On August 9, 1995, Ed Contreras attended a BBQ at his friend Scott Taylor's house. Also in attendance were Taylor's best friend Freddie Walker, and Lisa Garringer, a girl in whom Taylor was interested. The events that unfolded that afternoon and evening went in directions that none of the guests could have foreseen. It was dark and disturbing and during the aftermath there was a 'Take No Prisoners' style of investigation that convicted one innocent man and one guilty man for the crime that only the guilty man had done. Recanted (and ultimately, rejected) witness statements, coercion by Police and building the case on the word of known liars is again par for the course. The details of the crime are horrific, but that shouldn't keep anyone from looking into Ed's case.
The Brutality that ended Freddie Walker
The BBQ was located at a cabin belonging to Taylor's parents in Bouquet Canyon, CA and the group planned to spend the weekend. Everything seemed to be going along fine until a fistfight broke out between the host, Taylor and his childhood friend Frederick "Freddie" Walker. During the fight, Freddie fell to the ground, hitting his head, and began going into convulsions. Before either Lisa or Ed knew what was happening, Taylor grabbed a machete and began chopping his best friend about the head and body. Ed did what he could to stop Taylor, hollering at him to stop and desperately trying to save Walker's life, but it was no help. Ed even physically tried to intervene and he was nicked by the machete as Taylor kept attacking Walker. Eventually both Ed and Lisa retreated into the cabin where Lisa attempted to call her mother and calm down Ed who was on the verge of a complete freakout. While all this is going on, Taylor is busy outside dismembering the body of his childhood best friend, during which time he decides to take a break to demand sex from Lisa, who wasn't about to turn him down under the circumstances. He then returned to the job of body disposal. Lisa finally was able to leave when her mother called Scott and convinced him she had a dental appointment the next day, but Ed was destined to stick around the cabin with Scott to try and convince him he wasn't loose at the lips. Once Scott's parents arrived at the cabin, Ed was able to make his departure, but he remained terrified in the days that followed while he waited for the other shoe to drop.
The Investigation Intent on 2 Offenders
When Lisa confided to a friend as to the events of that day, word eventually got back to the police who had since found Freddie's remains in the LA National Forest. Based on what police had heard, they believed two perpetrators were involved in the crime. Though an honest mistake, this shouldn't have kept investigators from keeping the possibility in mind that only one perpetrator committed the act, especially considering the brutality of the crime. From the word Go, police were interested in TWO offenders.
"I felt pressured in the fact that the only way that I could ensure that Scott would be gone was that if Ed was gone. And it was kind of like a package deal"
"...I distinctly do remember a conversation saying that if- they had to have both of them in order to ensure that Scott would be in prison for the rest of his life... I don't know exactly when that happened. I know for sure that that conversation did happen. It's not something I made up in my head.
The pressure on Lisa was evident on other levels as well. She was worried that if she didn't give a statement in line with what the police wanted she might be charged with failing to report the crime initially, and that the police might see to the deportation of her mother who was not a citizen. It was not until 2009 that Lisa gathered the courage to do her part to right the wrong done to Ed Contreras, since she alone was in full knowledge of the fact that Ed had no part in the murder of Freddie Walker.
Incantations of Recantations
In 2011 an Evidentiary Hearing was held to consider new testimony regarding Ed Contreras's guilt. Among those testifying were Lisa Garringer to recant previous testimony, Roslyn Blaser and Mike Lewis, to corroborate Lisa's story, the defendant Ed Contreras, and Sergeant John Greenwood andDetective John Jones. During this testimony, it was established that Lisa had altered her statement and testimony to fit the police theory of two attackers, even though she knew full well that Ed Contreras had no part in the crime. Pressure from the police combined with worries about her mother being deported and her legal status as a minor to boot, Lisa had buckled under the tensions and implicated Ed.
Unfortunately, thejudge didn't buy it. Not so much that he didn't believe their new statements, but he didn't accept the reason for lying initially.
Why does he have an underlying belief in the goodness of the officers, but not of the witnesses?
"To the extent that they testified that the investigators threatened to deport or detain Ms. Blaser … I do not find the witnesses credible."
Today, Ed Contreras is still in prison serving out his life sentence. The same life sentence, by the way, that Scott Taylor received. If it seems odd to you that both men received the same sentence, it should. There's your Felony Murder Rule again. Let's just discard the rule of law in favor of 'Get tough on crime' politics and this is what it gets you.
Sources and Links
Support and Free the Innocent Ed Contreras
Ed Contreras at The California Innocence Project
Judge Refuses to Release Man Convicted of Dismembering Friend
Petition to CA Gov. Jerry Brown: Set Ed Contreras Free
Article written by Mike Palmer
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