Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Garrett Wilson

Long Time Coming

It was a show of force. There were 14 police cars speeding down Interstate 68 in Western Maryland, all headed for the same destination. The black-and-whites had formed the parade just before dawn and now were speeding toward a remote rambler near the town of Frostburg. They were searching for a man who, it was believed, not only murdered his 5-month-old son in 1987, but an infant daughter in 1981. According to the cops, the acts were premeditated and done for one reason alone: money.
Today, May 13, 1998, had been long in coming. Such crimes were unthinkable. Smothering an infant son who was your namesake, and planning his demise for weeks in advance, was as heinous a deed as anyone could imagine.
Mary Anastasi,
former wife (AP)
Yet one had to wonder. The woman who had accused him of these murders, Mary “Missy” Anastasi, was an ex-wife who, manywould say, had motivations of her own for seeing him behind bars. After all, she had stayed married to him for nearly six years after their child’s death and came forward only after he divorced her and married another woman.
That woman, Vicky Wampler Wilson, was sitting on the front stoop of the house when the police arrived at seven that morning. Her husband, Garrett Wilson, sat beside her. When he first saw the line of police cars pulling up in front of the little home, he thought there had been a jailbreak. A state prison was just over the hill behind the modest dwelling, and for a few seconds, Wilson contemplated joining what he thought was a posse.
Detective Meredith Dominick
(AP) That was not to be. A law woman was walking toward him, a brass badge fastened to her belt, a Smith & Wesson police special on her hip. Beside her, a sheriff’s deputy had a rifle pointed in his direction. The female detective, Meredith Dominick, had flown to Texas to question Wilson about his dead son three years ago. At that time, his deceased son, Garrett Michael Wilson, had long been diagnosed as a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS, a mysterious condition that many still called “crib death.” Today, the autopsy had just been changed to homicide. And Dominick was certain the killer was standing in front of her.
“Garrett Eldred Wilson, you are under arrest. Put your hands on the car,” the deputy shouted.
“What for?” he asked.
“The homicide of your child.”
Meredith Dominick went up to Wilson and stared directly into his eyes. Seeing the suspect in handcuffs gave her an enormous degree of satisfaction.
“Mr. Wilson, do you remember who I am?” she asked.
Wilson looked back at her. He was frightened.
“You do look familiar. How did you find me?”
“I’m very good at my job,” she answered.
The police served six warrants and began searching the isolated rambler. Vicky Wilson’s mother was rousted out of bed and the cops went through every room. What seemed to interest them most were photos of infant children. They seized or photographed anything that looked like a document.
Garrett Wilson with daughter Marysa, 1993 (AP)
Garrett Wilson with daughter
Marysa, 1993 (AP)
Wilson and Vicky’s daughter, Marysa, who had spent the night a block away, showed up that morning just as her father was being driven away. She asked her mother what was going on.
“They said your daddy did something wrong and now he’s got to prove he didn’t do it,” Vicky explained.
“But he’s in the front seat,” their little girl said. “Good people sit in the front and bad ones are put in the back.”
Her mother didn’t have an answer for that.
Within hours, Garrett Wilson was being sped toward the Montgomery County, Maryland detention center, nearly 200 miles from his home. Near the jail, his accuser and former wife, Missy Anastasi, had been summoned to the county’s judicial center.
“I know you think we haven’t been working on your case, but in fact we have for years,” a prosecutor told her. “Garrett Wilson was arrested this morning in Frostburg, Maryland.”
Missy Anastasi began sobbing.
“We did it,” she cried. “We finally did it.”
In the stressful months that would follow, Vicky Wilson, would be asked many times about her husband’s status and she would always give the same answer.
“It’s all in God’s hands now,” Vicky would answer. She believed Garrett was innocent, framed by Missy, the spurned wife who had lost him to her five years before.

