While Innocents Slept

Was Garrett Wilson A Loving Father And Husband?

This is a story of passion, greed, violence and death - a story so compelling that it attracted the attention of one of America's most insightful true-crime writers.

Garrett Wilson was well-liked by others and loved by women - a man who seemed devoted to his children. But it turns out, all of that was just one side of what his accusers say was a very dark mirror into his true life.

Who is the real Garrett Wilson? Correspondent Peter Van Sant first reported on this 48 Hours Mystery July 1, 2002.

Garrett Wilson was a modern-day Harold Hill.

Like the title character in Meredith Wilson's "The Music Man," Garrett Wilson had a charismatic personality that helped him build a successful career selling musical instruments.

Vicky Wampler of Frostburg, Md., says he's a wonderful father to their nine-year-old daughter, Marysa.

"He was just engrossed in raising his daughter. That was the most important thing in his life," says Wampler, Wilson's fourth wife.

Wampler also says she and Wilson had a nearly perfect relationship: "As close to Ozzie and Harriett as any two people could be."

But in 1998, Wilson was accused of murdering of his own baby son, Garrett Michael in 1987. Pushing authorities to file charges was Wilson's third wife, Missy Anastasi, the mother of the dead infant.

"I think that he is a cold-blooded, evil killer," says Montgomery County, Md., prosecutor Doug Gansler, who led the case against Wilson. Gansler says that Wilson told people he hated the baby.

John Farley has known Wilson since they were both young children, and they are still best friends.

"I just can't believe he could have done it," says Farley, who believes that Wilson loved his baby son. "The Garrett that I know is caring, he's loving."

"If you were meeting with Garrett Wilson for the first time and you looked into his eyes, you wouldn't see a murderer," says Adrian Havill, author of "While Innocents Slept," a detailed look at the case.

Wampler, Wilson's strongest defender, believes that her husband is innocent. "You can't be two people - you can't be a murderer one day, and a loving father and a giving person the next day."

The story begins in 1986, when Garrett Wilson and Missy Anastasi married.

Anastasi thought she had found her soul mate: "I was very happy, I was going to have a baby and I had a wonderful husband."

A year later, Anastasi gave birth to their son, Garrett Michael. But she claims Wilson showed little interest in the baby after they brought him home from the hospital.

"I said, 'Garrett, you seem really withdrawn from the baby lately,'" remembers Anastasi. "And he said, 'Well, I want to make sure he's gonna be around a while before I get close to him,' and I thought 'Why is he thinking something is gonna happen to this baby?'"

She chose to dismiss Wilson's odd behavior until early one morning, when their baby woke up crying.

"I jumped up like I always did, to go and feed the baby," says Anastasi. "And Garrett literally dissuaded me, talked me out of getting up and going. He said, 'I'll do it.'"

"He didn't ever wake up in the middle of the night and be wide awake, or in the early morning - and this particular morning, he was awake."

She stayed in bed while her husband went into the baby's room.

"I heard a patting noise over the monitor. And then the next thing I heard was ... I don't know what it was, but I know that it wasn't a good sound,"
says Anastasi.

Alarmed, she hurried out of bed. By the time she got to the baby, she knew something was wrong: "I screamed, 'Garrett, what did you do to him.'"

Anastasi says Wilson, who had gone back to their bedroom, opened the door. His face was as white as a sheet.

"I'm screaming, 'Call 911,' and he never moved," she says.

Paramedics arrived and rushed the baby to the hospital emergency room.

According to Anastasi, Wilson continued to act strangely. "We went out to the car, and Garrett stopped and took the time to unlock the car, pull the seat up, reach in the back, and take the baby seat out. And I'm thinking, 'He knows the baby's not coming home. He's done something to him.'"

Within the hour, 5-month-old Garrett Michael was pronounced dead.

"I wanted to die," remembers Anastasi. "I didn't think I could survive. I was waiting for Garrett to say that this wasn't supposed to happen, to get some reaction from him, but he never did that."

But what Wilson did several weeks later shocked his wife again: "He brought money home in a brown paper bag and threw it on the bed where I was sleeping. And I said, 'What is this?' And he said, 'It's some insurance money.'"
Did Wilson ever talk to Anastasi about getting life insurance for their new baby boy?

"One day he came home and just said, 'I bought life insurance on the baby today,'" remembers Anastasi. "But never in a million years at that point would I have ever thought that Garrett was planning to kill his child."

But after her son's death, that's exactly what Anastasi suspected.

The medical examiner concluded that the baby had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, despite the fact that the baby's brain showed swelling, which can be evidence of foul play.

So she put her suspicions aside and decided to stay with Wilson. They were together for seven years, but the marriage wasn't easy. With Wilson moving from state to state, from one sales job to another, they were apart for months at a time.

"He still called - that was the most amazing thing. I'm thinking in my mind, 'He has no reason to keep up with me, except that he cares about me, like he says he does,'" says Anastasi. "I wanted to be married. And I loved him."

What happens next? Find out.

Part II: A Mother's Mission



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  • David Kohn

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