A Hell of a Hoax! Part 15: A Family Killing

What Charles Manson really means when he talks about family is an open question. His own was sorely lacking on several fronts, but many another has had a bad start in life without landing on Death Row.

Here he is at the age of five, on the day before he started school. My impression? A kid with some personal charm, not bad looking, and one who is maybe feeling a little bit shy and yet excited about the whole thing.

Deciphering the rest of it, however, isn’t easy. Manson appears to have lied about damn nearly everything to do with his family and his childhood.

It’s true that he grew up without a father.  It’s not true that he didn’t know who the man was.  His mother was underage at the time – she was either 15 or 16, according to whether you believe one record or another. Charlie said she was a prostitute, but that doesn’t ring true either. A party girl, maybe.

 Kathleen Maddox in later years. She was born Ada Kathleen Maddox but went by her middle name. Her birth date is given as January 11, 1918 in some places and 1919 in others.

Was she a hooker? Well, how many prostitutes have you ever heard of who both filed and won a paternity suit against the father, four years later? Who won child support from the father, and arranged visitation with her toddler not just once but several times?

Admittedly, the child support didn’t amount to much. One report pegs it at a measly $5 per month (that amounts to $86.23 in today’s terms).

In 1937, some five dollar bills were silver certificates, like this one. Not much, but not nothing. Like I said, this was during the Great Depression. Every nickel counted.

Because it was all resolved by way of a consent decree, there were no criminal charges filed. This even though it is clear enough that Manson’s father was 24 when the boy was born, and therefore statutory rape was involved.

It’s true that Kathleen Maddox ran away from her home in Kentucky while pregnant, and gave birth to Charlie in Cincinnati, Ohio. But this was in 1934, and unwed mothers were a disgrace to be hidden away from society, if at all possible. Teenagers who got themselves in “the family way” were quite commonly sent out of town until after the birth of the child, either in a ‘home’ or in the care of geographically distant relatives. Then the baby was either put up for adoption or some polite fiction was invented about where he or she “came from.” At the height of the Great Depression, however, resources all around may have been too slender to do this with or for Kathleen.

What Charlie’s mother did manage to do was find a man willing to give the boy his name: William Manson.

At first he was listed as “No Name Maddox” but in the end Charlie was formally named Charles Milles Maddox on his birth certificate, and William Manson is listed as his father.

Kathleen and William were even married for a couple of years, and it’s been suggested that William thought the child was his, at first. But he soon departed the scene in any case, and seems to have had no further contact with either Kathleen or Charlie. Mom, however, could now bring the boy home to Kentucky and call him legitimate.

At least, up until that paternity suit was filed in 1936.

So who was this mystery man that Charlie claimed his mother couldn’t even name?

Colonel Walker Scott Sr.

Now, I could not find a photograph of the man that I had any faith in, but I did find his grave marker:

 Scott is buried in the Cattlettsburg Cemetery in Kentucky. You can check it out for yourself at this site:  https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid= 116001100

The marker, you may notice, is bare-bones. They didn’t even bother to spell out his first name, or to mention that he’s the senior half of a father/son duo.

That’s right. There’s a Walker Scott Jr. involved in all this.

He was born about 14 months after Charlie was, to the Colonel and his first wife, Dorothy. Who wound up divorcing him in 1941. They had two sons by then. And thirteen years later, the Colonel was dead, of cirrhosis of the liver. Since the grounds for divorce included abuse, non-support, and his alcoholism, we can surmise that his death was the direct result of his drinking, and that it fully explains that minimal memorial.

It might also explain why Charlie was so reluctant to claim him. Unless, of course, actually having a father who ever supported you to any degree would interfere with the Manson myth. A malignant narcissist is apt to adapt his biography to his mythological needs, and it’s clear that Charles Manson did that all along.

He preferred to tell people that even his mother didn’t know who his daddy was, yet he actually had three.

One was the Colonel (and I cannot tell you what that honorific is worth, since Kentucky is full of ‘colonels’ who never served in any capacity, or if they did, were certainly not officers. The most famous example would be Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame).

  This Colonel did indeed serve a stint in the Army but was a teamster, not a commander of anything more significant than a team of mules – even so, he was a man I admire greatly in other respects.

The second was the man who named him – William Manson. And while he didn’t stick around very long, a legitimate last name in those days was far from nothing.

The third was his uncle. When his mother and her brother robbed a service station in 1939, apparently by going after an employee with a ketchup bottle, they both wound up sentenced to five years in prison. Charlie was placed with his mother’s aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia, and lived with their family until 1942, when his mom was paroled.

If you want to know what that was like, you might want to check out the accounts given by Manson’s sister Nancy and his cousin Joanne, which you can find here amidst a lot hype about the Tate and LaBianca murders:


Or you can go to the source of the information given there by Jeff Guinn. He’s the author of this book, which I’ve mentioned before and which he is promoting in the newspaper piece:

  I don’t know if Guinn is right about all of his conclusions regarding Charlie’s character and its development, but he does have accounts from family members who avoided the media for many years and refused to talk to all other reporters. He also has family photos that have not been seen elsewhere.

Apparently, once she was paroled, Manson’s mother retrieved her son from her aunt and uncle and lived with him in a series of run-down hotel rooms. The aunt and uncle have been described as “very strict” and members of the Church of the Nazarene (although at 13, Charlie once claimed to be Catholic in order to persuade a judge to place him at Boys Town instead of the local reformatory).

Now, one of my grandmothers belonged to the Church of the Nazarene, so I can tell you that “strict” is very likely a mild description of the discipline he underwent in their home, especially since he began getting himself into serious trouble at the age of seven and did not respond to correction of any kind.

Nevertheless, there was a father figure involved, and an actual home. Which is more than my grandfather had, after being thrown out of the house by his daddy at the tender age of ten. Thereafter he was forced to make his own way in the world. It turned him into a hard-headed, hard-handed man, known for being able to knock out a man, horse or cow with a single punch, but he never once landed in jail. He never abandoned his kids. And he didn’t blame anyone else for his own missteps. So my sympathies on that score? Limited. You can’t learn from your mistakes if you never admit to making them.

What did Charlie really think of his mother?

It’s a mixed message.

Kathleen Maddox, shown here at age 20 with her aunt and her son when Charlie was only five – she looks more like his older sister than his mom.

In Manson: In His Own Words, he said her physical embrace of him on the day she returned from prison in 1942 was his only happy childhood memory.

But you should always bear in mind that what Manson says about much of anything can change from day to day, and that almost everything he has to say about his own family just isn’t so.

The way Manson talks about Kathleen Maddox is telling , though. When he was asked about her, there’s a famous quote:

And then there’s this one:

  I’ve never run across anyone else who refers to his Mom as a “good girl.” Especially after he made the woman out to be a whore to the general public, and admitted to hitting her. I’m also mindful of what his cousin and sister said – that Kathleen herself was afraid of him and tried to put her son into foster care when he was twelve. The court instead placed Manson in the Father Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

  Charlie spent ten months here, taking classes taught by priests. He never did learn to read, but it may have been where he picked up enough Catholic cant to convince another judge that he was in fact a Catholic, and so he should be sent to to Boys Town (which he ran away from within four days of his arrival).

Charlie has demonstrated a lifelong pattern of blaming everything that goes wrong on pretty much everyone else, including society at large. No surprise, really, among criminals and/or narcissists. I certainly never met anyone in a holding cell who owned up to his deeds. A wife beater, for example, will blame his victim without fail. Somehow she “made” him do it. And the same is true of husband-abusers.

So why do I care, either way?

Well, as I said, I was wondering what Charlie really means when he talks about family. He himself has never referred to his followers as Family. They call themselves that but as far as I can tell, it’s in the same sense that gangbangers do – they band together as a substitute for the families that failed them or were lost to them for all kinds of reasons. They get jumped in to gain protection from other gangs, and to give themselves a shot at having a life.

  Angelenos flashing gang signs – it’s about group solidarity as much as it is intimidating everyone else.

  The Manson family always had more female members than male, though, unlike your typical Southern California biker and street gangs. A feature Charlie often used to help keep his allies in line.

In any case, the pseudo-family life of gangs is a complicated topic, and people disagree strongly about how it really works.  If you’re interested in that, you could do worse than by starting here:


The thing I saw with gangs when I was doing forensic work was that gangsters do support each other, cover for each other, and take chances I would consider insane on each other’s behalf. There’s a big profit motive involved, of course, but it’s more than that. And they wind up dead a lot, thanks to turf wars and drug deals gone bad and whatever else.

The thing is, whenever a gangster does get killed, the odds are even on whether he (or she) was done in by a rival gang, or by their own group.

And that’s what I see with the Manson Family. James and Lauren Willett, Gary Hinman, John Haught, Shorty Shea, Reet Jurvetson, Mark Walts, and possibly Susan Scott (we’ll get to that one later) – they were all either known associates or members of the Family. It seems pretty clear to me that they were all killed by the Family, and most of it was done on Manson’s orders.