Loner in Friendly

Garrett Eldred Wilson(AP)
The face of evil is bland, mostly unrecognizable. At first glance, Garrett Wilson appears to have had an ordinary, picturesque suburban childhood. A closer look though, shows a pattern of depravity that may have already been at work.
Prince George’s County, Maryland, borders both Montgomery County and Washington, D.C. Of the two suburbs, it is Prince George’s that is considered to be the poor stepsister. In this county, near the District of Columbia’s border is the unincorporated community of Friendly. It is here that Wilson grew up.
His father, Eldred, seemed respectable enough. He had been named “Most Likely to Succeed” when graduating from high school in 1926 but that honor was the high point of his life. After taking some accounting courses he chose a steady, secure job at the U.S. House of Representatives inside the Sergeant at Arms office. His wife, Ethel, was content to become a housewife. Garrett, born in June 1956, was to be their only child.
Eldred had a secret. It was bad enough he smoked four to five packs of cigarettes a day. But Garrett Wilson’s father was also an alcoholic who drank himself into a stupor each evening.
“He had his bar just behind the dining room table and would walk back and forth to the kitchen to get ice and water for his drinks,” Wilson’s childhood friend, John Farley, said. “He began with beer and usually switched to scotch by nine.”
Ethel was a social drinker, unwilling to match her husband’s boozing habits. Instead, she became close to her son. Perhaps too close.
“Why, my God, she breast-fed him until he was 4,” said Jackie Sandoe, who married Eldred’s nephew. When Garrett reached his teens, she would taunt him in front of his friends with remarks like this: “You did chin-ups on my boobs forever.”
Garrett Wilson, age 8
When not liquored-up, Eldred could be a disciplinarian. One method Wilson’s father used was to creep into the bathroom when his son was showering and begin whacking him on the back with the flat of his hand. The pain was magnified by contact with wet skin. Other transgressions were dealt with by using a belt.
“He would have it out as soon as he walked through the door from work,” Wilson remembered. “It was usually because I had argued with my mother. But the beatings never lasted long. He was always in a hurry to open up the liquor cabinet and have that first drink.”
Garrett Wilson, High School Yearbook
By high school, Wilson was grossly overweight. He had reached his optimum height, 5’10″, but his weight exceeded 250 pounds. He would later credit this to a diet built around baloney sandwiches—the kind of baloney impregnated with chunks of cheese. Smart enough to care how he looked, he began to fight his pudginess by joining the high school wrestling team and spending time lifting weights in the gym. Despite being rotund, with baby fat filling out his cheeks, Wilson developed a talent as a teenage Romeo, given to smooth compliments and extravagant gestures. His technique wowed scores of impressionable young women.
“He could talk the fleas off a dog,” recalled Farley.
One high school sweetheart, Jane Edmunds, was the daughter of a Baptist church minister where the family attended services. In her sophomore year, Wilson would write this missive in her yearbook.
You’re a crazy girl (sometimes).
But you can be sweet as sugar.
I love the privaledge (sic) of living next to you
for several years???
Ha! Ha! Well Sis, Good luck in the future with the boys.
Love, Garrett
The next year, when he was 17, he proposed marriage to her. “He asked me to marry him in the 11th grade,” the preacher’s daughter said. “He once sent me several dozen roses, and when he popped the question, he had a diamond ring with him. We hadn’t gone out that much, but I have to say, he certainly was a ladies’ man. That was surprising, considering what he had to work with.”
