• Caretaker Freed: Youth Cleared in Murders of 5



Caretaker Freed: Youth Cleared in Murders of 5

Aug. 12 – A slim youth who was the sole survivor of a rampage of homicide at a Benedict Canyon estate was released by police Monday.

Officers said there was no evidence to implicate 19-year-old William E. Garretson in the murders of actress Sharon Tate and four companions.

The young caretaker was arrested at the estate early Friday at shotgun point, questioned repeatedly, given a lie detector test, and finally released at 2 p.m. Monday.

He appeared near tears as he made his way through the lobby of the police administration building downtown, surrounded by newsmen. An attorney said he wouldn’t talk and he didn’t. He was led away, silently, as his lawyer told newsmen that:

1 — Garretson was in his room in a guest house, listening to his stereo, when the multiple killings occurred.

2 — He had said goodnight to an acquaintance, Steven Parent, 18, at about 11:30 p.m. Friday, then retired to his quarters. Parent was one of the five found shot and stabbed to death the next morning.

3 — He didn’t know there had been any crimes committed until police kicked in the door of his room shortly after 9 a.m. the next day.

Police spoke tersely, when at all, about the case.

After their only suspect in the case walked out the door of the police building, Inspector Harold Yarnell said:

“There is not sufficient evidence to hold Garretson. There is no reason to suspect him.”

Officers added only a few additional details:

1 — The double murder Sunday of a Los Feliz market chain owner and his wife, although similar to the West Los Angeles case in many details, was apparently not connected with it.

2—There are no all-points bulletins out for any suspects in the Tate case, although detectives were questioning; or seeking for questioning, friends of both Miss Tate and young Garretson.

A team of detectives was getting down Monday to the hardcore police work in a complex, apparently motiveless mass murder. In doing so, they probed into the relationships of members of two separate circles of friends who gathered at the sprawling, secluded estate.

In the main house the “beautiful people” — the striking, blonde Miss Tate, her intense, brilliantly talented husband, director Roman Polanski, and the jet and sportscar set that attended them — often gathered.

In the little yellow guest house at the far end of the property was a different crowd — the Hollywood Blvd. drifters, hitchhikers, drug-store cowboys and aimless youths who were invited to his quarters by short, slight, tousle-haired young Garretson.

What police are seeking to learn is basically this: was the killer a young drifter — or one of the “beautiful people”?

Barry Tarlow, the criminal attorney who led Garretson from custody, one arm around his shoulder, said his investigators found out that there was a party at the Tate-Polanski estate Friday night. He believes the killer was personally implicated with the jet set crowd.

Newsmen asked Tarlow if his client had given police the name of suspects.

“He gave no names to police of people he thought to be suspects,” said Tarlow. “He did give them names of acquaintances. And these acquaintances are persons the police are talking to.”

A Hollywood man who picked Garretson up once when he was hitchhiking said the youth invited him to his quarters at the estate, and said he told him that he frequently invited strangers to visit there.

Garretson’s mother has told newsmen of her son describing visits to the guest house by friends from his home town of Lancaster. Ohio — including at least two youths who had had trouble with juvenile and military authorities.

Young Parent was a casual acquaintance of Garretson who had been at the guest house Friday night. He was shot to death as he sat at the wheel of his car in the driveway of the property. His murder posed another question:

If the killer was a drifter from Garretson’s circle of friends, why had Parent been killed, but Garretson spared?

Tarlow said that Garretson lay awake all night, watching television, listening to his stereo, writing letters, then went to bed about 6 a.m.

“Then he heard police pounding on the door,” said Tarlow. “He said, ‘Wait a minute.’ Then the door came flying down. The police said, ‘Get your…hands in the air and don’t move!’ And there were shotguns in his face.”

Tarlow said the youth would rest in seclusion at a ranch outside of the city for a few days to recuperate from what he termed the ordeal of his arrest. He said his client was considering a false arrest suit against the city.

Also in seclusion Monday was Polanski, who flew from London after learning of his wife’s death. Police would not say whether they had interrogated him yet.

Miss Tate, who was eight months pregnant with their first child, died by stabbing, as did her one-time fiance, Jay Sebring, 35, a hair stylist who had become a close friend of Polanski as well. Their bodies were found in the home’s living room.

Polish film producer Voityck Frokowsky, 37, was stabbed and shot in the back, falling on the lawn outside the home’s front door.

Coffee heiress Abigail Folger fell dead on the lawn 100 feet away, the victim of multiple stab wounds. Coroner Thomas T. Noguchi said her wounds would not have been instantly fatal, indicating she might have died while in flight.

The direction she was taking was toward the guest house where young Garretson was later arrested. Miss Folger and Frokowsky had been staying at the estate, and she would have presumably been aware that the caretaker was there.

But, said Tarlow, Garretson was unaware anything was wrong. At 5:30 a.m. he picked up his phone in the guest house, and found it was dead. (The killer, police say, had cut the phone lines.) But, without investigating, Garretson then went to bed, his lawyer said.

Private funeral services for Miss Tate are being arranged through Cunningham & O’Connor. No arrangements have been made for Frokowsky.

Memorial services for Sebring are scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

Rosary will be recited at 8 p.m. today at the Church of the Nativity in El Monte for Parent. Mass will be Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the church, followed by burial at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.

Requiem Mass will be celebrated for Miss Folger at 10:30 am. Wednesday at Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic Church in Portola Valley near Redwood City. Arrangements are through Crippen and Flynn Chapel In Redwood City.


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