Former Cielo Drive Caretaker, Sole Survivor Of The TLB Murders Died In August

January 03, 2017

Brian Davis - TLB Radio

TLB Radio has sadly learned William Garretson, the sole survivor of the Tate-LaBianca
murders, has passed away. He was 66.

According to Garretson's high school alumni page at, Garretson passed away
of cancer on August 16, 2016, one week and day before his birthday.

There was no obituary notice which would explain why none of us in the TLB community
likely knew of this until now.

For those who might not know, then 19-year old Garretson lived in the guesthouse at 10050 Cielo Drive in 1969 and was the property caretaker for house owner Rudy Altobelli.  One of the victims, 18-year old Steven Parent, had been visiting Garretson that night.

Garretson was arrested the next morning for the murders before being cleared and released the following day.

I was fortunate enough to talk with Bill on a few occasions in which a couple are posted on
the TLB Radio podcast page and each time Bill was nice, cordial and open about his
perspective of the murders.

In my opinion, Bill Garretson is one of the top 3 or 4 most intriguing characters in this story

and I don't think I'll ever truly understand how he was able to survive the carnage of
Cielo Drive that August 9th, 1969.

Eventually, it won't matter anymore. Maybe it already doesn't.

Rest In Peace, William Garretson


Anonymous said...

T/y for this. Agreed the guy was one of the more enigmatic characters in a tragic story full of them. Those YLB interviews you got were unusual to say the least but interesting nonetheless. One strange ranger for sure but he breathed in almost a half century's oxygen past that nightmare night and given how close he came to not I think he made out okay.

Anonymous said...

TLB not YLB. Excuse please.

TLB Radio said...

Thank you Anon. I appreciate the comment.

jamesrsfo said...

Does anyone else beside me think he possibly saw it all happen but was hiding in the darkened guest house so they wouldn't see/hurt him? Not brave, but you got admit pretty smart.

Mark Chmiel said...

Yes, James, I agree. I don't necessarily think he saw everything, but I think he may have seen Sebring and Abigail killed and he probably panicked or shut down when Krenwinkle tried the doorknob to his cottage. A 19 year old trapped in a cottage with an unknown number of killers outside and no phone, plus he was on some kind of drug or drugs? Yeah, I think he shut down and hid.

It's also possible he saw it, but was too drugged to process what was happening until the next morning.

Jerry Lamonica said...

For years I have read and reread HELTER SKELTER.
One part of the story for me to fathom is that of Rudolph Weber.
Here is a guy and his wife who witnesses the four killers using his hose at 1AM.
He thinks it significant enough to write down the tag number of the vehicle and save it (and later remember the number)
OK, so his story is this . . . he went to bed early that night because he had to get up early for work the next morning.
So he goes to work and has to hear all the news about the murders.He lived only 2 miles from the Tate residence and didn't think he should call the police and tell them about the the four teens? If nothing else those teens could have witnessed the killers in the area. The police would have found John Swartz's vehicle at Spahn Ranch that very afternoon. The LaBiancas might be alive today had this occurred.
Apparently, Bugliosi in his book, although he continually takes pot shots at LAPD says nothing about Weber or his wife for failing to call the police.
I don't get it.
Any comments?

TLB Radio said...

Jerry Lamonica, Hello !

I'm with you ! Great point ! Great question !

Thank you !

TLB Radio - Brian Davis

Paul Cimino said...

Thank you Brian 4 the time you gave me when I called you the first week in June please don't forget to let me know when your show on REELZ channel airs thanks

Anonymous said...

I was a year younger than Bill when I used to go to the guest house where he was caretaking. We had developed a friendship. My friend and I would visit, have dinner and hang out like teens do. He didn't want to have anything to do with the crazy Hollywood movie stars next door that did drugs. He only wanted to save enough money by caretaking Polanski's guest house so he could get a ticket for a flight back home, to get out of crazy California, as he called it. He was sweet and reminded me of the singer "Donavan". He didn't have a mean bone in his body. We just went our separate ways as teens do. A few months later, I read what happened and was told Bill was intitially arrested. I couldn't believe it because I knew he stayed away from the main house only yards away.They kept inviting him to their parties and he always refused. I was so glad to hear he was later released because it was just impossible to believe. I just read this article today googling Manson for the first time. I just remembered his name as I heard Manson died. I was so close to being there, visiting him. Angels looking over me. Bill was a good kid. I remember. We were just kids. And he was kind.