So what does family mean to Charlie?

I ask because there was a messy murder in his biological family too.

I’m talking about his father’s brother, Darwin Orell Scott.

Now, Walker Scott may have been a drunk but Darwin Scott was an out-and-out jailbird. He was in and out of both state and federal prisons from 1931 onward, and he had a reputation for cheating even his closest associates at every opportunity.  It was all about fairly minor stuff, though, compared to Manson-style mass murder. Darwin Scott was more into burglary, robbery, illegal gambling, forgery, theft, and running hooch of several kinds that never met up with legitimate tax stamps.

Here’s an example of the items that made the local newspapers back east and made mention of Darwin Scott: 

Several more of these are posted at this site (although like this one, they’re fuzzy enough to be difficult to read):


More intriguing, to me anyway, is this little item:

  I’m not sure precisely what laws applied in this case, or what Mrs. Scott thought she was doing with this one, but if her husband did lose thirty grand to Ed Curd in the space of 14 months – well, that was a hell of a lot of money in 1949… more than three hundred grand in today’s terms. And she was asking for the best part of a million bucks in restitution and damages.

I don’t know how that court case turned out, but I’d be amazed if she won. Or collected anything if she did. And there is no mention of Faye Scott being a part of Darwin’s life at any time past that point.

What we do know is that twenty years later, somebody took a butcher knife to Darwin Scott. He was found in his Ashland, Kentucky apartment on May 27, 1969. He’d been stabbed 19 times, and left pinned to the floor with that knife.

Known to keep fairly large sums of money around, Darwin might have been targeted on that basis, or by somebody who held a grudge. Or both. If so, they seem to have succeeded on both counts. There were no wads of cash laying around when the cops arrived, although there was plenty of booze: no less than 86 fifths and 28 pints of whiskey. Which implies that at the age of 64, he was still active in moving illegal hooch.

  Here, you can see pretty much the whole of downtown Ashland, which sits on the south side of the Ohio River, across from West Virginia.

But there’s another possibility. Just before the murder, a “scraggly little dude” who called himself “Preacher” drifted into town, leading a band of female hippies. They wound up getting chased out again by the local folks, who were mad as hell about the group handing out drugs to their kids, including LSD.

According to Edward George, who wrote his own book about Manson and was for several years his prison counselor, several Ashland residents later identified Preacher as none other than Charlie Manson.

  Is this true? Where was Manson in May of 1969?

He was out on parole, and supposedly in California at the time of the murder. But when Darwin Scott was killed, Manson was out of touch with his parole officers. 

Could he have gone to Kentucky? The Family still had that converted school bus, didn’t they?

And they’d been taking that bus up and down the full length of the west coast, so why not strike out for the east?  After all, it’s where Manson himself is from. Where his mother and father were from. Where James Willet’s family still lives and runs a distillery (and both of the Willetts were still alive at this point). It so happens it’s also where his uncle was living. Until he wasn’t.

Why would Manson want to kill Darwin? He had so very little contact with Walker Scott Sr., it seems unlikely he had any kind of relationship with Uncle Darwin. But Unc always seemed to have crap-loads of cash. And Charlie always needed that.

 Manson and his cohorts killed Gary Hinman for money he didn’t even have. They may very well have killed Joel Pugh too,  in London, just to safeguard Manson’s access to a trust fund. The chop shop/dune buggy business was all about money.

So I’d have to say, I think it’s entirely possible. The Family’s time line for 1969 certainly has a May-sized gap in it big enough to accommodate a cross-country road trip. And using a knife? Overkill with a knife? Well, that’s practically diagnostic, at this point. A serial killer’s signature.





A Hell of a Hoax! Part 14: Two more Cold Cases

Well, now that Jane Doe #59 has finally been identified as the 19-year-old Canadian Reet Jurvetson, what about the other girl whose body was dumped at almost exactly the same spot some eleven months before Reet’s murder?

Her name was Marina Elizabeth Habe.


This is the section of Mulholland Drive where both bodies were dumped. Rugged country, and rattlesnake friendly, aside from the human reptiles involved in all this.

There has been some (possibly manufactured) confusion on this point, whether it was the same location. That’s because most descriptions of the scene that are linked to Reet Jurvetson’s death describe it in terms of the body’s distance from Mulholland Drive, while several pertaining to the Marina Habe case state that the spot in question was about 100 feet west of Bowmont Drive where it intersects Mulholland. But it turns out they are the same spot, which is in fact a bit west of Bowmont, and about twenty feet down the slope of a steep ravine alongside Mulholland.

According to Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, the two bodies were found within feet of each other in terms of space, although they were nearly a year apart in time. I see no reason to doubt him on this.  I do see reason to doubt other people who get fired up on conspiracy theories about these things, especially when they do so by getting numerous facts and details wrong that are matters of public record.

Okay, then. We’ve figured out the where.

What about the when?

There’s some confusion on this point, too, but from the official records, we know that Reet Jurvetson was found on that spot on November 16, 1969. Marina Habe was found there on New Year’s Day, 1969.

Okay, but who was Marina Habe?


She was a 17-year-old college freshman at the University of Hawaii. She was home for the Christmas break and staying at her mother’s house in West Hollywood when she disappeared.

Like Reet, she was pretty, intelligent, lively, and eager to explore the world.

Her father was a writer and journalist, Hans Habe, a man who had a rather colorful career in both Europe and the United States. Habe, however, was an assumed name. At birth, in Budapest, he was named Janos Bekessy and he was the son of a tabloid publisher there, one Imre Bekessy.

So why was he known as Hans Habe?

  A literary pose by a man who used a slew of noms de plume in addition to Hans Habe. At one time or another he was also known as Antonio Corte, Frank Richard, Frederick Gert, John Richler, Hans Wolfgang, and Alexander Holmes.

Well, the word is, Papa Bekessy made a habit of blackmailing people with the material his reporters dug up for his newspaper. He was very successful at both enterprises, publishing and blackmail, but in 1926, the extortion scandal was exposed to the light of day. So young Janos (he was 15 at the time) decided to take a different tack and a different monicker.

“Hans” may also have been trying to hide his ethnicity, as he was living in Vienna then and both of his parents were converted Hungarian Jews. At this point, anti-Semitism was rampant in Europe and right next door in Germany, the Nazi Party was already six years into a frightful political arc that ended in war and genocide.

Surprisingly, Hans Habe began his journalistic career as a Nazi sympathizer and for a while he edited some very conservative army newspapers. Was this more camouflage?

I don’t know, but if it was, it didn’t last. In the end, it was this same Hans Habe whose investigative reporting uncovered Adolf Hitler’s real family name: Schicklgruber!  And he uncovered the possibility that Hitler himself was one quarter Jewish.

Hitler as a soldier in World War I. His father, Alois, had changed the family name from Schicklgruber to Hitler in 1877, long before Adolf came along.

It was all a great embarrassment for the Nazis. It led to Habe’s novels being burned in public in Vienna in 1938, when the Nazis took over in Austria. It also put Habe’s name on Franklin Roosevelt’s list of anti-Nazi authors.

That came in handy the very next year, when Habe departed Austria and joined the French Foreign Legion in order to fight the Nazis. He was arrested by the Vichy government, however, when France knuckled under to Hitler, so Habe had to make his escape through Spain. On reaching the U.S. he  was given asylum and later citizenship, and wound up joining the US-army, where he was an anti-Nazi propaganda officer. After the war, at the Army’s behest, he went on to found and organize a vast array of democratic newspapers in West Germany, and for a time was at the helm of 18 newspapers at once.

Then, like many another writer, Habe migrated to Hollywood and tried his luck there.

What did this have to do with Marina’s murder?

Probably nothing.  On the other hand…

 Charlie famously “X”ed himself out of society during his trial. Then he converted that X into a swastika. Charlie is also known to hold a low opinion of black people. He was, at one time, allied with the Aryan Brotherhood, a notorious prison gang centered on white supremacist ideas. But he’s also a narcissist who thrives on stirring up outrage, but doesn’t like paying his dues. One thing he isn’t? A student of history. There’s no indication the man can actually read, let alone that he ever studied up on dear old Adolf Schicklgruber, or knew anything at all about Hans Habe and his rounds with the Nazis. Or that he would give a damn if he did know.

In any case, by the time Marina Habe was murdered, Hans was long gone. He’d divorced Marina’s mother, the American actress Eloise Hardt, and gone back to Europe. He was living in Switzerland with wife number six, the Hungarian actress Lici Balla.

Lici Balla’s best known movie (the title translates into English as: Csikszereda City Waterfront).


Photos of Eloise Hardt are scarce these days, but here she is with her ex-husband Hans Habe at Marina’s funeral.

And here’s a portfolio shot of her, date unknown.

Eloise Hardt had a fairly successful career in the 60’s and 70’s. She’s best known for her role as the publicity agent/girlfriend of the lead character on a TV series called The Dennis O’Keefe Show:

  The series was rather short-lived, lasting only two seasons ((1959-60). It focused on the romantic problems of a wiseacre named Hal Towne, a Los Angeles widower with a bright ten-year-old son to raise and a syndicated column to write called “All Around Towne.”

