‘Work of the devil’: Memphis mother accused of fatally stabbing 4 of her own children

WARNING: This story contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Sheriff’s deputies found a large butcher knife with what appeared to be blood on it in an apartment where a Tennessee mother killed her four children by cutting their throats, court documents say.

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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 Friday. Neighbours and friends of the family attended a vigil to honour the victims on Saturday.

READ MORE: 4 children fatally stabbed in Memphis, mother charged

Gardner 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 without bond, with an arraignment scheduled Tuesday.

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 Gardner. A fifth child, 7-year-old Dallen Clayton, fled the apartment and escaped the attack, the affidavit said. Dallen is Gardner’s son from a previous marriage.

WATCH: Tennessee police say mother charged with first-degree murder of her four children

Gardner spoke by phone with her current 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.

“This 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 Saturday.

Deputies were called to an apartment complex in unincorporated Shelby County on Friday afternoon. 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.

READ MORE: 911 calls capture moments before Texas mother killed 2 daughters

Two 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 bedroom.

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.

Authorities 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.

About 30 people attended an outdoor candlelight vigil at the apartment complex on Saturday evening. They prayed for the four children, the surviving boy, and Shanynthia Gardner. A pastor poured water from a decanter onto the ground, in remembrance of the victims.

Sonya Clayton, Dallen Clayton’s grandmother, said she had not seen the boy’s mother for a few years. She said she was shocked by the attack.

“She was a sweet young lady,” Clayton said of Shanynthia Gardner. “What happened, I don’t understand.”

Later, Sonya Clayton said she forgives her former daughter-in-law.

“I know this is the work of the devil,” Sonya Clayton said. “I know this is not Shanynthia. And I pray and I love Shanynthia.”

Sonya Clayton said her son, Detrail Clayton, has not seen Dallen since the stabbings. She said her son is not doing well, and he wants to see Dallen soon. Sheriff’s officials say the boy has been under protective supervision.

Neighbour Mona Hansen, who attended the vigil, became emotional when talking about how her own daughter adopted three girls after their brother was killed by a parent. Hansen called the killings of the four children in the apartment complex where she lives “heart-wrenching.”

“Like the minister said, you don’t know what they could have been in life,” Hansen said of the Gardner children. “Their lives didn’t even get started yet, before they were taken.”


Johnny Depp changes Amber Heard tattoo from ‘Slim’ to ‘Scum’

Johnny Depp, in the midst of divorce proceedings with his former wife Amber Heard, has once again altered a tattoo on his body to correspond with his changing relationship status.

Originally, Depp had the letters “S-L-I-M” tattooed over his right-hand knuckles — apparently that was his nickname for Heard — and when photographers zoomed in at his band’s recent concert, it was discovered it had been altered to “S-C-U-M.”

READ MORE: Winona Ryder on alleged Johnny Depp abuse: “It’s just hard to picture”

Of course, Depp did something similar when he split with actress Winona Ryder after four years together: he changed his “Winona Forever” tattoo into the ever-classy “Wino Forever.”

Depp is currently on tour with his band, Hollywood Vampires. He and his group play Casino Rama, near Orillia, Ont., on July 8.

Heard, 30, was granted a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband on May 27 after submitting a sworn declaration in which she alleged Depp, 53, threw her cellphone at her face and repeatedly hit her.

READ MORE: Amber Heard’s lawyers give statement to LAPD about alleged Johnny Depp abuse

Depp’s camp has accused Heard of fabricating the abuse in order to make money. The divorcing couple didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement, and Depp is estimated to be worth upwards of US$400 million.

Depp is trying to ensure that many of his assets stay his. He specifically noted “miscellaneous jewelry,” earnings made after their separation and, as stipulated in his response, “there are additional separate property assets and obligations of the parties, the exact nature and extent of which are not presently known.”

READ MORE: Vanessa Paradis, Johnny Depp’s ex, says he is not physically abusive

“Given the brevity of this marriage and the most recent and tragic loss of his mother, Johnny will not respond to any of the salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation and lies about his personal life,” read a statement released to the media. “Hopefully the dissolution of this short marriage will be resolved quickly.”

Heard and Depp were married in 2014. She filed for divorce the day after the alleged blowup, citing irreconcilable differences.

WATCH: Winona Ryder comments on the abuse allegations made against her ex-fiancé Johnny Depp

Follow @CJancelewicz
Johnny Depp Timeline | PrettyFamous

Amber Heard Timeline | PrettyFamous

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Canadians’ quality of life ranks 2nd globally, according to 2016 Social Progress Index

Canada has moved up in the world as the second most socially advanced country, according to the 2016 Social Progress Index.

The index, released Tuesday, ranks 133 countries in three major categories; “Basic Human Needs,” “Foundations of Wellbeing” and “Opportunity.”

This year, Canada moved up into the top three countries ranking just behind Finland and just beating out Denmark. Canada was sixth overall in last year’s report.

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Based on 53 indicators, Canada ranked 1st overall in the “Opportunity” category that measures indicators of personal rights, personal freedom and choice, access to advanced education and tolerance and inclusion.

“Canada is known for its social welfare policies. It also leads the world on the Opportunity dimension, ranking first place in Access to Advanced Education (87.42), thanks to its top-ranking universities and access to tertiary education,” reads the report.

The report suggests Canada needs to improve on the shelter indicator as the country sits 12th overall. The report said Canada, Sweden, Norway and Iceland rank outside the top ten in this category due to the lack of affordable housing. The 19th ranked U.S. tops Canada in the shelter indicator.

