A capital murder suspect is expected to stand before a Faulkner County judge for a pretrial hearing exactly two years from his arrest date in early 2018.
The case is the first in more than 30 years where prosecutors in Faulkner County are seeking the death penalty.
Attorneys representing suspect Scotty Ray Gardner, 56, cite a need for more time to prepare for trial.
“Although counsel is working as diligently as possible to prepare this case for trial, it is not possible for this case to be adequately prepared as currently scheduled,” Defense Attorney Katherine S. Streett wrote in a motion to Circuit Judge Charles “Ed” Clawson Jr. requesting to delay the trial.
Streett and Defense Attorney T. Scott Brisendine said they now have a lead on “potentially mitigating evidence” and will need more time to investigate and prepare for trial.
“Specifically, a continuance is necessary due to the recent discovery by the defense of potentially mitigating evidence which requires further investigation,” the motion reads. “Because the evidence at issue is located in another state and dates from several decades ago, the investigation into this information will likely be more time consuming than would otherwise be expected.”
Gardner is suspected in the March 6, 2016, hotel slaying of Susan “Heather” Stubbs.
He was accused in Stubbs’s death after a hotel clerk found her lying facedown in Room 114 of Days Inn on Oak Street. When police arrived, she was found strangled to death from a cord.
According to an affidavit, Gardner told prosecutors anger and jealousy caused him to snap the day he allegedly killed Stubbs.
The two had been staying in Room 114 since Feb. 21 and Gardner said he became upset when he noticed Stubbs talking to other men walking past their room on March 6.
Gardner told officers he was still upset with Stubbs from a previous incident, “but had been trying to forgive her for it until this new incident happened,” referencing a Dec. 19 incident where Stubbs filed a third-degree battery report against him.
“He said he knew that he could not just grab her and throw her on the bed because she would go and tell on him. He said everything just kept building up and he had just snapped. Scotty said the only thing he knew was that he ‘was not going to let Heather go tell the police nothing,’” the affidavit reads.
At one point during the heated argument, Gardner “eventually grabbed a nearby cord and ‘wrapped it around her neck’” when she tried to scratch him in defense, according to the affidavit.
“I might have killed her… I don’t know,” he said, adding he then left to go gambling to avoid thinking about the situation.
Gardner has been charged as a habitual offender in the past. He was sentenced to Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) in October 1991 and served 23 years of his sentence.
On Nov. 8, 1990, Gardner was charged with two counts of criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder.
He was sentenced to two 30-year concurrent terms, with seven years of each term suspended.
The case was later reopened and he was convicted of first-degree criminal attempt to commit murder and one count of first-degree battery for shooting his then-wife, who was pregnant.
He was paroled from ADC on Dec. 4, 2015, about three months before he allegedly killed Stubbs.
Clawson agreed Tuesday to move the trial to next summer, resetting the two-week trial for Aug. 14-24.
Gardner is set to appear in Faulkner County Circuit Court prior to the trial for a pretrial hearing at 1 p.m. March 7, which is exactly two years after he was arrested on the aforementioned capital murder charge.