After that Eloise Hardt turned up in several movies, some of them fairly major.

She was in Incubus with a very young William Shatner, for example. This was a rather peculiar 1966 black-and-white horror flick filmed entirely in the constructed language Esperanto. It was directed by Leslie Stevens, creator of The Outer Limits (which might explain a lot) and came out shortly before Bill Shatner went to work on Star Trek. Eloise Hardt was also in a Jack Lemmon drama-rama called Save the Tiger, which wound up getting nominated for several Oscars and Golden Globes in 1973, and won the award for best original dramatic screenplay from the Writers Guild of America.

She even did a turn in a 1977 comedy whose name pretty much says it all:

If you’re curious about this one, here’s the trailer (and that’s Eloise in the kitchen!):


Eloise even had a role in Marilyn Monroe’s last (and unfinished) 1962 movie:

  This flick, alas, was done in by Monroe’s unexpected death, soon after she’d been fired, then rehired…

It was later overhauled and recast entirely, and then made the scene as a 1963 Doris Day vehicle (which gives all this another odd cross-link with Manson and the Sharon Tate murders, since the house on El Cielo Drive belonged to Doris Day’s son, Terry Melcher, at the time of those killings six years later):

  Move Over, Darling was a screwball comedy and a pretty big hit, although I have to wonder what Rock Hudson would have done with James Garner’s role as an accidental bigamist.  

Now 98 years old, Eloise Hardt is living in retirement and does not care to discuss her daughter’s death.

The last time she saw Marina (alive) was on the night of December 29-30, 1968. Her daughter had been out on a date and came home about 3 in the morning. But she didn’t come into the house. According to one version of the story, Ms. Hardt told police that she woke up because of the noise made by a racing engine. She looked out a window and saw a strange car, a black sedan, in her driveway, next to the one Marina Habe was using that night. She also saw a man she did not recognize and could not see very well, standing beside Marina.

What the coroner’s report says is that Ms. Hardt heard her daughter’s car pull in, and then the sound of another car, much louder. When that car left, Marina didn’t come in, so Ms. Hardt went outside and found her daughter’s keys in her car, but Marina herself was gone.

Here’s the first page of that report, giving a barebones account of the case and how it started:


So no one actually saw that black sedan or its driver. No one knows how many people were in it. All we really know is that, for whatever reason, Marina got into that other car… and vanished.

Eloise Hardt and the police called it kidnapping later, although I can find no stated reason why they thought so, other than those abandoned keys, and the fatal outcome. That was horrific enough, however, to cast a dark light on the whole encounter whether or not there was any coercion involved. Maybe there wasn’t, then or later. There were no ligature marks on Marina’s body, after all. There were no defensive wounds either. And according to the toxicology report, Marina had neither alcohol nor barbituates in her system. So she wasn’t drunk or drugged when she died.

I mention all this because a whole lot of hooha has been generated about the damage done to Marina, half of it being fictional.

For example, in his book The Family, Ed Sanders says that Marina Habe was found with contusions in her eyes, slashes to her throat and heart, burned, raped and nude except for a shoe.

  Sanders also says a former Manson Family associate told him that members of the Family knew Marina Habe.  But he doesn’t tell us who this associate was, and there is no other evidence of this supposed  acquaintance. 

And the autopsy says that Marina was fully clothed when found except for one shoe lying nearby. It says nothing about any burns to her body. It notes evidence of sex, yes, but not of rape. Which says the story floating around about how she was supposedly kidnapped and gang-banged by a bunch of outlaw bikers is bullshit.

Yes, there were a lot of stab wounds, all to her neck and chest, and Marina’s throat was cut. There were bruises, too, but there was no wound to the heart. One of the stab wounds did penetrate all the way through the breast bone, so there was a lot of force used, but that blade simply wasn’t long enough to reach the heart.

In fact, the coroner concluded that two different knives had been used, and likely by at least two assailants.

If you want to see the whole autopsy report, you can find it here:


Having gotten so much of that wrong, I can’t help wondering whether Sanders got anything else right. He did, after all, get sued for defamation by The Process Church of the Final Judgement over a chapter in the book linking the church to Manson’s more unsavory pursuits (see Part 7 concerning what’s known about Charlie’s connections with them).

File:Process Church logo.jpg  This is the logo of the Process Church, which later parted ways with its co-founder, Robert de Grimston. aka “The Teacher,” and eventually morphed into an animal welfare group called the Best Friends Animal Society.

Sanders’s U.S. publisher settled out of court and removed the disputed chapter from later editions. But when The Process Church sued Sanders’s British publisher, they lost the suit, and they lost it badly. They wound up having to pay the defendant’s legal fees. So I’m not quite sure just how much of his stuff I’m prepared to believe. Your mileage may vary.

The important questions remain:

Did Marina know anyone in the Manson Family? And whether or not she knew them, did the Family do her in?

The use of knives and the overkill involved is certainly common to several other cases linked to the Manson Family.  So is the participation of more than one perp in the murder. The dump site being the same as the one used in the Reet Jurvetson case (aka Jane Doe #59) – well, there’s a rule of thumb I learned while working on crime scenes. It goes like this:

Once is an accident.

Twice could be just a coincidence.

But three times? Hey, that’s a pattern.

And as it turns out, there was a third body dumped out there, just off Mulholland Drive in the summer of 1969 – another teenager who was certainly acquainted with the Manson Family and was also subjected to overkill.

I’m talking about Mark Walts.

I’ve been unable to find any photos of him, either under the name of Mark Glen Walts or his birth name, Mark Glen April. What we do know is that he was only 16 years old on July 18, 1969, when his body was found in Topanga Canyon, near Mulholland Drive at something like 2 a.m.

The previous day, July 17th, he’d taken off to go fishing and reportedly hitchhiked to get himself to the Santa Monica Pier. That, at least, is where his fishing pole was later found, abandoned. That night, he turned up dead, his face a mess, and with tire treads showing on his shirt. He also had three small caliber bullet holes in his chest.

Which is not the frenzied stabbing seen with either Marina Habe or Reet Jurvetson. But it was also way more than enough to kill the kid.

So who was Mark? And why would anyone want to kill him?

He seems to have been a fairly average California boy living out in Chatsworth, on the outskirts of L.A. He was more into stripping stolen cars than surfing, however. According to his brother, Alan Walts, he and Alan did this many times in a spot called Devil’s Canyon that’s about two miles away from the Spahn Movie Ranch.

Here’s a YouTube interview Bill Nelson did with Alan Walts about it:


According to Alan Walts, there was a guy named “Bruce” involved in all this, but he doesn’t know if this was actually Bruce Davis or not.

Bruce Davis, then and now.

Alan says he did not have any direct dealings with either Manson himself or Tex Watson, but it seems pretty clear that he and his brother did fill “orders” for the Family concerning certain car parts they wanted for their VW/dune buggy business.

So Mark Walts may have known quite a few of the Family members, and he was in fact involved in supplying their chop shop. His death, however, took place almost a month before the Tate and LaBianca murders, let alone the raid on the ranch concerning all those stolen cars. So the probable motive for murdering either Zero (John Haught) or Shorty Shea doesn’t seem to apply here.

Was there something else going on?

There have been staunch denials on several sides, including at least one biker (Danny DeCarlo) who was mixed up in the whole thing and says he would have known if there was any such problem with Mark.

Here’s Danny DeCarlo being arrested along with Manson during that raid on the ranch.

But Alan Walts was so sure it was Manson and/or the Family that he called Charlie on the phone and ranted and raved at him. Then he took a gun out to the Spahn Ranch looking for Charlie, intending to blow him away. And the only thing that saved him is that Charlie wasn’t there that day.

In the interview, Alan Walts says he just had a “sixth sense” about who might have killed his kid brother, but that’s not a whole lot to go on. Not if you’re going to make serious threats like that and then go roaring off into the desert with an actual gun in your hand, intending to empty that gun into the guy you blame for your kid brother’s murder. I’d say there’s something else back of it he doesn’t want to discuss on the record. Something that triggered his rage.

If there’s one thing that’s clear in this interview, despite the lousy sound quality, it’s that Alan Walts cared about Mark. He cared a lot, and stood ready to avenge him.

Personally, I can’t help thinking what a waste it was that all three of these kids had their lives cut short in such an abrupt and brutal fashion. Who knows who they would have turned out to be, as time unwound? I can’t see them as throw-aways, although that’s how Manson himself has described his followers. He sees himself as the garbage man, the guy who gathered up all the lost children society dropped by the wayside.

I don’t think so. I keep remembering something Hans Habe said (and here I’m quoting the Mansonblog). When Habe was asked why anybody should bother to stand up, to speak out, when you’re only one in a million, he replied, “The world is one percent good, one percent bad, and 98 percent neutral, and this is why what individuals do is important.”

