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