Monday, March 25, 2024

DeWayne Allen Wolfer

About a year ago Deb sent me almost everything that follows on DeWayne Wolfer. Thank you, Deb.


DeWayne Allen Wolfer was born July 25, 1925. At the time of the Tate-LaBianca trial he was employed in the Scientific Investigation Division (SID) of the LAPD as a criminologist. While technically a police officer by pay rate, Wolfer makes it pretty clear in his testimony that he did not really consider himself to be one. 


On August 18,1969 Wolfer went to 10050 Cielo Drive to conduct acoustic testing with an assistant named Butler. To be specific, he went there to test whether Garretson could have heard the gunshots that night. He took a decibel or sound meter and a .22 long barrel, Colt version of the revolver used in the murders. 



In Helter Skelter Bugliosi says this about Wolfer’s acoustic experiment. 


“Using a general level sound meter and a .22 caliber revolver, and duplicating as closely as possible the conditions that existed on the night of the murders, Wolfer and an assistant proved (1) that if Garretson was inside the guest house as he claimed, he couldn’t possibly have heard the shots that killed Steven Parent; and (2) that with the stereo on, with the volume at either 4 or 5, he couldn’t have heard either screams or gunshots coming from in front of or inside the main residence.* The tests supported Garretson’s story that he did not hear any shots that night.” (Emphasis added by me)


Bugliosi, Vincent; Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (pp. 71-72). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.


That’s not what Wolfer said at trial. But we’ll get there in a bit.



At first blush Wolfer looks like a great witness. 

Wolfer had a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern California in chemistry or physics. He had served as a criminalist since 1951. He was a professor at the California State College of Long Beach where he taught 'criminalistics' and he had previously taught at the University of Southern California, El Camino College, Fullerton College, Santa Barbara College and Ventura College. He had testified hundreds of times involving firearms and ballistic matters. He had written the lab procedures manual for SID and he was a member of the American Association of Forensic Scientists.


His resume included acting as chief investigator and testifying in the trial of Jack Kirschke. In 1967 a deputy DA from Los Angeles County, Jack Kirschke, killed his wife and her lover. He was arrested and charged with the double murder, tried and found guilty in large part, according to the press, based upon Wolfer’s testimony that included a dramatic reenactment of the lover’s body falling to the floor to explain a sound heard by witnesses that helped undermine Kirschke’s alibi. 


Wolfer was brought in to testify in the closing days of the trial. He was the prosecution’s key witness. His testimony that it was Kirschke's gun that killed the two lovers and his testimony that one of the bodies fell off the bed because of a shift in blood after death was credited with Kirschke's conviction. His third area of expertise during the trial was to explain acoustically how several witness might not have heard the gunshots. He opined that Kirschke used a crude silencer. 


Kirschke was paroled in 1977. 


In 1968 Wolfer was the key ballistics investigator in the assassination of Robert Kennedy and subsequently testified in the trial of Sirhan Sirhan. He is the guy who testified that all the shots came from Sirhan’s gun. In fact, he said 'no other gun in the world' could have fired the shots. He also testified on an acoustics issue. The picture up there is from that case. 


Sometime in 1971-72 he became the chief of SID despite the objection of a number of people orchestrated by an attorney named Barbara Warner Blehr. These objections led to an investigation into Wolfer’s practices including the Sirhan gun. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by a LA DA ‘s investigation. 


Wolfer passed away in 2012.


Deb dug a little deeper and found a few blemishes on Wolfer’s resume. 


In 1975 Mr. Kirschke filed an appeal of his conviction. The appeal was denied by the Court of Appeals on grounds that are legally correct but here is what the court had to say about Wolfer. 



"We conclude that while Wolfer negligently presented false demonstrative evidence in support of his ballistics testimony, Kirschke had ample opportunity to rebut the demonstrative evidence at trial so that the negligently false evidence is not a basis for collateral attack. (In re Manchester, 33 Cal.2d 740, 742, 204 P.2d 881; In re Waltreus, 62 Cal.2d 218, 221, 42 Cal.Rptr. 9, 397 P.2d 1001, cert. den. 382 U.S. 853, 86 S.Ct. 103, 15 L.Ed.2d 92.) We conclude further that while Wolfer's acoustical testimony was false and while his testimony on qualifications as an expert on anatomy was also false and borders on the perjurious, the opinion evidence given by Wolfer dealing with acoustics and anatomy pertained to essentially irrelevant matter and beyond a reasonable doubt could not have affected the outcome of the trial" (Emphasis added by me).





By 1980 Wolfer, now the head of SID, was suspended without pay for 30 days and his entire department was disciplined for a host of offenses including sloppy handling of evidence, drinking on the job and firing pellet guns out the windows. 



On November 24, 1988, an article appeared in the LA Weekly entitled Robert Kennedy: The Assassination This Time. The article followed the release of documents related to the assassination by the LAPD. Now, admittedly, the LA Weekly is not the LA Times. But here is what they say about Wolfer, referencing, in part, his issues from 1971 and the opinion of a colleague from that time that is far from flattering. 