So what would these three teenagers have done, if they’d only had the chance?






A Hell of a Hoax! Part 13: Jane Doe 59

Jane Doe #59 has been identified!

She is Reet Jurvetson, 19 at the time of her death.

The identification was actually made in December of 2015, by L.A.P.D. detectives. A reader later let me know about it, but I haven’t had time to come back to her case until now.

I admit, I was also hoping some progress might be made in the meantime.  Forty-eight years is a long, long time to wait for justice, yes, yet stranger things have happened.

But first things first.  Who was this girl?

 Reet in her mid-teens – a snapshot belonging to her sister Anne.

Reet Jurvetson was a Canadian citizen, but ethnically Estonian. Her family fled Estonia, heading for Sweden in 1944, at the height of World War II, and the youngest child, Reet, was born there in 1950. The next year, the family emigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal. In Quebec, they could restart their lives after the loss of their home and a quarter of their homeland’s entire population during the war, a catastrophe that was only made worse by the forcible annexation of Estonia by Soviet Russia.

You may recall there was some doubt as to Jane Doe #59’s nationality (See Part 9), as well as whether or not she was ever part of the Manson Family.

There were two witnesses, however, who remembered Jane Doe #59 staying with the Manson Family out at the Spahn Ranch in 1969. One of them was Ruby Pearl, the girlfriend George Spahn acquired after his wife left him.  Pearl was, among other things, a onetime dog trainer and carnival habitue in and around L.A., and was never a Manson fan. Ruby thought Jane Doe’s name was Sherry “something,” possibly Sherry Cooper.

  Ruby Pearl in younger days.


Here’s a photo of “Sherry Cooper,” supposedly an American girl from Simi Valley. Compare that to Reet Jurvetson’s yearbook photo from high school, and see what you think. Is it the same girl? I think so… she has the same shape to the bridge of her nose where it joins her forehead, the same hairline, the same shapely Clara Bow lower lip. But she’s not nearly as carefree, is she? “Sherry” looks unhappy, underfed, and in serious need of a week at the beach, not to mention a long nap.

I’d say she had plenty to worry about.

Another witness, you see, described “Sherry something” as being able to do a decent British accent.  The story goes, she’d used it when she answered the phone at Zero’s (John Haught’s) house in Venice on the day he died.

John Haught died of a gunshot to the head on November 5, 1969 (see Part 6 for the details).

The cops called it suicide. The people present at the time (including Bruce Davis) claimed the dead man had been playing Russian roulette with the revolver found, holstered, beside his body. But the gun he used did not contain only one shell casing. It was fully loaded, and was wiped down afterward, perhaps to remove someone’s fingerprints. Whose? There’d be no point to removing Zero’s fingerprints, if it all happened the way Bruce Davis said it did. So was it a suicide?

Quite a few people had their doubts. For example, on November 26th, 1969 Sgt. Mike McGann was interviewing Leslie Van Houten at Sybil Brand (the women’s jail in Los Angeles).

Leslie Van Houten, at a parole hearing in December 2015, has never told us what she knows about Zero’s death either.

When McGann informed her of John Haught’s death, Van Houten got very upset. When the sergeant told her Haught (Zero) had been playing Russian roulette and that Bruce Davis was there at the time, Van Houten asked McGann:

“Was Bruce playing it too?”
Sgt. McGann said he wasn’t.
Leslie Van Houten: “Zero was playing Russian roulette all by himself?”
Mike McGann: “Kind of odd isn’t it?”
Leslie Van Houten: “Yeah, it’s odd.” 

So it was. And the upshot is, “Sherry something” was there, in Zero’s house, when Bruce Davis was, and she would have known what went down that day. She would have known whether Zero really committed suicide, or was murdered. By Davis, perhaps, or by one of the other women.

Why would any of them want to kill him?

Well, this took place right after Haught got out of jail following the mass arrest of most of the Manson Family on that stolen car beef out at the Barker Ranch.

The Barker Ranch in Death Valley, seen here, was a Manson Family hide-out before they all moved out to the Spahn Movie Ranch.

 The Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, and the National Park Service formed a joint task force and dropped on the Manson family in a pair of raids on October 10 and 12, 1969. The three agencies were, however, unaware of any connection between the Manson bunch and the Tate/LaBianca murders committed on August 8 and 9, 1969, in Los Angeles.

Word is, Charlie thought it was Zero who snitched, or maybe just talked too much, about the VW/dune buggy chop shop they were running at the Barker ranch. Either way, Charlie thought it was Haught who brought the sheriff’s office down on all their heads.

Seems a bit overblown, since the whole thing with the chop shop ended up getting dismissed on account of a misdated search warrant. BUT… this happened in October, only two months after the Tate and LaBianca murders went down in L.A.  And Charlie? He put a high price on the personal loyalty of his followers, although, as Anne Rule put it, he himself “had the loyalty of a snake.”

So Zero would have made a dandy example for the rest of them, wouldn’t he?

Not that it worked. It was, you may recall, Susan Atkins who had the next fit of Loose Lips and spilled her guts about the Sharon Tate killings to another inmate while she was in jail (that was Ronnie Howard – see Part 6). And then the jig was well and truly up.

Right. So Zero died on November 5th. And by November 15th, “Sherry” was dead too.

Stabbed in the neck at least 150 times and dumped off Mulholland Drive, where she was found the very next day by a 15-year-old birdwatcher hiking through the brush.

Pretty rugged country along Mulholland Drive. Coincidentally, Jane Doe #59’s body was dumped in almost exactly the same spot as another girl’s, eleven months earlier – another teenager named Marina Habe, who was also stabbed in the back and chest, over and over again. Another cold case. But we’ll talk about her death later.

In case you’re wondering where that is, in relation to everything else, here you go.

So – it seems most likely that if Jane Doe #59 was killed by a member of the Manson Family, it was because she knew too much about Zero’s death and she had to be silenced.  To me, it also seems most likely to have been Bruce Davis who did it. The overkill is Davis’s style, after all. Just look at what he helped happen to Shorty Shea (see Part 5).

Poor Reet.

It took 46 years just to figure out what her name was. At the time of her death, no one could even say whether she was really American, Canadian, or British. No one had a clue to her being Estonian, ethnically speaking.

How did they figure it out?

Through NamUs. The NAtional Missing and Unidentified persons System run by the U.S. government’s Department of Justice, which you can access here:


The forensic drawings shown below were entered into their database

Likewise some cleaned up autopsy photos (deemed too disturbing to be released to the newspapers at the time of the crime – how things have changed in that department, eh?)

This autopsy photo has been doctored to hide all the damage done by whoever killed her. That characteristic nose/forehead junction, however, and the full lower lip are apparent.

There were also a pair of rings found on the body, which can be seen in this police bulletin:


None of these items was even entered into the database until December of 2003 (to be fair, there was no such computerized system or database back in the day, which was nearly 50 years ago! If you’ve seen the movie Hidden Figures, you know what computers weren’t ready for then – much of anything other than fast calcuations of orbital mechanics, and even that had some serious limits).

The photos and some biological data were, however, finally submitted. And even then, they sat there for another twelve long years. Until a friend of Reet’s, Gloria Lalonde, told her own brother about her long-missing BFF, and he went nosing around on the internet. He found Jane Doe #59 in the photo files and showed it to her. Gloria showed it to another friend of Reet’s, Ilmi Siimann, and then they showed them to Reet’s sister, Anne.

Anne also made a tentative ID of the rings and the photo. Then Siimann contacted Detective Luis Rivera of the L.A.P.D., a member of the Cold Case Homicide Unit (CCHU) in charge of Jane Doe #59’s case (# NR16140rh)DNA testing followed, comparing Anne’s with the victim’s, and the mystery, or part of it, was finally solved. The family, at long last, found out what became of their prodigal child.

Some observers see a resemblance between the young blonde Reet and Sharon Tate, but I would say that’s wishful thinking based more on hair color than anything else., especially since Reet’s hair had darkened considerably by the time she left home. This poor girl died for the most practical of reasons, the urgent needs of both Bruce Davis and Charlie Manson to cover their bloody tracks, while Sharon Tate was simply the woman who was living in Terry Melcher’s house when the Manson Family got there.

One of the reasons it took so long to identify Jane Doe #59 was that no missing persons report was ever filed by her family. Her parents, it seems, did not understand how to go about it or even that they should do so. To immigrants who’d experienced the massive losses and dislocations that turned so many Europeans into “displaced persons” it may have seemed an impossible task to even try to find her. Or it may have been a form of denial based on their need to believe she was merely “out of touch” with the family because she was so busy building a new life somewhere else.

 Reet and Anne Jurvetson, and their parents, in happier times. Reet’s brother (who passed away the year before her remains were identified) is not shown. He might well have taken this photo. 

According to the memorial website erected by Reet’s friends and surviving family, which you can find here:


“…we did not know how to find someone on the other side of the continent, in another country, if that was even where [she] still was. North America is a big place!”

