Monday, October 2, 2017

Which Way You Goin' Billy?

Which Way You Goin' Billy?



8/24/1949 - 08/16/2016


 A long time a galaxy very much the same...and yet very different in so many the one we are living in now...

Garretson (left) with an attorney

... A young man roamed the highways and interstates of America in search of something, anything, that would help him make sense of the world he was living in. Actually he was trying to get lost in America in the name of avoiding the draft for as long as possible. He had turned 19 less than a year before, and was set to complete his final stretch of 'teenagedom' not long before the summer of 1969 officially evolved into past tense. Wanting to see more of the country he might be going to war for—before the inevitable luck-of-the-draw caught up with him—he set his sights on the open road, without a car. By repeatedly waving his thumb in the air for a few days, he managed to pick up enough rides to successfully make the trek from his hometown in Ohio all the way to the 'City of Angels.' Armed with a very unique breed of luck, he eventually landed in an extremely ideal living situation in Beverly Hills, temporarily... and in the middle of a waking nightmare destined to haunt him the rest of his life.

Several months ago I was informed by the Col that our friend William "Bill" Garretson had graduated to that highway in the sky we've been hearing so much about lately. Juan Flynn, Paul Crockett, Vince Bugliosi, Susan Atkins, Rudi Altobelli, and Robert Hendrickson (along with other associated names I'm most likely forgetting) have all been part of a recent wave of expiration in the realm of TLB (Tate/La Bianca)—whose window of time for full disclosure, by the way, is now acquiring a status similar to that of the JFK assassination; thanks to the almighty and undefeated foe we call time.

I'm seriously losing confidence in the idea that we'll ever know what really happened? We know what didn't happen. Well, I should preface that by saying that we don't all agree, but it seems to me that most researchers who study this case (with even a semi-open mind) come to the conclusion that "Helter Skelter" is nothing more than a really upbeat and funky Beatles song appropriately named after a giant spiral slide in London... rather than a legitimate motive for what was arguably the most infamous mass murder in American History.

Call me na├»ve, but between Manson and Hendrickson I had some real hope for eventual revelations. Hendrickson left us a year ago (along with whatever secrets he claimed to be holding onto)... and Manson...well...the phone calls I've heard from the last handful of years don't sound promising at all. In truth, he sounds like time has caught up with him as well. He sounds 'out of it' and just repeating a small collection of those catch phrases that were so entertaining in the days of the VHS 'uncut' interviews. He sounds too old and tired to remember all of his lines and anecdotes needed to maintain the internationally known, multi-dimensional character he created so long ago.

But hey, that's all for another day. We are talking about Garretson now...

The Col suggested I write a post/obit about our boy Billy, because I knew him. Coincidentally the Col is usually (and totally) preoccupied shopping with his supermodel wife for warped and scratched LP records to add to his very eclectic collection, so he is simply too busy to write this himself. I understand and hopefully you do too. Actually I wish he would've written this because, with his superior mind and endless vocabulary, this shit takes like 20 minutes for him to do as opposed to the 20 hours it takes me. Seriously. But honestly, I'm more than happy to pay a brief homage to a man I consider very misunderstood among the TLB community of researchers, scholars, as well as the generically curious.

William Garretson caught my attention in a very big way almost immediately after getting as totally sucked into this case as all of you probably are. On March 9, 1994, the Dianne Sawyer show "Turning Point" premiered using Manson/TLB as a predictable go-to springboard. It was however, a great show... great enough to turn my head around to the degree of perpetual obsession for several years. There was a lot of good footage in the show and the interviewees (including Manson) were very colorful and coherent. Some very interesting things were said that grabbed my attention and compelled me to take a closer look at a true crime story I had otherwise just accepted the 'official' narrative of and for.

Naturally I reread "Helter Skelter" right away as it was the only book about the case I was aware of (along with the vast majority of people). While reading it, I was in awe when I realized there was a lone survivor in the wake of the Cielo Drive massacre. I didn't know that. I didn't understand how that was possible considering the entire event was the result of a murderous rampage rooted in nothing whatsoever other than bloodlust and the cosmically weird need for some people to randomly kill a bunch of strangers just for the apparent thrill of it (Oh, and to start a race war). These people, the killers, were presented as mindless zombies essentially, who's mission was simply to make sure there was no-one left alive on the property—No-one.

It seemed to me that if there were a lone survivor, it was quite possible the victims were more intended rather than random.

I've been on the property and I assure you the distance between the main house and guesthouse could not possibly have led to an oversight among three very amped (and totally brainwashed) soldiers seeking nothing less than the fulfillment of an order from 'Top Hat' to kill everyone there. Yes, the order was to "Kill everyone there!"

With my curiosity piqued, I instinctually knew I had to get in touch with this lone survivor guy right away. Although the official word is that he neither heard nor saw anything that night, I figured he must know something; he must have seen something; he must have heard something... anything. I can't imagine he doesn't in some way hold a piece of the puzzle pertaining to the what, the how, and just maybe the why.

So I took what was expected to be a totally fruitless chance... I 'called information' (Something we used to do before the internet and smart phones). To this day, I'm totally surprised he was actually listed.

