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Man charged with Oakland Avenue stabbing refuses to enter plea or speak at Decatur court hearing
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Man charged with Oakland Avenue stabbing refuses to enter plea or speak at Decatur court hearing

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DECATUR — Charles E. Gardner, accused of stabbing a Decatur man to death because the victim would not share a $150 video gambling jackpot, appeared in court Tuesday refusing to assist in his own defense.

Gardner, 48, looked around and then stared at the courtroom floor and stayed silent while Macon County Circuit Court Judge Phoebe Bowers questioned him.

Bowers told Gardner, who is being held in custody, that he was there to “see if you want to try to hire private counsel or ask for the public defender?”

Gardner, dressed in a Macon County Jail jumpsuit and wearing a pair of glasses with one side taped together, still said nothing. Bowers finally said she would appoint a public defender for him and said there may be a need at some point to evaluate whether Gardner was mentally fit to stand trial.

He had earlier appeared in court Oct. 8 when the three alternate murder charges he faces were explained to him and he, again, remained silent, refusing to state his name, age and birth date or enter a plea.

As Gardner was led back to the cells Tuesday, a woman spectator in the courtroom was ejected by court security after she yelled out something unintelligible.

The charges against Gardner arise from a confrontation the night of Aug. 9, 2018, when 24-year-old Cody Drew was stabbed to death on South Oakland Avenue.

Detectives had originally arrested another Decatur man, 48-year-old Ray M. James, on murder charges which were dropped in July. Sworn Decatur Police affidavits quoted James as being present before the murder and seeking a share of the money Drew had won at video poker, but James had always denied killing Drew.

Detective Sgt. Steve Carroll had said police were pursuing “other avenues of investigation” in the wake of the murder inquiry’s focus swinging away from James. The murder charges against Gardner were announced Sept. 5.

Gardner was rearrested while being held in the Lawrence Correctional Center, finishing concurrent 30-year prison sentences he had received on attempted murder charges dating to May 1993 in Decatur.

Prison records showed Gardner had been paroled in August 2017 and had been returned to state custody after being rearrested on a charge of robbery with a firearm in November 2018.

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid

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