Compared to Estonia, or even Sweden, it certainly is.

So how did Reet wind up in L.A.?

It may have had something to do with a boyfriend.

Reet’s sister says that after she completed high school, Reet moved to Toronto, where she lived with her grandmother, and took a job with the Canadian post office. She saved up her money. Then in the fall of 1969, she boarded a plane and went to visit California, as she had longed dreamed of doing.

This may not have been a solo journey. She may have been traveling with a young man called John or Jean, and perhaps a friend of his as well.

The LAPD’s press release on the case, available here:


says that: “Detectives have obtained further leads in the case and are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying two persons of interest.

“On July 7, 2016, detectives interviewed a witness in Montreal, Canada regarding the person of interest named “John” or “Jean (possibly French Canadian).” The witness remembers meeting Reet Jurvetson and “John/ Jean” at Café Image in Montreal, Canada, and provided a sketch of “John/Jean” as he appeared in 1969. An additional sketch of an associate was provided, which may help any potential witnesses recall seeing them together. The second male, who was shorter in stature and sported a short “Beatles” type hairstyle. The associate has not been positively identified, but could be named “Jean” as well.

Here are the sketches of these two men of mystery:

Nearly 50 years down the road, it seems unlikely that either of them will turn up, but you never know. Somebody did spot Reet, after all.

Something else turned up too – a postcard from Reet Jurvetson.  Her sister found it among her parents’ things in August of 2016. The postcard dates from Halloween, 1969, only 16 days before her body was found off Mulholland Drive. So her sojourn in California was tragically short – a matter of weeks.

The postcard gave Reet’s return address:  5311 Melrose Ave., Apt. 306, Hollywood, CA 90038. The building, once known as the Paramount Hotel, had evidently been converted into apartments and Reet was living in one of them, perhaps with John/Jean and/or his Beatle-fan of a friend. The building itself was torn down in 1989,however, and replaced with a newer structure, so that particular lead is going nowhere.

The postcard features a view of the beach in sunny Southern California. Its message is poignant, in hindsight.

The family has translated that message, handwritten in the Estonian language, as follows:

Dear Mother and Father,

The weather is nice and the people are kind.

I have a nice little apartment.

I go frequently to the beach.

Please write to me.



Her family waited in vain for any further contact, any information at all about her, but none ever came.  How could it? By the time that missive even arrived in Quebec, Reet Jurvetson had less than two weeks left to live.

How she hooked up with the Manson Family, we may never know. They’re not talking, and the only surviving member of her immediate biological family, Anne Jurvetson, is now 75 years old. She wants her privacy respected, and she asks that we remember Reet for who she was before she met Manson, him or his murderous crew.

“Reet was a lovely, free-spirited and happy girl,” Anne Jurvetson says. “She was very artistic, drew well, and liked to sew her own clothes. She was involved in Girl Guides and sang in a youth choir. She was deeply loved by both family and friends.”

To which I can only add: Requiescat in pace. Rest in peace.




By the way, if you’re interested in Manson’s early life and how he became what he is, you might want to check out a book that came out four years ago:

MANSON:  The Life and Times of Charles Manson

By Jeff Guinn,  Illustrated. 495 pp. Simon & Schuster. $27.50.

You can find a pretty positive 2013 review of the book by celebrated true crime writer Anne Rule here:


It explains a lot about how a cute kid like this one:


Manson at 5, with his cousin and his grandmother.

…wound up scattering bodies all over the West Coast.

A Hell of a Hoax! Part 12: Leslie Van Houten

Well, now!  Leslie  Van Houten has been approved for parole. Again.

   A 1999 mug shot.

Yes, I’m talking about the woman who confessed to stabbing Rosemary LaBianca.

Van Houten went up for her 21st parole hearing on September 6, 2017, and was approved. The two-member panel decided Van Houten has “radically changed her life” in the 47 years she’s spent in prison since the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders.

It isn’t the first time.

Here’s Ms. Van Houten on April 14, 2016, conferring with her attorney Rich Pfeiffer (not shown) during a break from her hearing before the California Board of Parole Hearings at the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.

She was also approved in 2016, but California’s Governor Jerry Brown put the kibosh on that one, as he’s done four times thus far in Bruce Davis’s case. Davis, however, was a grown man at the time of the crimes. He’s also been convicted of far more than one homicide (e.g. the Donald Shea and Gary Hinman cases), and is suspected of several more, while Van Houten was only 19 at the time of the killings and was not even at the scene of the Sharon Tate murders.

Now Governor Brown has another 120 days to make his decision about this new bid for parole.

Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were stabbed to death on the night of August 9, 1968, during a home invasion by members of the Manson Family.

The Sharon Tate murders had taken place only the night before, and had all of Los Angeles in an uproar. So Manson decided to up the ante. He took Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Steve Grogan, and Lindia Kasabian to the house in Los Feliz where the LaBiancas lived. And, at her own request, he took Leslie Van Houten too.

The house was not chosen at random. It was next door to a house being rented by a close friend of Phil Kaufman.

Who’s that, you ask?

He’s an American actor, record producer, tour manager, author, and all-around huckster.

Here, he’s shown arriving at the Egyptian Theater for Warner Home Video’s 20th Anniversary celebration of the film “The Right Stuff” in 2003.

Phil Kaufman started out as a driver for the Rolling Stones, and wound up working with Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Frank Zappa, Hank Williams III, and Etta James, among others. Still, he’s probably best known for stealing the body of his buddy, country singer Gram Parsons (of The Flying Burrito Brothers), and burning it out in the Joshua Tree National Monument, after Parsons OD’d.

The caper was later depicted in the film “Grand Theft Parsons” wherein we learn that Kaufman and Parsons had made a pact about the survivor cremating whoever died first out in a favorite patch of the desert.

Phil Kaufman first met  Manson while they were both inmates in the federal prison at Terminal Island, in Long Beach, CA. So, yes. Kaufman is also an ex-con.

Kaufman was doing a stint for smuggling marijuana.

The two hit it off, possibly as a result of their shared interests in music and the art of the con. Not that Phil was a fan. He says now that he never thought Manson was any good on a guitar, but did think he might make it in music on the basis of his singing and songwriting.

They parted ways when Manson requested a transfer to Leavenworth, where he expected fewer complaints from other prisoners about his incessant practicing on the guitar. At that time, Kaufman gave him the name of a friend in the music industry, Gary Stromberg at Universal, and offered to help him make contact.

Which actually happened, and resulted in a studio recording session. The outcome, however, did not turn out well. Manson apparently ignored all of Kaufman’s advice on how to go about it, and Stromberg said no go.

Stromberg apparently thought Manson’s act was “amateurish.” Like Terry Melcher, whose house was being rented by Sharon Tate at the time of her murder, Stromberg shied away from Manson and his music.

At any rate, when Kaufman was released from prison the following year, he spent time living with the Manson Family. Small wonder. There was no shortage of drugs and more than a few of the female members were made available to him  According to Kaufman himself, he has “had sex with more serial killers than anyone else in Show Business.”

Okay, dude. If you’re into that sort of thing.

The relationship resulted in Manson attending a number of parties thrown at the house next door to the LaBiancas, as detailed in this book:

Later on, though, the two men had a falling out over who should be following whom, and Kaufman moved on.

He didn’t move that far, though. The year after the Tate-LaBianca murders, he produced this record album:

Lie: The Love and Terror Cult was released on vinyl on March 6, 1970 by Phil Kaufman through a label called Awareness Records. 

According to the album’s original sleeve notes, the music was recorded primarily at Gold Star Studios on August 8, 1968, with track B3, “Sick City”, recorded September 11, 1967 in an unspecified location.  Two tracks from the album were recorded in June 1967 at a demo session for Uni Records (a subsidiary of MCA) and appeared on a privately pressed 45 rpm single credited to “Silverhawk”. No established record label would touch it, however, and no one was willing to stock the album, which was finally released via the bootleg group Trademark of Quality. It sold a grand total of 300 copies.

Manson has apparently had more success selling autographs than record albums.

Disappointed, Manson later backpedaled on the whole thing. Despite his having called Kaufman as often as five days a week while he was awaiting trial, urging the producer to get his music out to the public, Manson later told Ron Reagan Jr. (during a 1991 interview), “That particular album was made off a little old $7 tape recorder, and it was put together as a promotion angle, and the guy made six or seven hundred dollars for that. My music is not on tape.”

Why does it matter? Because the Tate and LaBianca murders were at least tangentially aimed at Manson’s contacts in the music industry. And a third bloodbath might well have happened that night if not for Linda Kasabian getting an address wrong.

Linda Kasabian (born Linda Darlene Drouin) was a key witness at Manson’s trial for the Tate-LaBianca killings, where she told ADA Vincent Bugliosi: “We always wanted to do anything and everything for him [Manson].” Apart from her loyalty to Charlie, she had a valid driver’s license, which Manson thought might be needful if they were pulled over by the cops.