Somewhere around mid-late April of 1994, my initial call to him began (verbatim) like this...

WG:  Hello?

Me:   Hi, is this WILLIAM?

WG:  Yeah

Me:   William GARRETSON?

WG:  Uh huh

Me:   William ESTON Garretson?

WG:  Yeah...who is this?

Me:   Hey...I'd like to talk to you about the summer of '69

WG:  Ok...can you hang on for a minute?

Me:   Sure

The rest of the conversation lasted roughly six years.

In the beginning I called him probably once a week and talked for an hour or two about anything and everything. He was very likable, funny, and fun to talk to. Who he was, was as fascinating to me as what he knew. I wasn't going full-blown wannabe Geraldo on his ass just yet... I could wait for answers.

By Memorial Day (May 30th) he called me.

It was a very cool surprise. Apparently he was wonderfully intoxicated and hanging out with a friend ('Getting loaded' meant drinking several cans of Budweiser). I assumed, being Memorial Day,  the likely scenario is he was thinking about the past (having had friends who were killed in Vietnam while he was almost killed himself), and because I had recently emerged to dig into his past, he felt compelled to call me and talk about it. Unfortunately I wasn't home, but he did leave a message. Back then we had answering machines using dual microcassette tapes; one played the same outgoing message over and over while the other recorded all the incoming messages. Thanks to this amazing technology it was easy to preserve messages by simply flipping the cassette over and recording on the other side. Anyway, I still have the original cassette and here is the message...

My memory isn't totally clear (due to all of this coinciding with a very blurry period in my life) but I'm guessing I must've been talking to him pretty frequently at that point... because a month later I embarked on a hitchhiking tour with a planned visit to Ohio for the purpose of taking him up on an invitation to stay at his place for a night... and finally hearing his story in person. By researching the whole Manson/TLB case, I discovered the '60s and became so absorbed by what I was learning, that I was inspired in a huge way to sort of... relive it. I decided I absolutely had to force upon myself a rite of passage in the form of hitchhiking cross-country. I ended up convincing a friend and a dog to go with me. We planned to circle the entire country throughout the summer and top it all off by ending up at Woodstock '94. We made it as far as the Midwest, where I dropped anchor for a while, while the friend and dog kept thumb hopping around the country.

At some point, probably a few weeks later, the friend (and of course the dog) returned to the area. His priority story was that of the night they spent at Garretson's place. He had called Bill from a payphone in Lancaster, Ohio. They met at a pizza place. The night concluded with both of them sharing a case of Budweiser... and Bill holding court, telling his story about August 8th and 9th, 1969... 25 years later... while sitting around a bonfire in his backyard. The road dog also had a very memorable night playing with Bill's dog.

This is the fourth time in six years that I've seriously regretted not spending a lot more time hanging out with, or simply talking to, someone directly or closely related to this case. Rudi Altobelli, Christopher Jones, Robert Hendrickson... and now finding out about Garretson several months after the fact. Real-life characters from fascinating true crime stories are as huge to me as celluloid heroes are to star struck fans while they're being hypnotized by the big screen. I'll never stop occasionally beating myself up over my missing the pizza/beer/bonfire night... and I'll always wish I would've (or could've) stayed in touch with Bill long after our communications ceased to be in the spring of 2000. I'll get back to that in a bit, but I'll back up a few steps now for the sake of chronology.

In 1997 another Bill, Bill Nelson, released his second or third book titled "MANSON: Behind The Scenes" in which he claimed to have gotten Garretson to open up for the first time. The front cover boasts the following:

The only person alive on the

Sounds pretty exciting... except it wasn't a world exclusive and it wasn't the first time he 'broke his silence.'

I was surprised to find out (From Garretson Himself) that he was actually flown to New York, put up for a couple nights in a fancy hotel, and interviewed on-camera for the pilot episode of Turning Point I mentioned earlier. I may be the only other person aware of this fact because they didn't use any of him in the final cut, and I've never heard him mention it in any of the interviews he did later on. The Turning Point interview really was a turning point in his life because it was the first time he was actually interviewed since surviving the Cielo Drive massacre and everything that followed (Including the TLB trial as well as his civil suit against LAPD). It was him finally breaking his silence almost 25 years later. I can't say I remember exactly what he told me he had shared with them, but he may have revealed to them first some or all of the things he would tell Nelson a couple years later.

And then there was me...

Over time he had systematically opened up and shared with me the strange things he remembered about the later hours of August 8th, 1969 leading up to murders. The car that picked him up when he hitchhiked down to the Sunset Strip to get the TV dinner and cigarettes, and how they warned him not to go back to the property that night. The VW van full of "hippy types" that picked him up on his way back, and how they repeatedly, and suspiciously, kept insisting on driving him all the way to Cielo despite his attempts to get dropped off a safe distance away. He was very spooked by the time he got back in the guesthouse that night—he even wrote down the license numbers of both cars. For anyone not familiar with his story, read Nelson's book or, even better, listen to the interview he did with Brian Davis at TLB Radio (easily the most thorough of documented interviews). I won't go into all the details here because that isn't the emphasis of this article. I'm more interested in weighing what is believable vs. unbelievable for the sake of truth-seekers not being too easily swayed by the kneejerk reactions and declarations of those who choose to totally discredit him based on his bizarre behavior later on—which is what I'm here to talk about.

