Suspect arrested, body found in Wasilla missing persons case from 2015
On June 30, 2020, a Palmer Grand Jury indicted Jay Osmond Gardner with Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, and Tampering with Physical Evidence in the death of Daniel Buckwalter. Ending a 5 year search for Buckwalter, a missing person reported in August of 2015.
On August 12, 2015, the Alaska State Troopers in Palmer received a report of a missing adult. Daniel Buckwalter (age 46 of Big Lake) was last seen on August 5, 2015 and was believed to be traveling to the Meadow Lakes area, outside Wasilla. Buckwalter’s vehicle was later located abandoned along Three Bees Rd in Houston. Blood evidence was located on the vehicle, which was confirmed through DNA testing to be from Daniel Buckwalter. It was apparent that the vehicle had been moved from the initial crime scene.
Investigators conducted interviews with more than 50 individuals, served over 30 search warrants, submitted over 30 pieces of forensic evidence to the State of Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, and determined Buckwalter was likely murdered at a residence on Kerry Lynn Lane in Wasilla, approximately two miles from where his vehicle was recovered. The primary suspect was identified as Jay Osmond Gardner (age 55 of Wasilla). Gardner made several inconsistent statements throughout the investigation. Attempts to locate Buckwalter’s remains at numerous locations throughout the Mat-Su Valley were unsuccessful.
After years of no further movement on the case, Gardner was contacted and arrested by State Troopers at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on March 25th, 2020 for an outstanding felony warrant for Misconduct Involving Weapons in the third. In addition, Gardner was charged with numerous counts related to fraud/identity theft, as Gardner indicated he was trying to flee the state under an assumed identity.
On April 6, 2020, Investigators served another search warrant at Gardner’s residence on Kerry Lynn Lane in Wasilla, in the continued search for Buckwalter’s remains. During this search, the entire property was excavated, however no remains were recovered. On April 20, 2020, Investigators served another search warrant at Gardner’s residence. After dismantling the floorboards in the residence, the heavily decomposed remains of an adult human were located buried under approximately three feet of dirt/rocks.
The body was sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy. The SME determined the remains were that of an adult male. The cause of death was determined to be a combination of a gunshot wound and asphyxiation, and the manner of death was determined to be homicide. The SME was able to determine the identity of the remains as that of Daniel Buckwalter. Next of kin have been notified.
On June 30, 2020, a Palmer Grand Jury indicted Jay Osmond Gardner with Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, and Tampering with Physical Evidence in the death of Daniel Buckwalter. Gardner is currently in custody following his arrest by State Troopers on March 25, 2020; he is being held without bail.