A lawyer for Keith J. Gardner, the Lorton man accused of fatally stabbing his parents and grandfather inside their home in May, said yesterday that Gardner plans to plead guilty next month to three counts of first-degree murder.
Gardner, 39, did not speak during the brief arraignment in Fairfax County Circuit Court, which occurred just two days after he was indicted on charges of killing Jannis Gardner, 63; Jimmy Gardner, 64; and Elmer Gardner, 90. Keith Gardner has been in jail since his arrest on other charges in Pensacola, Fla., on June 1.
Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. asked Judge Jane M. Roush to set Gardner's next court date for Sept. 7, at which time he expects the plea to be entered. Public defender Richard C. Goemann confirmed that Gardner intends to enter guilty pleas, and the hearing ended moments after it had begun.
Goemann declined to comment after the hearing, saying he preferred to wait until the pleas were actually entered. Horan also declined to comment.
Gardner's only remaining immediate family member, Kim Gardner, did not attend the arraignment, but said later: "I'm glad it's finally going to be basically over. I'm glad there's not going to be a trial."
Kim Gardner also supported Horan's decision not to seek the death penalty. He said prosecutors consulted with him and two of his uncles, and "we all expressed the opinion that the death penalty wouldn't bring my parents back."
The bodies of the Gardners were found in a fallout shelter behind their home May 11, but police believe they were killed at least 10 days earlier. Keith Gardner and his wife, Michelle Yi Gardner, 19, had been living with Keith Gardner's family and were seen at the home as late as May 10.
Friends and neighbors became concerned when Jannis Gardner missed church on two consecutive Sundays without notifying anyone. Jannis Gardner's pastor, Dan Hopkins, said he visited the family's home May 10 and spoke with Keith Gardner. He said Keith Gardner told him his parents were in Arkansas, where the elder Gardners maintained a number of rental properties.
But other neighbors remained curious, and after seeing no movement in the Gardners' house, they pried open a hidden underground shelter that had been caulked shut. The bodies of the three victims were covered in lime powder. Investigators have not publicly identified a motive for the killings.
When detectives entered the Gardners' home, they found blood in the bedrooms of all three victims, as well as knives, rubber gloves, and signs that someone had tried to clean the rooms and the knives.
After the bodies were found, Keith Gardner fled and was arrested three weeks later in Florida on probation violation charges. His wife then disappeared and was later charged in Alexandria with carjacking. She turned herself in earlier this month and is now being held in the Alexandria jail without bond.