Like I mentioned earlier, our conversations continued for about six years until the Spring of 2000. The reason I discontinued our talks was simple and can be summed up in three words: Rosie Tate Polanski.

Yes, sometime in early 2000 I got a very strange call from Bill... one that I'll never forget. He had an unfamiliar enthusiasm in his voice which immediately held my curiosity. I hadn't talked to him in some time so I was asking him what was new in his life and what he was currently doing (i.e., asking why he was calling). He kept making fragmented references or hints as to what was behind his ambiguous excitement... saying things like "Oh, I'm just hangin' here with Sharon Jr." and "I've been having a few beers with Roman's daughter."

Nothing unusual about that, right?

He caught me off guard mainly because I never felt the need to be on guard with him at all. So I played along by asking him what he meant while wondering if Roman actually had a daughter I was unaware of... who had recently emerged in Ohio (of all places). It was possible. The more he talked, the more it became clear that he was now 'hosting' some woman claiming to be Roman Polanski's daughter—but, not only that—she was Roman AND Sharon's daughter. How was that possible?  As far as I knew, it wasn't.

"So what's the deal, Bill?" I asked, and before I could nervously cough up the words "Dude, are you loaded?" he handed the phone to his new girlfriend who, after introducing herself as "Rosie Tate Polanski," proceeded to give me an amazing history lesson. With Bill's unflinching reinforcement of her story... I was now on the road to being convinced that she was the female unborn baby we had all come to know as the male unborn baby pre-named Paul Richard Polanski—the same baby who's entire life was cut short before it ever had a chance to begin. I wasn't really on the road to being convinced, but I did play along in awe because I honestly could not believe what was happening. I kept thinking "Why is Bill fucking with me and when will I be let off the hook?" I played along expecting at any moment he would bust out laughing while boasting about how long he had me going. But that moment never came. Even if it did, I still would've thought the whole thing was very weird, and I would've chalked it up to some crazy broad Bill is now 'entertaining' had compromised his self control and sense of decency. No big deal, just a bit surprising. The boy needs to get laid. It's long overdue. I understand. This is a bit much... but I get it.

It didn't take long for the real reason behind the call to be revealed. After hearing enough about me from Bill, Rosie T.P. (for lack of her real name) figured I might somehow be able to hook her up with a venue or two to tell her story and get some exposure. Still playing along, I wasn't about to give the impression I would be able to follow through with anything like that. After getting the hint, she began expressing a strong interest in talking to Rudi Altobelli (Owner of the Cielo Drive property in '69)—as though he would be able to confirm her story and identity. I wasn't about to give her Rudi's phone number, but once Bill started asking for it, I gave in. I had known Rudi for a couple years at that point and Bill knew it. Being caught off guard, I wasn't totally comprehending the degree of insanity Bill was embarking on. It still seemed like a joke to me. A sick one sure, but a joke nonetheless. In all fairness, I was distracted and not giving it enough thought to where I should've put myself in Rudi's shoes before agreeing to give up his number. All I was thinking at the moment was how cool it would be for Rudi to hear from Bill after what, 30 years?

Well that went over beautifully!

In fact Rudi called me immediately after he hung up on Bill. He was very annoyed, but very patient; he was eloquently reprimanding me without being too pointed. It was while talking to him that I was finally able to put this whole Rosie T.P. thing into proper perspective. I was embarrassed and apologetic that I gave Bill his number. Rudi was a very no-nonsense type of guy. He was a lot of fun and had a wild sense of humor, but he wasn't one to play along with something he deemed a total waste of his time—especially when it was "Originating in the Twilight Zone," as he put it. From what he told me, it sounded like he was quick to ask Bill exactly why he was calling and what he wanted. According to him, Bill literally said something along the lines of "Don't you remember what happened to the baby?" while alluding to the existence of Rosie. With that, Rudi gave him no slack and immediately cut the conversation off with "Goodbye William. Don't call me again." At one point in our conversation I questioned Rudi as to why he wouldn't have any interest in staying in touch with Bill just for old times' sake. His response was simply "If you have a cancer, you cut it out." Wow! Ok, I get it. Sorry. Sad that the idea of a reunion was totally lost to what was probably the most discomfiting period of Bill's later life. It was him at his worst and he was willing to do it to maintain a 'partnership' with the first woman to come into his life in who knows how many years. Probably quite a few. Maybe even a decade? I know he was married a few times, but the entire six years I was chatting with him I never heard a single reference to a woman, ever. See what I'm getting at?

Although that call was enough for me to stop talking to Bill, It didn't for a minute cause me to question his credibility up to that point. It would've been fruitless and counterproductive to continue talking to him anymore because the conversation would've centered around Rosie and this 'new' addition to his version of the events that night. As far as the rest of his story, well... it hadn't changed up to that point and hasn't changed since. The cool thing about his involvement with Rosie is it consequently pushed him into the spotlight for posterity's sake. The not-so-cool thing is he will forever be discredited by most people researching the case simply because of the poisonous web of Rosie's he got caught up in. They won't have the timeline perspective that I have; they didn't get to see him evolve as more relevant witness, as it were. It will appear to them as though he rushed the gate and immediately jumped on Rosie's bandwagon. He didn't.

