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Indian artifact informant Ted Gardiner commits suicide

Ted Dan Gardiner
Ted Dan Gardiner
Gardiner family photo

HOLLADAY — A suicidal man who shot and killed himself during a confrontation with police Monday was the informant who helped federal officials in a case involving stolen Indian artifacts in the Four Corners region.

A lover of Native American culture, the work Ted Dan Gardiner, 52, did for the FBI was work he did voluntarily, his son Dustin Gardiner said. He wanted to protect a history that was important to him.

"He had a passion for Southwestern archaeology and Native American culture," Dustin Gardiner said. "It was something he didn't want to see destroyed or disrespected."

Last summer, federal officials wrapped up a 2 1/2-year investigation in the Four Corners area, with the indictment of 26 people, including several prominent community members from the southern Utah town of Blanding. The indictments accused them of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. The government believes the defendants were selling or attempting to sell artifacts taken from federal land.

Gardiner is the third person involved in the sting to take his own life since the case has unfolded. Two defendants, Blanding physician James Redd and Steven Shrader, of New Mexico, killed themselves following their arrests in June 2009.

"He (Ted Gardiner) had a history of mental issues and substance abuse problems, and the cases seemed to aggravate that," Dustin Gardiner said. "When the first two suicides occurred, it bothered him deeply. ... He was under a lot of pressure, and I know that was really weighing on him."

Ted Gardiner died Monday night following a standoff with officers from the Unified Police Department. Although the UPD, FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office would not confirm whether the man who died Monday was the same person who acted as the undercover informant, the victim's name, birth date and address all match those of the informant.

Officers were called on a report of a suicidal man about 6 p.m. Monday near 1700 East and Meadowmoor Drive (4995 South). Gardiner, who lived with three roommates, reportedly talked to some of his roommates while holding a gun, went into a bedroom and fired a shot, said UPD Lt. Don Hutson.

The roommates immediately left and called 911.

Two arriving officers entered the house and found themselves in a room about 30 feet away from where Gardiner was located, Hutson said. Only one officer could see Gardiner.

Police talked to Gardiner until he allegedly began pointing his weapon at them. Shots were fired by both the officer and Gardiner. It was unclear Tuesday if the man fired at officers or just at himself, Hutson said.

The state medical examiner's preliminary report listed the probable cause of death as a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Hutson said.

"The round fired by the officer could not have caused his death," he said.

It was the second time in three days police were called to Gardiner's home on a report of him being suicidal.

UPD officers were also called Saturday night. In that case, no shots were fired. But police did take a gun out of the home as a precaution because Gardiner was reportedly suicidal. They also took him to the hospital.

The gun the man used Monday was not the same weapon he had Saturday, Hutson said. Investigators were unsure Tuesday where he had obtained the second gun.

Gardiner once served as the CEO and primary owner of Dan's Foods, his son said. Ted Gardiner took up artifacts collecting in his spare time. He had most recently worked as a manager of the Market Street Grill in Cottonwood Heights, Dustin Gardiner said.

Neighbors said they heard from roommates that Ted Gardiner wasn't working and was depressed, and had recently gone through surgery on his leg.

"He was a very nice man," said next door neighbor Fran Hansen, remembering a time when she and her husband saw Gardiner at the Market Street Grill and he had free desserts brought out to them. Hansen said Gardiner had lived next door for almost two years, renting the house he lived in with three roommates. He occasionally had at least one of his children visiting.

Another of Gardiner's neighbors said that Gardiner came outside to help her jumpstart her car a couple weeks ago, even though it was cold outside and she was new to the neighborhood.

A search warrant from the case noted that Gardiner, the man known as "The Source," acted at the direction of the FBI and BLM, purchasing approximately 256 archeological artifacts totaling $335,685.

Last month, defense attorneys said discrediting Gardiner would be crucial to the defense strategy as the information he provided makes up the bulk of the government's case.

While the U.S. Attorney's Office was not commenting on the case Tuesday, defense attorney Wally Bugden said the news of Gardiner's death will "require some calm reflection" from all of those involved in the case.

"Everyone is going to have to stand back and evaluate what this really means to the government's ability to put on its case," he said. "I don't know how this will impact the case … whether they'll be able to go forward."

Beyond the impact Gardiner's death had on the case, Bugden said it "adds to the overall tragedy and sadness of this case."

"This is the third person to have taken their own life directly involved in this case dealing with Indian artifacts," he said. "Anytime someone takes their life, it's profoundly sad."

Court papers report that Gardiner was typically paid $7,500 a month for recording transactions across the Southwest for more than two years. Gardiner was still being paid to help agents prepare for court cases and was to receive more money for testifying. Gardiner had received a total of $224,000 prior to the arrests that were made in June.

Because officials would not confirm Tuesday whether the man who apparently committed suicide was also "The Source," they would not comment on whether the man's suicide and his role as an informant were in any way connected.

Contributing: Lana Groves