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For a condemned killer's family, one final visit
Gardner » Loved ones say he's 'at peace.'

By Matthew D. LaPlante

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published June 17, 2010 9:33 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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She had one last time to see him. To speak to him. To touch him.

One last time to tell him that she loved him.

But there was one thing she just couldn't bring herself to do.

"I couldn't say goodbye," Brandie Gardner, 33, said of her final visit to her father, Ronnie Lee Gardner.

One by one Wednesday night, four family members visited with Gardner, shortly before he was moved to an observation cell near the execution chamber at the Utah State Prison.

Reaching through the bars, the convicted killer took his daughter by the hands. He touched her face. He kissed her head.

"We both cried," Brandie Gardner said. "He told me that he was sorry. And he was at peace."

Gardner also met with his brother, Randy, and son, Daniel, 30.

Then it was Darian Gardner's turn. At 15, the Idaho high school student has never known a time in which her grandfather was not a condemned man. They kept in touch through letters and rare visits.

"For me, this day has always been coming," she said. "I always knew it was going to happen someday."

But that didn't change the way she felt about him. And Wednesday she had one final chance to tell him.

Darian Gardner said she didn't speak to her grandfather about what was to come.

"But I could tell that he wasn't worried about himself," she said. "He was only worried about us. He wanted to make sure we would be OK."

Like her mother, Darian Gardner found it hard to say goodbye.

"So I just told him that I loved him," she said. "And he told me to be strong."


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