After tying up the LaBiancas and stealing a wallet they would discard later in hopes of incriminating any black person who picked it up (according to Kasabian’s court testimony), Manson then sent Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten into the house to do the deed. Meanwhile he took off with Atkins, Grogan and Kasabian. At a third location Manson sent the second crew after a Lebanese actor who’d had sex with Linda Kasabian on another occasion, but she led Atkins and Grogan to the wrong address (on purpose, it seems, if you accept her account at face value).

So what did Leslie Van Houten actually do that night? She’s told more than one version.

Here, Van Houten is shown leaving the courthouse with two sheriff’s deputies on December 19, 1969.

She’s admitted that she and Patricia Krenwinkel found Rosemary LaBianca tied up in her bedroom, while her husband was in the living room. Watson put a pillowcase over both of the LaBianca’s heads, and tied an electrical cord from a lamp around Rosemary’s neck but Rosemary started struggling when her husband screamed while he was being stabbed to death in the living room.

At that point, Rosemary managed to grab the lamp and swung it at Van Houten, who fought with her and then held her down while Krenwinkel tried to stab her in the chest. It didn’t work. Krenwinkel’s knife blade bent on Rosemary LaBianca’s collar bone.

So Van Houten called for help, and Tex Watson came back in and stabbed Rosemary LaBianca several times. He then gave the knife to Van Houten and told her to “do something” with it. Leslie Van Houten obeyed, and used the knife to stab Rosemary in the lower back and buttocks over a dozen times.

Later Van Houten would tell  Dianne Lake, another Manson family member, that she had stabbed someone who was already dead.

The autopsy report states that some of the 47 stab wounds Rosemary suffered had been inflicted post-mortem.

Later on, however, when her lawyer tried to show she felt remorseful about the killings, he asked Van Houten if she felt sorrow or shame for the death of Rosemary LaBianca. And Van Houten replied, “Sorry is only a five-letter word.”

When cross-examined, Van Houten then said she’d inflicted some of the wounds while the victim was still alive, and severed Rosemary LaBianca’s spine in the process.

From left, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten are shown walking into court on August 20, 1970. At this point, Manson had carved a swastika into his own forehead, and his three co-defendants had done the same to show their devotion to him.

Which version is the truth? Who knows. During the first trial, Leslie Van Houten’s lawyer advised her to tell the court the murders had been committed on Manson’s orders.

Charlie didn’t like that. And during a trial break the lawyer, Ronald Hughes, disappeared.

Hughes disappeared on November 27, 1970, while on a camping trip, as described in an earlier post (see Part 3). His remains were found by a pair of fishermen on March 29, 1971. The death was ruled accidental, mostly for sheer lack of physical evidence, but could easily have been the result of foul play. 

Manson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, and Van Houten were all convicted and sentenced to capital punishment for the murders , making Leslie Van Houten the youngest defendant ever condemned to death in California history.

However, the sentences were commuted to life sentences when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in another case by the California Supreme Court. Then, in 1977, Van Houten was granted a retrial. Why? Because the judge declined to order a mistrial when her lawyer, Ronald Hughes, disappeared, appointing new counsel instead. This time around her defense was diminished capacity due to both heavy LSD use and Manson’s influence. This second trial ended up with a hung jury.

At her 1977 retrial, Leslie Van Houten looked a lot more like her earlier, far more innocent self in high school.

Leslie Van Houten, prom queen. That’s right. Prom Queen.

A second retrial immediately followed. This time, the prosecution changed its theory of the crime, adding a charge of robbery (remember that wallet?). That brought the felony murder rule into play, whereby when anyone dies during the commission of a felony (even if it’s your accomplice, even if your accomplice is actually killed by the cops), you are guilty of murder. The prosecution did that, even though what was stolen was small potatoes compared to the rest, in order to undermine that reduced capacity defense.

And it worked. Van Houten was found guilty of first degree murder and given a life sentence. With the possibility of parole.

Which is where we are, right now.

Van Houten, then and now. 

Is she still dangerous?

I don’t know.

We’re told than Van Houten has been a model prisoner and earned college degrees while in custody. That she writes short stories. That she was the editor of the prison newspaper for a while, and that she’s worked as a secretary while in prison. That she “takes offense to the fact that Manson doesn’t own up” to his role in the murders. Reportedly, she told Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who sent her to prison, “I take responsibility for my part, and part of my responsibility was helping to create him.”

So is she rehabilitated?

If she asked me that question, I know what I would say.


You weren’t roped into those murders.

You asked for it. Literally.  Having heard all about the gruesome Sharon Tate killings, you got all excited about it. And when you weren’t chosen for the team on the following night, you begged Manson to let you go too.

Afterward you bragged about it in court, no matter what you said to Dianne Lake. You boasted about your stabbing that woman so viciously that you severed her spine with your knife blade.

And when your lawyer asked you if you were sorry you did it, you said sorry’s just a five letter word.

Yeah, your lawyer. Ronald Hughes. Who pissed off Charlie Manson by trying to get you off. Who vanished, and whose death has been called “the first of the retaliation murders” by no less than Squeaky Fromme.  Remember him?

Attorney Stephen Kay, who helped Bugliosi prosecute you and Manson and Atkins and Krenwinkel? He says, “The last thing Manson said to him [Hughes] was, ‘I don’t want to see you in the courtroom again, and he was never seen again alive.”

That man died defending you, and still you’ve never told us what you know about his death. You’ve never said a single word on his behalf.

That’s why, no matter how many times or in how many ways you try to tell us you’re sorry for what you’ve done… I’m never going to believe you.


A Hell of a Hoax!  Part 11: Collateral Damage

A Hell of a Hoax! Part 11: Collateral Damage

So the latest news on Charlie Manson is that he’s getting married again.  To a 25-year-old woman he calls “Star.”

charlie and star  Star and Charlie.

Star’s real name is Afton Burton, and she hails from small-town Illinois.  You have to wonder if she has the least idea what she’s getting into with him.  Then again, maybe she does know.  She claims he’s innocent, of course, and argues that he’s a political prisoner.  She also says that she has to marry him so that she can claim his body, if and when…

What the hell she plans to do with it, I can’t imagine, but some kind of shrine is a possibility.

Or the Lenin treatment.

lenin  Vladimir’s body is reportedly embalmed to the point of turning to concrete.  Or maybe that is concrete, painted to look like him.

What kind of offerings people might bring to a shrine like that is another question.

There have been many who were willing to sacrifice all for the man.  And there are still some who think he is innocent.  Others don’t care whether Charlie is wrongly convicted or not.  They just want him out of jail.  Others want him out of this life altogether.  Roman Polanski, for one (although he is no saint, himself).

220px-Roman_Polanski_Cannes_2013  Polanski at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013 – he’s still ducking charges re sex with an underage girl on the casting couch.

Among those who’ve tried and failed to rescue Manson or his message, perhaps the best known is Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme.

lynette 2  Fromme has always been a true believer where Charlie’s concerned, even though she was not directly involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders.

She did, however, try keep some of Manson’s other followers from testifying.  She was convicted of obstruction of justice for that.  She was also found in contempt of court when she herself refused to testify.  She didn’t get much time for it, in either case, but made up for that later on.

Fromme had another near-miss when she was picked up by Stockton police in 1972, in connection with the discovery of Lauren Willett’s body in a shallow grave under a house on Flora Street (See Part 1 for the details on that caper, and on the earlier murder of Lauren’s husband, James).

lauren and heidi willett and Brenda  Lauren Willett and her daughter Heidi, together with ‘Brenda’ (Nancy Pitman).

Squeaky was not in the house when the body was discovered, but was instead picked up when she called the house, asking for someone to come and give her a ride.  Which detectives were happy to do.  As a result of that encounter, Fromme wound up in custody for the next two and a half months.  Still, for lack of evidence, she was never even charged in either of the Willett murders, although the other four people involved were convicted.

After leaving Stockton, Fromme headed for Sacramento.  There, she shared an apartment on P Street with another Manson family member, Sandra Good.

sandra good during trial  Sandra Good, awaiting trial on other charges, looks rather pensive here.

The two of them took to wearing quasi-religious robes and changed their names to symbolize their devotion to Manson’s new environmentalist creed.  Squeaky, who got her original nickname from George Spahn, now became ‘Red’ in honor of her red hair and the redwoods.  Meanwhile, Good renamed herself ‘Blue’ in reference to her blue eyes and the ocean.  Both names were reportedly chosen by Manson, who was beginning to promote his ATWA notions about environmentalism from his prison cell.

atwa panda logo  The header for Manson’s web page, where he shows great concern for all living things, except people.

The problem that caught Manson’s interest?  A report by the Environmental Protection Agency, released in August of 1975.  It was titled “A Spectroscopic Study of California Smog” and it showed that smog was affecting a lot of rural areas, including California’s famous redwood forests.

