‘Was Asleep at Time of Killings:’ Houseboy
Tuesday, August 12th, 1969
Los Angeles, Aug. 12 — A 19-year-old houseboy protested his innocence and asked for a lie detector test Sunday in the grotesque slayings of actress Sharon Tate and four other persons at a secluded estate rented by her husband, film director Roman Polanski.
William E. Garretson was held on suspicion of murder but before silence was clamped on the investigation by police, a lieutenant said the long-haired youth was arrested because he was the only person found on the premises where five were murdered Friday night.
Barry Tarlow, an attorney representing Garretson, said the houseboy had told him he knew absolutely nothing about the killings and had been asleep when officers broke into the guest house where he stayed. Tarlow said he expected Garretson would be given a polygraph test sometime Sunday.
Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the controversial county coroner who performed the autopsy on Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, examined the bodies of the five victims and was expected to announce exact cause of death late Sunday.
Those killed were:
— Miss Tate, 26, star of the movie, “Valley of the Dolls,” in which she died a tragic death as Jennifer. She was eight months pregnant. She was the wife of Polanski, director of “Rosemary’s Baby,” who was in London at the time of the killing.
— Abigail Folger, 26, heiress to the Folger’s coffee family. A graduate of Radcliffe, Miss Folger in recent months joined Miss Tate’s crowd of “rich hippies” and commuted between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. Friends said she attended seance sessions, meditating Indian philosophies with actress Mia Farrow and others.
— Jay Sebring, 35, once Miss Tate’s fiance and a friend of Polanski. A Hollywood men’s hairstylist who become so popular he charged $100 a trim, Sebring numbered among his customers Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra, Henry Fonda and Steve McQueen.
— Voityck Frokowski, 37, an actor who worked with Polanski in Polish films before they came to Hollywood. He was a guest at the house as was Miss Folger.
— Steve Parent, 18, son of a carpenter who left his parents’ home Friday saying he was going to visit friends in Beverly Hills. His presence among the jet set swingers was a mystery.
The bodies were found Saturday morning by a maid in the rambling Bel Air home at the end of a cul de sac. It was rented by Polanski from Rudy Altabelli who had asked Garretson to stay on in his $35-a-week job as caretaker including minding Altabelli’s five dogs.
The maid called police. One of the officers described the scene they encountered as resembling a “ritualistic mass murder.” The word “pig” in blood had been scrawled on the door.
Miss Tate, dressed in bikini panties and a brassiere, was in the living room. A bloodied nylon cord was around her neck. It ran over a beam in the ceiling and was attached to the neck of Sebring whose body lay nearby.
Over Sebring’s head was a black hood. Both bodies were covered with blood. Police said Miss Tate had been dead too long to save her baby.
Frokowski’s body was found on the lawn in front of the ranch-style home. Twenty yards away, under a fir tree, was Miss Folger’s body, clad in a nightgown.
Parent’s body was found in a white two-door sedan in the driveway leading to the gate of the estate, slumped in the driver’s seat, shot to death.
The telephone lines from the house had been cut. A piece, believed to be the handle of a revolver, was found on the lawn.
In Lancaster, Ohio, Garretson’s home town, police said the boy was given a two-year suspended jail sentence in 1967 for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. His mother said he left home last October and had written he had a job in Los Angeles but wanted to come home.
Miss Tate’s rise in films had been sudden. After playing starlet parts, including a bikini role in the move “Don’t Make Waves,” she got one of the choice roles in “Valley of the Dolls.”
Miss Tate and Polanski were married at a London registry office in January, 1968. They had been separated frequently because of film commitments and there were reports of marital strife but they were said to be eagerly anticipating the birth of their child.
Polanski, an actor as well as a director, first came to wide attention when he made the Polish film, “Knife in the Water.”
His most successful work was “Rosemary’s Baby,” one of the top money makers of the year, which starred Mia Farrow.