Wilson’s other talent was music. He could have made a career of it, so prodigious were his abilities.
“When I was 9, I was walking by a local music chain with my mother,” Wilson recalled. “I went into the showroom, sat down at a piano and played The Marine Hymn. My mother was totally surprised. She didn’t know I could play at all.”
Wilson was precocious. He had taught himself to play while staying at an aunt’s house the week before. Ethel Wilson thought she had a young Mozart on her hands and immediately scheduled lessons. After two sessions, he quit.
“My teacher wanted me to play one kind of music and I wanted to play another,” was his explanation. He certainly had enough natural skill to make others take notice. Wilson could listen to a tune on the radio and then play the composition within an hour. But he avoided Chopin and Bach, though he was more than talented enough to perform classical music. Instead he chose the likes of John Denver or Neil Diamond, which he would play while singing the lyrics to woman after woman. It was a potent combination for romantic conquests.
Wilson’s constant pursuit of the opposite sex was destined to get him into trouble. It soon did. He impregnated a young woman, Shelly, in early 1976, and then—at her request—married her that March so that the child, a son, couldn’t be labeled a bastard. Shelly filed for divorce the day after the courthouse wedding. His father hushed up the affair, keeping it a secret, even from his wife.
By now, the health habits of his parents were catching up with them. His father began suffering blackout spells at his U.S. Capitol job and was forced to retire. He gasped with every step, suffering from both tuberculosis and emphysema. Neither crisis stopped Eldred Wilson from his addictions. He still smoked five packs a day even while hauling an oxygen tank around. Drunk each night, he no longer walked to his bedroom but crawled there on his hands and knees. Surprisingly, Wilson’s mother was the first to die. Wilson discovered his mother dead in bed of a heart attack on a Saturday morning in August 1976, as he brought breakfast toast and coffee into the room. Her husband was in an alcoholic haze beside her.
With Ethel gone, Eldred deteriorated fast, the emphysema slowly strangling him. Their son reacted by putting his father in a nursing home. That gave him control of the family house and funds. The money would go fast but his father went faster.
“I would go to the nursing home to visit and drag a piano down the hall to play for him,” Wilson said. “Often, he would shoo me away but I never let it bother me. I just played for the others.”
His father died in August 1979, nearly three years to the day after his mother passed away. Wilson’s reaction to becoming an orphan was to go on a wild spending spree, buying a new car, a horse, a purebred German shepherd, and building himself both a weight room and a music studio in the basement of the family home in Friendly. He was soon broke and in debt.
Before Eldred died, he had used his connections to get his son a $13,000-a-year job at the U.S. House of Representatives. Desperate, Garrett Wilson burglarized a safe in the office, stealing $40,000. He faked an injury, saying he had been overwhelmed by two other men. The police didn’t buy the story and Wilson quickly confessed and led them to the cash.
“It was a stupid thing to do,” Wilson admitted. He pleaded guilty, got a five-year suspended-sentence and a fine, and decided to raise money by selling the house. He needed to — he was married again and there was another baby on the way.

