Edward Contreras was convicted of the murder of Freddy Walker in 1997, but the man convicted of being his partner in the murder, Scott Taylor, is now testifying that Contreras is innocent.
In 1997, the Daily News reported that Taylor and Contreras were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder. The two reportedly lured Walker to a barbecue at Taylor’s parents’ Bouquet Canyon Road home, robbed him of his recently cashed $600 Social Security check, dismembered his body, and disposed of the pieces off Pine Canyon Road.
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“The theory of the prosecution was that [Contreras] had planned a robbery of Freddy Walker along with Scott Taylor and then they lured him to this barbecue where then he was killed, dismembered, robbed, and his body was dumped,” said Justin Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project, who is representing Contreras during his appeal.
However, after speaking to Contreras, Taylor, Garringer, and other witnesses, Brooks believes there is another, more likely, story to be told.
Brooks said that Taylor called the claim that he had planned to rob Walker “nonsense.” Taylor told Brooks that his girlfriend had admitted to having a physical relationship with Walker and when Taylor confronted Walker, the situation blew up.
A witness, Lisa Garringer, testified in 1997 that Contreras attacked Walker along with Taylor. She is now claiming to have misspoken and that she did not correct her statement 15 years ago because she was afraid of Taylor.
“She was scared to death of Scott Taylor and she thought if she retracted any of her statement, Scott would get off and he would come and kill her,” said Brooks.
Brooks believes she misspoke during her report to the police, because “she was very freaked out, they had been drinking all day, she was 16 years old, and she saw this guy get his head cut off.”
Garringer is now testifying that she and Contreras were both afraid while they watched Taylor attack Walker. After creating a ruse that she had a dentist appointment the next day, Garringer had her mother pick her up from the home. Contreras stayed with Taylor for the next couple days and went along with him to dispose of the body, fearing that Taylor would turn on him.
Brooks said that Taylor stated that he knew that Garringer and Contreras were scared and was in control of the situation.
Garringer’s mother will be testifying at the trial in Van Nuys today that her daughter had given wrong information, but did not know what to do about it.
“This is a crazy, spontaneous act and no other theory makes sense.” said Brooks.
Brooks questions why, if Contreras and Taylor had actually planned to rob Walker, they invited him, and several other people, to a barbecue, at Taylor’s parents’ home. “If the plan was to kill him, it was just ridiculous the amount of work it took and the number of ways to get caught.”
Though uncertain of Taylor’s motivations for offering this new evidence, Brooks said that Taylor, after having spent 15 years on prison, feels terrible that Contreras is in prison for something he did not do.
“If the prosecution case is undermined, which we believe it has been, the judge can reverse the conviction. The State is free to re-prosecute [Contreras] for the crime again if they feel like they’ve got a sufficient case to do that, or he should be released.” said Brooks.