So, according to this information and a court, Wolfer had a problem with the truth and used very sloppy or negligent techniques. He also is alleged to have fudged his results to get the DA what he wanted. 


Now back to Cielo Drive. 


Wolfer and Butler arrive at Cielo Drive at noon on August 18th. So much for “duplicating as closely as possible the conditions that existed on the night of the murders”. 


In fact, very little about the experiment duplicated the night of the murders. Wolfer testified that Sergeant George Deese opened the rear door (pool?) and rear (nursery?) windows and ‘reconditioned the scene to its original positions’ (tipped over the trunks?). Humidity, wind, background noise and temperature were not compared even though Wolfer admitted they could play a factor. Wolfer appeared to not recognize that the rear of the house was actually the front of the house.


Butler then went to three locations on the property: where Parent’s car was found, near the location of the trunks and close to the front porch near the heel print. Butler fired five rounds at each location two times, towards the ground, into a sandbag. That too could effect the decibels recorded. So too, could Butler's position. If he was between the gun and the meter his body could help muffle the sound. 


Wolfer was inside the guest house near the stereo with the meter. Garretson testified he was on the couch (which would buffer the sound of the stereo) and at one point was at a window in the bathroom. Wolfer never changed his location.  

The first set of five were fired with the stereo off. The second set were fired, he testified at first, with the FM radio in the stereo on at volume “5”. Wolfer testified he could hear and register on his meter the first 5 but not the second five shots. 


He also testified that somewhere around volume 2-3 the shots could probably be heard but he wrote nothing down at the time regarding any test.


Fitzgerald: You are a man with an obvious scientific orientation, are you not? 

A. I would say yes. 

Q. And I take it that when the stereo was set at 3 you wrote down the reading on your decibel meter, correct? 

A. No, I did not. 

Q. Was there some reason for that? 

A. Yes. 

Q. What was the reason? 

A. My major reason was I was sent there to conduct tests at the setting of 5. 

Q. And you did not record the decibel level when the stereo was set at 4 either, did you? 

A. Mentally, yes, but recording it physically, no. 

Q. You are depending on your memory today when you testified as to the decibel level when the stereo was set at 4 and 3? 

A. Yes.


Stewart, Mike. The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson Vol III (pp. 3290-3291). Kindle Edition.



As an aside, one thing I have noticed about the defense lawyers in this trial is how utterly unprepared they were. When you try a case, you have a pretty good idea who the witnesses will be (in a criminal case the DA has to tell you) and prepare exhibits and questions based upon what you know. Now and again, you might have to lean over to your client in a civil case and ask, ‘who is this?’ but generally you know. 


During his testimony Wolfer denied he was an expert on acoustics, which should have brought an objection: irrelevant, since all he is doing is vouching for the credibility of Garretson. At that point no witness for the defense has challenged Garretson’s credibility. 

In Kirschke (and the RFK trial) he stated he was, indeed, an expert on acoustics and Bugliosi certainly qualified him with questions as an expert, generally although not on any specific subject. One of the things you do with an expert is check out how they testified before and maybe ask Wolfer what happened in the last three years to change his status. 



Wolfer initially claimed he played the FM radio to record his test firings and then modified his testimony to include a record on the turntable but noted neither the radio station, the length of time needed to perform the test firings, the name of the record or which songs he played. 


Fitzgerald: Were you playing records? Were you playing tapes? Or were you listening to FM-AM through the stereo, or what? 

A. As I recall we were listening to FM—or there was a stereo record on. We did play the stereo record, too. 

Q. Was it any different? 

A. Basically, no, it wasn’t. 

Q. Do you remember what the stereo record was that you played? 

A. No, I don’t recall that I do.

Q. I take it you are an expert— 

A. May I finish? 

Q. I’m sorry. 

A. I did not know what the record was by name then. I never looked at the name of the record. It was on the turntable when we arrived.


Stewart, Mike. The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson Vol III (p. 3292). Kindle Edition. 


On August 18th he did not simulate screams or yelling and thus did not conclude what was claimed by Bugliosi in Helter Skelter, above, that Garretson could not hear the screams. One has to ask why he didn’t make this test when in September, using off site locations like Knott's house, this is precisely what he did. 


Kanarek:  Now, in connection with the previous experiments that you ran, that you have already related to us concerning which Mr. Bugliosi has interrogated you, is it a fact that Officer Butler also used the word “Help” in the experiments? 

A. No. Officer Butler did not holler in the first series of tests, if that is what counsel is referring to. The first series of tests on August the 18th was conducted merely with the firing of the Colt revolver.


Stewart, Mike. The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson Vol III (p. 3335). Kindle Edition.



He did not make any notes during his experiment. Not one. 


Bugliosi: With respect to your experiment on August the 18th, 1969, the first formal written report you prepared was dated August 26, 1969, is that correct? 