Brandi is Dead

Wilson met his second wife, Deborah Lynn Oliver, in the years between his mother and father’s deaths. She was 12 and he was 21. They met in church, virtually under the nose of the pastor.
“I had conducted the chorus in high school, and the Fort Foote Baptist Church asked me to conduct their choir when the leader went on vacation,” Wilson recalled. “I was going out for pizza after practice and I decided I wasn’t going alone. So I asked her to go with me.”
Her parents, Kyle and Jean Oliver, would say later that they thought the friendship was platonic. It was quite the opposite. Years later, Debbie Oliver would testify that she became pregnant by Wilson five times before they married. There were four abortions, but when she became pregnant a fifth time, he proposed in his usual lavish way.
“I had the waiter bring a dozen red roses with a single white one in the middle,” he recalled. “Then I dropped the engagement ring into her glass of champagne.”
Debbie Wilson and Garrett Wilson
Debbie Oliver was 16 when she walked down the aisle in October 1980. She pledged a life-long relationship to a convicted felon who was eight years older, and then dropped out of high school for good measure. But she was five-months pregnant and, she says, she didn’t want another abortion. Her parents knew of Wilson’s criminal record, but didn’t protest. Besides, Wilson had a new job now, at a nearby bank.
This was like putting the fox inside the henhouse. But there was a baby on the way and a fresh start seemed possible.
Brandi Jean Wilson was born in February 1981. An excited Garrett, still the big spender despite his financial problems, purchased both pink and blue-labeled cigars because he wasn’t sure what the sex would be. He handed them out to strangers in the hospital lobby.
“She was a beautiful baby,” John Farley’s sister, Linda, remembered. “Lots of dark hair and violet eyes.”
A month after Brandi’s birth, Garrett Wilson bought two insurance policies. The first was worth $30,000 if Brandi were to die. The second, for $10,000, was purchased from a weight-lifting buddy, Eddie Aragona. It was Aragona’s first sale as an insurance salesman. The other representative, from Lafayette Life, raised his eyebrows when recalling the transaction.
“I mean, $30,000. I was surprised,” he said.
Wilson defended himself by saying that his father had always bought plenty of insurance and had trained him to do the same. “My father believed in insurance,” he said.
Towards the end of April 1981, Debbie Oliver Wilson came down with the flu. On the last day of the month, her husband gave her what he would claim were vitamin C capsules. After taking the pills, Debbie fell into a deep sleep.
Brandi Anastasi, victim (AP)
Sometime during the night, Brandi stopped breathing. Garrett Wilson said he found the baby dead in her crib at six that morning. He called his mother-in-law with the news.
“Baby Brandi is dead,” he told Jean Oliver.
Within minutes, an ambulance, the police, and the Olivers rushed to the house. Debbie was awakened, immediately became hysterical, and had to be restrained by the police. Only Mark Cashman, a volunteer fireman at the scene thought there might be something suspicious about the child’s death.
“There’s more here than meets the eye,” he told a cop. An autopsy showed otherwise. Two pathologists summarized: The death of this two-month-old white female, Brandi J. Wilson, is attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (crib death). The manner of death is natural.
SIDS is often a basket diagnosis used by doctors when there is no other explanation for an infant’s demise. In the medical community, it is preferable to admitting that you don’t know the reason why a child has died. The death certificate would read that way for nearly two decades.
Wilson and Debbie went on a spending spree with the $40,000 windfall, and the money was all but gone in six months. The young bride never knew where the money came from. Soon the marriage was also over. Both were having separate affairs. Her immature and desperate husband, unable to live within his means, stole $10,000 from the bank where he was employed. Again, he was caught on the same day he took the money, and again he confessed almost immediately.
This time Wilson was sentenced to two consecutive six to 18-month prison terms and began serving the sentences at the federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky. Debbie Oliver served him with the divorce documents while he was doing his time.

