EL PASO, Texas -- The wife and stepson of a decorated Army officer killed in 1977 have been formally charged with causing his death.
Court records show a state district court grand jury indicted Roger Evan Garrett, 54, and his mother, Lisbeth Ann Garrett, 74, on murder charges in the Jan. 3, 1977, slaying of Maj. Chester Garrett, whose body was found in a desert area in East El Paso County.
Last month, Roger Garrett was extradited from Knoxville, Tenn., where he had been living, to El Paso. Both Roger and Lisbeth Garrett remain in the El Paso County Jail on bonds of $1 million each. The bond amounts were reduced from $5 million during a recent bond hearing.
Cheri Ellington, Chester Garrett's oldest sister, expressed joy after hearing the news of the indictments. However, she said she was also disappointed that the bond amounts for Roger and Lisbeth Garrett were reduced because she fears Roger Garrett will try to skip his court appearances.
"I don't want them to lower that bail bond amount anymore," Ellington said during a phone interview Monday from her home in Nevada. "I'm so happy they've been indicted. It took 36 years, my God."
El Paso County sheriff's deputies arrested Lisbeth Garrett in February at her home in East El Paso, while police in Knoxville arrested Roger Garrett after asking him to meet at the Knoxville Police Department.
According to Ellington and sheriff's investigators, Roger and Lisbeth Garrett had long been suspected of taking part in Chester Garrett's slaying, but it wasn't until Patrick Garrett, the son of Chester and Lisbeth Garrett, came forward in January and told them what he knew of his father's killing that investigators were able to collect enough evidence to make an arrest.
According to a sheriff's arrest affidavit, a passing motorist found Chester Garrett's body in the rear seat of his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle about three miles north of Interstate 10 on Americas Avenue. He had been wearing a blue jogging suit and tennis shoes.
An autopsy found that Chester Garrett, an Army Special Forces officer and a Green Beret, had a fractured skull, severe brain contusions and numerous stab wounds. He may have been already dead or unconscious when stabbed.
Investigators who searched the Garretts' home on Backus Street after the slaying allegedly found a bottle of muriatic acid that had apparently been used to clean half of the garage floor, and discovered what appeared to be blood spots on the sheet rock in the garage area.
Patrick Garrett, who was 12 years old when his father was slain, told investigators he helped clean the garage floor of his home following the slaying, and that Roger Garrett admitted to him at least twice that Roger and Lisbeth Garrett were involved in Chester Garrett's death.
At the time of Chester Garrett's death, Chester and Lisbeth Garrett were separated. She lived in the home on Backus Street, while he lived in bachelor's quarters at Fort Bliss.
Cheri Ellington said she believes Patrick only came forward this year with what he knew because he may have been paid by his half-brother in exchange for his silence, and those payments recently stopped.
"I figured that's why Patrick turned them in, they cut him off," Ellington said.
She said she was the last family member to see her brother alive. About two weeks before his death, Ellington said, she met with Chester Garrett and his new girlfriend at the Fort Bliss Officers Club. She also said if Lisbeth Garrett participated in Chester Garrett's death, Lisbeth Garrett may have been motivated by money and their impending divorce.
"They were always fighting over money," Ellington said.
Ellington said she believes her brother was ambushed when he was killed. She described Chester Garrett as at least 6 feet tall with extensive military training.
"If he had saw them coming, he would have protected himself," Ellington said. "He had a heart of gold. He was the best."
Ellington said although her family will never experience closure, she will be glad once someone is convicted of killing her brother.
"You can never have closure when it's a horrible, brutal death," Ellington said. "He suffered a lot, I'm sure."
If convicted of murder, Roger and Lisbeth Garrett each face five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Arraignments for Roger and Lisbeth Garrett are pending in the 168th District Court before Judge Marcos Lizarraga. Roger Garrett's attorney is listed as Matthew DeKoatz, while Lisbeth Garrett has yet to retain a lawyer.