A. That’s correct. 

Q. That is eight days later? 

A. That’s correct. 

Q. And you do not recall whether you made any report prior to that time? 

A. No, I mean I did not make any report. I might have made a verbal report, but I made no written report. 

Q. You don’t recall whether you made any notes prior to that time? 

A. No.


Stewart, Mike. The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson Vol III (pp. 3409-3410). Kindle Edition.



As he testified, Wolfer also did not immediately write his report. 

He wrote his report eight days later on August 26th apparently from memory, using a form called an Evidence Analyzed Report. This report was subsequently lost. He wrote a second report on September 22, 1969, relating to efforts to hear shots and yelling from off-site locations.  At Bugliosi’s request he wrote a third report, October 51970, in a narrative form. But we only care about the first one. It was rediscovered the day of his testimony. 


All of this is very sloppy. Much of what a jury could learn from Wolfer would require them to rely on Wolfer’s testimony, not a report, which in turn was based in large part on his memory. They would have to trust he is reporting accurately and his history says he was not. 


Kanarek and Fitzgerald identified two issues with the August 26th report but neither asked the right question about those issues. Fitzgerald never asked the key question and Kanarek, being Kanarek, asked compound questions that likely baffled everyone in the courtroom. 


Kanarek did manage to point out that while the form had a specific blank where the analyzing officer was supposed to state his opinion about the analysis, this blank was not filled in.  In other words, his report does not express the opinion that Garretson could not have heard the shots with the stereo at 5. 


Kanarek had Wolfer read the August 26, 1969, report. Here is what it said. 


Q. Would you read that to us, please. 

A. August the 18th, 1969. Scene: 10050 Cielo Drive. 12:00 noon. Sound test. Colt, 9-1/2 inch barreled revolver, Remington golden L-R—which is Long Rifle. Sound level meter-General Radio Company.


Car position in driveway to the rear of house, 31 to 32-1/2 decibels. Front room to the rear of the house, 31-39 decibels. Car position in driveway to rear of house (radio) 78-78 decibels. Front room to rear of house, radio, and then in parens—I am sorry, radio was in parenthesis. Over this is “Set 5.” 78-78 decibels. Steps to the rear of the house, 31-42 plus decibels. Steps to the rear of the house (radio) 78-78 decibels. 


Blood samples, et cetera. Taken. Bullets examined.


Stewart, Mike. The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson Vol III (pp. 3390-3391). Kindle Edition.


It is never explained why he took blood samples or examined bullets, which samples or which bullets. You should note he refers to the rear of the house. Parent's car was not in the rear of the house. The front porch steps are not the rear of the house, either. 

Here is an Analyzed Evidence Report from LaBianca. The arrow points to the opinion section. 

Fitzgerald noticed that the First Homicide Progress Report dated, if I recall correctly, September 1, 1969, contained an opposite conclusion regarding Garretson and the gunshots but Fitzgerald never asked the right question. 



Q. At the time that you went to the Cielo Avenue location to perform certain acoustical tests, did you have information that the tests, similar type tests, had been conducted by persons within your department? 

A. No, I did not. 

MR. FITZGERALD: I have nothing further.


Stewart, Mike. The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson Vol III (pp. 3407-3408). Kindle Edition.


Wait! That’s the wrong question. He should have asked if Wolfer was aware of any such test, period. He then should have shown him the First Homicide Progress Report and asked him if it is referring to his test or another test.


The First Homicide Progress Report says this: 


“Investigating officers went back to the crime scene and reviewed the physical and acoustical aspects of the scene as related to what Garretson, who claimed to have been awake all night in the guest house writing letters, claimed he heard or saw.


In the opinion of the investigating officers and by scientific research by S.I.D., it is highly unlikely that Garretson was not aware of the screams, gunshots and other turmoil that would result from a multiple homicide such as took place in his near proximity. These findings, however, did not absolutely preclude the fact that Garretson did not hear or see any of the events connected with the homicide.” (Emphasis added by me)



Remember on August 18th Garretson, although released from jail with charges dropped, was still a suspect. In fact, in the report he is still suspect #1. 

Wolfer did not go to Cielo Drive to prove Garretson could not hear the shots. He went there to prove the opposite and that is likely why there is no opinion in the report and why the Homicide Report has that odd contradiction at the end of the quote.


I believe the SID reference is Wolfer. Given the above history, it is not a stretch to conclude that in August 1969 he would have testified that Garretson could hear the shots if Garretson was on trial. Garretson never would have testified. Whisenhunt would have said the stereo was not on. His testimony would be he could have heard the shots which contradicted his statements to the police. 


I should note that William Whisenhunt mentions an acoustic experiment two to three days after the murders during his testimony. 


Bugliosi: Did you return to the Tate residence a few days later? 

Whisenhunt: Yes. 

Q. Do you know when it was, approximately? 

A. I returned that day, the next day and the day after, for a period of three days. 

Q. Did you ever participate in any type of an experiment at the scene of the Tate residence involving the firing of a .22 caliber revolver?