Bill standing poolside @ Cielo Drive

Do we question the sanity of a man who embarks on such a grand embellishment? Well, sure, probably, but that doesn't mean he's insane. Desperate, perhaps. It blew my mind even more seeing Bill share the screen with Rosie. It's been so long, so I'm not totally sure, but I think it may have been a revised version of the Sharon Tate "E! True Hollywood Story" that covered them the first time. Obviously they didn't have the knee-jerk "he's full of shit" reaction that most people have upon hearing the shocking news that Sharon's baby actually survived and is now sharing Budweiser mimosas every Sunday morning with the boy in the guesthouse. There was also some other day time Oprah-like TV show that gave Rosie air time. What the hell? It wasn't even presented as though it were a joke. It was seriously being considered. Reminds me of a great line from the film "SFW"...

"Reality TV gives reality a bad name."

The other side of that cultural phenomenon is the parallel reality taking on a life of its own before it's given a chance to have a proper birth and burial. A lot of people tend to jump the gun without questioning the trendy conclusion, and run with it while covering their eyes and ears with a false sense of having gained superior knowledge by being on board with the newly unchallenged knee-jerk consensus. This is one of the more popular ways that 'bullshit walks' a long and winding road with a confident and cocky stride. The lie becomes the truth before it has a fair chance to be put to rest, and only the insane dare challenge it. It happens all the time and in a lot of cases it becomes the majority rule. Just look at how many people still emphatically argue that Manson is 5'2" short—a widely popular falsehood that can be easily disproven with a little bit of research (he's actually just shy of 5'7"... or, he was anyway). The lie in this instance being that all of a sudden nothing Garretson ever said is worthy of consideration because one day he decided to invite the wrong person into his life, for better and worse.

Equally on point, Bobby Beausoliel is worth mentioning here. A lot of researchers dismiss the idea that he has ever told the truth due to his story having changed over the years in interviews and parole hearings (something I haven't personally looked into enough to substantiate but it's worth using as an object lesson while we're on the subject). Let's weigh his predicament a little bit and see if there might be a legitimate reason if he has indeed changed his story. Without going into the specifics of his story (or stories), I'll just remind you that the man is in prison for life and only goes up for parole every few years, and he is pretty much at the mercy of whatever help he can get in the form of an attorney. If that attorney dangles a carrot in front of Bobby while instructing him that he will probably have a better chance of being considered for parole if he would only alter his story to fit whatever narrative the attorney feels at that time would have a more softening blow on his eligibility, suitability, and ability in general... would Bobby not be wise to follow the attorney's advice? Consider the fact that prisoners aren't able to have their fingers on the pulse of reality outside the prison walls as much as we and the attorneys do. There isn't much in hand with which to weigh such a decision. There isn't much time either in a lot of cases due to unforeseen or unexpected events; like changing attorneys, last minute filings, amended rules, etc. There are no second or third takes at Parole hearings. There's only one bullet in the gun, only one hand to fire it with, and only one target to shoot perfectly in the middle. "Everybody run! Bobby's got a gun!" Yes, there certainly are legitimate reasons for one changing their story that have nothing to do with honesty or credibility.

So Bill is lonely and quietly haunted. Along comes Rosie and her calculating vagina. Bill takes the bait knowing full well what he is doing and how it's gonna look... but he doesn't care. He never cared what anyone else thought of him or his credibility anyway. If he did he would've sought the spotlight a hell of a lot sooner than he did. Like 10-20 years earlier. He never left his hometown and his number was listed... so it is without question he was approached by every single TLB special ever produced in the preceding three decades. He turned them all down. Now he's made a deal with Rosemary's Baby, and he has to live up to his end if he wants to continue having his way with both of her ends. Even if it means immortalizing his name, face, and extremely suspicious memory on the screen with his new song and dance—written, produced, and directed by the demon baby herself. He probably knew it wouldn't last forever but, at the same time, a year or two might seem like forever in the life of a lonely, sexless truck driver who drinks a lot of Budweiser. I believe their rendezvous did indeed withstand the fairy tale odds and extend beyond a year or two, but I can't say for sure. Either way, it lasted a while and Billy got what he wanted, and so did Rosie. In one of his interviews with TLB Radio, he was asked if he thought Rosie was just using him. His response was "Well, if she was using me then I was using her." Oh I'm sure they had their little spats and knock-down-drag-outs, and reasons, but clearly once the attention dried up, she was gone. I wonder who's unborn baby she's pretending to be these days...