Hard-Bodied Ladies’ Man

Some prisons are easy, some are hard. In the early 1980s, the then-coed U.S. Federal Correctional Facility in Lexington, Kentucky, was considered easy time. In fact, Garrett Wilson would later recall the time he spent there as a sabbatical.
“They had a swimming pool when I arrived,” Wilson said. But after I arrived, they paved it over and put in tennis courts. Too many of the women were getting pregnant in it.”
Charles Colson (AP)
There was also a golf course at Lexington in those days. But Wilson had little time for that. He had insinuated himself into the institution’s Christian ministry program and when the former Watergate felon, Chuck Colson, and his Prison Fellowship program came calling, he was allowed to go out on the road with the group to fix up homes for the poor in Memphis. That was by day. Nights were a different matter. Despite being technically incarcerated, Wilson was like a sailor with two girls in every port.
“I got calls from women after they left the prison, looking for Garrett,” his life-long friend, John Farley, recalled. “They had met him on the inside.”
After serving 20 months, Wilson was transferred to a halfway house in Washington, D.C. Among his first visitors were Carl and Iris Farley, the parents of Wilson’s boyhood friend. Carl Farley was struck by Garrett’s demeanor.
“He blamed his probation officer for letting him work at the bank. He was upset because there had been embezzlers in prison like him who had stolen millions instead of a few thousand dollars. They had been sentenced to less time and that seemed to bother him. When we left the halfway house, I said to Iris, ‘He just blames the system. He has absolutely no remorse.’”
With his gift of the gab, weight-lifting skills, and a love of womanizing, Wilson was a perfect fit for his first post-prison job—selling memberships at an Arlington, Virginia health club. Overweight women, unsure of their desirability were perfect prey. After several short conquests, he met a young woman, Elizabeth Dodge, and established a serious relationship. They soon began living together, announcing a summer wedding that would take place in June 1986. She also loaned him $3500.
Wilson was good at the health club sales job. He soon had an opportunity to advance into management. This meant moving across the Potomac River into Montgomery County, Maryland, and not seeing his fiancĂ©e as much. Still, the wedding plans continued, and Dodge’s parents began sending out invitations to the big event.
At the new gym, Wilson met Missy Anastasi. Her own account is as follows: “Garrett began to show me around, but I said, ‘Don’t bother, I’m going to join anyway.’ He told me right away he was divorced and had lost a baby to what he called crib death. He said his daughter’s name, but I misunderstood him. I thought he said Randi.”
Missy was recently divorced as well. She came from an upstanding local family, worked as a speech specialist in the county school system, and was on her way to a Master’s degree. She was also chunky, unsure of her femininity, and on the rebound. What she got was a hard-bodied ladies’ man and a convicted felon, a combination that would make other women run the other way.
“You would never do that again, would you?” Missy asked after getting Wilson’s version of his crimes.
“I’ll never go to jail again,” was his promise.
Wilson proposed to Missy Anastasi during the Thanksgiving weekend of 1985 despite his being engaged to Elizabeth Dodge. Missy had no knowledge of the other liaison and the pair walked down the aisle in a full-scale church wedding in March 1986. Two months later, across the river that divides Maryland from Virginia, Wilson and Elizabeth Dodge took out a marriage license together and celebrated.
“We returned to my mother’s house and made love,” Elizabeth Dodge recalled. “Garrett left, saying he had to return to work. He left his wallet behind and I opened it up. There were a lot of credit cards inside with the name Mary Anastasi Wilson on them. At first I thought it might be a cousin.”
Wilson had quit the health club and now worked for a music store, selling pianos and organs. When Dodge called the store, she got a coworker who told her that Garrett had been married for several months to Missy. Wilson, confronted, was a bit sheepish about the betrayal.
“We went for a drive. He said he didn’t know how to break it off,” Dodge said. “I asked him if he was going to stand me up at the altar. I had already begun receiving wedding gifts. He told me he was trying to think of a proper way to tell me.”
Elizabeth Dodge said she wanted her $3500 back she had loaned him. Wilson promised to do so at the rate of $100 or $200 a month.
A month later, Missy Anastasi Wilson became pregnant. Free of one girlfriend—Elizabeth Dodge—Wilson began a relationship with another, Julie Stinger, despite having a child on the way.
“I wanted an oak piano and he sold me one for $5,000,” Stinger recalled. “My dad owned a Pepsi franchise in Indiana. Garrett seemed real interested in that.”
Wilson also sold her a $30,000 organ. Soon he began calling her daily and giving her gifts. After that, he began borrowing money from her. The total would exceed $5000.
Garrett Michael Wilson was born in March 1987. Wilson was proud that the child had his first name.
“He let it be known the baby was going to be named Garrett. And I didn’t have a single problem with that,” Missy Anastasi Wilson recalled.
A month later, Wilson walked into an Allstate Insurance booth in a nearby Sears store and purchased a $50,000 life insurance policy on the life of his son. A few days later he strolled over to a Metropolitan Life agency and bought a $100,000 policy—which except for the amount—was essentially identical. On the box that asked whether any other policies had been purchased for his son, Wilson checked “no” in the space provided.
Arriving home that night he gave the policy to his wife, but Missy never read it, tossing the document into the bottom of a closet.
That August, the three members of the Wilson family went to the beach. Missy, who knew that her husband’s first baby had died from SIDS, had studied the syndrome. She had read that almost all infants die from the condition within the first six months of life. As the three walked down the boardwalk, she turned to him and reminded him of the fact.
“Do you know what today is? It’s our baby’s fifth-month birthday. We’re out of the woods, she said.
Her husband reacted by running into a nearby shop. He purchased Garrett Michael a plush bear.
When they got back home he got a call from Julie Stinger. She wanted her money. Elizabeth Dodge also wanted repayment.
“The money’s coming,” Wilson told her. “The money’s coming.”