MR. KANAREK: May we approach the bench, your Honor, on this kind of an interrogation? 

THE COURT: That question calls for a yes or no answer. 

MR. KANAREK: I think it is immaterial. There is no foundation. Certainly, there is no foundation. 

THE COURT: No. That question can be answered yes or no. You may answer. Do you have the question in mind? 

THE WITNESS: Yes, your Honor. The answer is yes. 

BY MR. BUGLIOSI: Q. When did this experiment take place? 

A. Sometime within the first three days. Approximately the 11th, I believe. 

Q. August the 11th? 

A. Yes. 

Q. ’69? 

A. Yes.


A side bar occurs after that answer which concludes as follows: 


THE COURT: Then there is the other question of whether or not the gun and the ammunition used in the experiment were similar to the gun and the ammunition fired by whoever shot Mr. Parent. 

MR. BUGLIOSI: Okay. I will pass it for now. 

MR. FITZGERALD: Also, the official reports of the Los Angeles Police Department indicate that they didn’t believe Garretson, and the reports of their tests were that they could hear. 

MR. BUGLIOSI: Really? 


MR. BUGLIOSI: Do you have it? 


MR. BUGLIOSI: I don’t have it and I asked for the reports about five months ago.


Stewart, Mike. The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson Vol II (pp. 3650-3658). Kindle Edition.


Bugliosi is obviously referring to Wolfer (when he passes) and his missing August 26, 1969 report (in the last line). Fitzgerald is referring the First Homicide Progress Report. 


But Bugliosi says this in Helter Skelter, which, oddly, contradicts Whisenhunt's testimony. 



Whisenhunt remained behind [at the guest house], looking for weapons and bloodstained clothing. Though he found neither, he did notice many small details of the scene. One at the time seemed so insignificant that he forgot it until later questioning brought it back to mind. There was a stereo next to the couch. It had been off when they entered the room. Looking at the controls, Whisenhunt noticed that the volume setting was between 4 and 5. 


Bugliosi, Vincent; Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (p. 13). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.



This is an example of the leading questioning Bugliosi inflicted on several witnesses in their interviews and points out the problem with his style. It is possible that Buglosi’s questioning reminded Whisenhunt that he saw the stereo between 4 and 5. Did he actually remember that or did Bugliosi supply that memory and why wasn’t the test done between 4-5 but only recorded at 5 in the August 26th report? 



There may have been another informal test on August 11 and that may be why Wolfer was sent to conduct a more scientific test seven days later. That makes sense. 


By the way, Garretson didn’t say he was listening to the FM radio which Wolfer certainly tested. He said this: 


Q. BY MR. FITZGERALD: Is that the entrance you customarily used for ingress and egress?

A. Yes. 

Q. Do you recall what you were listening to in the guest house on the stereo? 

A. Yes, some records. 

Q. Do you recall what the records were?

 A. The Words and The Mamas and The Papas—no, wait a minute—Mama Cass, and The Doors.


Stewart, Mike. The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson Vol II (pp. 197-198). Kindle Edition.


I could not find a band called “The Words” in the sixties. I am guessing the stenographer mis-heard The Byrds.


I did some math using all the Doors albums and Byrds albums released up to August 1,1969 and the two by Cass Elliott: Dream a Little Dream, October 1968 and Bubble Gum, Lemonade and Something for Mama, June 1969. While they vary album to album, a side of an album comes in around 15-18 minutes with the early Byrds’ albums on the short side. 


As all of us who grew up with vinyl know, there are ‘dead’ spaces between songs. Not all songs have the same recorded volume (acoustic versus electric for example) and some fade at the end or start quieter and rock later like Stairway to Heaven or  You Can't Always Get What You Want

More importantly, you have to flip the album or put on the next one, unless you were dumb enough to stack them. Then you had to wait for the next one to drop. Wolfer says a record (singular) was on the turntable not records (plural). 

None of this was considered by Wolfer. 


A definitive timeline for the murders has never really been established. A clock says 12:15 a.m. and with some help from the police, Rudolf Weber remembers looking at his clock at 1:00 a.m. so let's just take five minutes off each end for Parent to reach his car and the murderers to reach Weber: 35 minutes or 30, I don't care. 


That means, during the crime, Garretson flipped the album at least once or put on a new album at least once. And during that time the guest house would have been quiet. And while Wolfer had the album right in front of him he didn’t test that either. 


Wolfer’s history suggests rather strongly that his investigation was likely negligent, leading to false results. The opinion of others suggests he would go so far as to create results for the DA. I think you see that when you compare his testimony (Garretson couldn’t hear the shots) to the First Homicide Progress Report (Garretson could hear them). 


Since I doubt the murderers paused, like an escaping Andy Dufresne, to wait for the next side of The Soft Parade to kick off, I think we can eliminate Garretson couldn’t hear the gunshots from the list of established facts. 


Pax vobiscum, 


Dreath with a lot of help from Deb




Tragical History Tour said...