You can get it here, if you’re interested:  http://nepis.epa.gov/Adobe/PDF/20015UR5.PDF

An article in the  New York Times about it also mentioned the fact that in spite of the study’s findings, President Gerald Ford had just asked Congress to relax even further some provisions of the 1963 Clean Air Act, items that had already been watered down once in the 1970 Clean Air Act.  Along the way, the article described a trip to California the president was planning to make in September.

Gerald Ford and hat  Gerald Ford, the man who pardoned Nixon after taking over his job, looks rather dashing here in a Russian ushanka.

The trip had nothing to do with smog or the EPA, though.  It was a purely political move.  See, back in July of 1975, the organizers of the 49th annual Sacramento “Host Breakfast” asked the newish governor of California (Jerry Brown, in his first go-round with the job) to be their keynote speaker.

JerryBrownInauguration1975  Jerry Brown at his initial inauguration, in January 1975 (back when he still had hair and was dating rock ‘n roll queen Linda Ronstadt).

Brown wouldn’t give them a definite answer, and the group got miffed about it.  Since they’re made up of California’s wealthy business leaders, they had (and have) a pretty high opinion of their own importance.  They decided to teach the brash young governor a lesson, and they did it by inviting Gerald Ford, a Republican, to take the Democrat’s place.  Ford saw the chance to make some political hay in a key state while he was trying to get himself elected to the position he only held because Nixon had resigned in disgrace.

So, come September, Ford arrived and spent the night at the Hotel Senator.

Hotel_Senator,_1121_L_Street,_Scramento,_Clifornia  A swanky place, back then, the Hotel Senator is  where my father used to work (yet another odd crosslink between my life and Manson’s).  It’s located across the street from the California State Capitol building and was only a half-mile away from Squeaky Fromme’s apartment.

On the morning of September 5, 1975, Squeaky headed for the Hotel Senator.  She said later that she wanted to make an appeal to President Ford on behalf of the redwoods and dressed in earthy hues and a red robe in order to catch his eye.  The ploy worked.  Ford later said he’d spotted her and thought she was pretty colorful, but he assumed she was just there for some glad-handing.  She didn’t actually say anything to the man, however.  She got herself almost within arm’s length of Ford, and then pulled out a gun.

Pistol_used_by__Squeaky__Fromme  This gun – a Colt M1911  .45-caliber pistol, currently on display at the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  It was, at one point, sold as government surplus.

Whatever she meant to say with the Colt, it did not get across.  It turned out she’d only loaded 4 bullets into the magazine and then failed to jack a round into the chamber.  So when she walked up to Gerald Ford and pulled the trigger, nothing happened.

Her gun failed to fire and she was arrested on the spot by Secret Service Agent, Larry Buendorf.

Ford_at_McClellan_5_Sept_1975_A6311-09  That’s Larry, in the foreground, during Ford’s earlier visit to McClellan Air Force Base, located just outside Sacramento.

lynette in robe  The red robe Squeaky wore may have been ‘religious’ in nature, but it also surely helped to conceal the big Colt .45 in a holster strapped to her left leg.

Fromme later claimed that she’d ejected the chamber round in her apartment because she didn’t actually want to kill Ford.  If that’s so, then why did she load the gun at all?  And why did Fromme, knocked to the ground by Buendorf, then say, “It didn’t go off. Can you believe it? It didn’t go off.”

There was quite the commotion, in any case.


The Secret Service wasted no time in moving their man out of harm’s way.

The assassination attempt did not, however, keep Ford from going on to the California state house, where he met privately with Jerry Brown.

Ford said he wasn’t scared by the incident, and I believe it.  When his bodyguards picked him up bodily, Ford insisted they put him back down again so he could walk on his own two feet.  Apparently, he didn’t bother to even mention the assassination attempt to Brown until the end of their half-hour-long discussion.

Still, if he’d known there would be a second attempt on his life only 17 days after Squeaky’s, he might not have been quite so sanguine about it.

The second try came from a completely different angle, too, involving a whole new crew of crazies called the Symbionese Liberation Army.  This is the left-wing guerilla group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst and turned her into window dressing for propaganda photos like this one, and even had her take part in bank robberies.

Patty_Hearst  The Seven-Headed Cobra symbol used by the SLA was supposedly based on the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, none of which say anything about kidnapping college kids.

After Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the SLA, a ransom demand charged her father, Randolph Hearst, with “committing crimes against the people.”  They demanded his help in freeing two SLA members jailed on murder charges, but when that proved impossible, they insisted that a food distribution system be set up.  At first, the value of the food to be given away to the poor was set at $4 million.  Later, it rose as high as $400 million (allotting $70 to every needy Californian).

Hearst responded by creating an organization called People In Need (PIN).  Some free food was distributed, but violence soon broke out at one of the first four distribution points when crowds overwhelmed the site.  Workers panicked,  throwing boxes of food off moving trucks into the crowd.  After that, the SLA demanded that a community coalition called the Western Addition Project Area Committee be put in charge of the food distribution.  Thereafter, a hundred thousand bags of groceries were handed out at 16 locations across four counties between February 26 and the end of March, 1974.

del monte building  The long whitish building along Mission Creek (lower center in this aerial photo from the 1970s) is the Del Monte building Hearst used to organize PIN and the food distribution demanded as ransom.

The shooter in the second attempt on President Ford was also a woman, one Sarah Jane Moore, and she was at the time a bookkeeper for PIN.

sarah jane moore  Sarah Jane was born in Charleston, West Virginia but migrated west.  Her checkered career included nursing school, the Women’s Army Corps, and accountant jobs, as well as four kids and five divorces.  Once she got involved with revolutionary politics, she also became an FBI informant!

Not exactly a stable lifestyle.

Moore was never a member of the SLA, either, though she was apparently obsessed with the whole Patty Hearst thing.  She was angry, too, and for some reason decided to take it out on Ford.

Why she ever got the chance, I do not understand.  We know that Moore was evaluated by the Secret Service at some point earlier in 1975.  The agents involved in that decided she was not a danger to the President.  But then she wound up detained by police on September 21st, 1975, on an illegal handgun charge.  The cops confiscated her .44 caliber revolver and 113 rounds of ammunition (which sounds like lethal intent to me because who the hell carries over a hundred rounds without it?).   But then they let her go too.

Why?  I don’t know.  In light of Squeaky’s so-recent attempt, you’d think they would have taken a woman more seriously than that, but hey, this was the 70s!


The very next day, September 22, 1975, Sarah Jane showed up outside the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, where Ford was staying on that occasion.

Moore came a whole lot closer to succeeding than Fromme did.

She’d bought herself a .38 caliber revolver that very morning to replace the pistol she’d lost to the cops.  She got no chance to try it out first.  She didn’t know the gun’s sights were off by a full six inches from a distance of 40 feet, which is how far away she was when she made her attempt.  Thus, when she fired at President Ford, she missed.

The failure was also the result of her arm being knocked aside by an ex-Marine in the crowd named Oliver Sipple, who spotted her pulling the gun out of her blue raincoat and acted on instinct.  Her first bullet ricocheted off the hotel’s entrance and grazed a bystander (taxi driver John Ludwig) instead.

ford in Frisco 2  Ford again gets rushed from the scene by his Secret Service detail.

Seeing she’d missed, Moore promptly made a second attempt, but Sipple shoved his hand into the gun’s firing mechanism.  He wrestled her down to the ground, and that was essentially that.

oliver sipple  Sipple, a decorated Viet Nam vet, wound up being outed as a gay man by all the publicity, with the result that in spite of his heroic behavior, his own father never spoke to him again.

The two assassination attempts had much so in common, it’s kind of weird.  I don’t just mean the gender of the shooters, their general lack of firearms expertise, and the crazy-ass politics in the background.  It’s everything else, too.

Afterward, for example, both women were sentenced to life in prison.  And both of them escaped from jail.

Squeaky was imprisoned at first in the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, CA, which is only an hour away from here.  But in 1979, she attacked another inmate with the claw end of a hammer, and was soon transferred back east.  Then, in 1987, having heard a rumor that Charlie Manson had testicular cancer, she decided she had to see him and escaped from the Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Virginia.

Her prison break didn’t last long.  Two days.  Then, boom, she landed at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, in Fort Worth, Texas.  And there she stayed until August 14, 2009, when she was paroled after 34 years in the clink.

lynnrecent_jpg2  Looks like Squeaky is now in Marlene Dietrich mode – “I vant to be…alone!”

Squeaky was actually locked up longer than Sarah Jane, who was arguably the more competent assassin.  Moore, at least, knew how to load her lame-ass gun!

Moore did her time in some of the very same prisons as Fromme, and even escaped from the same one as Squeaky.  She broke out of the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia in 1979.  Sarah Jane didn’t get very far, though.  She was caught in a matter of hours, and sent to the Dublin facility where Squeaky got freaky with the claw hammer.

Moore spent the rest of her sentence working in the Unicor Prison Industry for $1.25 per hour as the Lead Inmate Operating Accountant.

I guess you never know when those accounting skills are going to come in handy.

sarah jane on parole  On December 31, 2007, at age 77, Moore was released on parole after serving 32 years of her life sentence. Gerald Ford died one year and five days before her release, and 2 years and 8 months before Squeaky Fromme’s. 