Anonymous said...

My friend and I picked up Bill hitchhiking months earlier. He had a bag of groceries. We dropped him off and he invited us in for dinner. We accepted and became friends as easily as kids do. He was often invited to the Tate house next door and declined because they were Hollywood stars that did drugs. He wasn't interested. I read here that his father said he didn't know his son knew those kinds of people. Bill wasn't those kinds of people, so I doubt that this teen Steve was either. Bill just wanted to save enough money to get out of this crazy California as he called it. He wanted to save enough money for a plane ticket to fly home. One night we were there and Polanski called from Europe just to hear his 2 greyhounds bark. Bill was just caretaking. He was a sweet kid. We drifted apart as kids do. I was a year younger than him. I read or heard from my friend that Bill was first accused. That would be impossible. He was kind and stayed away from "those wild Californians" next door. I'm sure Steve was an innocent bystander too from what I read below. I could have been there too like Steve. I remember the gate. I had angels watching over me. I'm sorry for your son that I just read about..Steve. I had to add to my above comment as the memories return now that Manson died. I'm reading the articles.

The Bangkok Connection said...

My guess is the dogs kept him safe. Had he released the dogs he may have stopped the incident or he also may have been killed.

Anonymous said...

What's creepy is that I recently read Susan Atkins testimony from the murder trial and she stated that at one point while they were in the Tate house and turned some lights out, she looked up at the window and a dog had its paws up on the ledge outside and was looking in at the commotion. She stated that as soon as the dog saw her looking back at it, it then just disappeared and left. This had to be one of the dogs Garretson was taking care of. I am not making this up. It's in her testimony.

Ricky Parker said...

Wow that comment about the dog is creepy. What if someone chose to follow the dog back to the guest house where William garretson was? The story could have included one more death. To the person who said garretson possibly could have seen the deaths of Folger voytchek and Sebring don't you mean Folger and frykowski? Because they both were the only ones who ran out on the lawn but was chased down by krenwinkle and Watson. Sorry but had to correct you. Peace Ricky Parker.��

Anonymous said...

Lets all tell the truth here, We don't know what happened or what we would've done if it were us.I can tell you I would've went out there to get killed. What the hell was he gonna do? I would've hid also. I'm pretty sure seeing something like that could mess you up mentally. He was a kid for Christ sake

David Dickinson said...

What i want to know is how come no one heard the 4 shots that killed Steven. I may be wrong but when you look at the map of the area the garage and the front gate are not that far away..

tombay said...

What a shame it was .

Anonymous said...

God only knows how hippie movement came about or that evil charlie manson and his orgy members. they all should've been killed long ago by lethal injection. jamie

Anonymous said...

There's a theory that the reason why the 60s was such a mess was because that generation was mostly reincarnated drunk Russian soldiers, murdered Jews, Communists, and Nazis.

SFV Native said...

They had a gas chamber back then, which is worse, and worse is what they deserved.

The Wild Turkey said...

If they shot him with that .22 buntline there won't be .ugh noise. It's not a big caliber like a .45 . Also it's not like the movies with an over amplified report. If your inside sleeping or stoned or playing music changes are you won't hear it. SPECIALLY if you have never heard real gunfire before .

The Wild Turkey said...

Much noise. Chanches are. Sorry.

Device Hut said...

I recently listened to your Bill Garretson podcast which was truly indeed mind boggling.It appears the trauma amplified over time. I was in Los Angeles at the time and hearing again and again how this 'slight'statured 19 year old was able to overwhelm so many yet have no bloodstains.etc. The report of the revolver is another issue. At night a normal conversation can be heard in the valleys of that area. At that time there were neighbors above.below and beside 10500. Most 22 have a loud crack.Does anyone know how tall Bill G was?

Anonymous said...

I recall Bill Garretson was around 5'8". He was a handsome guy and former high school wrestler with a lean muscular body that was always nicely tanned. He caught the eye of property owner Rudi Atlobelli when he was hitchhiking and who picked him up. Altobelli, an effeminate middle aged gay man, had Bill move in with him at the guest house.


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