With the help of the California Innocence project and some surprising testimonies, Edward Contreras is fighting to prove his innocence after having been convicted of the murder of Freddy Walker in 1997.
Contreras, along with Scott Taylor, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder, according to the Daily News. 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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But now, Taylor is testifying that Contreras was not involved in the murder of Walker. Taylor claims that he got in an argument with Walker that escalated and resulted in Taylor dismembering and disposing of Walker’s body.
The sole witness, Lisa Garringer, originally testified that Contreras had helped Taylor. Now, she claims there was a different story.
“She felt the police wanted to put [Contreras] in it as well, and once she’d made that statement, she just stuck with it, because she was afraid of the police and she was afraid that Scott Taylor’s conviction would get reversed and he’d get out and kill her,” explained Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project, who is representing Contreras.
“She was told before [the detectives] recorded her statement that they knew Ed Contreras and Scott Taylor were involved. If you actually read the transcript of their interview with her, there’s a few times where she says ‘he,’ referring to Scott Taylor, and [the detectives] change it to ‘they.’ And then she’ll say ‘Oh, yeah, “they,”’” added Brooks.
Brooks stated that Garringer, who was 16 at the time, claimed to be threatened by police that her mother, who had prior drug convictions, would be given a “third strike” and deported or imprisoned.
“The combination of she was scared for her mother, she was 16 years old, she saw this gruesome thing happen, and she just went along with the police. And that’s what she testified to,” concluded Brooks.
Garringer’s mother and friend both testified that she has told them since the beginning that the story she told the police was not true and that Contreras is innocent.
“[Taylor] said, ‘This was a beef I had with [Walker] and I got out of control and it was totally me. And I was controlling [Contreras] that I night; I was controlling [Garringer]. I told them what to do; they were scared of me. They just saw me cut a guy’s head off,’” explained Brooks, who added that Taylor killed Walker because he was afraid he would report him for assault.
“Contreras says, ‘First I panicked, but I was drunk, I was barefoot, I was freaked out, just saw this guy do this horrendous thing. First, I didn’t know what to do, but as time went on, I thought the thing I got to do is try to act as normal as possible so I can get away from him,’” described Brooks, who said that Contreras initially tried to stop Taylor.
“[Contreras] didn’t report it; neither did [Garringer]. They were really scared of him and, I don’t know, they didn’t report it for all the reasons people don’t report stuff when they’re there…It’s a sad story. He could have done different things, but I don’t know if the result would have been better or worse,” said Brooks.
“We look at 1,000 cases a year and only 5 or 10 do we take to litigation. But, this is one of those cases where we put it together and think this is the story that makes sense. And the story that makes sense is the one that Edward Contreras has been saying since the beginning. The other stories just don’t make any sense,” said Brooks, adding, “I think he’s served enough time for his, if you want to call it, poor judgment.”
The hearings will continue at the end of the month at the Van Nuys Courthouse West. At that time, the prosecution will bring the police officers that investigated the case to the stand.
To read more about the case, click here.