Brethren, lift up your tv dinners and cold cans of Bud and let's toast tonight...
Sometimes I feel like William Eston Garretson Jr. is Charles Watson's ninth victim. Possibly his tenth depending on how you feel about poor Mr. Stubbs. Blog veteran Panamint Patty touches on Watson and Stubbs briefly here in this lovely interview from last spring. I will revisit the interview in an upcoming post, but right now let's talk about the caretaker.
Other times, I think Tex was just another nail in Billy's coffin. Billy died in 2016. He was likely a longtime sufferer of PTSD that he disastrously self-treated. Tobacco use contributed to his death at age sixty-six. Billy drove a grocery store delivery truck for many years.
He lived in a town where things change slowly and everyone knows everybody's business. This was his final address.
"My husband, I really don't think anybody in the area here, never gave him a chance of day," Linda Derr, Garretson's ex-wife said. The pair were married for five years and had a son together, she said, adding that their son was born with a severe heart defect and died after his third open heart surgery.
Derr described her ex-husband, who died in 2016, as a very good man, loving man, and cited those qualities as the reason she married him.
- Lancaster Eagle Gazette 20 Nov 2017
Shoutout to Linda up in Heaven for her kindness. She was Billy's second wife. I tried to locate Linda when I was gathering information for this post but I was too late. First, I found her phone number from 2002 on Ancestry. Then, I discovered her Facebook page but noticed she hadn't posted since 2019. After that, Google took me to her obituary.
Linda Lou Derr died at the end of July 2020. No cause of death is listed but she suffered from genetic heart issues. She was a retired drug store cashier. Her employer, Gray Drug, was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1912. Sherwin-Williams bought them out in 1982. I didn't know other drugstores existed for the first twelve years of my life.
Linda and Billy were on the same high school yearbook page together. That got me.
Billy grew up without a father in this tidy little home.
Sometime after completing high school, Billy made the mistake of a lifetime when he hitchhiked from Ohio to Los Angeles. Scrolling through the labels along the right side of the blog reveals that this is the thirteenth time blog writers have mentioned Billy (and remembered to make a label). I thought I'd try to add some paint to the outline already laid down herein and elsewhere. Thank you for reading the results of my research today.
Billy possibly had one lucky day in his entire life and you know when I mean. Maybe two counting when the police let him go.
Arguably, the aftershocks of August 8, 1969, killed him long before he died. You know already that no one escapes this darkness unscathed. Billy's story should reinforce that belief if you already have it. Or maybe create it if you do not.
Before we get motoring, I want to assert that one indisputable truth in this whole big Charles Manson milieu is that the road is littered with children no one gave a shit about and often hurt. You can drop a pedantic bootstraps lecture below if you wish but you won't change my mind.
If you haven't read the Bill (and one post labeled William) Garretson posts on the right, you should. Actually, if you need backstory, start by reading the parts of Helter Skelter that are relevant to Garretson. Like if you have a rainy day or something else keeping you inside. For example, if half of your town has covid and the citizens all want to kill each other because of what they post on Facebook.
After that, read the Garretson articles on the right over there ------------------------->
For 21st century Billy info, read or refresh yourself on this awesome post by Max Frost. In 2018, I was blown away by Max's post and the song remains the same for me now. It's one of my favorite pieces in the library here. While Billy's house from Frost's account is gone, bits of foundation remain a hundred yards from this barn. Frost's friend possibly heard a story none of us ever heard before beside a bonfire on this property while they shared that case of beer. Neighbors are sparse.
If you're wondering, I solve the mystery behind August 8th today, so make sure you read through until the end! Just kidding. I never will. But there are lots of people hanging around with the answers. Just ask one. Maybe use your VPN and don't slip up and give away any unnecessary info. Monsters and lunatics are woven in amongst the helpful.
Billy is thirteen when his dad is indicted in Ohio Amish country for common deadbeatery. Btw, Washington Courthouse is pronounced, you guessed it, Warshington Courthouse.
Billy wrestled in high school. The above photo is from his sophomore year in 1965. You might think Billy was from the sticks and in a way you're right but his hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, is also basically becoming a distant burb of the state capital these days.
Now, if you want to talk about the sticks, I'm from a place near the river that makes Lancaster look like a full-blown metropolis. If you can believe it, six people lived in my town when I was born. Two were my parents (rimshot).
Btw, if you ever visit Lancaster, be sure to pronounce the city's name, "Lank-uh-stir." Lancaster is famous for General William Tecumseh Sherman. You can visit Sherman's home online here. The vlog host is from Indiana and mispronounces Lancaster.
