County of Conviction: Los Angeles
Convicted of: First Degree Felony Murder
Sentence: Life without Parole
Year of Conviction: 1997
Cost of Wrongful Incarceration*: $1,786,466 and counting
*According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office 2018-19 annual costs per CA inmate
On August 9, 1995, Scott Taylor invited Edward “Ed” Contreras along with his closest childhood friend, Frederick “Freddie” Walker, and Lisa Garringer (a girl he was interested in) to a barbeque at his parents’ cabin located off a remote country road in Bouquet Canyon, California.
During the barbeque, Scott and Freddie began to fist fight. Freddie fell to the ground and hit his head on the concrete, causing him to go into convulsions. Afraid of getting arrested for assault and battery, Scott slashed Freddie with a machete. Terrified, Ed and Lisa ran inside the cabin. Lisa frantically tried calling her mother and friends for help while also trying to keep Ed calm so that Scott would not kill them as well.
Meanwhile, outside, Scott killed and dismembered Freddie. Scott was surprisingly calm. He took a break to have sex with Lisa. She did not protest because she was afraid of losing her life. Scott returned outside and placed Freddie’s remains into trash bags and then into a garbage can. He hosed off the outside patio where he killed Freddie. Out of fear for his own life, Ed went with Scott to dispose of the body in a nearby field.
Lisa escaped when her mother called Scott and told him that Lisa had a dental appointment the following morning. Ed, however, spent the following days placating Scott, trying not to alarm him, and waiting for an opportunity to escape.
Once free of Scott’s presence, neither Ed nor Lisa called the police out of fear Scott would find out and kill them or their families. Ed spent his days staying at friends’ houses in case Scott tried to find him at home. According to friends, Ed appeared “scared and nervous” in the days following the murder, but when questioned about what was bothering him, he could not bring himself to tell them. Lisa was doing the same. She was rarely at home and started drinking heavily and doing drugs excessively.
Lisa confided in a friend about the murder. Eventually, word got back to the police, who found Freddie’s body in the Los Angeles National Forest. Based on what the friend had told police, they believed two people had killed Freddie. When police questioned 17-year-old Lisa, they told her they already knew what the two men had done to Freddie. Lisa took this to mean that the police wanted her to say both Ed and Scott killed Freddie, which she did. She was terrified that if she did not tell the police what she thought they wanted to hear they would deport her mother (who was not a U.S. citizen) and arrest her for not reporting the crime earlier. Once Lisa implicated Ed in the murder, she was too scared to take her statement back. She was afraid it might somehow result in Scott being released.
At an evidentiary hearing in 2011, Lisa recanted her testimony implicating Ed in the murder. Not only did the physical evidence indicate Lisa’s recantation was the truth (i.e., Lisa originally said Ed attacked Freddie’s head from behind whereas there were only areas of blunt force trauma to the front of Freddie’s head), but numerous other witnesses supported Lisa’s version of what really happened including Scott, Ed, her mother, a city employee named Mike Lewis, and even the original prosecutor on the case.
Despite the truth finally being revealed, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge did not reverse Ed’s conviction and end his wrongful incarceration. Although he found Lisa’s recantation credible, the judge could not reconcile why Lisa would lie in the first place, disbelieving she was ever pressured by the police who he described as “veteran detectives” who would not pressure witnesses. The California Innocence Project continues to advocate for Ed’s release through clemency.