Sultan man guilty of murder

Terilynn Gardner, 18, was suspected of stealing some clothes and jewelry from Aaron Robert Bander’s girlfriend.

For that, her killers decided to teach her a grim lesson. She suffered a horrible death a year ago, bludgeoned repeatedly. Her throat also was slit.

A Snohomish County Superior Court jury on Wednesday found Bander guilty of first-degree murder for killing Gardner.

Bander’s penalty will be more than 20 years in prison.

Bander, 22, of Sultan, had been on trial for more than a week, charged in the Nov. 3, 2006, killing.

The young victim had been living on the streets, staying at various locations. Her street name was Precious. She was a drug user, according to testimony. The prosecutor said her death didn’t make sense.

Gardner suffered 26 severe head injures, a half-dozen of which could have caused her death. When she didn’t die right away, her throat was cut.

Prosecutors allege it was Bander and his girlfriend, Suzie Kay Le, 18, of Everett, who kept Gardner prisoner in a south Everett apartment and killed her.

Le also faces a first-degree murder charge and is scheduled for trial in mid-November.

Gardner’s body was wrapped in a shower curtain, a blanket and other material. It was dumped in the trunk of a stolen car. Her body wasn’t discovered for several days after her death.

The trial included a parade of forensic scientists who tested of a variety of evidence for genetic material. Some of the DNA linked Bander to the crime, including a cigarette found on the floorboard of the stolen car.

Key witnesses also included two people who testified that Bander confessed to the crime.

One of them told police that after describing what happened to Gardner, Bander related that he “had to finish the job,” by cutting her throat, said Helene Blume, deputy prosecutor, in her closing arguments to the jury on Wednesday.

Dr. Norman Thiersch, Snohomish County medical examiner, said any one of six blows to the head and the throat cut were fatal wounds.

“None of these injuries occurred by accident,” Blume told jurors while emphasizing her contention that Gardner’s death was intentional. “This was no accident. This was no mistake.”

She also told the jury: “I submit to you this crime is the most senseless crime you ever heard about.”

The prosecutor alleged that Gardner was kept in a south Everett apartment for two days, most of the time bound to a chair, while she was periodically beaten with a hammer and a golf club. Blume alleged that Bander recruited a friend to steal the car to hide the body.

Public defender Susan Gaer agreed that Gardner suffered a tragic death. She told jurors that the prosecutor didn’t prove that Bander was responsible.

“They could not because he didn’t do it,” Gaer said.

Gaer told the jury the prosecutor’s case was filled with doubts about who was responsible, and authorities could not piece together exactly what happened.

“There are a multitude of questions in this case for which there is no answer,” Gaer said. “There is no evidence to tell you what happened.”

Jurors and found Bander guilty after less than four hours of deliberation. Judge Richard Thorpe is scheduled to sentence Bander on Dec. 17.

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