Classic SIDS Case

On August 22, 10 days after Wilson bought their son a teddy bear at the beach, Missy awakened just before dawn. The baby was crying. Her husband also woke up.
“Garrett said, ‘I’ll feed the baby.’ I was shocked,” his wife recalled. “He said, ‘I’ll do it. I have to take the baby to day care. You’re going back to work.’ I knew he had to learn, so I was excited about the whole thing.”
Garrett Michael Wilson,victim
In a half-sleep, Missy heard her husband go into the baby’s room with a bottle. There was a baby monitor in their bedroom, connected to the nursery. She couldn’t hear what he was doing but she thought she heard him pick up their son and take him to a rocking chair. She heard the sound of the rocking chair, and then a patting noise. Then she heard what sounded like a sigh. Her next statement was a bit contradictory.
“I had never heard that sound before. My hair stood on end. I got up out of bed and went down to feed the cats. They had been climbing up on me in bed, bothering me. I came back up the stairs and went into the nursery. The baby didn’t feel right. He was limp.”
Missy freaked. She ran out of the nursery and back into the bedroom, screaming: “Garrett, what did you do to him?”
Wilson came out of the bathroom looking pale. Missy dialed 911 and told the police. They said help was on the way. Missy ran downstairs to wait for the ambulance. Garrett said he stayed upstairs and gave their child CPR.
Gemantown Md, where Garrett Michael Wilson was murdered
Their son was pronounced dead at the hospital. Missy immediately suspected that her husband was responsible. They went to her mother’s house nearby and she huddled with her sister-in-law, Susan Anastasi.
“Garrett did this for the insurance money,” she told her. She told a friend, Mary Ann Finnegan, the same thing.
Missy spent that night at her mother’s. She did not want to go home. And, despite everything she had said about her husband, it was hard for her to believe the unthinkable—that her husband had killed his namesake.
Again the state medical examiner’s office examined an infant’s body and again the verdict came back as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A distraught Missy Anastasi Wilson went to a conference on the subject at the University of Maryland. A SIDS support person assured her that it was a classic SIDS case. A baby had mysteriously stopped breathing. It happened to between 6,000 and 9,000 babies a year in the U.S. they told her—one out of every 2,000 births.
Wilson collected the $150,000 insurance windfall and paid off Elizabeth Dodge and Julie Stinger. According to Julie Stinger, the money wasn’t that important. She thought he was going to run off with her and bring the baby along. Hearing about Garrett Michael’s death was a cruel blow.
“I was shocked,” Stinger said. “I was going to be the child’s stepmother. He showed up with a check for the money and showed me a receipt for more than $100,000. I guess it was the insurance money. I didn’t care. The baby was dead. The child who was going to have been mine was dead.”
Wilson repeated the free-spending binge that he had gone on with Debbie Oliver—this time with Missy Anastasi—buying the two of them a tract mansion, new cars, jewelry, and meals at fancy restaurants. Within two years, despite Wilson continuing to sell pianos at the music store, they were dead broke. Garrett and Missy tried to make a fresh start together, first in Houston, Texas, and then on the west coast of Florida. Wilson no longer liked hustling musical instruments from the front of a store and when an opportunity presented itself to go on the road and sell piano keyboards for the Japanese manufacturer, Casio, he leaped at the opportunity.
Missy, he thought, was still moping over the loss of their child and he welcomed the chance to be away from her.
He met Vicky Wampler, a woman who would always believe in him, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in May of 1992, while demonstrating a piano. Ever the ladies’ man, he launched into a medley of romantic songs from Phantom of the Opera the minute he saw her, beginning with “All I Ask of You.” But it was Vicky who made the first move.
“When do you get off,” she asked. That day, it was lunch, but the next evening there was dinner and wine and before long Wilson began to call her the love of his life.
Both had baggage. Vicky was coming off a bitter divorce from a much-older man while Garrett considered himself separated, though Missy seemed not to have gotten the message. The two seemed to have been made for one another. Vicky played piano, too, and like Wilson, had played at the Baptist Church in her hometown of Frostburg, Maryland. If anything, her mezzo soprano voice was superior, good enough to have sung The Star Spangled Banner at a major league baseball game.
Wilson filed for divorce from Missy in 1992, but when she protested in writing he told her that it was a mistake, just paperwork, and that he would rectify it. Despite his being in love with Vicky, he inexplicably continued to steal away for weekends of lovemaking with Missy.
His years of womanizing were about to catch up with him. Vicky had become pregnant and in July 1993, the two would have a daughter, Marysa. They would marry in January 1994. Meanwhile, Missy knew nothing of his new wife or a baby and continued to see him, believing a remarriage was a formality that would happen when they found time.

