By Adrian Sainz, The Associated Press
An attorney has been hired to represent a Tennessee woman charged with fatally stabbing four of her children, but he declined to discuss the case outside a courthouse Tuesday.
Craig Morton said he is representing 29-year-old Shanynthia Gardner, who has been charged with first-degree murder, child abuse and child neglect in the deaths of her three daughters and one son, all younger than 5.
Shelby County General Sessions Judge L. Lambert Ryan waived Gardner’s arraignment during a hearing at which she appeared by video in a Memphis courtroom. Gardner, who was wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, did not answer questions the judge asked. She is being held without bond.
Outside court, Morton declined to talk about facts in the case.
“It’s too early to be making comments on a case of this nature,” Morton said.
Both he and prosecutor Jennifer Nichols plan to file a motion seeking to preserve evidence in the case, including information gathered from social media.
Authorities have not said why they think Gardner killed her children. Investigators are looking into whether she has mental health problems. Friends and neighbors of the family have held vigils to remember the children.
“It’s devastating,” said Nichols, who also declined to discuss details of the case. “It’s important not just to our office, but to the whole community.”
The judge scheduled a hearing for July 11. Gardner’s relatives declined to speak with members of the media outside the courtroom.
Sheriff’s officials say Gardner cut her children’s throats Friday afternoon at her apartment in a gated community in unincorporated Shelby County. She acknowledged killing them in a phone conversation to their father, Martin Gardner, court documents say. A large butcher knife with what appeared to be blood on it was found in the apartment, the documents show.
When deputies arrived at the apartment, they found Gardner with superficial cuts to her neck and wrists, court documents said.
The victims were identified as 4-year-old Tallen Gardner; 3-year-old Sya Gardner; 2 year-old Sahvi Gardner; and 6-month old Yahzi Gardner. A fifth child, 7-year-old Dallen Clayton, escaped the attack, the documents said. He is Gardner’s son from a previous marriage.
Dallen was able to flee the apartment and tell someone that his mother was stabbing his sister. Shanynthia Gardner was taken into custody by deputies shortly afterward.