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Waynesboro wife granted probation at family's request

June 07, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

A 69-year-old Waynesboro, Pa., woman charged with attempting to kill her husband two years ago by electrocuting him and shooting him several times in the bathtub was sentenced to probation Thursday at her family's request.

Patricia Gardenhour, 69, had been charged with attempted homicide, recklessly endangering another person and two counts of aggravated assault in the Aug. 8, 2000, incident.

She pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault Thursday in Franklin County Court. In exchange for her plea, she will not be prosecuted on the other charges.

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Judge John Walker sentenced her to 20 years of probation.

As a condition of the plea agreement, Gardenhour must remain in a mental health treatment facility until a physician determines she is no longer a danger to herself or others, Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom said.

If Gardenhour attempts to leave a treatment facility, she would be in violation of the probation and could be resentenced, Krom said.

Gardenhour, of 926 Eastland Road, tried to electrocute her husband, Eugene Gardenhour, 70, by throwing an electric hair dryer into the bathtub while he was bathing, according to testimony at her preliminary hearing in August 2000.

She then shot her husband three times while he was in the tub and twice more as he fled through the back door of their home, court records show.

He was hospitalized for a month with gunshot wounds to the face, chest, side and leg.

Police found a five-shot, .38-caliber handgun in the bushes behind the Gardenhours' house. According to police records, all the rounds had been fired.

Walker said Thursday he would not have agreed to the plea agreement if Eugene Gardenhour and the family had not recommended it.

"Your husband has a more forgiving mind than I would," Walker said. "If he hadn't recommended it, I would not have supported" the plea agreement.

As part of the agreement, the District Attorney's Office waived the five-year mandatory minimum jail sentence for aggravated assault with a firearm.

While the Gardenhours are still married, Eugene Gardenhour asked Walker to include in the sentence an order prohibiting his wife from having any contact with him and his property.

He said he believes his wife was sick when she shot him five times.

"You are a good man. You have more understanding than I would," Walker said.

When Walker asked Patricia Gardenhour why she shot her husband, her attorney, Lee Nollau, said she suffered from neurological problems and did not understand her actions at the time.

Krom said psychiatric evaluations show there is medical evidence to support a mental condition.

Patricia Gardenhour has been in the Greenhills Village treatment facility in State College, Pa., since April 2001, according to her son, Ray Gardenhour.

Patricia Gardenhour will be under the supervision of the Franklin County Probation Department for the duration of her sentence.

Ray Gardenhour said the family knew his mother was having problems and had repeatedly encouraged her to seek help prior to the shooting, but she refused.

He urged others in a similar situation to find help.

"If there can be any good to come of what happened, it is to plead with those people to get help when they need it, even if they refuse, before this kind of thing happens," he said after his mother's sentencing.

Ray Gardenhour said doctors at the State College treatment center have treated his mother for an organic problem they believe caused her problems, and he said she is improving.

"She's back to her old self. She is mom again," he said. "I could not possibly watch her spend the rest of her life in prison."

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