As I mentioned earlier, the important facts of his story never changed. The parts that did change—his Rosie-induced additions—may actually be clues into other revelations he hadn't yet remembered or revealed. In Bugliosi's Helter Skelter there is a very brief, and easily missed, mention of what could be an extremely important clue; a neighbor claiming to have heard the sounds of two or three men in a very heated argument coming from the property that night at roughly 4:00 A.M.. Why this clue was not the least bit expounded on by the prosecution is, to this day, a very valid mystery to me and many other would-be researchers. It was mentioned once and then buried by all the murderous hippy cult, race war, and Hollywood-hit-list minutiae filling up the hundreds of horrifying pages (as well as a lot of meaningless, overly detailed 'facts' as if Joe Friday had written it himself and just had to mention the current weather in every single entry).

It is widely believed, as well as widely debated, that Manson revisited the crime scene later that night to plant some false clues (glasses, for instance), wipe away finger prints, and whatever else he may have felt the need to do to steer the carnage into his own imaginative narrative. It is also widely believed he did not go back there alone. Bruce Davis seems to me the most popular candidate to have joined him if this did indeed happen. I've always emphatically believed that, if it did happen, there is absolutely no way the boy in the guesthouse would've been overlooked twice at that point. The fact that the boy survived that night compels a shitload of totally valid questions which still deserve answers.

It made sense to me in the very beginning of my research that Garretson was approached by whomever went there later that night, and some kind of agreement (by obvious use of intimidation) was made with him in exchange for his life. Again, if the murder victims were targets (at least some of them), there would've been no reason to kill Garretson unless of course he got in the way, saw too much, and could identify the killers... which is exactly what happened to Steven Parent. I imagined him being approached in a very stone-cold and matter-of-fact tone, as though he is being given one chance to pick the right card from a stacked deck and walk away unharmed... while fully embracing what he's willing to do to live up to his end of that agreement.

The boy was in as much shock and fear as the entire city was—even more so because he was there. How likely is it that he would've revealed what he knew or whom he met that night knowing full well the unveiled threat could easily reach all the way to Ohio and wipe him out as well as... maybe his Mother? Keep in mind the degree of fear many people peripherally involved with the case still carry to this day; and how it continues to keep them very tight lipped about what they know. If you are unsure what or whom I'm referring to, I encourage you to dig much deeper than you already have... because I am not making this up. It's ironic, but over two decades ago I envisioned two men approaching him in the guesthouse, hours after the murders, and forever etching into his would-be tombstone that he would not reveal a single word with regard to what he saw or heard that night. Which, he didn't. Of course, several years later, as part of his 'three eyed baby' story (the one Rosie conveniently vaulted from his entombed memory) he in fact mentions a few men coming to his door later that night holding the baby and having a conversation with him. Take the baby out of the equation and maybe, just maybe, he is confessing to something there.

It took him nearly twenty-five years to begin to open up about anything he saw and heard. He saw Tex on top of Wojciech outside the front door of the main house. He saw Krenwinkle chasing Abigail through the yard. He heard Abigail say "Stop! Stop! I'm already dead!" Something Krenwinkle actually mentioned in Turning Point although she came across in a much calmer tone and using only the words "I'm already dead." Speaking of Krenwinkle, she also mentioned in the same interview that she had approached the guesthouse but, all of a sudden, a wave of guilt and remorse took her over and she walked away without even trying to enter (a very inconclusive statement on her part). Garretson, however, recalled to me how he had stood there and watched an attempt to turn the doorknob from the outside—which was only prevented by the fact that he had already been spooked enough to lock it.

The guesthouse as seen from the swimming pool
(note the distance)

Yes, Billy was in full combat gear that night in his mind. He was wide awake and sporadically running on the kind of adrenaline brought on by the fear of one's life being realistically in imminent danger. He was on Red Alert. Sirens were going off all over the battlefield. He was crawling through a foxhole. He was all over the guesthouse that night. Hiding...sneaking from room to room...peeking out windows...squinting...listening...trying to figure out what his next move should be. Should he make a dash for it? Assuming he had just seen an attempt to open his door by someone who was party to the shadowy horror unfolding on the edge of his yard, stepping outside could be an instant and fatal error. Should he scream out the window for help? Considering it was so quiet that night that one of the killers later stated "you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon"... he may very well have been heard by a neighbor. But what good would that do? He would immediately get the attention of the enemy combatant(s), which could prove to be just as soon and fatal an error as running. Besides, from all the screaming he's already heard, what difference would it make? The police have got to be on the way by now. Just keep hiding. Keep surviving until they finally make it up the hill to save the day. And whom are they saving exactly? And from what or whom exactly? "What the hell is going on out there?"

What happened to Bill between the time the war was over, and the moment the LAPD burst through the guesthouse doors pointing their cannons at the little white boy from Ohio (whom they immediately assumed was the murderer even though he didn't have a drop of blood on him) is a noted mystery. We know he stayed up writing letters to people. When the morning sky finally illuminated the more hidden houses in the canyon, he was still writing letters. The police photographs show the letters on the coffee table as though he was in the middle of writing when they arrived. He has made many comments to me and others about the importance of those letters. Even twenty-three years ago when I started talking to him he put a lot of ambiguous emphasis on those letters. He's even alluded to the contents of the letters explaining what happened that night. The problem is, in typical LAPD fashion, those letters never saw the light of day once they were removed from the property. Were they even booked as evidence? Were they even read? If there were nothing to them, why not share that revelation as further evidence of Garretson's innocence? After all here is a kid who was conveniently booked for mass murder simply because he was there. He was now internationally known in the worst way imaginable. His face was on the cover of newspapers all over the world. He told me about how he had gotten calls from friends who had been shipped off to Vietnam. They saw his face plastered on front pages all the way over there. They were trying to find out what the hell was going on.

