Witnesses Describe The Scene In Winters Shooting Death Of Leslie Pinkston

by Antoinnette Borbon

The day began with opening statements about the specifics of November 18, 2013.

William Gardner III is charged with lying in wait and then shooting his ex-girlfriend in downtown Winters.

In the early morning hours of November 18, 2013, an off duty officer described riding his motorcycle through town with a friend. He testified to seeing a woman in a black BMW SUV that appeared to be in distress, crying.

Officer Penrose stated that, as he made a right hand turn, driving past, he heard what sounded like a gun shot.

Penrose said he thought there may be a shooter in the area so he took precaution to look around the streets. He then drove near the café Steady Eddy’s, where he saw people looking at something.

It was at that point he knew something had happened.

As he came closer toward the parked BMW, he could see a woman inside, slumped over, as blood ran down in the street and down the gutter along the curb.  He said that as he was riding near the scene he saw an older gray van driving down Railroad Ave.

Penrose lost sight of the van but headed eastbound down Highway 128. He said it seemed to be an easier route for a person to escape on but, after minutes of searching, he found nothing.

A 911 call was made for assault with a deadly weapon. Corporal Albert Ramos of the Winters Police Department responded. He testified to finding Ms. Pinkston slumped over in the front driver’s seat of her SUV.

He said as he approached the victim, he saw a lot of blood coming from her wound and rolling down the gutter along the curb. Ms. Pinkston was bleeding from a shot to the head.  He tried to get a response but it was futile.

He called for an ambulance. Ramos stated that he had never seen anything like this happen in his eighteen years as a police officer in Winters. He was nervous.

He described to District Attorney Jeff Reisig that he had an “army” of help from several entities: the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the Woodland Police Department, Sacramento Sheriff/Police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the Yolo County District Attorney’s investigators.

Ramos said the U.S. Marshals called Winters Police Department and offered to help locate Gardner.

He took statements from a couple witnesses around the area who could identify the defendant. Ramos used a six-pack photo line-up and witnesses picked out William Gardner as the suspect.

An acquaintance of the victim, whose family owned a wine shop near the scene, Mr. Turkovich, testified to seeing Leslie opening her office door at about 8:02 a.m. He said he and Leslie would often just wave hello as they both were going into their workplace.

It was about 9:20 a.m. when Turkovich went to leave and saw Leslie sitting in her black SUV. He said she was on her cell phone and really into the conversation.

Turkovich stated that he did not find out until a couple hours later that Leslie had been shot.

Another witness was Leslie’s coworker, Mr. McMinevy. He testified to getting to work between 8 and 9 a.m. He said Leslie was the office manager at the electrical business.

A choked up McMinevy described the last few minutes of his conversation with Leslie. He said it was a brief work-related conversation.

He told Leslie to make sure money was on his company gas card.  He said he gave a casual hug and kiss on the forehead to Leslie and headed to the station to fuel up.

Once he arrived at the station, he texted Leslie around 9:26 a.m. to tell her the card was declined. He got no answer so he waited.  He sent her a couple more texts but still no answer.

McMinevy said, tearing up, “Then I got a call from Peter, the owner, he said Leslie had been shot….I told him to shut the f—- up…I thought it was a joke… but it wasn’t.”  It was real, he said, sobbing as he related the conversation. He said he returned to the shop.

DOCTOR DESCRIBES AUTOPSY FINDINGS

Dr. Arnold Josselson, a forensic pathologist, testified to the photos taken during Ms. Pinkston’s autopsy. He described to jurors that he found bruises on her body but could not say exactly how long they had been there. He asserted the bruises were not attributed to her cause of death.

He explained the autopsy pictures of the injuries sustained. He found two shots, one to her right knee area and the other to her head. He said the wound to her head was the fatal shot. A bullet wound to the right side of her head was the entry, and the bullet exited from the temple.

DA Reisig asked the doctor if he could tell whether the shots were fired at close range. Dr. Josselson stated it was possible, as the brain showed no tissue damage but that could have been from her headrest being in the way of the bullet.

GARDNER’S BEHAVIOR ON NOVEMBER 18

Yolo County Gang Task Force Detective Dana Tello testified to the photo line-up she showed a couple of the witnesses. Tello was called in to assist in the investigation.

She re-iterated Corporal Ramos’ statement about a witness who picked two men out of the line-up, one of whom was in prison at the time of the shooting. The other man identified by that witness and others was William Gardner.