Good stuff.

I love this kind of exploration of semi peripheral details to the crime and What Billy Knew has always been a favorite of mine. I mean, what he witnessed didn't alter what happened or change the outcome, but it's always been complete nonsense that Garretson couldn't, and didn't hear most of the mayhem. And, despite his later scrambled state of mind, he did eventually admit as such.

I don't get how so many people think he didn't hear (or see) anything. The volume was at midpoint only, there are near silences within tracks and between them. It defies both common sense and evidence. Imagine sustained screaming for their life from someone just a few meters from you now, even with the radio or stereo on. And these were people who had to be chased down and took dozens of knife wounds before dying. It wasn't over in one or two stabs.

Billy's PTSD to me has always been heavier than just survivor's guilt that kicked in the next morning when he was shown what happened. It's severity points to the additional guilt of being a witness and not being able, or willing, to try to intercede in any way. He, quite understandably, went into survival mode and just hid.

As for the competency of LE, and Bugliosi bending testimony - none of that surprises me. If you follow as many cases as most of us do, the amount of ball dropping and misdirection from law enforcement becomes almost expected.

Medium Patty said...

It could also be that Garretson heard something but ignored them as you would need to do when you live so close to another house.

But if I had been in the guesthouse and heard scary sounds of murder and mayhem, I would shut off the music and lights to signal an empty house. I don't remember any of the murderers saying there were lights and music coming from the guest house.

Torque said...

Thanks for this excellent post. Great stuff as always. I have to think its significant that Garretson was listening to albums and not the radio. At some point, a certain amount of silence had to factor into the timeline as he changed the vinyl.

Too, as Patty said, I've always considered it a possibility that Bill heard commotion, but disregarded it, as he may have thought it was people in the main house partying, etc. Then the next morning he discovers, horribly, the true nature of what he heard.

Additionally, I find it highly likely that Tim Ireland heard screams from Cielo, some 1,500 feet away, yet Garretson said he heard nothing. Concerning Patricia, she does admit she looked into a guesthouse window, and saw a lamp.

At the trial, Garretson said he had the patio door by the stereo open, so Christopher could come and go. Did Patricia not see this obviously open door when she cased the guesthouse? If not, perhaps her commitment to find an entrance to that house was half-hearted.

Tragical History Tour said...

Torque said...

I've always considered it a possibility that Bill heard commotion, but disregarded it, as he may have thought it was people in the main house partying, etc. Then the next morning he discovers, horribly, the true nature of what he heard.


I think Bill's later admission of what he saw eliminates this 'middle ground' theory that he heard something but thought nothing of it and was only shown the full horror the next day. He either saw nothing or saw something horrific.

As he admitted to seeing both Frykowski and Folger being chased across the lawn and murdered it's Option 2. And the reason he saw it was because he heard something disturbing enough to make him look out the window. said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

Bill definitely had some later admissions

Chrisonthecape said...

If Bill couldn't hear anything, could any of the girls or tex hear his stereo? Why didn't he test that?

Decotodd said...

Cielo Drive -- what were some of the later admissions?

I agree that this part of the case has always fascinated / baffled me. I sometimes hear and ignore neighbors yelling/screaming at a party but not for the length of time it would take to chase them and stab them to death or shoot them.

The clock radio "sale" also seems bogus; more likely a sexual hook-up between the guys. Maybe he didn't want to admit that?

Milly James said...

For what it's worth, I think the poor bloke had an idea something was off kilter, but being a mere groundsman, put his head down and let the posh partiers get on with it. He had the big dogs with him after all. They'd alert him of a problem surely?

He was getting on with his own business. Writing letters and listening to music.

Whether or not the clock radio was an excuse to meet for sexual purposes is irrelevant. I think it was more of an excuse to hang out there actually. It was one hell of a cool drinking pad.

Milly James said...

Easter is approaching us. just a reminder that those who descend into Hell can be resurrected. This is more Grim's territory but I was posting more in a sense of hope than experience.

Torque said...

Chrisonthecape, Decotodd, agreed it is a baffling thing. I don't know of any testimony or parole hearing discussion that mentions the killers hearing the guest house stereo on. If it were on--at least when Patricia was supposed to be there--one would think she would have heard it, especially with the patio door next to the stereo open for Christopher.

We do know someone other than Bill Garretson and Steve Parent who knew the steteo was on: Jarrold Freeman, who Steve called from the guesthouse and was speaking to at 11:25pm. In fact, he asked Steve if he were at a party, as he could hear the music in the background.

Steve made rather a big deal of the fact that he was at the home of Roman Polanski in that phone call. To me, Steve was probably elated that he was in such close proximity to the Beautiful People. I agree with Milly James that the clock radio was likely a prop to get him on to the property. I think his entire visit there was for the mere thrill of it.

SixtiesRockRules! said...

Steve was there to deliver drugs. said...

Decotodd - Going from memory and mine is not great - I guess starting with all the Rosie Tate stuff and then later saying something about about men in black or aliens - I can't quite remember. Whatever it was, it was out there to say the least

Tragical History Tour said...