Inside the guesthouse
(notebook used for writing letters on the coffee table)

The logic has always escaped me. Uh, yeah, the boy killed everyone there and then changed his bloody clothes after a shower. Probably had some chocolate milk and cheese while he was drying off. Probably wanted to take a nap but figured the sun will be rising soon anyway so why bother. Oddly he didn't feel the need to flee the crime scene even though there were dead bodies all over the front lawn. He probably figured enough time would go by and no one would notice and he could continue to live there eating TV dinners and smoking cigarettes and somehow everything would magically be back to normal by the time Rudi returned from Europe. Regardless of the scenario envisioned by LAPD, put yourself in his shoes before you judge his behavior after he was arrested... as well as after he was released. What he endured that night was only prelude for what he was about to be thrown into once the sun came up.

Shocked into submission at gunpoint, dragged out of the house, barefoot and shirtless, and through the front yard. He was still in a dream state. In his stupor, he actually thought for a brief moment the cops were there to arrest him for some unpaid hitchhiking tickets he had collected that summer. His unassuming question was simply "What's wrong?" and their answer was "Shut up. We'll show you!" And show him they did. His words to me were "It looked like a battlefield." There was Abigail. He liked Abigail. She had treated him kindly and had even given him a few rides to save the wear and tear on his thumbs. He didn't even know it was her when they showed him, but when he found out later it was, there was a sadness. He had a connection to her. There was Wojciech... eyes wide open. What the hell actually did happen here last night? Is this all a bad dream? It can't really be happening. What the hell is going on? Why me? In his state of shock he was powerless, speechless; incoherent for several days. And yet, being the innocent bystander, he was expected to perform a polygraph examination as though it were any other day of the week. He recalled to me how, while he was being processed at the Police Department, some cop had pointed directly at him while declaring "There's the guy that killed all those people in Beverly Hills!" What the hell is going on? That's exactly what he kept asking himself over and over. Imagine that. Imagine being him in that moment and for the few days he spent living this inescapable nightmare. how would you react and behave? It's worth noting here that after he was released and flown back home to Ohio, with the exception of mandatorily returning for the trials, he never once stepped foot in Los Angeles again. I tried talking him into returning and revisiting (thinking it would be good for him as well as light a fire in his memory), but he wouldn't have it. He was compelled and content to stay put in Ohio for the rest of his life—3,000 miles from the summer of '69.

Garretson being led into an interrogation room
after his arrest  (bare foot and shirtless)

Revisiting some of the memories he finally shared a quarter century later... its important to note that he definitely added some dimension, as to what really happened that night, by sharing the story about the van full of hippy types who had picked him up on his way back from Sunset. Although I have not read Nick Shreck's latest book, I am privy to the section where he claims the Cielo Drive property was under FBI surveillance that same night due to all the drug activity supposedly going on there with Wojciech. I can't say whether that's true or not but, like anything else, it is possible. Assuming for now that it is true, what better way for undercover agents to disguise themselves and fit in than to do it as hippies and keep a close tail on everyone coming and going from the house? Garretson told me he got spooked by these people and told them to let him out far before they had gotten anywhere near Cielo Drive. They told him it was ok, they could take him further. The further up Benedict Canyon they drove, the more he tried to get them to pull over and let him out while they continued to assure him it was ok. When they finally reached Bella (directly opposite the long, shared, private drive leading to the house), after turning onto Cielo, he boldly told them that this was it, he definitely had to get out here. Their response was "It's ok, we are going to the same place you are." They drove him all the way to the house, parked, got out with him, and started asking him who the cars there belonged to. "Who's car is this? Who's car is that?" One of them even went into Sebring's Porsche claiming it was his "friend's car" and he was going to "play a trick on him." It's also important to note here that Sharon's Ferrari was in the shop at the time, and she had returned from Europe early. So, in a sense, she wasn't even there. She wasn't supposed to be anyway. There's more to the story but I'll stop there and highlight another very good possibility.

In Bill Nelson's book Manson: Behind the Scenes he interpreted this story as though the hippy types were actually casing the place for what was being planned that night. One of them could very well have been Bruce Davis (for example). The reason I give this interpretation so much credibility is because—until hearing this story—the thought of preplanning never entered the equation in my mind. It's one of those easily missed and taken for granted conveniences. It was a slap-my-forehead moment, and since then I see it as a no-brainer with no possibility of being untrue. Imagine the alternative. With no preplanning (I.e., no one on the lookout to make the call saying the coast was clear), it was possible the killers could've driven roughly an hour, only to descend on the property that night being occupied by no one. Even better, it was highly likely they would've run into 30 or 40 people on the property that night in the middle of a party. It was Friday night and by many accounts a party had been planned. What happens then? They drive back to the ranch and (assuming Manson had anything to do with this plan) Tex awkwardly has to explain why nothing happened...

