SALT LAKE CITY -- Friends and family of the undercover informant who committed suicide Monday say he may have been haunted by two previous suicides: Two suspects Ted Gardiner set up for arrest killed themselves last year.
By all accounts, Ted Gardiner was a very private man. The friends and family who spoke to KSL honored his inclinations by declining to speak on camera.
Ted Gardiner took over as CEO of Dan's Foods when he was relatively young. Later, Ted Gardiner ran his own grocery distributing company and more recently managed the Market Street Grill in Cottonwood Heights.
But his passion was the ancient culture of the Southwest. His father, Dan Gardiner Jr., told KSL Ted was proud of his expertise in identifying and authenticating Indian artifacts. Then federal agents recruited him to go undercover.
"It was a compliment to him that they wanted his help," Dan Gardiner said.
He said his son was also motivated by the fact that illegal traffickers "offended or upset or disgusted him." The financial rewards were a secondary factor, his father said.
The FBI reportedly paid Ted Gardiner close to $200,000 for more than two years of undercover work, building cases against suspects who could have turned on him at any moment.
A friend told KSL Ted Gardiner struggled for years before that with alcoholism and addiction to painkillers.
"He was a man plagued by a lot of demons in his life," the friend said, but he was "a really gifted, brilliant man." When he turned to undercover work, "The position he was in pulled him a lot of different ways."
When Dr. Jim Redd, the most prominent suspect in the case, committed suicide and another suspect quickly followed suit, Ted Gardiner didn't talk about it, his father says, but he seemed very upset.
He also worried about personal dangers, a concern validated when prosecutors filed charges against a Southeastern Utah man who threatened to beat him with a baseball bat.
Exactly what combination of stress and fear was at work Monday night when Ted Gardiner shot himself, no one can say. But with trials approaching, a friend said Gardiner was clearly under enormous pressure.