Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies work the scene where four young children were fatally stabbed in Memphis. Photo / AP
A mother killed four of her children by cutting their throats and
sheriff’s deputies found a large butcher knife with what appeared to be
blood on it in an apartment were the killings took place, according to
Shanynthia Gardner, 29, of Memphis, has been
charged with four counts of first degree murder while committing
aggravated child neglect in the deaths of her three daughters and one
son – all under the age of 5.
Their bodies were found after deputies entered her apartment in a gated community in unincorporated Shelby County on Saturday.
also faces four counts of first degree murder while committing
aggravated child abuse; four counts of aggravated child neglect or
endangerment; and four counts of aggravated child abuse.
She is being held in custody, with an arraignment scheduled for Wednesday.
An affidavit filed in Shelby County court by a sheriff’s
detective identified the victims as 4-year-old Tallen Gardner;
3-year-old Sya Gardner; 2-year-old Sahvi Gardner; and 6-month old Yahzi
A fifth child, 7-year-old Dallen Clayton, fled the apartment and escaped the attack, the affidavit said.
Dallen Clayton is Gardner’s son from a previous marriage.
Gardner spoke by phone to her husband, Martin Gardner, and acknowledged that she killed her children, the affidavit said.
Attempts to reach him or relatives of the Gardners have been unsuccessful.
is a terrible act, an egregious act that has shocked, I believe, the
community, and has shocked our staff to the core,” Shelby County Sheriff
Bill Oldham said. He did not release a suspected motive for the attack.
were called to an apartment complex in unincorporated Shelby County.
When they arrived at Shanynthia Gardner’s apartment, they found her with
superficial cuts to her neck and wrists, the affidavit said.
Deputies also found four children with “severe lacerations to the throat,” the document said.
children were found in the living room – Yahzi was in her baby carrier
and Sya was lying next to the carrier. The other two victims were in a
The affidavit said Dallen was able to escape the apartment and run up to a man, yelling that his mother had stabbed his sister.
The man told officers that he saw Shanynthia Gardner come outside with a large knife in her hand, then re-enter the residence.
Deputies found the knife in the apartment, the affidavit said.
have not divulged what circumstances they believe led to the killings.
Oldham said investigators were trying to determine if Gardner has mental
health problems. The state Department of Children’s Service has offered
its assistance to local law enforcement, but has no record of
interaction with the slain children, said spokesman Rob Johnson.
Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham speaks at a news conference about the fatal stabbings of four children. Photo / AP