"Awe shucks Charlie, wouldn't ya know it? They was a havin' a big ol' party tonight and we figured it dumb tryin' to take on 30-40 people with a six shooter and a couple of knives. Darn the luck! I'd have to reload that buntline perty fast, yuk yuk! Well dangit I'd say we oughta give 'er another try tomorrow night but tomorrow night is Saturday and they's prolly havin' another big shindig or BBQ or sumpin busy like that. Me and the girls was talkin' bout it on the way back and figured Sunday night's prolly the best idea since most folks are workin' Monday mornin' and usually get home early Sunday night to relax and watch TV. I know my folks do it sumpin' like that usually unless there's another family reunion that weekend."

To that Manson replies...

"Good thinkin' Tex. I knew there was a reason I kept ya around. Sunday night it is. Why didn't I think of that? Damn, I must be getting old. And damn those Hollywood types and their stupid Friday night parties! Ok kids, take your black clothes off, hide 'em under your mattress, put your PJs on, and go to bed. And don't mention a word of this to anyone else."

Interestingly, Nelson sums it up at the end of that chapter in his book by recalling how Manson had supposedly told Tex and the girls "It's time" before sending them off to Cielo. Nelson then concludes by asking the question "How did he know?"  With the very notable exception of digging into the true nature and history of the relationship between Tex and Susan LaBerge (Rosemary LaBianca's daughter)... this may be the very best and most compelling question Nelson ever asked in all of his investigations. How did he know? More appropriately, how did they know?

Of course it's as possible as anything that Garretson really was overlooked that night. I just don't see it being likely. It's possible Krenwinkle tried the door and gave up after noticing it was locked while also being spooked by the sound of multiple dogs (Rudi's) barking inside. But with the massive bloodbath they were already neck deep in, does it make sense they would roll the dice and simply hope they weren't leaving an eyewitness to tell the tale? It's also possible that Manson and Bruce Davis (for example) went back later and (already having full knowledge of the guesthouse) creepy crawled the property, peeked in the windows, noticed the boy was minding his own business, concluded he must not have seen or heard anything, and decided there was no reason to get his attention now. However, within Garretson's 'three eyed baby story' lies some very realistic details pertaining to the alternative possibility—excluding any and all references to the baby of course.

He claimed after stepping outside on the patio with the men, one immediately went inside to see if his phone was working... while the other held him outside at gunpoint. At some point after the men were both present again on the patio, they began walking away in separate directions. One went in the direction of 'the alley' (the path to the driveway) while the other one—the one with the gun—went towards the main house... while pointing the gun at Garretson, telling him to go back inside, and stating "There's already enough dead tonight." This all makes perfect sense if you consider the idea of taking out the boy in the guesthouse being put on the table and dramatically weighed real-time. Imagine Manson and Bruce going to the house later, knowing full well that someone was in the guesthouse because Krenwinkle told him so while telling him why she was unsuccessful in killing them. Another possibility is she just lied to Tex earlier and told him no one was in there. Or maybe she told him about the barking dogs, and Tex was... scared. Either way when the two show up later they know someone is there and they know who it is because earlier that night Bruce was one of the lookouts casing the place who picked Garretson up and drove him there. They had decided to leave him alone because he was innocent and not an adversary. They probably liked him. They probably deemed him closer to being one of them than were the intended targets. They even warned him not to go back that night—hoping he would just make it easy for them by staying away.

After hearing Krenwinkle had attempted entry, possibly getting his attention, and after hearing about the surprise killing of Steven Parent, they now don't know what to think... and they absolutely have to investigate and decide whether or not he should be forever silenced. After all, the entire ambush was fraught with unexpected chaos; the murders were supposed to have been contained inside the house rather than spilling out onto the front yard. They need to gauge whether or not he saw anything. They need to make sure the phone in the guesthouse is as dead as the phone in the main house is. They need to be sure he hadn't called anyone in the last few hours, as well as make sure he will not be able to call anyone now or after they leave.  Bruce, being the Zodiac Killer (not really), is bloodthirsty and all about killing him and not taking any chances. He holds him at gunpoint, drilling him with even more everlasting fear... while Manson, the older and more experienced criminal, checks the phone inside and sees that it is indeed, dead. So far, the boy has alerted no-one.  At one point one of them asked Garretson if he "needed a gun." Could this have been a trick question to see if he was hiding a gun he might pull on them at any moment? None of this matters to Bruce anyway, who still insist they kill the boy because letting him live is too risky. They argue about this passionately; it is an extremely heated decision to make. They are arguing loud enough to get the attention of a neighbor—who later reports hearing the men arguing around 4 A.M.. Either within the argument or after, the comment is made "There's already enough dead tonight."

Obviously in the middle of this scene it is made very clear to Garretson that he is to stay inside the guesthouse and forget the conversation ever happened. Forget everything he has seen or heard. He is told not to leave until he has to; and he will know when that time comes. "Your word is your bond, and your bond is your life." He has no doubt; they held the power to scare him into submission. After being led out by the cops later, and seeing the carnage, the threat is forever locked in his mind. He's also consumed with guilt about the death of Steven Parent—if he had never met him, he wouldn't have been there that night (regardless of the true circumstances behind that meeting).

