Estate A Continent Away
Monday, August 11th, 1969
LOS ANGELES, Aug 11 – Wilfred Elmer Parent sat in his living room in El Monte Sunday trying to figure out why his eldest son – a seemingly quiet, 18-year-old – had turned up dead at the scene of a jet set mass murder.
Things, as Parent had come to know them, just didn’t make sense.
All Parent knew was that his boy, Steven, was dead – murdered on the premises of a fancy Benedict Canyon estate, 25 miles west of El Monte. And, in the world of Parent, a 44-year-old construction superintendent, that estate was at least another continent away.
“I just don’t understand, “ Parent kept saying. “It – the whole thing – don’t make any damned sense.”
From a nearby bedroom, recurring moans reached the living room. Parent said his wife, Juanita, and their other children – Janet, 15; Dale, 10 and Greg, 13 – had gone into that room to “kinda be together.”
In a heavy sigh, Parent seemed to apologize for the moans from the bedroom:
“We didn’t get to bed until 5 a.m. Janet took it horrible hard.
“The wife and I finally put the kids in bed with us and the five of us just held onto each other and cried until we went to sleep.”
The body of Steven Earl Parent was found Saturday on the estate of movie producer Roman Polanski.
Steven – one of the five slaying victims – didn’t fit the jet set backgrounds of the others.
The youth, a sturdy teen-ager with medium-length, carrot-red hair, was found slumped behind the steering wheel of his white Ambassador, just inside the gate to the estate. He had been shot in the head and body, the coroner’s office said.
Apparently, there was no indication that any driver’s license or other papers were found on the youth.
The other victims, all among the city’s wealthy jet set society, were:
Sharon Tate, 26-year-old star of “Valley of the Dolls”; Abigail Folger, 26-year-old coffee company heiress; Jay Sebring, 35-year-old Hollywood hair stylist, and Voityck Frokowski, 37-year-old Polish movie producer.
“I just can’t understand what he was doing up there in the first place,” the father said. “Hell, Steve wasn’t a poshy kind of kid. I didn’t even know he knew any of those people.”
The young Parent, a recent graduate of Arroyo High School in El Monte, had left home at 7:50 a.m. Friday, apparently bound for his job at Valley Cities Supply Co., a plumbing firm in San Gabriel, his father said.
“The boy was going into Citrus Junior College (in Azusa) next year, and he was working two jobs,” Parent said. “The other job was with a record or recording company in Beverly Hills someplace. I don’t know the name of it.”
Friday night, for the first time in his life, Steve hadn’t come home his father said. “He didn’t call, didn’t leave no word, nothing. Now I guess we know why.”
Besides the ultimate shock of learning that his boy had been killed in Benedict Canyon, there was still in Parent’s mind the way in which he learned of the killing.
For 12 hours, the boy’s body had lain on a slab in the coroner’s office while officials sought his identity, a “mystery” Parent now believes should have been solved rountinely.
What bothered Parent is that his boy’s car had been found at the murder scene shortly after 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Yet, it wasn’t until more than 12 hours later that Steve’s parish priest – told of the possibility of the boy’s death by a reporter – went to the coroner’s office to make a positive identification.
Apparently, no police officer checked the car’s license number against registration records from the Motor Vehicles Department.
As late as Sunday morning, Parent said he had yet to be contacted by a member of the Los Angeles Police Department.
A reporter had gone to the Parent home Saturday evening to verify the ownership of the white Ambassador found at the murder scene.
However, the Parents were not located until three hours later, when they returned home from a restaurant.
By this time, Rev. Robert Byrne was preparing to attempt to identify the boy’s body himself, hoping to spare the family the ordeal.
As Father Byrne was driving to the coroner’s office downtown, an El Monte police officer appeared at the Parent home.
He handed the startled family a card, which bore only the telephone number of the County Coroner’s office.
Parent – still unaware that his boy was dead – dialed the telephone number given him by the officer.
“By this time,” Parent said Sunday, “my wife was hysterical and damn near in a collapse.”
The voice of Don Strickland, a coroner’s deputy, came on the line:
“Your son has apparently been involved in a shooting,” Parent remembers Strickland saying.
“Is he dead?” the father asked – for the first time becoming aware of what might have happened.
Parent said Strickland told him: “We have a body down here and we believe it’s your son.”
The coroner’s deputy then began to check physical characteristics of the body against the father’s description. They matched.
“All I can say,” Parent said Sunday, “is that it was a helluva way to tell somebody that their boy was dead.”
Said Police Lt. Robert Madlock, who initially ran the slaying investigation from the West Los Angeles Division:
“At the time we first found the Parent car at the scene, we were going 14 different directions at once. So many things had to be done, I guess we just didn’t have time to follow up on the car registration.”
By Robert Kistler