The big story in Los Angeles on August 12, 1969 was the release of nineteen-year-old William Garretson, the caretaker at the Cielo Drive estate where five people and the unborn son of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski murdered a few days before.
William Garretson (center)
William was the only survivor of the slaughter which made him suspect number one. Police arrested William at the point of a shotgun and grilled him for hours. He agreed to take a polygraph test and passed. Inspector Harold Yarnell said: “There is not sufficient evidence to hold Garretson. There is no reason to suspect him.”
Wearing a deer-in-the-headlights expression, William’s attorney, Barry Tarlow, escorted him through the lobby of LAPD’s administration building. The nineteen-year-old, who appeared on the verge of tears, declined to answer any of the barrage of questions called out to him by eager news reporters. He let his lawyer do the talking.
Tarlow told reporters his client said goodnight to Steven Parent at 11:30 p.m. Friday, then went back inside the guesthouse to listen to his stereo. He wasn’t aware of anything until LAPD officers kicked in his door and took him away on Saturday morning.
William shared an address with Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, but they lived on different planets. Sharon and Roman were in the movie industry; they were among the “beautiful people.” Roman’s big break came in June 1968 with the release of “Rosemary’s Baby.” His career as an A-list director was underway.
Still a teenager, William wasn’t sure what he wanted out of life. He spoke to his mother of an interest in acting, but his aspiration was as common as a cold and easier to catch when living in L.A. Thousands of young people flock to the city seeking stardom – they have been coming here since the 1910s. Far from hanging out with the beautiful people, William had more in common with “Hollywood Blvd drifters, hitchhikers, and drugstore cowboys,” many of whom he brought home with him when they needed a place to crash.
Police wanted to speak to members of both groups – killers defy social strata. William offered names of people he knew, but he didn’t believe any of them capable of the murders.
William’s release featured prominently on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, but there was another intriguing and disturbing story on page 3. The double murder in Los Feliz of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
Leno, 44, and Rosemary, 37, were stabbed to death Sunday in their home at 3301 Waverly Drive. The killing of the couple was similar in many to ways to the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends on Saturday. Police Sergeant Bryce Houchin said, “There is a similarity in the slayings. But whether it’s the same suspect or a copycat, we just don’t know.”
Sgt. Houchin appeared open to the idea that the murders could be connected, but in their official statements LAPD wouldn’t go that far.
On August 12, 1969, reporter Bruce Russell wrote:
Whispers that a psychotic killer was after wealthy resident of isolated homes in the Hollywood hills continued after the murder of Miss Tate and the four others was followed a day later by that of a rich supermarket owner and his wife in a plush home 12 miles away.
IN BOTH SETS of slayings the word “Pig” was smeared in blood at the murder scene, hoods covered the heads of males slain and women had cords around their throats.
Police have showed that the two bloodbaths were unconnected. They said the more recent murders of a grocery chain owner Leno La Bianca, 44, and his wife Rosemary, 37, were those of a psychotic cashing in on the publicity of the so-called Tate murders.
But fear-stricken Hollywood residents rushed to buy guns yesterday for self-protection.
Hollywood glitterati panicked. They ripped the names and numbers of their drug dealers out of their little black books and waited for the killer’s arrest so life could return to normal.
No one, except some Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigators, gave a thought to the gruesome killing that pre-dated the August rampage, the murder of Gary Hinman.
It was a few minutes into August 9, 1969, and Mrs. Seymour Kott of 10170 Cielo Drive heard a series of claps. She couldn’t identify the source or location of the noise and so she went back to sleep.
Winifred Chapman, maid for director Roman Polanski and his wife actress Sharon Tate, arrived at their home at the far end of Cielo Drive at 8:30 a.m. to begin work. The quiet street is a cul-de-sac between Beverly Glen and Benedict Canyon. Birds chirping, a dog barking or the occasional coyote call are about the only sounds you hear; but there was an unnatural quality to the stillness that morning.
Winifred saw a white two-door Rambler sedan in the driveway. She didn’t recognize the car and approached it with caution. She saw a young man behind the wheel slumped over toward the passenger seat. There was blood on his shirt and his left arm.
As she continued toward the sprawling home she found the body of Voytek Frykowski on the front lawn.
Under a fir tree, about 20 yards away, she found Abigail Folger’s bloody body.
The horror followed Winifred into the living room. Sharon Tate, 8 ½ months pregnant and dressed in her bra and bikini bottom, had a bloody nylon cord wrapped around her neck. The cord looped around a beam in the ceiling. Someone tied the other end of the cord around Jay Sebring’s neck and placed a black hood on his head.
Terrified, Winifred ran to a neighbor’s home for help. Fifteen-year-old Jim Asim was preparing to leave when she stopped him screaming, “there’s bodies and blood all over the place!”
Victims being transported to morgue
Asim, a member of Law Enforcement Troop 800 of the Boy Scouts, called the police. Moments later six LAPD black and whites roared up Cielo Drive to its end where there is a wire gate outside the Polanski residence. Guns drawn; the officers entered the property. They heard a dog howling behind a guest house and a man’s voice shouted for it to be quiet.