He is now on his own road to hell, or so it seems. He is now in the middle of a war he knows nothing about. He is now being held captive—a collateral POW rather than collateral damage. His memory is rapidly being traumatized, confused, and buried by all the suggestive interrogating he is undergoing while still in his state of suspended animation. "What the hell is going on?" Whatever the hell is going on, he is being driven further and further away from ever truly figuring it out. He is now no different than the soldier he may have been in Vietnam had he been drafted instead of floundering in La La Land during the monumental summer of '69. He has narrowly escaped death while being almost hand in hand with his comrades who weren't so lucky. He's still a teenager and look at what he has been witness to, party to, and part of. He's fucked. For life. His mind will never be the same. It will never work the same. It was stamped with PTSD before he really became a man. With regard to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth... his clarity will be self chosen, selective, and swimming around in a pool of Budweiser in it's free time—only coming up for air in colorful, fragmented increments. It will forever be protected from too much solitary thought, and will never fully escape the dark corridor of his mind it will be locked down in for almost half a century.

Garretson in the guesthouse during happier times

Forgive the boy for being partially confused and foggy and susceptible to Rosie's bait. He isn't the only one in history who's memory got locked in a little black box and buried in the basement for decades. It's a very common occurrence, in fact. Personally I don't think it took twenty-five years for his memory to return. I think it took that long for him to get the nerve to talk. I think the guilt ate away at him while the fear kept him quiet. I think he was also very afraid of confessing what he knew, because he knew it would leave him labeled as 'the only person in the world who could've prevented the murders' that night. He had warning. He was spooked. He was aware. He had been 'brought to now'. He could've ran from the van and alerted a neighbor or ran to the main house and alerted the intended victims directly. He could've... he could've... he could've. Even worse, what will people say when they find out he could've told the cops so much more and perhaps the killers would've been apprehended sooner? How much sooner? Would his info have spared the LaBiancas? Where does it end in his mind? Walk a mile in his bare feet and striped pants, and then blame him all you want...

"What the hell is going on?"

He had told me the reason he took off hitchhiking across the country was because he was avoiding the draft for as long as he could. He said in a later interview that he wanted to see more of the country he would be fighting for, because he was sure he'd soon be drafted. I think he felt on the spot when asked the question, and didn't want to appear to be a draft dodger. But really, who can blame him? Running on the belief that he was indeed running from the draft, it is an uncanny irony that he ran from the war in Vietnam, and ran right into the middle of another kind of war. It has been called a holy war. It has been called a drug war. It has even been called a pre-emptive strike for a race war. Whatever the truth is, it was a war, and people were killed, and he was there... and he couldn't run from it. He forever suffered the consequences of that war; he survived, but he was another victim. The haunting remained his most consistent marriage in life—as well as his most constant demon.

"It looked like a battlefield."

Bottom line: In my mind there's no way he was overlooked that night. I know parts of his story, the later story, are contradictive. In his polygraph examination, he claimed Steven Parent had made a call from the guesthouse phone before he left that night. After Rosie was in the picture, he claimed the phone lines were already down when he got dropped off by the van, and there's no way Parent made the call. I think he was especially vulnerable to whatever spell Rosie cast on him. She got into his head. She played on his guilt and fear. Maybe he eventually believed what he was saying. I don't know. But, like I said, the core parts of his story, his early story, didn't change... and they make a lot more sense than what he added later. He was allowed to live that night. How? Why? Unfortunately we will most likely never know the full extent of those circumstances. If Bruce Davis went there later with Manson, he will never admit to it. He's already been granted parole five times. Such an admission would make him an accessory to five more murders. Manson? I don't think he even remembers if he went there later that night. If it were discovered that any of those people known as "The Manson Family" were in those cars driving Garretson back and forth that night, they would also be charged and convicted as accessories to murder. No-one will ever talk.

There has also been speculation kicked around for years that Garretson knew Patricia Krenwinkle, and that's why he was allowed to live. If that were the case, his only dilemma would've been whether or not to turn an acquaintance in for murder after he discovered what happened. Again, anything is possible, but it seems the risk would totally outweigh the loyalty for a peripheral player on that stage. His behavior, the way he looked, and the way he talked from the moment he was arrested until he finally escaped from L.A., all reek of something more complicated. Just look at him in this frame from film of his press conference after his release. The look in his eyes is worth a thousand more words than the picture itself...

No, Billy was too good to simply look the other way and pretend to not know an acquaintance was involved in the brutal massacre of five people he knew... which is why I don't give the Krenwinkle angle much thought. I knew him. He was a good guy. He was an honest guy. He was moral. He was caring. He was also pretty normal by society's standards. He was likeable. He had a heart. He had a soul. And, I considered him a friend.

It's not fair that his peculiar memory has become such a comedic character in this play. It has been elevated to that of an antagonist in the quest for truth. It has become a punch line. It's understandable to a degree how it's come to be that way... but that isn't what he should be known for.

Sadly, it appears too late to ever change that.

R.I.P. Billy...

Which Way You Goin' Billy - Poppy Family (1969)