Jury convicts Lakebay man of murdering his fiancée last year

William Grisso
William Grisso Staff file, 2014

A Pierce County jury Thursday convicted a Lakebay man of premeditated first-degree murder in the death of his fiancée last year.

The jury deliberated for less than a day before finding William Grisso, 42, guilty of shooting Nancy Gardner to death on June 29, 2014, in a secluded area outside Belfair.

Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Martin is to sentence Grisso on Nov. 2.

Gardner’s sister, Ava Bertok, said she and her family were relieved by the guilty verdict.

“This has been over our heads for a long time,” Bertok said minutes after corrections deputies led Grisso to jail to await sentencing. “We’ve known the whole time that he was guilty, but to find out and get the verdict, it’s just a relief.”

Deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer and co-counsel Prosecutor Mark Lindquist contended that Grisso wanted to begin a relationship with another woman and killed the 45-year-old Gardner because she refused to break up with him. He then reported her missing.

Detectives used cellphone data to find Gardner’s body and tie Grisso to the crime scene.

Grisso’s defense attorney, Lance Hester, argued that no direct evidence tied his client to the crime.

After the verdict, Hester said he and his client were disappointed.

“We stand by all of our closing arguments, particularly regarding the absence of premeditation,” the defense attorney said.

Gardner’s cousin, Kathy Gutierrez, described the victim as “vivacious and happy and trusting and vulnerable.”

“Nancy was taken in a very violent way by a man she loved and trusted,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve been hoping for justice for her, and we feel that happened today.”

She also thanked prosecutors for their work.

“We feel like they were a voice for Nancy because she was not able to be, and we’re so thankful for them,” Gutierrez said.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644