Eric Scroggins gave a detailed account of how Nigel Gardner had him follow Gardner in another vehicle while Gardner dumped Raymond Howell's vehicle and set it on fire (with Howell's body inside).
Nigel Gardner Guilty of Murder and Retaliation, LIVINGSTON, October 17, 2011 - It took a Polk County Jury of twelve 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach a unanimous decision of guilty for defendant Nigel Gardner. Gardner was found guilty of murder and retaliation for the October 5, 2010 murder of Raymond Howell, 58, of Livingston. Polk County Criminal District Attorney showed actual videos to the court taken from a Polk County Convenience Store that shows Gardner driving his victim's car that he torched with the victim's body inside. Other evidence included pictures of the victim's skull where two .22 caliber bullets left holes. Still more evidence, a paper towel that was recovered from the scene that had both the victim's blood and DNA from Nigel Gardner on it. "Every piece of evidence in this case points to Nigel Gardner" Hon stated to the Jury in Closing Arguments. Hon further stated that "It's beyond reasonable doubt that Nigel Gardner is a killer sitting right in front of you" as he pointed back at Gardner, "He's a thoroughly dangerous man" Hon said.
Nigel Gardner was convicted of the October 5, 2010 murder of Raymond Howell. Gardner entered Howell's residence while Howell was sleeping on the couch. Gardner shot Howell in the head 2 times and then dragged Howell's body into the back seat area of Howell's own car. Gardner then got a friend, Eric Scroggins, of Indian Springs to follow him to the remote road off FM-2500 where Gardner parked Howell's car and then set the car afire. Gardner then walked the vehicle that Scroggins was in and the two drove away. According to Scroggins, all he knew was that they were going to get rid of a car. Scroggins was far enough away waiting for Gardner that he didn't know the car they were ditching was set ablaze. Scroggins' testimony was convincing and probably went a long way in convincing the jury of Gardner's evil deed.
Other witnesses were acquaintances of Gardner's who testified that Gardner made statements about revenge against Raymond Howell for his prison time for burglarizing Howell's home. Statements such as "He's gonna get what's coming to him" and Gardner also referred to Howell as "...that fat bastard".
Other evidence in the lengthy five day trial included lots of forensic evidence including bloody couch cushions, photographs of Howell's charred body, luminal evidence that showed a bloody path leading out of the house where dragged his victim to the car. Testimony from the Harris County Medical Examiners Office where the autopsy was performed, investigators, and other forensic specialists from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Nigel Gardner will not be sentenced until December 6th of this year. For the crime of murder, Gardner faces 15 years to life in prison. For the crime of retaliation, Gardner is facing 2 - 20 years.
Nigel Gardner (left) sits with his Attorney, Mike Davis in Judge Coker's District Court on September 13, 2011. A Polk County Jury found Gardner guilty of murder.
Nigel Gardner (far left) sits with his lawyer in Judge Elizabeth Coker's District Court on October 11, 2011 (picture taken with a cell phone).
Murder Trial Under Way for Defendant Nigel Gardner, LIVINGSTON, October 11, 2011 - The murder trial for Nigel Gardner got under way in Judge Elizabeth Coker's District Court at 2 pm on October 11, 2011. Gardner stands accused of murder for the October 5, 2010 murder of 48 year old Raymond Howell of Livingston. Howell was asleep on his couch at his residence when Gardner allegedly entered the residence and shot Howell two times in the head killing Howell. Gardner then allegedly moved Howell to a rug on the floor and used the rug to drag Howell from house and load Howell into Howell's own car. Gardner then allegedly drove the car to a remote road off FM-2500 in the middle of the afternoon where he set the car on fire in an apparent effort to dispose of the body. A friend, who had no idea there was a body in the car, followed in Gardner's car (thinking he was helping a friend dispose of a vehicle). The car fire in turn, caused a woods fire which was spotted by a volunteer fireman from the Alabama Coushatta Fire Department. Shortly after that volunteer firemen were called out with trucks and equipment to put out the forest fire. More than one witness saw the vehicle being driven to its destination and testified that the driver was trying to cover his face. Investigators found a body so badly burned that it was unrecognizable.
Witnesses stated that in the days and weeks leading up to the murder,Gardner had alluded wanting to kill Raymond Howell. Gardner also allegedly asked his friends questions like how to dispose of a body. Gardner's alleged motive was a grudge that he held against Howell for a dispute in years past when Gardner had served six years in the penitentiary and that Howell was partially responsible for his prison time. In opening arguments, Polk County Criminal District Attorney, William Lee Hon, clearly summarized Gardner's alleged actions leading up to Gardner's evil deed and the evidence proving Gardner's guilt. Gardner's lawyer contended that the investigation was not broad enough and focused only on Gardner (rather than exploring other possibilities).