By Naheed Rajwani and Tasha Tsiaperas
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — To her relatives and neighbors, Sonja Gardner seemed like a hardworking single mother of four.
After coming home from her job at a fast-food restaurant, she'd walk to the nearby elementary school to pick up her 4- and 6-year-old daughters.
But Dallas police say a different side of Gardner surfaced Thursday when she tried to drown the girls in her apartment while high on PCP.
Neighbors heard screams from the three-bedroom apartment in the 3300 block of Southern Oaks Boulevard and saw Gardner's 18-year-old son carrying his 4-year-old sister outside, according to police documents.
The teen, Jydesmon Gardner, turned around and tried to get back inside the apartment, but the door was locked.
He kicked in the door, and the neighbors heard him yelling, "Give me my damn sister," according to the documents.
There was a gunshot inside the apartment before Jydesmon Gardner ran out of the apartment carrying his 6-year-old sister, who witnesses said was soaking wet.
He fled the scene before police arrived.
Sonja Gardner, 35, was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted capital murder. She is being held at Dallas County Jail, with bail set at $1 million.
The girls are in the temporary custody of Child Protective Services.
Jydesmon Gardner is wanted on a parole or probation violation warrant, said Maj. Rob Sherwin of the crimes against persons division. Police want him to come forward as a witness and take care of the warrant, said Sherwin, who praised the young man's efforts.
"It appears that his actions may have saved the lives of these two children," Sherwin said.
Sonja Gardner told officers she had smoked marijuana laced with PCP Thursday, according to an affidavit. She said she decided to drown her daughters in the bathtub after they asked her for snacks, according to police documents.
"We were fixing to die," the 6-year-old said, according to the affidavit.
The girl also told police her mother wanted to burn them with a hot iron, and Gardner told police that was true, according to the documents. But Sherwin said Friday that here was no evidence that she did so.
Gardner's relatives said they don't believe she would try to drown her children simply because they asked for snacks.
"Nobody knows what actually happened but my nephew, and he's not here," said Earnest Gardner, Sonja Gardner's older brother. "We can't even get in contact with him."
Earnest Gardner described his sister as easygoing and friendly.
"All she does is work, come home and take care of the kids," he said.
KXAS-TV reported Friday that some of Sonja Gardner's relatives said they took her to the hospital earlier Thursday because she was showing the effects of the PCP. But the relatives said they left because the emergency room was crowded.
Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for CPS, said Friday that in addition to the 4- and 6-year-old girls, Gardner's 13-year-old daughter is now in foster care. It was not clear Friday whether the 13-year-old had been home Thursday.
Gonzales said a hearing will be conducted soon to determine whether the girls will remain in foster care or be placed with relatives.
Earnest Gardner said he hopes his family will be able to gain custody of the children so they can be around familiar faces.
"I'm happy the children are OK," Earnest Gardner said. "I want the kids with me or my mom, or one or two of my sisters, but we've got to wait and see what happens."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 The Dallas Morning News