Kids from Lancaster are tough. Sherman was tough. Tecumseh was tough but had an insane brother. And also was not from Lancaster.
11th Grade. You can almost feel the darkness swirling around the edges. Single mother. Early 60's. Conservative town. Smaller dude.
Senior Photo. Billy studies business and is on the wrestling team but absent from the team photo.
Like Max Frost said, Billy's number was in the phone book forever. I know the story as it's told has Billy thumbing a ride to California sometime in 1968, but we are unable to produce an Ohio address for him between late spring of 1967 and early 1970. Yes, he could've lived at his mom's for awhile. Every young person loves living at home after they become adults.
But if he didn't, where was he? Did Billy split for the West Coast so he could be gay without his mom running the vacuum in the living room while he got his groove on behind his locked bedroom door? And if so, why would he go to Los Angeles and not San Francisco? And why would he marry three women throughout the course of his life and have children with two if he was gay?
Three wives is deeper than any closet I've ever heard of in the secular world. But spend a couple of minutes in Lancaster and you'll be like oh yeah okay I totally see it now. So who knows?
Was Billy possibly a naive rumpkin who thought he could go to Hollywood and become the next Steve McQueen? That'd be my bet. Or maybe Lee Marvin. Marvin was bigger in '67. A real tough guy. Billy and so many other youths were drawn west like moths to the flame and it never stops. Has never stopped.
How many Billy's are running around LA right now believing they're getting their big break except in reality they're being used and abused? A couple thousand?
You think any young rubes who fell in way over their heads are heading home for good at the end of this month? At the end of every month? Billy was about to turn twenty and return to the heartland when August 8th happened. He said so in his testimony anyway.
Let's back up a bit. We're getting ahead of ourselves.
Billy Garreston, fresh from his senior year in Ohio, arrives in the City of Angels on the back of a turnip truck and drifts through a year or two of living on his journey to Rudi Altobelli.
Or, nineteen year old Billy decides to hitch to California to see the country he thinks he'll be drafted to defend before it's too late. Both work for me but I lean early. Billy says in his testimony that he had a few friends over to swim in Rudi's pool. How long does it take to make friends you trust enough to have over for pool parties where you live AND work?
Seriously. How much time passes before a yokel like Billy can cozy up to a mobbed-up guy like Rudi and have the skill set to make it stick? And then move into Cielo Drive (albeit the not air-conditioned guest house) with the property owner who also btw runs around town with Hollywood stars? Have you ever heard of a caretaker sharing the use of a private pool with his rich neighbors, aka the paying tenants, who live across the walk and can see him swimming?
Did Ms. Chapman and the gardener brothers also take dips?
Quick story. I have a friend who is a flower wholesaler. They service big personal accounts too. The richest couple in his wealthy state receive weekly deliveries. The orders are so large that my friend's company delivers in a big diesel reefer truck that typically backs onto loading docks.
One morning, my friend's driver takes a leak in a staff bathroom attached to the massive kitchen at the front mansion when no one is around to ask. Mind you, these people are rich for real, not your local busiest orthodontist who married a surgeon or whatever, or a ballplayer or singer. These folks have a few homes on the property but this is the main one we're talking about. The guards see the driver on the camera walking out of the toilet. A little while later, the woman of the house calls my friend on his personal phone and demands he fire the driver or they're done doing business together.
Because of two minutes in a staff lavatory. Maybe he peed on the floor, who knows.
I'm pretty sure no one who just read that is sitting there saying, "Wow, that's super mean and odd because none of the rich people I know are like that..." If someone told me that story, for example, I would probably shrug and say what do you expect? He should've known.
Rich people don't want contact with the hoi polloi. That's not new news. You might even have a story just like it to share with me in the comments. Or maybe not. Donna Jean never gets no love.
I'm probably just trying to say that Billy was most likely more ingratiated that many people believe. Or maybe employers take nighttime poolside photos of their employees and I've just had shitty jobs. Which is probably true anyway but whatever.
Even if you stand firm in other beliefs, it's interesting that we might have a block of missing time in Billy's California life as told in the narrative. It's not a stretch to wonder if things he experienced during that period might help us better understand the goings on at Cielo prior to the murders. In a moment, we'll discuss a second and just as interesting block of missing time at the end of Billy's stay in California and its possible effects on his eventual testimony.
But first, where was Billy before the dog watching gig that came with free rides from Folger family members?
Did he start out at a primo cruisin' spot after making the decision he could do that type of work and thus accelerated his journey to the Cielo guesthouse? Billy could've been a waiter or a bartender or a whatever if he had a problem with being a male prostitute. Other choices existed. Maybe he tried women's wigs first and failed.
