Man charged in wife's slaying

May 06, 1997



Staff Writers

Over the Christmas holidays, Suzanne Lynn Garde got a job at Central Tractor Farm and Family Center and enjoyed it so much she stayed on afterward.

"She was so happy there," said her sister-in-law Peggy Fox as she struggled Tuesday with the fact that Suzanne Garde had been fatally shot outside her home on Garis Shop Road late Monday.

Suzanne Garde's husband, Roland Louis Garde Jr., 38, was charged with first-degree murder just before noon Tuesday, police said.

Bond was denied. He will have a bond review hearing today before a Washington County District judge.

Suzanne Garde, 34, was taken to Washington County Hospital shortly after the 10:45 p.m. shooting. She died at 2:52 a.m. Tuesday, deputies said.


Her body was sent to the Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore Tuesday for an autopsy, Sgt. Randy Wilkinson, head of the sheriff's criminal investigation unit, said Tuesday.

Wilkinson said initial reports indicated she had been shot twice with a shotgun, once in the chest and once in the back.

Roland Garde drove to the Maryland State Police barracks and turned himself in within 30 minutes of the shooting, authorities said.

The Gardes' 10-year-old son, Roland Garde III, was found asleep inside the trailer, said Deputy Kenny Barnhart, lead investigator on the case.

The couple lived in a trailer at 10024 Garis Shop Road. The trailer is behind a white house at 10026 Garis Shop Road occupied by the woman's parents, P. Lowell Fox Sr. and Sonja J. Mills Fox, and Suzanne Garde's other child, Heather R. Starleper, 16.

"Tuesday morning I called the school guidance counselors and they came to be with the children," said Peggy Fox, who is married to James Fox, a brother of the dead woman.

The children are staying with their maternal grandparents.

The job Suzanne Garde loved was cashier at Central Tractor.

"She was a very outgoing person,'' said an obviously shaken Keith McDonough, assistant manager of the store on Massey Boulevard.

McDonough said Suzanne Garde was very customer-oriented. "She was reliable, someone you could trust," he said. "She never had a bad word to say."

Peggy Fox said her sister-in-law was a bubbly person.

"Nobody deserves to die like that," Fox said. "She was too good a person."

A neighbor heard the tragedy play out late Monday.

"I was out walking our dog, Gumby, when I heard a loud discussion coming from the trailer," said neighbor Jim Cogar. "Then I heard two shotgun blasts outside the trailer."

A few seconds later, Cogar said a black car sped away from the trailer with its lights out.

Cogar, who lives at 9936 Garis Shop Road with his wife, Carole, said the sounds of arguments coming from the trailer weren't unusual.

"Suzie grew up with my kids," said Carole Cogar.

The Cogars said Ronald Garde did a lot of shooting around the property, a rural setting along the country road that links Alt. U.S. 40 to the prison complex at Roxbury Road.

Deputy Tom Routzahn, the first officer to arrive after the shooting, said he saw Suzanne Garde lying face down near a bush next to the trailer.

As he got closer to the property, Routzahn said he was told to look for a black Pontiac LeMans. But by the time he reached the driveway, it was gone, he said.

"They said it happened by a black car," he said. "When I got here, there was no car."

A car matching that description pulled into the Hagerstown state police barracks a short time later and Garde surrendered, police said.

Routzahn said he thought the shooter was inside the trailer and decided not to get close. He changed his mind when he saw the woman on the ground.

"The dad opened up the window and said, `Oh my God, it's my daughter,'" Routzahn said.

Routzahn said he bolted toward Suzanne Garde and dragged her across the stone driveway, and a Community Rescue Service rescue worker helped get her into an ambulance.

Wilkinson said the victim's mother told deputies she heard her daughter say, "No, Roland, No Roland" and then there was the flash of a shot.

"The weapon was ditched along Garis Shop Road but we recovered it," Wilkinson said.

Routzahn said the shooting appeared to be a case of domestic violence, but said deputies had not been called to the address recently.

Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. said he was contacted early Tuesday morning about the series of events.

"I checked our records and discovered a 1990 charge of battery against Roland Garde brought by Suzanne Garde," Long said.

The case wasn't prosecuted because Suzanne Garde decided not to testify against her husband, Long said.

A check of Washington County District Court records turned up a 1989 charge of battery against Roland Garde, which was dismissed. That charge was brought by a co-worker when Garde worked at Pangborn, according to court records.

Investigators remained at the trailer hours after Garde turned himself in. Barnhart said investigators were collecting evidence, including a shotgun casing found on the ground.

They returned Tuesday, trying to learn as much as they could about the events leading up to the shooting.

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