Missy Gets Revenge

In May 1994, Wilson was selling musical instruments to music stores on a route that ran through several southern states. Vicky and his daughter, Marysa, lived in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area while Missy lived in Maryland. Near the end of the month, Missy called Garrett’s answering service to let him know she would be visiting a friend in Pensacola, Florida, in case he wanted to get together. A few hours later, she got a call from Vicky who had picked up the call.
“Missy, don’t hang up until I tell you who I am,” she said. Missy didn’t stay on the line, but it began to occur to her that there was another woman in the picture. Additionally, she made this mental leap: Maybe Garrett had killed their baby.
Garrett Wilson with daughter Marysa, 1993
When Missy finally reached Wilson, she asked him about the other woman. He denied everything and said that it was probably someone from his office. A week later she spoke to him and this time, she could hear a baby crying in the background.
“Garrett, you’re married and have a baby, don’t you?” she said.
“Yes, I do, Missy,” he said. His former wife went ballistic.
“Garrett, you son of a bitch! Now that I see what you’re capable of, I know you killed my baby!” she shouted into the phone.
Missy then called his friend, John Farley, and told him of her finding. He seemed to believe that Garrett needed counseling.
“Missy, Garrett needs help. He can’t deal with money and he’s needed help for a long time. You can’t believe how many women have been in here crying over him,” he said.
“You mean, while he was married to me?” Missy was incredulous.
“Yes. At least three.”
Missy begged John for a direct office phone number. She got through to Wilson.
“How could you do this to me?’ she said. Her former husband’s answer was chilling.
“You’d be dead if you were here.”
Wilson’s remembrance of the conversation is different. He denied the “you’d be dead” statement, instead recalling that Missy made this threat:
“I am going to destroy you.”
Missy now believed that she had been wronged for nearly six years and that she had been living with a man who had killed their only child for money. She set out to prove it, hiring both a lawyer and a private investigator. She didn’t know, for example, how many actual dollars worth of insurance her former husband had and she wanted to know more about the other baby’s death.
The PI, Larry Robinson, found the smallest policy and the $50,000 amount caused him to give a whistle. But he didn’t know about the second one. He located Debbie Oliver and after he told her a little about his investigation, he was stunned when she became emotional and began crying.
“He killed that woman’s baby, too, didn’t he,” she sobbed. She said that on the night that Brandi died, her husband hadn’t given her a vitamin pill after all.
“I feel bad I haven’t helped with Brandi,” she said Wilson told her. “Why don’t you take a sleeping pill tonight, and I’ll take care of the baby.” She said when she woke up, the baby was dead.
Robinson soon discovered about Wilson’s two insurance policies he had purchased on Brandi a month before her death. He was pretty sure that was a motivation for murder, but there was a problem. How do you arrest someone for murder when the autopsy clearly says that the cause of death is natural, caused by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?
Montgomery County sent their best female detective, Meredith Dominick, to question Wilson in Texas. He was candid, and freely told her about the $100,000 policy that they hadn’t known about. This caused the detective’s heart to skip a beat. The amount provided serious motivation for murdering a child. Still, she told Missy, there would probably be no arrest. They couldn’t change the autopsy and as long as the autopsy read the way it did, they had little chance of an indictment.
Desperate, Wilson’s ex-wife began writing letters to every politician she thought could help her. She wrote her congresswoman, her two U.S. Senators, the governor of Maryland, and the then-president, Bill Clinton. In every case she got back a form letter or a note saying they had forwarded her letter to the county prosecutor, whom she was already pressuring to do something and getting a deaf ear in response.
The prosecutors and the police had decided that a jury might look at her as someone only out for revenge, a spurned spouse who wanted her husband in prison because he had dumped her for another woman. Then there was the business of the cats. If a mother suspected her baby was in trouble, why would she feed her cats before going to her child’s aid? The answer the detectives got when they asked her that question wasn’t very satisfactory.
“Why didn’t you go in the baby’s room?” the cops asked her.
“I don’t know. I wish I did to this day,” she said.
When the cats came first and the baby second, there was a problem.

An Autopsy Changed

During August 1996, a letter arrived in the mail from the U.S. Justice Department. Missy had written Attorney General Janet Reno, but had heard nothing and given up. But child abuse was Reno’s chosen cause and she had not only read the letter but forwarded it for action to the Office for the Victims of Crime, instructing the department to act. The OVC, in turn, assigned her a Victim’s Crime Advocate by the name of Ingrid Horton. It would be Horton who would help to solve the case.
At first, Horton met Missy several times a week, helping her to create a timeline. She called Wilson’s employers looking for clues. And she poured over the documents that detailed the death of Brandi, looking for more evidence that her death was a murder that was identical to Garrett Michael’s and not SIDS.
Horton reread the autopsy of Missy’s infant son. Several times. A line on page four of the document jumped out at her.
Diffuse edema (swelling) of the cerebral hemisphere is noted here, it read. To Ingrid Horton, who had studied anatomy in college, this meant that there had been trauma to the body before death. Most likely, suffocation.
Horton took her finding to the county prosecutor’s office. A few months later, Horton, Missy, Dominick, and a prosecutor, David Boynton, met with the medical examiner for the state of Maryland. They explained their findings, adding in the insurance purchases. They laid out Wilson’s other two crimes, and showed his credit card purchases at the time, which showed a need for money. They also detailed the mysterious death of Brandi, who had been diagnosed as succumbing from SIDS as well.
The state medical examiner reviewed the data and within weeks, changed his opinion to read: Garrett Michael Wilson died of asphyxia due to airway obstruction, probably by smothering. The manner of death is Homicide.
A few months later, the second autopsy was changed. Brandi’s was more difficult. It was older and police had been present in the home. Nevertheless, the autopsy was changed to read: probable suffocation . . . cause of death undetermined.
An arrest could finally be made.