Decotodd said...

- what were some of the later admissions?


Later he said (also from my memory and leaving aside the Rosie-tainted and Men in Black ones) that he saw/heard:
- a male (Tex) straddling Frykowski and killing him.
- a female (Krenwinkel) chasing another female (Folger) with a knife and stabbing her.
- Folger saying 'Stop, I'm already dead.'
- a locked doorknob trying to be opened from the outside (presumably Krenwinkel)

The thread Which Way You Going Billy by Max Frost is a great write up on Garretson's involvement.

Doug said...


You are on a particularly amazing roll with your recent posts. Incredibly researched and laid out in a manner that is easy to digest. I've always found your contributions to be extremely interesting, informative and, more often than not, presenting information that is fresh, new to the blog (and, the general public) and, opening up numerous avenues of energetic discussion.

Your post on the Grogan File was the topic of an episode of The Paulcast on YouTube tonight (many kudos were given to you throughout the discussion). The discussion went on for over an hour!!

Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to the cause.


Doug said...

This morning I was reading about Puff Daddy’s various legal issues and it was mentioned his home in Holmby Hills was raided. That caught my attention because of its proximity to Cielo Dr. I eventually found myself on google maps. I noticed something I’ve never noticed before. 10050 Cielo Dr faces east and Harvard-Westlake Middle School is south of it. This would mean the sound waves would have to travel past the guest house in order to get to Tim Ireland

David said...


Thank you for the kind words but please remember the Grogan post would not exist without Cielodrive and this one would not exist without Deb.


You are right. I never noticed that either and obviously neither did the defense counsel. If I recall that is one of the locations where Wolfer later 'tested' whether you could hear gunshots and the yelled word 'help' from Cielo and concluded that you could.

Decotodd said...

Thanks everyone for replying to my questions. Really interesting. I'm going to read the Grogan link recommended above.

Cielodrive -- Thanks for answering my Garrigan question. I had dismissed the Rosie/FBI stuff as loony, but the other details were helpful reminders.

Have any of the participants (esp. Krenwinkel) been asked during parole hearings about the guest house and why they didn't enter? Trying the door knob and finding it locked seems kind of like a first step; ok, it was locked, then what? The notion that they thought Parent was the occupant is intriguing.

Finally regarding CieloDRive's post this morning about Harvard Westlake, et al -- I live in Los Angeles and have for over 20 years. I had always assumed Cielo Drive was close to Mulholland. A few months ago, on a sunny Sunday, I was driving solo up Benedict and saw Cielo street sign. Was surprised at how much closer to Sunset it was than I realized. Since I had no schedule that day, decided to turn left and check out the location for myself. Seeing everything in person was very helpful to establish the geography of it all. A few realizations:

1) one just doesn't stumble upon the Cielo house;
2) it is difficult to turn around as the street is tight and narrow
3) that's a fairly long hike up and down from where the killers left their car; did they dash back to it or stroll at a clip? Imagine being a neighbor and encountering them on the street in their bloody clothes on the path to their getaway (!)

I then decided to drive up to Portola, which was another revelation. That's a really narrow street and steep. Again, I was driving on a sunny day. Why did they pick this street, which is difficult to turn around (it deadends at the top), look for a hose in the dark, etc. It took me a few attempts just to locate the spot and the faucet. Presume it's a new hose.
Again, seeing the site was helpful to my sense of the location. Why that street? Did they have a flashlight? It certainly isn't an obvious place and how did they know or anticipate finding a hose?

Lots of questions.

Torque said...

CieloDrive, exactly. The sound of who ever that was screaming (and I think it was Voytek) would have to travel in the direction of the guest house. Tim Ireland heard the voice clearly, although a long way off (about 1,500 feet by my calculations) at Harvard Westlake. This so startled Ireland, that he obtained permission to get in his car to check it out. Yet Bill Garretson reports hearing nothing when questioned at Parker Center. Remarkable.

Decotodd, indeed. If it was Patricia who turned that door knob to the guest house from the outside but found it locked, then what? She later said she heard nothing and saw nobody inside, but did say she saw a lamp. What window was she looking in? If she continued to check out the guest house, she may well have seen the patio door open for the dog by the stereo. Her attempt to gain entry to the guest house seems practically non existent.

TabOrFresca said...

Back in 2011 there was a 4-part podcast where Bill Garretson was interviewed by “catscradle77”, from “”, and “Brian Davis”. In 2020 Brian and “Tawna Laufenberg” reviewed the 2011 interview. Link follows (skip the first hour which doesn’t apply to the interview):

Bill tells of repressed memories that took more than 30 years to return. He’s quite entertaining and consistent in telling his story just like the cartoon, "Fractured Fairy Tales." I prefer to stick with his trial transcripts and polygraph questions.

Manson page 4615 -

Watson page 1475 -

Polygraph -

gina said...

