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Killer's path long, gory: Wayne Garrison's own grandmother told of his cruelty

Killer's path long, gory: Wayne Garrison's own grandmother told of his cruelty

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When he was a young boy, Wayne Garrison begged his grandmother to buy him a white rabbit.

She bought the pet, but the next morning it was dead. Garrison had broken its neck.

A family member "beat the tar" out of him for it, but Garrison never would admit that he killed the rabbit, the now-deceased grandmother, Minnie Sperry, said in a police report.

Then there was the dog whose head Garrison nearly severed with a knife, she said, and the chickens he used to poke with a sharp stick until they were nearly dead.

"One part of Wayne's brain knows what he's doing, and the other part hides it. Wayne has never admitted any of the bad things that he has done," Sperry told then-Bixby Police Chief Harry Ekiss in 1989.

Ekiss took the report when he was investigating Garrison as a suspect in the death of Justin Wiles, 13, whose body parts were found scattered in and around a lake.

Garrison, 42, still denies killing Wiles -- even after he was convicted Dec. 3 of the boy's murder and sentenced Dec. 19 to death.

Before Justin's death, Garrison had blamed childish roughhousing -- not an impulse to kill -- for the deaths of two other children who died at his hands.

Through the years: The plot-line in Garrison's story can be followed through decades of police files.

During his recent trial, three families of slain children were waiting for the outcome. Generations of Tulsa homicide detectives testified about the separate slayings.

Art Fleak, one of Garrison's defense attorneys during the Wiles murder trial, also represented him during his first two homicide trials. Fleak was a brand new public defender when he took the first case nearly 29 years ago.

Garrison, then 13, said he was at his 4-year-old cousin's home Oct. 31, 1972, when he engaged in "playful activity" with the girl. At some point he wrapped a piece of cloth around Dana Dean's neck, knotted the cloth and applied pressure.

Garrison said he left the room and that when he returned, the girl was not breathing. He said he dragged her body to a crawl space beneath the house.

That case was resolved in juvenile court, and no adult conviction resulted. Garrison was committed to a state hospital.

Larry Johnson, a retired Tulsa police officer, supervised the investigation of Dana's slaying.

"The thing I noticed and the thing that bothered me was the lack of remorse that he had for her death," Johnson said. "He tried to make it look like an accident, but it wasn't an accident. She had bite marks on her body -- abrasions and things."

Then in May 1974 -- while Garrison was on a pass from the hospital -- his 3-year-old neighbor, Craig Brandon Neal, disappeared. Garrison, then 14, told police he had "played a game of hide and seek" with Craig.

Garrison indicated that he smothered Craig, whose body was found in a garbage bag beneath a house. Garrison said he used a rusty kitchen knife to cut off the child's penis, police testified in court.

The teenager pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in that case and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Never forget: Fleak says no one could ever forget the deaths Garrison caused as a juvenile, making him a likely scapegoat when Wiles, another neighbor of Garrison's, disappeared.

"He got in trouble when he was a kid -- bad trouble -- and nobody would ever forget that. It is the worst coincidence in the world that he lived in a neighborhood where another kid got killed," Fleak said.

He remembered that when Garrison was released from prison after serving time for Craig's death, Fleak helped him enroll in high school at age 18 or 19.

"He called me one time very upset. He had a date for the senior prom, and when he got to her house, her dad opened the door with a gun and said, `I found out about you!' and told him he could not take his daughter out," Fleak said. "He said he went out to the lake and was contemplating suicide because it was too hard overcoming what happened when he was a kid."

Fleak said Garrison grew up to be an intelligent man who loves his 17-year-old son, who lives on the East Coast, and continues to keep in contact with him.

But Tulsa police say Garrison is not a scapegoat for a crime they could not solve. Instead, he is a serial child killer who they feared would kill again if not convicted.

They weren't alone in their assessment.

Help from outside: Sgt. Mike Huff remembers getting an unusual call during his first week as day-shift supervisor of the homicide squad in 1996. It was someone from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

They knew that Wayne Garrison was jailed in North Carolina for drugging a boy who had been reported missing. In the midst of the Wiles investigation, Garrison had moved to North Carolina, where he lived with his wife and young son.

And they knew that in a few years he would get out.

"They were aware of the Justin Wiles case from 1989, and they knew Garrison was a suspect but he had never been charged. Being aware of his impending release from prison, they offered us assistance," Huff said.

A task force of experts in the field of child abduction and murder, including representatives from the FBI and ATF, was dispatched to Tulsa, Huff said. They made suggestions and offered advice.

"But we could not find a way to jump start the case. When you are working with cold cases, it is very difficult to get the ball rolling," he said.

Then one day Detective Charlie Folks, who is now retired and works in the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office, asked his sergeant to look at a picture, Huff recalled. The picture was taken at the time of Wiles' death and portrayed an abrasion on Garrison's forearm. Both men agreed that it appeared to be a bite mark.

"That was the key, and Charlie had found it. From that moment on, we looked at it with a new set of eyes," Huff said.

Against the clock: The detectives immersed themselves in the case with a definite timeline in mind. Garrison was set to be released from the North Carolina prison in October 1999.

With all that we knew, the goal was not to let Wayne Garrison have a breath of free air," Huff said.

