Boyfriend of Thomas Jefferson grad charged in her killing in Washington

| Thursday, July 10, 2014, 10:17 p.m.

Nancy Gardner was a sweet, loving woman who, her family says, would do anything to help someone in need but who always seemed to wind up in the arms of the wrong man.

Her boyfriend, William Jason Grisso, 41, was charged on Thursday with first-degree murder in the slaying of Gardner, 45, who was reported missing on June 30 from the home the couple shared near Mount Rainier in Pierce County, Wash.

“She was very sweet, very kind,” said her sister, Laura Sweeney, 58, of Baldwin Borough. “I think she lived a hard life. She went around with the wrong people, they manipulated her.”

Gardner was 18 when she left home after graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School, Sweeney said. She always kept in regular contact with her family until she met Grisso, Sweeney said.

“She sent me some beautiful flowers on Mother's Day and signed it ‘Nancy and Bill.' After that, there was nothing,” said her mother, Donna Gardner, 84, who shares a home with Sweeney.

“Her (card) said, ‘I miss you and I will call you tonight,' but she never did, which was very unusual,” Gardner said.

Had her daughter called that night, she said, she would have told her: “Please come home. We all love you and miss you and want you home.”

Sweeney said she believes her sister, who grew up in Whitehall and Pleasant Hills, met Grisso online and that she moved from her home in Texas to Washington shortly after her divorce was finalized in February.

The News Tribune in Tacoma reports that Grisso was dating another woman despite being engaged to Gardner and had recently filed for divorce after his wife was granted a temporary restraining order because of what she called his wild mood swings and threats. The paper reports that Gardner was known locally as Nancy Gardner-Edwards.

A complaint filed in Pierce County states:

Grisso reported Gardner missing on June 30 after he said he returned home and found her and her gun gone, but her keys, phone and wallet still in the unlocked house. A few drops of blood were spotted on his shoes, which he explained by saying he had recently kicked a cat, and on the seat adjust of his car. Gardner's gun was found in the console of the vehicle.

There were three photos on Gardner's cellphone of flowers taken on June 30 in Belfair, a community in neighboring Mason County. That's where detectives traced the phone and found her remains.

A spokesman for the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office said an autopsy is scheduled Friday. Grisso entered a plea of not guilty in Superior Court and is being held on $1 million bail.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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