Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Garrett Wilson

Brandi is Dead

Wilson met his second wife, Deborah Lynn Oliver, in the years between his mother and fathers deaths. She was 12 and he was 21. They met in church, virtually under the nose of the pastor.

I had conducted the chorus in high school, and the Fort Foote Baptist Church asked me to conduct their choir when the leader went on vacation, Wilson recalled. I was going out for pizza after practice and I decided I wasnt going alone. So I asked her to go with me.

Her parents, Kyle and Jean Oliver, would say later that they thought the friendship was platonic. It was quite the opposite. Years later, Debbie Oliver would testify that she became pregnant by Wilson five times before they married. There were four abortions, but when she became pregnant a fifth time, he proposed in his usual lavish way.

I had the waiter bring a dozen red roses with a single white one in the middle, he recalled. Then I dropped the engagement ring into her glass of champagne.

Debbie Wilson and Garrett Wilson (Author's collection)
Debbie Wilson and Garrett
Wilson (Author's collection)
Debbie Oliver was 16 when she walked down the aisle in October 1980. She pledged a life-long relationship to a convicted felon who was eight years older, and then dropped out of high school for good measure. But she was five-months pregnant and, she says, she didnt want another abortion. Her parents knew of Wilsons criminal record, but didnt protest. Besides, Wilson had a new job now, at a nearby bank.

This was like putting the fox inside the henhouse. But there was a baby on the way and a fresh start seemed possible.

Brandi Jean Wilson was born in February 1981. An excited Garrett, still the big spender despite his financial problems, purchased both pink and blue-labeled cigars because he wasnt sure what the sex would be. He handed them out to strangers in the hospital lobby.

She was a beautiful baby, John Farleys sister, Linda, remembered. Lots of dark hair and violet eyes.

A month after Brandis birth, Garrett Wilson bought two insurance policies. The first was worth $30,000 if Brandi were to die. The second, for $10,000, was purchased from a weight-lifting buddy, Eddie Aragona. It was Aragonas first sale as an insurance salesman. The other representative, from Lafayette Life, raised his eyebrows when recalling the transaction.

I mean, $30,000. I was surprised, he said.

Wilson defended himself by saying that his father had always bought plenty of insurance and had trained him to do the same. My father believed in insurance, he said.

Towards the end of April 1981, Debbie Oliver Wilson came down with the flu. On the last day of the month, her husband gave her what he would claim were vitamin C capsules. After taking the pills, Debbie fell into a deep sleep.

Brandi Anastasi, victim (AP)
Brandi Anastasi, victim (AP)
Sometime during the night, Brandi stopped breathing. Garrett Wilson said he found the baby dead in her crib at six that morning. He called his mother-in-law with the news.

Baby Brandi is dead, he told Jean Oliver.

Within minutes, an ambulance, the police, and the Olivers rushed to the house. Debbie was awakened, immediately became hysterical, and had to be restrained by the police. Only Mark Cashman, a volunteer fireman at the scene thought there might be something suspicious about the childs death.

Theres more here than meets the eye, he told a cop. An autopsy showed otherwise. Two pathologists summarized: The death of this two-month-old white female, Brandi J. Wilson, is attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (crib death). The manner of death is natural.

SIDS is often a basket diagnosis used by doctors when there is no other explanation for an infants demise. In the medical community, it is preferable to admitting that you dont know the reason why a child has died. The death certificate would read that way for nearly two decades.

Wilson and Debbie went on a spending spree with the $40,000 windfall, and the money was all but gone in six months. The young bride never knew where the money came from. Soon the marriage was also over. Both were having separate affairs. Her immature and desperate husband, unable to live within his means, stole $10,000 from the bank where he was employed. Again, he was caught on the same day he took the money, and again he confessed almost immediately.

This time Wilson was sentenced to two consecutive six to 18-month prison terms and began serving the sentences at the federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky. Debbie Oliver served him with the divorce documents while he was doing his time.

 

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