Although this blog has certainly proved time and time again that the trial was a fiasco and Bug's theory had huge holes...I have to ask, as I have before, what do you REALLY think happened? Garretson lied? To what end? Was he in on it? Other murderers? Manson was innocent? I am truly confused....

David said...

Gina said:"...what do you think really happened......Garretson lied?.....Manson was innocent?"

Speaking for myself Garretson lied? No

I believe he was playing albums while Parent was there (David Gerrold).
After Parent left at some point he would have flipped the album maybe more than once or had dead spots between songs.
When he did he heard a lot more than he offered at the time.
I believe this was indeed due to PTSD and repressed memories. Put another way the stress left a lot of holes in his memory jigsaw puzzle.
I think when he heard any maybe saw what he heard or saw he quit playing albums and hid either in the guest house or maybe skipped out the back.
At some point he fell asleep on the couch and was awakened by shotgun wielding police who were less than gentle. I doubt that helped his memory either.
I don't think he lied. I don't think his mind let him remember. And I think VB's witness interview style didn't help, it 'planted memories'.

Manson innocent? Manson is not innocent. I believe he orchestrated all the murders. As I have said before, if nothing else, the minute he gets in the car on night #2 he goes to prison for life.

What I see is 20,000 pieces of evidence and an official narrative that originates from Atkins, not Kasabian. What I see is that several thousand of those pieces don't fit or directly contradict that narrative and that tells me it is not accurate. This (hearing the shots) in one piece and what I saw was that Garretson had to flip the record and that Wolfer's testing/testimony is not reliable.

The goal for me, as you say, is to find out what REALLY happened and why. I have theories on both but I can't prove them, yet ;-)

Of course Cielodrive might put the kibosh on my theories before he is done.

DebS said...

Decotodd, I believe that they meant to turn on Easton Dr., the street where Jay Sebring lived. Easton Dr. is one block to the south of Portola. The killers knew that Jay wasn't going to be home and perhaps thought it was a good opportunity to rob his house.

Torque said...

I think it may be interesting to point out here that before Steve Parent showed up at Cielo, he had finished his shift working at Jonas Miller Stereo at 9:00pm.

Afterward, Steve drove back to his home suburb of El Monte and stopped by the place of employment of his friend, John LaFebvre, to ask him if he wanted to accompany him for a drive--this was presumably to Cielo. John declined, so of course Steve set out in his own, and arrived to visit with Garretson. From here Steve intended to depart for the apartment of David Gerrold. I sometimes think of John LaFebvre, and have to believe he came that close to being killed at Cielo.

shoegazer said...

M. J.:

"...Whether or not the clock radio was an excuse to meet for sexual purposes is irrelevant. I think it was more of an excuse to hang out there actually. It was one hell of a cool drinking pad."

This is how I see it, too.

One needs to be careful not to bring current norms and attitudes into the discussion as if they were in force between relatively common young males of the 60s. Homosexuality was a big no-no, and those who were actively gay found ways to advertise it. Too, Parent had a girlfriend at the time. To think that he was carrying on a side homosexual affair with the equally naive Garretson is to really misunderstand what it was like in those days for young males.

So I'd bet not; it was a cool drinking place to brag about later to friends.

shoegazer said...

For a very long time I have believed that Garretson heard most of went on, it alarmed him, and he did his best to make himself inconspicuous.

He basically fell asleep without knowing what had happened, and hoped to wake up to normalcy. He was untruthful about what he saw/heard because he wanted as little on-going involvement with that night as possible.

I think that in spite what Krenwinkel later said about her intent to kill whoever was in the guesthouse, she, too, wanted to finish with Cielo and go back to the ranch. Therefore she did a cursory job at the guesthouse, at best.

David said...

This is David Gerrold's dedication in When Harley Was One.

For Steven Earl Parent,
with love.

Sleep well, old friend.
You got the job done.

TabOrFresca said...


Thanks for the article and for using input from DebS.

I wonder if Wolfer was spelling Woofer if the story would read the same?

Two comments.

First, the way I interpreted Wolfer’s words “to the rear of the house” was “to the rear of the [guest]house [living-room]”.

Second, I don’t mean any disrespect considering you have credentials, but I believe the statement, “As I have said before, if nothing else, the minute he gets in the car on night #2 he goes to prison for life” is somewhat misleading in that getting into the car by itself, with nothing else, is not a slam dunk conviction.

If It was a slam dunk, then Grogan would have been charged. The reason, the well meaning, Steven Kaye gives for not charging Grogan is that there was no corroboration of Kasabian’s testimony but Flynn testified that Grogan got in the car.

They could prove Grogan got in the car, but not conspiracy or even accessory. They didn’t charge him because they were afraid he may walk, which could have had a domino effect.

Manson is a different case because the jury believed he did more than get in a car, such as conspiracy and choosing the location.

Not disagreeing that the act is not overt, but convicting is a different story [in my opinion].

David said...


You're sort of a literalist aren't you? Of course the comment assumes everything that follows that act happens.