Part of what made them so determined was the knowledge that during a search of Garrison's house after Wiles' body parts were found, police had found a set of medical books that contained sections on performing amputations. Medical evidence from Wiles' autopsy showed very clean, even surgical precision in the boy's dismemberment.

"And there is some concern of cannibalism with him," Huff said, citing the mutilation of two victims.

As part of the Tulsa Police Cold Case Squad's investigation, Wiles' body was exhumed from a Haskell County cemetery in August 1999. Detectives needed to make a mold of Justin's teeth to compare with the picture of the possible bite mark.

It was 105 degrees on the day of the exhumation, Detective Roy Heim recalled.

"The family was nice enough to give us permission, so the Po lice Department bought them a brand new coffin. After being in the ground 10 years, the coffin had rusted," Heim said.

"After his remains were placed back inside, I said a few words over the coffin about how we were trying to do our best to get justice for Justin and how we hoped he would rest after this."

On Oct. 22, 1999, Wayne Henry Garrison was charged with the first-degree murder of Justin Wiles. Minutes after Garrison was released from the Columbus Correctional Institute in North Carolina, Folks and North Carolina authorities arrested him in the prison's parking lot.

The detectives had met their deadline.

Other cold cases? But even now that he has been sentenced for Justin's murder, Garrison is still on their minds.

Sewell said a retired detective told him that due to the toll the case had taken on them all, he thought even the police who worked on this case should have been able to give victim impact statements during the sentencing.

"This is one of the biggest, most alarming cases ever for the Tulsa Police Department," Huff said. "We felt a sense of responsibility to do everything we could to solve it.

"And we are getting the word out to cold case units nationwide to see if there are any other cases that fit the same profile. We want to know where else he might have been, and we are looking into it right now."

Advice from fellow officer may have saved boy

In 1994 Detective Ron Beaver received an unforgettable phone call -- a word of advice -- from a fellow law enforcement officer in a nearby agency.

"I was told that Wayne Garrison was living in this jurisdiction, and they told me about his past," said Beaver, an investigator with the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Department in North Carolina.

Police in Charlotte, N.C., notified him about Garrison, he said. They knew of him when he lived in Charlotte a few years earlier.

Garrison had moved with his wife and son to Charlotte from Tulsa in 1989 while he was un der investigation as the prime suspect in the killing of Justin Wiles, 13.

In addition to the Wiles case, Beaver was also told that Garrison had killed two children when he was a juvenile.

"It was like having the proverbial albatross hung around my neck, and I had to deal with it, and there was not a heck of a lot I could do about it," Beaver said.

The detective said he briefed his department about Garrison and instructed the deputies to call him if any children disappeared.

"We were advised in 1995 that Mr. Garrison was becoming active in the Boy Scouts. His son was a Scout, and he was going to the Scout Hut and probably trying to go on overnight camping trips," Beaver said.

The Boy Scouts banned Garrison from their property, but he continued to go. He was arrested for trespassing but was acquitted, Beaver said.

In 1996, the detective got another call. An 11-year-old boy whom Garrison had befriended was missing. The child was his next-door neighbor.

"I immediately went to his (Garrison's) house and explained the seriousness of the situation. I told him we were going to search door to door, use police K-9s. We were going to use a helicopter, and we were going to find the boy," Beaver said.

After the detective left to interview Garrison's son at his school, he received a call from his office that Garrison had called and reported finding the child.

"Garrison was so overjoyed that -- I will never forget this -- he hugged my neck," Beaver said.

"We took the boy to the Sheriff's Department and tried to interview him, but we couldn't keep him awake. The jail nurse looked at him and said we needed to take him to the hospital. They found two substances in his blood," Beaver said.

The boy told police that Garrison had talked him into running away. He reportedly had said the boy could stay in his outbuilding and that later that night he would take him into his house.

"Once he brought him in, he took him to the bathroom and gave him two red capsules," Beaver said. "The boy said that in the bathroom, there was a garden tub with shelves built into the corner for towels. The boy said Mr. Garrison removed the shelves and tried to place the boy inside the roughly 2-foot crawl space and then tried to replace the shelves.

"The boy kept crying, so he brought him out. Then Mr. Garrison placed the boy in what he described as a `sleeper hold' to help calm him down," Beaver said.

The child told detectives that he was at Garrison's house when investigators were there the next morning. "He said he was peeking around the corner at us," Beaver said.

When officers executed the search warrant, they found some evidence -- candy wrappers in the shed and a pillow that had the boy's brother's initials on it -- that corroborated the child's story, Beaver said.

It had been raining on the night of the boy's disappearance, and police found his muddy footprints in the bathroom, Beaver said.

Garrison initially denied giving the boy the drugs and instead told police that the child had gotten into his medicine cabinet and stolen them.

He eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of giving prescription painkillers to a minor and one count of abduction of a minor. In March 1997 Garrison began serving a prison sentence of between 3-1/2 and five years.

He had just been released in October 1999 when he was arrested for the Justin Wiles killing.

During the Wiles trial, Beaver was flown to Tulsa to testify about the abduction, but testimony about the case was not allowed.

"We were told that in the investigation in Tulsa that he was sending police on a wild goose chase -- like a game to him. When we heard he was here, we decided not to confront him or challenge him to any type of game because the stakes were too high," Beaver said.

"According to his past, everybody worries that the same thing was in store for this young man if we had not got there in time. We are happy that it did not end in a tragedy like the other cases did."


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