Tello said she made sure the information was correct and she identified the other man to have been a prisoner since 2011.

An owner of a Sacramento pawn shop, Kevin Pratt, testified to knowing the defendant. He stated that Gardner had been a frequent customer who was usually friendly.

Pratt described seeing Gardner in his shop on November 18, 2013. He said Gardner told him he wanted to sign a release form for his sister to pick up his property. Pratt noticed that Gardner was behaving oddly, stating, “I’m going away for years,” but not elaborating on what he meant.

Pratt said he had met Leslie Pinkston about a year earlier when she came into the shop with Gardner and her daughter.

Pratt testified that, when Gardner came into the shop on November 18, he asked Gardner whether Leslie would be coming in to pick up his property, since he was going away. “No, she won’t be doing that,” replied Gardner.

He said the two shook hands after Gardner finished the release form, and then the defendant left the shop. Pratt said he knew something was wrong.

It was after he saw the news report about the shooting that he phoned the Winters Police Department, identifying Gardner.

Defense Attorney J. Toney asked Pratt about his statement to the Grand Jury. Pratt had testified he could not remember the name of Gardner’s girlfriend. Toney asked him if someone had told him her name, and he said, “No, no, I just remembered it once I looked at her photo again,” answered Pratt.

“So you remember it today?” asked Toney, “Yeah…” replied Pratt.

Corporal Ramos’ dashboard camera video was shown to jurors. It depicted the arrival of Ramos on the scene to find Ms. Pinkston slumped over in her vehicle, unresponsive. An ambulance arrived and put her onto the gurney to the life flight helicopter.

Family and friends of Leslie’s sobbed as they watched the video from the dashboard camera.

Testimony continues in the morning.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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8 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    Hi Antoinette,

    I am wondering if you could clarify one bit of testimony.

    Dr. Josselson stated it was possible as the brain showed no muscle damage”

    Since the brain is not composed of any muscle tissue, I am wondering if this is a transcription error ?

     

      1. Tia Will

        David

        Maybe, but still perplexing as it would be hard to see how the wound would be the cause of death without any tissue damage to the brain. Only scenario that I could see would be a clean shot through a major blood vessel without damaging any of the surrounding brain tissue. Kind of a long shot ( pun not intended but couldn’t find a better way of putting it). A picture would be very helpful in understanding in this case. Just a comment, not a request.

         

  2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    He described to District Attorney Jeff Reisig that he had an “army” of help from several entities: the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the Woodland Police Department, Sacramento Sheriff/Police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the Yolo County District Attorney’s investigators.

    I arrived at Steady Eddy’s in Winters about 30-40 minutes after the murder. I did not know what was going on at first, but after I crossed Grant Ave. on Railroad Ave., riding south toward the bridge, I could see all those law enforcement officers and a CHP helicopter flying overhead. There were about a dozen civilians looking at Ms. Pinkston’s SUV, which was still parked where she had been, its front, driver’s side window obliterated.

    Among the odd things I saw that morning were a large number of police officers searching around the creek, east of the railroad bridge, for the suspect, because some witness had told the Winters PD that the shooter had left on foot. I later recall hearing that the same witness was misunderstood, that he said he saw Gardner walk across Railroad Avenue to his van, which was parked in the lot on the west side of Steady Eddy’s. But the Winters police thought that meant Gardner had fled on foot, and so they spent hours searching in locations close to the scene, when he had in fact driven off seconds after he killed Ms. Pinkston. The other thing that was striking to see, as I rode back to Davis on Putah Creek Road, was several cops, standing beside their patrol cars, holding high-powered military rifles (M-14s, I think).

    Penrose lost sight of the van but headed eastbound down Highway 128. He said it seemed to be an easier route for a person to escape on but, after minutes of searching, he found nothing.

    Officer Penrose may have spotted the van leaving, but there is no doubt that he had no idea it contained the killer. The cops on scene were all searching in the area of Putah Creek and Putah Creek Road. No cops were looking at Highway 128 or Russell Blvd at that point.

    My suspicion is that if the cops understood immediately that Gardner drove off seconds after he killed Pinkston they would have caught him that day. But because of the misunderstanding of the witness, Gardner got away and was not caught for several weeks, hiding out in Las Vegas.

  3. Antoinnette

    Cathy…yeah I heard him say muscle but he was referring to something else? It must have been tissue damage. It was that the brain showed little damage which meant it could have come from a close range? If I understood correctly…does that make sense, Tia?

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