Tenn. mom convicted of killing four of her five children sentenced to life in prison 

Shanynthia Gardner slit the throats of her four youngest children in 2016: Tallen, 4; Sya, 3; Sahvi, who was 2, and 6-month-old Yahzi.

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A Tennessee mother who was convicted last month of murdering four of her five children has been sentenced to life in prison. 

Shanynthia Gardner of Memphis slit the throats of her four youngest children in 2016: 4-year-old Tallen, 3-year-old Sya, 2-year-old Sahvi and 6-month-old Yahzi. Her eldest child, Dallen Clayton, 7, fled from the home and was unharmed. 

Shanynthia Gardner, a Tennessee mother convicted last month of murdering four of her five children in 2016, has been sentenced to life in prison for her crimes. (Photo: Shelby County Sheriff’s Office)

As previously reported, Gardner, who was 29 at the time of the children’s killings, was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder while committing aggravated child neglect in the deaths of her three daughters and one son. The younger children were the products of her relationship with Martin Gardner, while her eldest child, a son, was from a previous relationship. 

At December’s bench trial, he testified that Gardner appeared calm on the day of the childrens’ murders, saying she told him she was prepping to watch a movie with them, according to KMOV4

Gardner’s sister testified that her sibling had a lengthy history of mental episodes and often appeared paranoid. Earlier that year, Gardner went missing for days, claiming that someone was trying to hurt her and her family. 

In a July 2016 interview, Sonya Clayton, the grandmother of Gardner’s surviving son, said, “That’s was a beautiful sweet young lady. What happened? I don’t understand.” 

“This is the work of the Devil. I know this was not Shanynthia. And I pray and I love Shanynthia,” the woman added. 

Maternal filicide is defined as child murder by the mother. A 2007 National Center for Biotechnology Information study found that filicidal mothers have frequent depression, psychosis, prior mental health treatment and suicidal thoughts.

Additionally, the study found that maternal filicide perpetrators have five major motives. In altruistic filicide, a mother kills her child out of love. In acutely psychotic filicide, a psychotic or delirious mother kills her child without any comprehensible motive. When fatal maltreatment filicide occurs, death is usually not the anticipated outcome. In unwanted child filicide, a mother thinks of her child as a hindrance. The rarest kind, spouse revenge filicide occurs when a mother kills her child specifically to emotionally harm that child’s father.

In 2017, one medical expert called Gardner “mentally defective,” noting she also spent a short time in a psychiatric hospital. According to a report from PEOPLE Magazine, prosecutors acknowledged Gardner has mental health issues, but maintained she was aware of her actions at the time of the murders.

Her attorneys plan to appeal the sentence. 

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