Black Hate Crime of the Week – NW Indiana waitress murdered for tip money
All three were charged with murder and a second count of murder in the perpetration of a robbery.
Gardner lived in the 8000 block of Alpine Lane in the Hidden Creek apartment complex, south of Pine Island. She was shot in the hallway outside her apartment about 11:30 p.m. Saturday after she arrived home from work at Joe’s Crab Shack in Merrillville.
A witness heard cries for help and saw three males enter a black Oldsmobile Aurora and leave the area, according to charging documents. The witness recorded the license plate number and gave it to police.
Timothy Sarcia, who police said was Gardner’s live-in boyfriend, told police he was inside their third-floor apartment when he heard heavy footsteps and a struggle in the hallway outside of his apartment door. Through the peephole, he saw a man putting a chokehold on Gardner. He called 911 and screamed for help, he told police.
When he opened the door, he found Gardner lying on the hallway floor unconscious.
Gardner was taken to Methodist Hospitals Southlake campus in Merrillville where she died about 12:20 a.m. Sunday.
Police recovered a 12-gauge shotgun shell in the hallway. Gardner’s $85 in tip money was missing, according to the charging documents.
Police found a smart phone inside the black Oldsmobile found behind the residence of William Blasingame III in Harvey, Ill.
The last time the phone’s GPS function was used was in front of Gardner’s apartment, police learned. The phone also displayed the address of Michael Allen Craig Jr. The phone showed several calls made to Stephen Lee Henderson on the same day.
Police also found what appeared to be blood on the seat and blood on a T-shirt.
Sarcia identified a photograph of Henderson as the man putting a chokehold on Gardner. A second witness identified Craig as one of the men running from the apartment.
In a statement, Craig said he and Blasingame and Henderson waited for about 15 minutes for Gardner to arrive home. He said Blasingame got out of the car and followed her inside the outside door of the building. He said Henderson went inside with a shotgun with a pistol grip. Craig said he heard screaming and gunshots and he saw the Henderson and Blasingame run out the door.
Craig’s live-in girlfriend told police she worked with Gardner at the restaurant and when she came home about 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, Craig, Henderson and Blasingame were in the apartment playing a video game.
A visitation for Gardner is from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Lawn Funeral Home in Burbank, Ill. The funeral is at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the funeral home. She will be buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
Schererville Police Cmdr. Brian Neyhart said Schererville detectives worked around-the-clock to solve the homicide, with assistance from the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force, the Lake County Crime Lab and the Lake County coroner’s office.