Community tips lead to arrests of two fugitives

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Two fugitives have been arrested after police asked the community for help in finding them and three others.
One of those arrested, Guy William Powell, was wanted for embezzlement under contract. But it was the other fugitive, Robert Gardner, who generated the most interest, because he is charged with knowingly exposing others to HIV.
Gardner is accused of having unprotected sex with at least two women after knowing he had contracted the HIV virus five years ago. Police Chief Tony Carleton said an outraged community helped police find him.
The response came after Saturday’s Daily Journal reported that the police wanted the public’s help in finding the fugitives: Gardner, Powell, Adam Harris, Lavontay Harris and Rogelio Sanchez Roman.
Two people have come forward and said they’ve had unprotected sex with Gardner, and Detective Lynette Sandlin said she expects to hear from more people soon.
However, several people contacted the Daily Journal anonymously to say they had sexual relations with Gardner.
One woman said she was pregnant after having sex with Gardner and since has found out she has HIV.
In a letter to the Daily Journal, the woman wrote: “Looking back on those two unprotected encounters I had with him, Robert was smug, complacent and almost proud. Two weeks later I was informed I was HIV positive and pregnant.”
The woman said she stayed with Gardner a year after she contracted the virus and broke up with him after she found out he’d done it to other women.
“At the end of our relationship Robert looked me in the face and said I was not the only one and that I had no idea how many people he had infected after me,” said the woman in the letter. “It has to stop, no one deserves death, no one deserves this disease.”
The woman in the letter said she didn’t press charges because she was embarrassed and because her HIV status would be reported.
Gardner was initially charged in 2009 with exposure to HIV, but police were unable to locate him. With the newest charges, his bond was set at $1 million because Justice Court Judge Ricky Thompson considered him a threat to the community.
Exposure to HIV carries a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of 10 years per count.
Sandlin encouraged other victims to respond. “We want to get people the medical attention they need,” she said.
Sandlin said Gardner also violated a health department court order that restricted him from having sex. That too is a felony.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.