Wire gate outside Polanski residence.
In the guest house, nineteen-year-old William Etson Garretson looked up to see his doorway crowded with police. They had shotguns trained on him. He was still half asleep, dressed only in pin-striped bell-bottoms. He did not understand why the cops were there.
After several hours of questioning, they took Garretson into custody and arrested him on suspicion of murder. As the only living person on the premises he was the obvious suspect. Yet there was no physical evidence tying him to the deaths.
Police in Garretson’s hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, told LAPD investigators the kid had committed one offense of little consequence. He received a two-year suspended jail sentence in 1967 for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Mary Garretson, his 42-year-old mother, told police her son left home in October 1968 “without saying goodbye but had written saying he hoped to return home soon.”
William Garretson (center)
Garretson was a quiet kid and lacked the personality to take control of five adults and viciously murder them.
Garretson didn’t even work for the Polanski’s and had only a vague notion of who they were. He lived in the guest house and kept to himself. The property owner, Rudy Altabelli employed him as a caretaker
In Europe when he received the news of the slayings, Altabelli offered no reason for the murders.
Someone cut the telephone lines into the home, which suggested a plan. There was no weapon at the scene except for pieces of a pistol grip.
It was 1969, so it was no surprise that all the victims wore “hippie type” clothes – their mode of dress was enough for the police to search for drugs. They found none. As far investigators could tell nothing appeared to be missing – which ruled out robbery as a motive.
They found evidence of a struggle and wondered; why had not one of the five victims escaped the carnage?
As LAPD detectives followed scant leads to dead-ends, talk on the street was of the upcoming Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, New York. Many people from L.A. planned to make the trek. Billed as three days of peace and music, the festival promised to be amazing. The younger generation had a chip on its shoulder and something to prove. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Fuck Nixon. Fuck the War. Life is beautiful, man.
Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.
Who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes? The character is irresistible. That’s why tonight’s feature is THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, and Wendy Barrie.
Enjoy the movie!
ROTTEN TOMATOES says:
Though it takes a few liberties with the Arthur Conan Doyle original, this film ranks as one of the best screen versions of this oft-told tale. After learning the history of the Baskerville curse, Sherlock Holmes decides to protect heir Henry Baskerville from suffering the same fate as his ancestors.
None of Gary Hinman’s friends or colleagues had seen him for a week. Worried, his friends Mike Irwin, John Nicks, and Glenn Giardinelli stopped by his house at 964 Old Topanga Canyon Road to check up on him. They knew he was looking forward to a trip to Japan but he wouldn’t have gone without saying goodbye.
When they arrived, they noticed Gary’s Fiat was missing. They climbed the stairs to the porch where they detected a foul odor. They were alarmed enough to go to a neighbor’s home and call the L.A. County Sheriff’s Malibu Station.
Deputies Paul Piet and Donald Lang rolled out to the location. When they arrived Piet climbed a ladder to look in the main window. He saw decomposing body, covered with maggots around the head. The man was partly covered with a blanket and a pillow covered the left side of his face. There was blood on the floor and the blanket.
The deputies contacted Detective Sergeant Paul J. Whiteley in the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. Whiteley advised them to secure the location. He would be there as soon as possible.
At 9:45 p.m. Detective Whitely and Sergeant Gunther arrived. Deputy Coroner Green arrived at 11:30 p.m. and removed the body for autopsy and assigned it a case number, 69-8448.
Hinman’s death was classified as a routine “dead person” until the autopsy proved he was murdered.
SAN LUIS OBISPO
AUGUST 6, 1969
On August 6, 1969 at 10:50 a.m., a CHP officer on routine patrol observed a Fiat, license number OYX833, parked northbound on the east side of the 101 on the Cuesta grade. The officer ran the license plate for outstanding warrants – the car was reported stolen out of Los Angeles.
La Cuesta Grade
The officer asked for ID, but the man didn’t have a driver’s license. He said he was Jason Lee Daniels, born November 11, 1946. The officer transported Daniels to the Highway Patrol Office in San Luis Obispo and booked him for 10851 V.C. Auto Theft. Once at the station, Jason admitted that his true name was Robert Beausoleil.
As the officer was writing up the stolen car report he saw an APB [All-Points Bulletin] dated 8-3-69 which stated that the owner of the car was murdered. He advised Beausoleil that he was under arrest for 187 P.C. murder and read him his rights.
Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.
Tonight’s feature is a departure from our usual film noir fare — it’s THE TRIP starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Susan Strasberg and Bruce Dern. It was written by Jack Nicholson and directed Roger Corman. I think this is the perfect follow-up to the post about Diane Linkletter.
Paul Groves (Peter Fonda), a television commercial director, is in the midst of a personality crisis. His wife Sally (Susan Strasberg) has left him and he seeks the help of his friend John (Bruce Dern), a self-styled guru who’s an advocate of LSD. Paul asks John to be the guide on his first “trip”. John takes Paul to a “freak-out” at his friend Max’s (Dennis Hopper) pad. Splitting the scene, they score some acid from Max and return to John’s split-level pad with an indoor/outdoor pool. Paul experiences visions of sex, death, strobe lights, flowers, dancing girls, witches, hooded riders, a torture chamber, and a dwarf. He panics but John tells him to “go with it, man.” Would you trust John?