Life Without Parole

After Wilson was arrested, his wife, Vicky, raised enough money to hire Barry Helfand, considered by many to be the best criminal attorney in the state of Maryland. Vicky believed her husband to be the victim of a vindictive former wife who was operating on the premise that if she couldn’t have him, nobody could.
Vicky Wilson
Vicky had good reason to believe in his innocence. He had been a model father to Marysa and he certainly hadn’t tried to kill his daughter when she was a baby. She also knew his faults, and sure, he had been a womanizer at times, and a big spender who got into money trouble, but that didn’t make him a murderer.
Wilson was given bail on the charge of murdering his son. But a few months later, he was arrested again, indicted for the death of Brandi. This time no bond was allowed.
The trial took place over two weeks during July 1999. Many of his former girlfriends like Elizabeth Dodge and Julie Stinger testified against him and if looks could kill, the jurors probably wanted to put him away for the rest of his life for his womanizing alone.
During the trial, medical experts testified that SIDS was not genetic and couldn’t be passed on within a family. Thus, the chances of having a baby die from SIDS was one in 2000 but the chances of two dying of SIDS in the same family was one in four million. That statistic—which Helfand labeled “mathematical scorcery”—and Missy’s testimony were the two most potent weapons for the prosecution. Wilson did not testify on his own behalf.
Prosecutor Doug Ganster
Many onlookers felt the prosecution’s case was shaky at best and that the case had not been proven. The jury disagreed and returned its guilty verdict in two hours, shocking attendees and touching off a joyful celebration by members of the Anastasi and Oliver families present.
Weeks later, Wilson was given life without parole. He is presently serving the sentence at the Maryland House of Corrections. His wife, Vicky, and his daughter, Marysa, visit often.
A separate murder trial for the death of his daughter, Brandi, has been postponed several times. Garrett Wilson still denies killing his children, a belief that is shared, not only by his current wife and her family, but by his friend, John Farley.

Court Changes Things

On August 6, 2002, Maryland’s Court of Appeals overturned Garrett E. Wilson’s 1999 conviction for the murder of his baby son Garrett Michael who died in 1987.
The Washington Post reported “Garrett Michael’s death was initially attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, and Wilson collected more than $150,000 in life insurance. Police began investigating the child’s death after Wilson’s former wife came to them in 1994. Wilson was later charged in the 1981 death of his first child, Brandi Jean, in Prince George’s County.”
The Court of Appeals called to task both the Montgomery County judge and the actions of prosecutor Douglas M. Gansler. The appeals court ruled that lower court judge erred in permitting two experts in sudden infant death syndrome to introduce statistics on the odds of SIDS being the cause of death. State’s Attorney Douglas M. Gansler’s use of these statistics in his closing argument was also cited by the appeals court as improper.
Gansler defended his actions and vowed to retry Wilson.
Garrett Wilson’s attorney, Barry Helfand, said. “I knew this case was going to come back, because it was filled with errors.”
Medically, there is no agreement on the cause of SIDS, although there are factors which appear to increase the risk. One expert calculated that the likelihood of having two children die of SIDS in one family is 1 in 4 million. The other expert claimed that the chances that Garrett Michael died of SIDS were 1 in a 100 million. The Court of Appeals looked at these calculations as invalid because they assume without proof that there is no genetic link that causes SIDS.
“There is little agreement to the causes of SIDS,” the judges wrote. “This is particularly true with regard to the role of genetics. Some, including the state, argue that it is generally accepted that there is no genetic defect or condition that can be tied to SIDS.” But, the judges pointed out, a 2001 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that there may be a genetic link in a small number of SIDS cases.
“If you multiply his numbers . . . you get 1 in 10 million that the man sitting here is innocent,” Gansler told jurors in the 1999 trial.
“The State’s Attorney was well aware that the statistical evidence could not be used to calculate the probability of petitioner’s innocence,” the judges said in their opinion. “His argument was improper.”
In May, 2004, Wilson was found quilty for the second time in the murder of his son Garrett Michael.
Wilson’s trial in his daughter Brandi’s murder case has been postponed several times.

8 comments:

  1. Guilty as hell! Whatever happened to him after the last trial?

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  2. ".....and she stayed with him for 6 more years. Only after she discovered the affair, she DECIDED he murdered his baby". Crooked judge, lying "witness". Clearly, the fat ex-wife is jealous that he traded her for an attractive woman, and she wants revenge.

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    1. So? That doesn't make him any less guilty.

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  3. very curious as to whether Garrett purchased life insurance on child with Vicky Wappler-Wilson. If he did it might have spoken toward his defense and if not toward his guilt. I am shocked that this was not looked into.

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  4. Self serving SOB...he should be executed!!

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