You are certainly entitled to your opinions. I encourage everyone to have them, here. I can be as wrong as the next guy and have been. And I don't have any credentials here that I am aware of.

And I stand by my statement but really don't want to go back to debating conspiracy law and felony murder.

You cannot exonerate Manson if he gets in that car. I know people want to exonerate him and you might be one so write a post and show me how he is not convicted of conspiracy to commit murder or felony murder if he gets in that car.

PS: LVH was finally convicted of felony murder.

starviego said...

The closest ear witnesses to the shots and screams were the Kotts, who were at HALF the distance to the source of the sounds than Garretson was. And who didn't have the curvature of the hill or the main house for the sounds to bend around. And who didn't have no radio playing.

I don't know where the Kotts were in the house at the time. But if they were in rooms facing Cielo, and if their windows were open, well then they would have heard a lot more than the 'claps' that Mrs. Kott claimed she heard.

TabOrFresca said...

David posted this accidentally in another article/thread on March 27, 2024 at 12:17 AM

“Wait, I might see your point so I'll change my quote: Once Manson drives the car you cannot exonerate him. 

Although for me that was given with the original quote.”

Thanks for the second look and taking the time to understand how a reader may interpret a statement differently than the author intended. If the original statement used the word “drives” instead of “gets in”, I would not have commented.

David said...


[Laughing] Where did I post that?

TabOrFresca said...

David said:

[Laughing] Where did I post that?

“The Grogan File. Something is Missing.”

Atkins said:

“It surprised me that nobody heard the gunshots that killed the young boy. But they weren’t that loud. It was a quiet gun.”

Starviego said:

“The closest ear witnesses to the shots and screams were the Kotts, who were at HALF the distance to the source of the sounds than Garretson was.”

The distance from Parent’s car to Kott’s house was roughly half the distance from Parent’s car to the living room couch in the guesthouse.

The distance from the main house front door to the Kott’s house was slightly longer than the distance from the main house front door to the living room couch in the guesthouse.

Some people hyper-focus and others may zone-out. In either case you may not be aware of many things going on around you.

Another thing that happens is that you hear but are not listening (or processing) what you hear. Listening is a skill.

Ambient and background noise is commonly ignored. When unexpected noise occurs it’s not uncommon for someone to briefly focus and listen, and forget about it if it doesn’t occur again.

Dan S said...

Hi! I haven't been lurking. I just read a Stoopid long book from the 90s called Infinite Jest about Tex Watson as a tennis protector (and some other things).

Great stuff in this post; this investigator seems like a real hack.

Come see James Whitehouse's favorite band Hell on Wheels! This Saturday (3/30/24)in LA at the universal bar and grill!!

Dan S said...

Oh and apropos this post: how damned stoned on pot were all these people. Your memory and responses would be really impaired, zonked out of your mind with some groovy tunes...

Dan J said...

Your memory and responses would be really impaired, zonked out of your mind with some groovy tunes...


This really cuts to the heart of it for me. We will never know the real answer but it's hard not to wonder what Garrettson's "state of mind" was that evening as Parent left.

Assuming complete and unaltered consciousness, yeah, Bill probably heard what was going on. But it's at least possible that he's drifting in/out of sleep for "reasons" and only half-perceiving what's going on around him. Only when the cops storm in with guns does he start to really put it all together.

It's just so hard to imagine he had a coherent picture of what was going on AND STILL MANAGED TO FALL ASLEEP FOR 8+ HOURS.

Not really a testable hypothesis 55 years later though.

shoegazer said...

Dan J.:

"It's just so hard to imagine he had a coherent picture of what was going on AND STILL MANAGED TO FALL ASLEEP FOR 8+ HOURS."

Yes, not testable now, but a similar situation occurred after the University of Idaho mass murder a couple of years back.

Four students were killed in a shared house and two survived--they were overlooked by the killer. Neither of the survivors contacted authorities until nearly noon of the next day. One of them was on the same floor that two others were killed, just behind a flimsy door.

While she doesn't claim to be asleep, she was basically hiding out from what had gone on the previous night. She hid out for *hours* saying nothing, apparently.

It's possible that Garretson, a low-key guy in my estimation, and one to avoid confrontations of any kind, heard most of what happened and maybe even saw some, and in response "hid" from the danger and perhaps dozed off.

It's pretty clear from his actions that he wanted as little continued association with that night as possible, and if simply denying having witnessed anything, he may have taken that course.

But of course this is speculation.

Tragical History Tour said...

Dan S said...

Great stuff in this post; this investigator seems like a real hack.


More of a Sub Wolfer than a Wolfer.

Tony said...

He must have heard the screaming outside but like you say Milly probably thought it was just another party going on with the in crowd and friends of Sharon, one thing is definite Garretson was a very lucky young man that night. I also read somewhere probably in Tex Watsons book that when he realised that WG was in the the guest house after the event he was gutted that he didn't kill everyone at Cielo Drive as Manson had ordered and so failed in his mission