Witnesses testified that they became the keepers of a dark secret given to them by a man they knew decades ago.
Testimony resumed in the cold-case murder trial of Roger Garrett on Thursday.
Garrett, 55, and his 74-year-old mother, are charged with murdering 35-year-old Major Chester Garrett.
Maj. Garrett’s body was found beaten and stabbed in the back of his Volkswagen Beetle on January 4, 1977.
The car had been left in the desert of east El Paso County and was spotted by a passerby.
Roger Garrett is on trial ahead of his mother, Lisbeth Garrett, who is expected to face a jury early next year.
If convicted of killing his stepfather, Garrett could spend five years to the rest of his life in prison.
“Why? Why have they waited all this time,” defense attorney Matthew DeKoatz asked jurors in opening statements. “Why? Ask yourself. Why have they waited 37 years?”
Prosecution witnesses testified on Wednesday that at different points in time Roger Garrett told them each the same horrific story – that he and his mother concocted a plan to get Maj. Garrett to return to their home on 1349 Backus street, kill him, then dispose of his body.
Deborah Drake Rodriguez was the first witness to take the stand on Wednesday.
Rodriguez testified that she had recently moved to El Paso in 1978 and became friends with Roger Garrett, who was 20-years-old at the time.
Rodriguez said she would see Garrett mostly along with other mutual friends when the group would go to Juarez to dance.
She said she was not interested in Garrett who had ideas of a romantic relationship with her.
Rodriguez testified that she was 15-years-old when she first met Garrett, who shortly thereafter, took her to a park at night, after he had been drinking, and confessed the murder.
“He told me he had something that’d been weighing on him for quite some time – a deep, dark, secret,” Rodriguez said. “He proceeded to tell me that he killed his father and that he only did it on the behest of his mother.”
Rodriguez said Garrett and his mother agreed it was most important to take the officer down using an element of surprise.
She said Garrett told her he hit his stepfather from behind with a wooden object, then Lisbeth Garrett uncontrollably stabbed her husband.
Rodriguez testified that the confession lasted 30 to 45 minutes, concluding with details on how the pair disposed of the body.
“They put the body in the car then drove it to the furthest part of the desert,” Rodriguez said. “They had to clean up the garage, because of all the blood. He said the chemical they used made a strange-colored runoff and he told me how he was surprised their neighbors didn’t know.”
Rodriguez also testified that Garrett gave her a list of warnings before the first time she met Lisbeth Garrett in the early 1980s. She said she was told not to look Lisbeth Garrett in the eyes.
“She was very abusive toward Roger,” Rodriguez said. “She cursed, she yelled, and then I understood why he was prepping me. She wasn’t a very nice person.”
DeKoatz questioned Rodriguez on cross-examination why she withheld details of a confession from authorities for so many years.
“The 15-year-old me thought it was a crock,” Rodriguez. “I never for an instant thought it was for real. I never believed it until later.”
Rodriguez said she introduced Garrett to the woman who became his wife, Theresa Heffelfinger.
Heffelfinger and Garrett were married just over one year in the early 1990s.
Rodriguez and Heffelfinger were friends, Rodriguez testified.
She said it was not until after the couple’s divorce, during a conversation with Heffelfinger, that she finally believed what Garrett had told her years before was true.
Rodriguez claimed that Heffelfinger said Garrett had told her the same story of how he and his mother killed Maj. Garrett.
Rodriguez said she left it up to Heffelfinger to decide whether or not to contact authorities.
Rodriguez said she told Heffelfinger she would be willing to participate should she ever be questioned regarding Garrett’s confession.
“I figured if his ex-wife couldn’t get this case going, how could I,” Rodriguez said. “I was waiting to be contacted. I figured they didn’t have a case.”
Rodriguez said she never spoke to Heffelfinger again after their final conversation in the 1990s.
She testified she never contacted anyone regarding the case and heard nothing of it until investigators questioned her on June 18 of this year.