UTAH STATE PRISON — He never called her by name, but as Ronnie Lee Gardner pleaded last week for his life to be spared, he finally gave up an accomplice in his deadly courthouse escape attempt a quarter century ago.
Before the Board of Pardons and Parole, Gardner identified the woman who handed him the .22-caliber revolver he used in 1985 to shoot a bailiff and kill a defense attorney as "the woman who testified against me in the Cheers murder" and was his getaway driver in that 1984 killing of a Salt Lake bartender.
Darcy Perry McCoy drove Gardner during the robbery and killing of Melvyn Otterstrom at the Cheers Tavern in 1984, and later testified against him in court.
But it was McCoy's sister who would spend eight years in prison for aiding his attempted escape from the Metropolitan Hall of Justice on April 2, 1985. Gardner shot bailiff Nick Kirk and attorney Michael Burdell as he tried to get away. Burdell died.
Though she was often accused of handing Gardner the gun in the courthouse, Carma Hainsworth always maintained her role that day was limited to transporting letters from Gardner to her sister and gathering the clothes for Gardner to wear after he escaped.
"I did not know what was going to happen that morning," Hainsworth told the Board of Pardons during a 1987 hearing. "I did not know nothing about that."
Hainsworth repeatedly told officials her lookalike sister, McCoy, gave Gardner the gun, a claim corroborated by Luther Hensley, the officer who shot and injured Gardner during the escape attempt.
Other witnesses, however, identified Hainsworth as the woman in the courthouse.
"We can live with that conflict," a hearing officer told Hainsworth in 1987, "because we have to do it a lot."
Summit County Undersheriff L. Dean Carr, a lieutenant with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office in the late '80s, said he also believed McCoy was involved in the escape attempt but could never put together a case against her.
Bob Stott, a veteran prosecutor with the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office, also had trouble building a case against McCoy.
"Some witnesses had seen two women upstairs and around the courthouse, but they could only identify Carma," he said. "It could have easily been the two women. But we didn't have any evidence then and I don't think we give much credibility to anything Mr. Gardner says."
During a parole hearing in 1987, Hainsworth said she hoped to work in youth corrections once she was released from prison.2 comments on this story
Since then, Hainsworth has remarried and changed her last name. Hainsworth has also been arrested and convicted on a number of felony crimes, including burglary, theft, possession of meth and identity fraud, the latest coming in 2007.
In a Spanish Fork courtroom just last week, Hainsworth pleaded no contest to driving on a suspended license and agreed to do community service to work off her $100 fine. When approached by the Deseret News, her husband said, "If this is about the Ronnie Lee Gardner, please back away right now."