The horrific murder of four young children in suburban Memphis on Friday is a complete mystery to those who knew Shanynthia Gardner. The 29-year-old is accused of killing 4-year-old Tallen Gardner, 3-year-old Sya Gardner, 2-year-old Sahvi Gardner, and 6-month-old Yahzi Gardner with a butcher knife, the AP reports. A fifth child, 7-year-old Dallen Clayton, managed to escape and his grandmother tells the Commercial Appeal that she knows Gardner as a "beautiful, sweet young lady." "I forgive her," says Sonya Clayton, who is not related to the four younger children. "I know this was not her. I know this was the work of the devil. I love Shanynthia wholeheartedly still."
Dallen was unharmed and is currently under protective supervision, People reports. His father, Detrail Clayton, tells the Commercial Appeal that he has known Gardner for 15 years and she has never displayed signs of violence or mental illness. But "when the doors close, you never know what a person is going through," he says. "It's an act of evil. I don't know what she's got into." According to court papers, Gardner told her husband, Martin Gardner, that she had killed their four children. Police found her at the scene with "superficial cuts to her neck and wrists." Gardner has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder. According to a police document, there were signs of trouble last year: One day last March, she picked her kids up early and drove 100 miles to Corinth, Miss., for no apparent reason. "She has been feeling that someone is trying to harm her and her family," the police report states.