Expert witness could be key to defense of mom charged with murder

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A mother is accused of brutally murdering four of her children at a Memphis apartment complex on July 1, 2016.

More than four months later, very few details have seen the light of day. That leaves neighbors, other Memphis mothers, and our entire community with so many unanswered questions.

Shanynthia Gardner's defense attorneys said there is more to it and that others should not be so quick to judge.

Exclusive dispatch audio chronicles what happened inside an apartment at 7449 Southern Hills Drive on July 1, 2016.

In the audio, you can hear a dispatcher ask how many deputies were responding to the home.

"Are any more people coming to the scene on Southern Hills," the dispatcher asked.

This is followed minutes later by a deputy on scene describing what is taking place.

"According to suspect's son, suspect is inside with the 2-year-old," the deputy said.

Shelby County deputies responded to Gardner's home after a neighbor reported Gardner's 7-year-old son ran from the apartment screaming his mother had stabbed his sister.

An affidavit documents what deputies discovered inside. It says 6-month-old Yazi and 3-year-old Sya were found in the living room. In the bedroom, the bodies of 2-year-old Sahvi and 4-year-old Tallen were discovered.

All four children had cuts to their throats. Dallen, 7, was the only child who escaped.

Deputies said Martin Gardner, the father of the four children who died, received a phone call from his wife who allegedly confessed to the killings.

Attorneys Craig Morton and Shannon Davis are representing Gardner.  For the first time we are getting an insider's look at how this case may unfold.

"Has she shown any remorse?" WMC Action News 5 asked.

"That's something I cannot comment on, I know that she is very distraught over the death of her children," said Morton.

So far, Gardner has appeared confused and incoherent in court, and Morton said a medical specialist will have to determine if she was mentally aware the day her children were killed.

"This case is probably gonna be determined by what medical experts believe," said Morton.

The WMC Action News 5 Investigators learned Dr. Phillip Resnick has been retained to evaluate Gardner and give his expert opinion on her mental state. Dr. Resnick has worked on dozens of high profile cases involving parents charged with murdering their children.

He served for the defense attorneys representing Casey Anthony and Susan Smith. In the case of Andrea Yates, who was convicted in 2002 of drowning her five children in a bathtub, Resnick argued Yates was insane. Her murder conviction was overturned.

Resnick also served for attorneys in the high-profile trials of Scott Peterson, serial killer cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy Mcvey. Resnick's expert opinion could play a key role in a Grand Jury's decision to indict Gardner.

"The impact on her individually, her family, on her marriage, it's just a tragedy," said Morton.

In the four months since the deaths, family and close friends created a protective bubble around Martin Gardner. We were unable to speak with him regarding the case.

Few people have spoken out about the incident, but when they have, family and friends paint a picture of a loving mother and tight-knit family.

"That was a beautiful sweet young lady, what happened, I don't understand," Dallen's grandmother, Sonya Clayton, said.

"Wait to see what comes out and don't just judge somebody," Davis said.

After a short stint at the Memphis Mental Health Institute, Shanynthia Gardner now sits at the Shelby County Jail East Women's Facility, stuck between the realities of what she may have done and what she lost.

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