Ex-boyfriend Charged In Killings

Suspect Lived In Basement Apartment Of Annapolis House Where Man And Woman Were Slain

July 03, 2009|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

Elbert Gardner Jr. was in his basement apartment late Tuesday night when he heard his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend together in her bedroom. Gardner, who still shared the rental house with Lei Tyree Johnson on a quiet Annapolis street, grabbed his .38-caliber revolver from under a pillow and went upstairs, he told police.

The 56-year-old Navy veteran shot Samuel Marshall Fowlkes Jr., 49, once in the head, then shot his 38-year-old former girlfriend once in the chest, charging documents say.

On the way out of the bedroom, he ran into his ex-girlfriend's 12-year-old son, Anthony. He tried to smother the boy with a pillow, then placed him back in his bed and fled, according to the charging documents.

About six hours later, Anthony ran across the street, where a neighbor called police.

The rest of Goodrich Road awoke to yellow crime scene tape cordoning off the beige rambler with a rosebush in front, and a block filled with police and news media.

"Things like this happen, but you don't expect them to happen in your neighborhood," said Jean Paterson, among the shocked neighbors who say even minor crime is infrequent there.

A revolver recovered from the scene was registered to Gardner. By Wednesday night, Gardner, who had been picked up by police within hours of the fatal shootings, confessed to killing Johnson and Fowlkes and to assaulting Anthony, according to police.

He was ordered held without bail at a court hearing Thursday, charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted second-degree murder.

Gardner lived in the Annapolis area for nearly two decades, and had been at the home of the shootings for about nine months. He had no previous criminal record, and worked as supply technician at the Naval Academy's finance department since 2000, a position that did not put him in contact with midshipmen, an academy representative said.

Records show that a four-bedroom home in the 200 block of Chatham Lane in Annapolis he owns with his estranged wife has been the subject of foreclosure proceedings since April.

At the Chatham Lane home, Gardner's son, Curtis Gardner, 29, said his father had a troubled relationship with Johnson, and that the son had encouraged Elbert Gardner to end it.

"Some people would do things they would not normally do because they are pushed," Curtis Gardner said, referring to the relationship.

He described his father as a generous man who spent 22 years in the Navy as a diesel engineer, leaving the military in 1993. Curtis Gardner said he believed the lease on the Goodrich Road home was in his father's name, and that Johnson was living there rent-free.

David Coleman, a neighbor on Goodrich Road, said police canvassing the block told him Johnson and Gardner shared the house after they broke up. They agreed to date other people, "but they were not supposed to bring anybody over to the house, but she did," he said the investigator told him.

Anthony has been the subject of an outpouring of concern from neighbors, who described him as a polite child who attended the Phoenix Center, a school for special-needs students, and frequented the local Boys and Girls Club in Annapolis.

Fowlkes was a resident of Obery Court in Annapolis, an apartment complex that is mostly torn down or boarded up. Court records show he was convicted of robbery, a fourth-degree sex offense and battery more than 15 years ago.

"He was a good guy. He never hung out," said a woman at the complex who was acquainted with him but who would not give her name.

Little was known about Johnson. She had no criminal record, and computerized records indicate she may have lived for a time at Sarah's House, a Fort Meade shelter for women and families in recent years. A spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment on Thursday.

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