Suspect's ex-wife, brother testify in El Paso cold case murder trial
POSTED: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 12:47pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 6:43pm
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — UPDATE:
Roger Garrett's brother, Patrick Garrett, testified Wednesday afternoon. He said he found out his father, Chester Garrett had been murdered when Roger picked him up from school the afternoon of January 4, 1977, one day after the murder took place.
He said the following Saturday, he helped his brother clean the garage using gallons of muriatic acid, a chemical often used for cleaning. They used buckets, a broom and a water hose to scrub a large red stain on the concrete. Patrick said the chemical made the concrete turn white and also made it hard to breathe.
It was 13 years later in December, 1990 when Patrick said Roger confessed to murdering their father. Patrick testified that Roger told him their mother, Lisbeth Garrett had planned it. She called Chester to the home to fix the dishwasher in the kitchen. Roger admitted to hiding a baseball bat in the dining room. As Chester leaned over the dishwasher, Roger hit him over the head with a baseball bat, then Lisbeth went over and stabbed him several times. The two then dragged Chester to the garage.
Patrick got emotional on the stand as he provided more details. He said Roger told him Chester started gurgling and was having trouble breathing, so Lisbeth grabbed the baseball bat and hit him over the head, fracturing his skull.
Roger said they then put Chester's body in his red Volkswagen and drove him out to a desert area near Americas in Northeast El Paso. They drove back in Lisbeth's Mercury, changed their clothes and shoes, then put it in plastic bags that they dropped in dumpsters at convenience stores throughout West El Paso.
Patrick told his wife, her sister and his wife's later father about the confession, but did not go to police. He spoke with investigators in 1995 and again in 2006, but never told them about the confession.
Patrick's 16 year-old son died in 2009, and he said it was something that changed his life. He said he became a Christian and knew he had to say something.
He contacted El Paso County Sheriff's investigators of January, 2013 and finally told them about the confession.
Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Glen Hall testified next. He was Chester Garrett's battalion commander at Fort Bliss. He described Chester Garrett as, "...one of the most highly decorated officers in the Army at that time."
Hall said he knew Chester's relationship with his wife was, "bitter," and said, "I immediately assumed she (Lisbeth Garrett) was a very likely suspect."
He delivered the news to Chester's wife and children, but said remembered thinking it was odd that Lisbeth and Roger were both wearing matching bathrobes at approximately 3 p.m. the day after the murder happened.
Dr. Juan Contin, the El Paso County Medical Examiner, testified about the autopsy findings. He did not conduct Chester Garrett's autopsy, but was called to testify because of his expertise.
He said Chester Garrett suffered a stab wound to the lower lip, left arm, and seven stab wounds in the back. He also suffered four blows to the head, two in the front and two in the back.
Contin said Chester Garrett likely died from the bleeding, as well as a fractured skull.
Opening arguments were held in the Roger Garrett murder trial Wednesday. Garrett is accused of killing his stepfather, Army officer Chester Garrett in 1977.
In the morning, state prosecutors called the first two witnesses who testified that Garrett confessed to them that he and his mother, Lisbeth Garrett, murdered Chester.
The first witness, Deborah Rodriguez, introduced Roger to his wife, Teresa. However, before he met Teresa, Rodriguez said Roger opened up to her in an attempt to get closer to her and initiate a romantic relationship.
She said she was only 15 years old at the time. In the 30-40 minute conversation, Rodriguez said Roger confessed to using a large piece of wood to hit his stepfather in the back of the head. She said she could not recall if he told her that he then stabbed his stepfather, or if it had been his mother, or both, who stabbed the Army officer once he was unconscious.
Rodriguez then said Roger told her they put the body in the car and drove to the furthest part of El Paso County and left the body and the car in the desert, then drove back in a second vehicle. Rodriguez testified that Roger was shaking and crying as he told her the story, but said she never believed the story was real, and believed that Roger was only trying to impress her.
"My 15-year-old head couldn't wrap my head around it," Rodriguez said.
It was only until years later that she believed it when Roger Garrett's ex-wife, Teresa, told Rodriguez that Roger told her the same story about the murder.
Defense attorney Matthew Dekoatz asked Rodriguez why she never contacted authorities. He said, "You were on her team," referring to her friendship with Roger's ex-wife.
When Roger's ex-wife took the stand, she told a similar story. She said she and Roger were in Las Vegas when they got into an argument. Upon returning home to El Paso, the argument continued, and Teresa told Roger she wanted a divorce. She said Roger "broke down" and confessed to the murder.
She said Roger told her that his parents would often argue and that the arguments turned physical. It was then that his mother, Lisbeth, approached him and told him that she believed her husband, Chester, was going to kill her. Teresa said Roger told her the mother and son arranged for Roger's younger stepbrother, Patrick Garrett, to be at a friend's house. Chester Garrett was no longer living at the home at the time, but they somehow convinced him to go to their family home.
Once Chester arrived, Teresa testified that her husband told her that he was the one who hit his stepfather over the head with a bat, and even said it was something his stepfather had taught him to do. Teresa said Roger told her it was his mother who stabbed her husband.
"His mother went into a rage and stabbed him," Teresa said recalling what Roger had told her. She said the incident happened in the kitchen, and also recalled Roger telling her that Chester Garrett asked, "Why are you doing this?" during the attack.
Teresa said she never went to authorities with the story because Roger told her his mother could never know that she knew. Teresa said he never threatened her safety, but she assumed her safety was in danger if she went to the police.
It wasn't until Chester Garrett's funeral that Roger Garrett found out Chester was not his real father. He approached his mother and asked her about it, and also told her he wanted to go to the police about what happened.
Teresa said Roger told her that his mother's response was, "If you go, you're going down as well."
Contrary to Rodriguez's reaction to the confession, Teresa said she believed it happened and never doubted the story. She said it made sense, and she felt it explained Roger Garrett's behavior, because there had been other times that he would get angry during arguments.
Teresa said she felt sorry for Roger Garrett saying, "I felt he had been wronged. He was lied to," presumably referring to his mother, Lisbeth Garrett.
Teresa eventually divorced Roger Garrett in 1993.