Here are the top 10 countries according to the 2016 Social Progress index:
1. Finland
2. Canada
3. Denmark
4. Australia
5. Switzerland
6. Sweden
7. Norway
8. Netherlands
9. United Kingdom
10. Iceland / New Zealand

As the Toronto Star points out, Canada’s worst ranking on the index fell (102nd) in the number of mobile phone subscriptions. For every 100 people, only 81 have a phone plan. Michael Green, the index’s director told the newspaper the ranking was “strikingly low.”

“That’s an area of social progress that’s really easy to fix. Countries with much lower levels of GDP have fixed it, and Canada is sort of falling back on that one,” Green told the Star. “Perhaps a slightly weird thing about Canada is that Canada is showing weakness in an area the world knows how to solve, on the other hand Canada is also doing pretty well on tolerance and inclusion, which is a much harder problem.”

You can read the full report here.


Tiny homes: Perks of buying a ‘shoebox’, and tips for maximizing space

Edmontonian Laura Creswell pays roughly $950 a month for housing expenses. That covers her mortgage payment, condo fees, home insurance, parking stall and internet.

The reason the 25-year-old is able to keep her living costs so low, and squirrel away up to half her paycheque: She’s part of a growing number of Canadians buying “tiny homes.” The small parcels of property have made home ownership more affordable for millennials.

Creswell bought her 335-square-foot bachelor suite, located in Edmonton’s popular Oliver neighbourhood, off Kijiji last fall for $154,000 (a grand below asking price).

“It’s a shoebox, for sure,” she said. “But it’s my home.”

She doesn’t think she’s sacrificing anything by living in the small space, which she spent $15,000 to furnish. It’s surprisingly versatile.

“I can have 10 people over for a movie, I can have six people over for dinner… and I can have a master bedroom in the evening.”

There’s floor-to-ceiling cabinetry (enough for two full-size closets) around her custom-made Murphy bed, and loads of storage space throughout the suite thanks to help from a local carpenter.

“I’m not a minimalist whatsoever.”

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

“I’ve always wanted a tiny home,” she explained. “I think it’s definitely the future of sustainable housing especially when it comes to my generation.”

Her job as a civil environmental engineer would afford her a larger living space, but Creswell has “no aspiration of owning a house.” She’d rather spend her money on traveling and saving up for an early retirement, “without working 80-hour weeks.”

Creswell’s choice has been tough for some (i.e. older people) to comprehend.

“There’s this idea that square footage means marketability,” Creswell admitted.

The notion seems so ingrained in the system that some find it tricky to get a mortgage for a tiny home. Creswell even had to pay default insurance, despite putting 20 per cent down.

The CMHC calls this “low ratio transactional mortgage loan insurance,” but insists it doesn’t treat “mortgage loan applications for tiny homes differently than for other dwelling types.”

READ MORE: Tiny homes growing in popularity but looking for place to call home in Canada

Real estate experts have traditionally advised people against investing in one bedroom condos, let alone bachelor units, due to resale value.

The way Creswell sees it, though, is that if she ever wants to rent her condo out it’d be to one person or a couple, the same as with a one-bedroom. Except a one-bedroom would cost her $70,000 more and would double her condo fees and heating bills.

Another perk of her tiny place, she pointed out, is that it encourages her to be out and about enjoying her neighbourhood.

“If you’re both homebodies and introverts you may have an issue.”

WATCH: Tiny homes in Canada

Struggle to find a home for tiny houses in Canadian communities

02:30

Struggle to find a home for tiny houses in Canadian communities

04:49

Growing demand for tiny homes

02:10

West Vancouver woman’s tiny home represents growing trend

01:48

Tiny home drawing crowds, movement just taking root in Regina

00:54

Smart Money: Future of tiny homes in cities

10:00

FULL STORY: Tiny Homes



Her tips for maximizing a tiny space

1. Think of the shape of the room.

If you don’t already rent or own one of these micro units, Creswell recommends looking for a place that has a simple, wide rectangular shape.

Ideally the windows would be on the longer side of the rectangle. Otherwise, she says, you’ll end up placing something in front of them, which will block your light and make the space feel smaller.

Also, avoid condos with long hallways because that’s just wasted space.

Creswell looked at a couple places that were up to 200 square feet bigger than her current unit, but felt smaller because of their layout.

2. Think outside the box.

“Sit down and ask yourself what you want in your dream home. You need to build that in or you won’t be happy. You’ll get tired after a year or two.”

For her, a big closet and pantry were important. She watched a ton of YouTube videos before hiring a carpenter to help bring her storage-heavy vision to fruition.

“[There’s] probably just a square meter of wall that hasn’t been covered,” she said, “including my door.”

If you’re handy and into DIY projects, she thinks you could probably do most of what she did yourself.

She relied heavily on a free 30-day trial of SketchUp, which is essentially a 3D mapping tool. You put in the dimensions of your home and then when you’re at a furniture store, you plop in the measurements of whatever you’re considering to visualize how it’d fit.

3. Look for furniture that can be used in at least three ways.

Her wide dining room chairs transform into lounge chairs and two twin beds, so she’s able to have two guests comfortably sleep over.

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Design inspiration for a tiny home, courtesy of Laura Creswell’s small bachelor condo.

Tim Lutic

Her desk chairs also double as stepladders. Her coffee table acts as scarf storage as well as a third seat to her pop-down dining room table.

“It’s all how you use it.”

Follow @TrishKozicka

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  • Tiny houses growing in popularity, but looking for a place to call home in Canada

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