And didn't he have any fear of the bad things that happen in the skin trade? Getting into cars is totally scary. What if they drive you away to your doom? Who's behind the wheel? Bill Nelson in a Bruce Davis mask?
I would've starved to death. I'm scared of everything. Killers, germs, conversations. The list is endless. Plus, I hate to say it but I think my early Wesleyan training got to me. My internal dialogue is all over-caution and hey don't do that, dude.
Actually, I'm attempting to appear interesting. I mostly only internally discuss food wants and upcoming meals with myself. Why I shouldn't eat this or that, what about on Saturday though, basic stuff.
Let's move on to August 9th. If you read through Billy's testimony you will see the police arrested him prior to lunchtime and released him in the afternoon the following Monday (August 11th). When detectives interviewed him Sunday, the 10th, Billy said the dogs were barking two to three hours after Steve Parent left the cottage.
Maybe it took awhile to receive permission to leave town but Billy remained in California for a full week after the police release him before returning home to Ohio. Billy tells Bugliosi in court that he moved out of Cielo Dr. on August 9th. Where was Billy for those seven days after being released from jail? He had little or no money and was freshly unemployed.
The following July, when Billy arrives back in LA to testify, he says on the witness stand that the dogs never barked the night of August 8th, 1969. But then also even if they did, the dogs always barked at nothing so lol whatever man dogs are stupid amirite.
Hearing that, lead defense attorney Paul (PJ) Fitzgerald shoots out of his chair like an ignited NASA rocket, calls time, and screams, "Heyo, most honorable dude, hold up a quick sec. Billy is busted for lying right here and right now. He's impeached. Here's the proof."
The proof is shown but the bench is still all, "Haha no way fuck you, Fitzgerald. We are here for blood." The attempt fails.
Aaron Stovitz wins the one-liner of the day award. And check out Billy's answer to the last question.
Brisk and typical, old boy. Cheerio!
With no psychological aftercare or anything else, Billy enjoyed a free redeye back Ohio that evening where the wife he married three weeks earlier waited. They shared an apartment an hour from the airport in Columbus.
Lovely digs. Just like Cielo. Lots of Beverly Hillbillies actresses and heiresses using the pool with the help. Okay, you got me. There's no pool. Or actresses and heiresses.
Billy and Wife #1 have a child while living at this address. Their marriage lasts a year and three days. His wife is granted the divorce on the grounds of gross neglect and extreme cruelty.
I tried to find her but was unsuccessful. There's also a chance she's passed. Please don't stay forever angry, Mrs. Billy #1. He went through some shit he could never tell anyone about out there in sunny California.
Billy, how'd you meet that mobster? How did you become his rent boy? I bet he loved how young you looked and your wrestler body.
Billy is dead but also alive on Max Frost's answering machine. Or computer by now. His phone even. Technology is all we have anymore if you think about it.
I want to pick up the phone while Billy's leaving his message to Max and breathlessly exclaim, "I'm here! What's up, Bill?"
I'd say, "Gimme the straight dope, Billy. How and why were you staying up all night every night?
And anyway where'd you hide? The turning door handle story is terrifying okay but also reads like literature edited for maximum effect. And did they really come back later that night and loudly argue? Tell me no one, not even that crew, is that stupid, Billy.
And oh btw who told you to sue Los Angeles for $1.25 million? I can't believe you had the nerve!"
Sadly, there's just not a lot out there to study. None of Billy's few interviews asked the questions I would call the necessary questions. The tv journalism is kinda superficial at times and I know that shocks you. Someone from a Youtube channel called and asked Billy who he thought would win the Super Bowl one year and then uploaded his answer to the channel for some reason.
Since 2016, Billy is gone and it's possible barely anyone cares. I do but didn't until I looked into his story. I'm thinking about taking a road trip to Billy's grave this week, touching the headstone, and telling him I hope he's found some peace. He's on a little hill with his mom, framed by the forest around them, and watching the sun rise and set every day.
Just the two of them perfectly together. The little boy his mom called so gentle he wouldn't hunt or fish because he didn't want to hurt animals, and the best advocate that little boy ever had.
His father's bones or ashes are somewhere else. There's no man hanging around to give Billy his name and then abandon him. Or turn him out. Or spit him back to Ohio after shattering his mind. Just a loving mama safely holding her tiny baby like she did back when their lives had hope.
Rest in peace, Billy. Like so many of the souls trapped within this dark miasma, you never had a chance.