a single victim; the families of those suffering are so often left behind to pick up the pieces," said Tarrant County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Allenna Bangs. "Sentences like this are a reflection of how serious the Tarrant County community and the CDA's office pursue IPV predators."

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