William Garretson… Cielo Drive Caretaker (1949-2016)

Garretson was the first suspect in the Tate Murders

William Garretson

Prosecution witness William Garretson was born on August 24, 1949 in Lancaster, Ohio. He was the caretaker of the Polanski residence, 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon.

William Garretson was born on August 24, 1949 in Lancaster, Ohio. He was the caretaker of the Polanski residence, 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, at the time of Sharon Tate’s murder by Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel.

Garretson, who stayed in a small cottage behind the main house, was miraculously unharmed and undisturbed during the murders on August 9, 1969. The following morning he was discovered in the guest house and quickly arrested on charges of suspicion of murder. When questioned, Garretson said he was unaware of the murders until police burst into his bedroom and led him to the bloody bodies of Frokowski and Abigail Folger, lying on the lawn, and Steven Parent, slumped over the wheel of his car.

Police spared Garretson a sight even more horrible inside the house. Sharon Tate, eight-and-a-half months pregnant, had been stabbed repeatedly and was curled in a fetal position as if to protect her unborn son. Nearby, a bloody towel covered the head of hairdresser Jay Sebring, her former boyfriend, who had been stabbed and shot. The two were connected by a rope hung over a rafter and looped around their necks.

Garretson again reassured police that he had heard nothing because he had been listening to music all night. However, in a 1990s documentary about Sharon Tate’s death, Garretson changed his story and stated that he heard what sounded like firecrackers being thrown from Steven Parent’s car and thought it was a prank pulled by Parent, who had just departed. It turned out the firecrackers were gunshots. He also stated he heard a woman scream as she ran by the pool. However, it was the same type of scream a woman would scream as if she were being thrown in the pool. It was a Friday night. Late night parties did occur at the main house so it is entirely possible that Garretson did not fully understand what danger was occurring that night.

This is to no surprise as the LAPD officer who originally conducted his polygraph examination had concluded Garretson was “clean” on participation in the crimes, yet” muddy” as to his having heard anything. Garretson did not explain why he had withheld his knowledge of the events. Speculation and theories about Garretson suggest he was using drugs and an arresting officer said, he looked “gone” no life in his eyes.

Garretson was the main suspect and there was a media blitz around his arrest. Police tried to hold onto him for as long as possible as they had absolutely no other leads and he was the only person found alive on the premises. He was held for questioning over the weekend and released after police said there was just no evidence against him. He was given a polygraph examination on August 10, 1969, and that had effectively eliminated him as a suspect. He was released a few days later.

Garretson wound up suing the city for false arrest, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy and violation of his Constitutional rights. He said he was not advised of his right to remain silent until several hours after his arrest.

Garretson was still in custody the next night when the LaBiancas were tied up with lamp cords and stabbed to death in Los Feliz.

DEATH TO PIGS” and the misspelled “HEALTER SKELTER” were written in their blood on a wall and the refrigerator. A carving fork was protruding from Leno LaBianca’s stomach, and the word “WAR” was cut in his flesh. In another amazing blunder by police, the two bloody murders were originally deemed to be unrelated and were investigated by separate homicide teams.

William Garretson, who moved back to his home town of Lancaster, Ohio after his arrest, was called as a witness by and on behalf of the People of the State of California v. Charles Manson, and testified in the trial on July 26, 1970.

 Photo: Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office; evidence files.

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