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Couple Accused of Cover-Up in Child's Death

April 04, 1985|JERRY HICKS | Times Staff Writer

A prosecutor Wednesday accused Michael and Linda Garritson of conspiracy to cover up the 1979 murder of a 13-month-old boy they were caring for at their Anaheim home by trying to exonerate each other.

Linda Garritson, 30, last week confessed at her husband Michael's murder trial that she killed the child, Scott Cleveland, on her own and by accident, while her husband was out jogging. Her trial on murder charges in the boy's death is scheduled to begin next month.

"It's a team of Garritson and Garritson," Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas Avdeef told jurors in his closing argument Wednesday. "She testifies for him that she did it; he goes to her trial and says he did it. They exonerate each other."

Believed Accident

The baby's death on Feb. 29, 1979, was first reported by the coroner's office as an accident. But Anaheim police began looking into the incident again in 1982 after getting a tip that the boy had been murdered.

Michael Garritson, 33, was arrested in August, 1984, after Linda told police the child was injured when he was in Michael's care and she was out of the room.

But her attorney said after her testimony last week that she only gave police that statement because she was angry at her husband for having an affair. Linda Garritson thought she would be able to clear things up with the truth after he had learned his lesson by spending a few nights in jail, said her attorney, Charles Margines.

The Garritsons still live together, in Fullerton, and are expecting their fourth child. He is free on $50,000 bail, and she is free on her own recognizance.

In court, Linda Garritson testified she lied to the police and to other family members about what happened because she was trying to cover up her own involvement. But her husband was not even home when the "accident" occurred, she testified.

Avdeef told jurors they should disregard her testimony because "she's been completely impeached. She's told us that she's a big liar, but we should believe her now."

Key Witness

Avdeef's key witness against Michael Garritson is a jailhouse informant, Albert Ramirez, who testified that Garritson told him during his jail stay that he had shoved the baby down a flight of stairs in a fit of anger.

Garritson's attorney, Mason Fenton, brought on a jailhouse informant of his own who said Ramirez admitted to him that he "fabricated" his testimony about Garritson. But Avdeef countered with another jailhouse informant who testified that Fenton's informant admitted lying about Ramirez.

Another key element of Avdeef's case is that the baby was not turned over to paramedics until at least two hours after the time Linda Garritson said the injury occurred. Linda Garritson testified she first called a hospital, but then decided not to tell hospital officials where she lived because she feared repercussions, since she wasn't licensed to care for children. She said she then drove up and down the streets looking for her husband on his jogging route, then later went to a hospital, but left the baby in the car. She said she finally left without having the child attended to after she got into an argument with hospital officials, who insisted she bring the child inside.

Jurors began deliberations in the Michael Garritson case Wednesday afternoon.

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