Emergency vehicles screeched up to the Shoreham Towers. Diane Linkletter was on the sidewalk, bleeding profusely from her head. She was still alive. A near neighbor, Jimmy George, witnessed Diane’s fall. He ran outside to see if he could render aid. She looked up at him but could not speak. Jimmy didn’t know what to do. Even if he had been a trained paramedic he could not have altered the outcome.
Diane was placed in an ambulance and rushed to the University of Southern California Medical Center. She was dead on arrival. The pretty girl with the bright smile, and future to match, was two weeks away from her 21st birthday.
Everyone wanted to know what had happened to Diane. Sheriff’s investigators began to piece together her last several hours to see if her death was a suicide, an accident, or a homicide.
The last person to see Diane was Edward Durston. Durston said he saw Diane on the day before her death. He said she was depressed and he was concerned about her. Following her date with Robert, she stopped in at Durston’s apartment. It was 3 a.m. She asked him to come by her place because she was going to bake cookies.
Durston told investigators that Diane had dropped acid that night. He said they talked for hours and she told him she was depressed. She went into her bedroom and telephoned her brother and, according to Durston, Diane seemed calmer.
Her calm demeanor is what fooled him, he said. He thought everything was fine until she walked into the kitchen, climbed onto the drainboard and into the window. Durston said he was frantic. He tried, but failed, to grab Diane’s belt. He said she went out the window and there was nothing he could do to stop her.
Durston’s account of events changed several times. He changing story made investigators suspicious, so they dug into his background. What they found gave them cause for concern.
The Tate/LaBianca murders were fresh in everyone’s mind and Durston was an early suspect in the slayings. Detectives asked Durston if he was willing to take a polygraph regarding the circumstances of Diane’s death and he agreed. The results were never made public.
Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski
At the same time Durston was grilled by Sheriff’s investigators, Diane’s father addressed reporters.
As you would expect, Art was devastated by Diane’s death. He told reporters he knew what killed her – LSD. It wasn’t until after the autopsy revealed that Diane had no drugs in her system that Art offered a revised version. He said that Diane experienced an acid flashback and that is what propelled her out of her kitchen window.
Building on a tale of dubious origin, the media added a few flourishes and the next thing anyone knew Diane Linkletter had gone out the window of her apartment, high on LSD, because she thought she could fly.
The story degenerated into a false, but often repeated, narrative of Diane’s life. According to various sources Diane was into heroin at 13 and her drug use continued at a mad and dangerous pace until her death. None of it was true. Did Diane experiment with drugs? If she did, it wasn’t a big part of her life.
Sheriff’s homicide detective, Norm Hamilton, interviewed Diane’s ex-husband Grant Conroy. Theirs was a whirlwind marriage and it seemed doubtful Grant could offer any substantive information, but he had to be asked.
Grant said Diane used LSD and speed while they were married. How he knew intimate details of her life is a mystery—Diane never lived with Grant. During their brief marriage she lived at home with her parents.
Detectives turned again to Durston. He was the last person with Diane. Could he have pushed her? They never found any evidence to suggest foul play. However, Durston was present at another mysterious death in 1985.
Actress Carol Wayne appeared regularly on TV shows during the 1960s and into the 1970s. Her biggest role was in sketches on the Johnny Carson Show. She always played a ditzy blonde. When Carson asked the network to reduce his show from 90 to 60s minutes, Carol’s role was over.
She began to abuse alcohol and cocaine and it is rumored that she became an escort for wealthy men. In January 1985 she accompanied Durston to a resort in Mexico. The couple reportedly had a disagreement and Carol went for a walk on the beach to cool off. When she didn’t return for their flight back to Los Angeles, Durston left without her. He left her bags at the airport with a note that she would come and pick them up. She never arrived.
Carol’s fully clothed body was found floating in four feet of water off the beach near the hotel where she and Durston stayed. There were no signs of foul play. People who knew Carol found it strange that she drowned. She was terrified of water.
It is ironic that the person most responsible for trashing Diane’s reputation was her father. With no verifiable evidence that Diane abused drugs, Art embarked on a nationwide anti-drug campaign using Diane as a tragic example of how drugs can kill.
Why was Art so keen to tarnish Diane’s reputation by alleging she was a drug user? The simplest explanation is that Art was in denial about Diane’s death and experiencing the pain and guilt that can come with surviving a loved one’s suicide. It isn’t unusual for the survivors to cast around for a scapegoat . Art chose drugs.
NOTE: If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, please reach out for help.
Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK. The film stars Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes.
Enjoy the movie!
Janos Szaby is a kind, innocent immigrant to America. Just after he arrives though, he is caught in a fire and his face is horribly burned and disfigured. Although a skilled craftsman his hideous features make it impossible for him to get work, and driven by despair he is forced to turn to crime to live. He finds himself very proficient at that, and soon makes enough money to buy a very lifelike mask to hide his scars behind. He hates what he does, but is he in too deep to get out?