An Alaska man was indicted last last month for the murder of a man who had been missing for five years — and whose body was found beneath the floorboards of the man now charged with his death, the Alaska Department of Public Safety says.
Jay Osmond Gardner, 55, had long been a suspect in the August 2015 disappearance of Daniel Roy Buckwalter, 46, after finding Buckwalter’s vehicle near his home.
But it wasn’t until Alaska State Troopers arrested him on an outstanding warrant — as he tried to flee Anchorage disguised as his sister — that investigators were able to pull together the evidence they needed to charge him.
After the arrest on March 25 at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, investigators obtained a search warrant for Gardner’s property. They combed through the property on April 6 — excavating the entire property — but found no remains. With another search warrant in hand on April 20, they returned to search Gardner’s residence.
“After dismantling the floorboards in the residence, the heavily decomposed remains of an adult human were located buried under approximately three feet of dirt/rocks,” the Alaska Department of Public Safety said.
The remains were determined to Buckhalter’s, and the state medical examiner’s office said he died of a gunshot and asphyxiation.
A grand jury indicted Gardner on June 30 on charges of first degree murder, second degree murder, and tampering with physical evidence.
Buckhalter was last seen on August 4, 2015, but not reported missing until August 12. State troopers found his vehicle on August 6.
According to an affidavit filed for Gardner’s arrest, troopers found identified blood and tissue found inside the behicle as the missing man’s. They interviewed Gardner, and he admitted that Buckwalter owed him and another man money for drugs. He said he convinced Buckwalter to come to his home on August 4, 2015, then alerted the other man that he was coming. That man and two others showed up, he said, and he went inside.
“After going inside, the subject said he heard a gunshot, looked outside and observed Buckwalter had been shot and was running around,” the affidavit said.
When Gardner was arrested in March, he was also charged with several counts related to fraud and identify theft.
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[Featured image: Jay Gardner disguised as his sister Cher Jammes in January 2020, Jay Gardner in March 2019, Gardner’s sister Cher Jammes in October 2019/Alaska Department of Public Safety]