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Army veteran with PTSD killed his wife; jurors say it was unintentional

JESSICA BIDWELL/STARS AND STRIPES

By JASON TIDD | The Wichita Eagle (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 9, 2018

An Iraq War veteran from Kansas with PTSD who shot and killed his wife was found guilty of murder, but jurors said it was unintentional.

Zachary Gardner, 33, of Winfield, was found guilty Wednesday of unintentional second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Melissa Gardner, the Cowley CourierTraveler reported. Prosecutors sought a second-degree murder charge, claiming the evidence showed the shooting was intentional, while Gardner’s defense asked the jury for involuntary manslaughter.

Gardner spoke about his military service in Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2005 and 2006, NewsCow reported. He was near three bomb explosions, and one led to the amputation of his left foot. Gardner was discharged after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

His treatment of counseling and medication was working, but he cut back on the medications because he didn’t feel like himself, Gardner said in court, the CourierTraveler reported.

Blood tests show Gardner had used methamphetamine and other drugs the night he shot his wife. He said he took a gun to bed and put it under his pillow because he was concerned about two men in the house doing drugs with his wife, the CourierTraveler reported.

Gardner said he woke up and heard a scream and a shot, but he could not remember which came first, NewsCow reported. When he realized he had shot his wife, he was “in shock and grief and terrified.” He was arrested after police were called the next evening.

Sentencing is set for March 12.

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