Negotiations continue in case of brutal Lee Cleaners attack

ST. GEORGE — The man accused in the brutal beating of a St. George business owner was back in court Thursday as attorneys work to reach an agreement in his case.

Stephen Gardner appears in 5th District Court for a resolution hearing held in St. George, Utah, Sept. 5, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Stephen Matthew Gardner, 44, appeared in 5th District Court for a resolution hearing. He is charged with first-degree felony aggravated robbery, second-degree felony theft and other charges arising from an incident reported July 4, 2018, when police say he entered Lee Cleaners at 4 a.m. and struck Ralph Lee Sr. multiple times in the head before ransacking the business.

After severely injuring Lee, who is in his late 60s, Gardner went through the business owner’s pockets as he lay unconscious on the floor, according to police. Gardner has remained in jail since his arrest July 13 on an unrelated charge.

Thursday’s resolution hearing was continued until Sept. 19 to give the defense and prosecutors additional time to come to an agreement. However, should negotiations fail by the next hearing, the case will be scheduled for trial, 5th District Court Judge John J. Walton said.

This is the second resolution hearing scheduled in the case. The first hearing was held in May, when Gardner was scheduled to go to trial after negotiations between the prosecutor and Gardner’s defense attorney failed.

Gardner has an extensive criminal history, including an offense allegedly committed three days prior to the attack on Lee. In that case, he is accused of breaking into a business on Bluff Street wearing a wig before fleeing the area on a bicycle, according to witness statements provided to police.

Gardner was also charged with one count of felon in possession of a firearm in U.S. District Court Oct. 31 for possessing a Glock handgun, according to the indictment. In January, he pleaded guilty to the charge, and on April 17, he was sentenced to serve 24 months in a federal prison facility that operates a substance abuse program located in Sheridan, Oregon. Upon his release, he will be placed on 36-months of post-prison supervision. The order to turn Gardner over to the U.S. Marshal’s Office for prison transport was signed but is pending the outcome of the Lee Cleaners case.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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