I still don’t understand why either one of these women was ever paroled.  I’m told Federal law allows parole after you’ve served 30 years of a life sentence, if you’ve behaved yourself in the can.

Thing is, neither one of them did.  They both escaped.  Admittedly, they weren’t any better at staging jail breaks than they were at assassination, but I don’t see why they should get ‘extra credit’ for being incompetent outlaws.  And Sarah Jane may now be saying that she was wrong to try and kill Ford, but Squeaky has never said sorry.

Strange times, those were.  It’s startling just to remember how many groups were running around then, pulling of armored car jobs and bank heists, and setting off bombs, and how many people wound up dead because of it.

I’m really hoping this new TV series Aquarius will do a decent job of portraying the times and the Manson clan, and Manson himself.

aquarius  So far, so good.

Next time, we’ll look at another attempt to rescue Manson, causing further Collateral Damage!






A Hell of a Hoax! Part 9: The Other Scientology Murders

Did Charles Manson have a beef with L. Ron Hubbard?  Or with Scientology, in general?  Did Manson order four people killed in order to send a “message” to Hubbard?

14072013-22-charles-manson-went-on-record-as-a-scientologist-he-had-reached-the-stage-of-clear-1971-verurteilt-wegen-mehrfchen-mordes   This pic was clearly photo-shopped.  So far as I can, tell there is no evidence of Manson ever meeting L. Ron Hubbard in person.  Manson did, however, have his own E-meter and used it on various members of his Family. 

There’s been a lot of speculation about it, too, from people suggesting that Manson held a grudge against the Church of Scientology simply because the Scientologists overlooked his “genius.”  You know, like the music biz did.  It can’t be proved, even though it seems certain the Church did erase any records of contacts with Manson, not least because Charlie also had ties to the Process, a Scientology-born splinter group with some odd ideas about Satan.

In looking at the death of Joel Pugh in London, in 1969, we found a number of links between Charles Manson and Scientology, but we found even more between the Church and Bruce Davis, who was Charlie’s favorite hit man.  It’s been suggested that Bruce Davis served as an emissary for Manson when he traveled to England, that his purpose in going there was to work out problems between The Process and Scientology.  But Davis denied to the BBC reporter Bill Murphy that he ever traveled to Manchester England, in spite of statements from witnesses who saw him there.  Murphy himself said he had an acquaintance who had also seen Bruce Davis there, and claimed he was traveling around Manchester with a coven of witches.

Scotland Yard couldn’t be bothered to chase down that lead, so in the end, Davis was only convicted of taking part in the murders of Gary Hinman and Shorty Shea, although he was strongly implicated in another so-called “suicide” – the death of Zero (John Haught), another Family hanger-on.

bruce davis 2 Bruce Davis was also into Scientology, but was kicked out for drug use  early in 1969.

We’ve seen evidence that Davis was in London at the time of Pugh’s death, and staying at a Scientology house.  And in a pamphlet Davis himself produced, when he proclaimed himself a Born Again Christian in 1974, he incidentally reveals that he was also in North Africa, Spain, and Britain in 1969.  Just like Joel Pugh.  An unlikely string of destinations, I would think.  So was Davis following Pugh?

We may never get a full answer on any of this stuff.  Davis knows, but he’s still hoping to get parole.  The California State Prison Board actually granted it to him last year, but his bid was quashed by the Governor after Jerry Brown got a look at the files on Davis and the cases he was and wasn’t charged in.

Sandra Good probably knows.  She was Pugh’s girlfriend, and one-time fiancée.  She even gave his name to her son, Ivan, though the baby could not have been Joel’s, and was probably Bobby Beausoleil’s.  She denies it, though.

sandra good w happy face  Sandra Good, aka Blue, was a stockbroker’s daughter, and seems to have a bit of Peter Pan in her make-up.  This is a mugshot taken in 1969.

Good, now 65, maintains a website for Manson’s so-called environmental group, called variously “Air, Trees, Water, Animals” (ATWA), or “All The Way Alive.”  The website went dormant in 2001, but was relaunched in 2011.  You can find it here:


There’s even an official Face Book page:


That was a startling sight for me.  Not because of their logo, which is rather pretty:

ATWA symbol  Air, Trees, Water, Animals are the four principal items that must be kept in balance.

Or even because of the rather ferocious-looking panda featured on their logo:

atwa panda logo

I was surprised because this page posts a great many of the very same articles I do, on my page and on Pinterest, in an effort to point out how serious global warming is, and how dangerous rapid climate change is to the entire biosphere.  I didn’t expect yet another intersection between my life and Manson’s.  I didn’t expect to ever find any common cause with the man, but there it is.

There is also a website called Manson Direct:


This is where you can find autographed pictures of Manson at various ages, with copyright notices posted on each of them.  I don’t know how that affects anyone who would want to download and print one for personal use, but I’m not going to reproduce any of them here.  The only image without a copyright notice is this one:

blue hands said -pic  I can agree with the sentiment, I suppose, but if he means his own mitts, the last time I looked, those hands weren’t blue.  They were blood-red.

Sandra Good also lived in Hanford for a while, close to Corcoran State Prison, where Manson is confined, although she was never allowed to visit him.  She has since dropped out of sight again, but still supports both Charlie and his movement — and on ATWA’s website, she denies  that Joel ever met Charles Manson or any other Manson Family member.   This is probably true.  Pugh knew Manson only by his reputation, and by his effect on Sandra Good.

The website also insists that Joel wasn’t murdered.  It says his parents went to London after his death and satisfied themselves with the official verdict of suicide.  At that time, however, Pugh’s family had no idea that there were any links with Manson, or that their son’s death was suspected of being a homicide by Los Angeles cops, or that at least one Manson Family member had claimed credit for the killing.  They didn’t know that Scotland Yard had refused to reopen the case, that it never was investigated as a potential homicide.  The Brits never even bothered to contact Joel’s family and ask any questions about his state of mind, or any personal or family history of depression or any other mental illness.  So it wasn’t fully investigated as a suicide either.

scotland yard  Was a Manson Family murder in London too embarrassing for the Yard to contemplate?

There’s not a lot of reason to believe Good in any case.  She might not have had a hand in the Tate or LaBianca murders, but that was only because she was in jail at the time, having been caught attempting to use some stolen credit cards.  She has repeatedly said that she respects the folks who did commit the killings.  And she proved her own loyalty to the Family’s environmental ‘cause’ in 1975.  That’s when she was convicted on federal charges of sending death threats through the mail to 170 businessmen she accused of polluting the environment (in terms that sound an awful lot like those seen in the Unibomber’s manifesto).   She was convicted of conspiracy on March 19, 1976, along with another Manson devotee, Susan Murphy, and Good was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

sandra good and susan murphy 1976  Sandra Good (left) and Susan Murphy wore a sort of nun’s habit in Federal Court, apparently to support their claim of carrying out a sacred mission.

After ten years in prison, Good was paroled.  This was in December 1985, and rather early since one normally doesn’t get parole on a federal beef until 85% of the sentence has been served.  A stipulation of her parole was that she could not return to California. So she moved to Vermont, where she lived quietly under the name Sandra Collins.  Well, until 1989, that is.  That’s when her environmental activism got her back into the news and her identity was made public.  She’d gone after a paper mill concerning the pulp waste they produced.  When her parole was finally over, Good moved right back to California, hooked up with George Stimson, another Manson follower, and the two of them started the websites.

Okay, so it’s safe to say we’re not going to get a lot more out of any of these folks about what happened to Joel Pugh.

What about the other three so-called Scientology Murders?

They all happened before the strange affair at the Talgarth Hotel in London.  And the victim of the first one still has not been identified – to this day, she is known only as Jane Doe #59 Case File 358UFCA.


jane doe 59 sketch  Sketches of the victim, whose face was so disfigured, photographs were deemed more disturbing than helpful in attempting to ID the girl.

Her body was discovered by a hiker (15-year-old Trevor Santochi) on November 16, 1969.  It lay in brush about 15 feet down an embankment off Mulholland and Skyline Drives, in Los Angeles, and she was a mess. She had more than 150 stab wounds, especially around the neck, face, and upper body.

The girl had only been dead for a day or so before she was found, and it was a dump job.  She’d been killed somewhere else, a spot never located by police.   She was white and in her early twenties.  She was willowy, at a height of 5’9 ½”, and weighed only 112 pounds.  She had tinted cinnamon brown hair and green eyes, and she had a few identifying marks.  There was a one and one-quarter inch horizontal scar on her ribs, underneath her right breast.  She had a light brown birth mark on her right buttock, the size of a quarter.  She also had vaccination scars on her left arm and left thigh.  She’d had a lot of dental work done, including 16 silver amalgam dental fillings, but no orthodontics, so she still had the buck teeth Mother Nature provided.

jane doe 59 mulholland drive  This is where the body was found, off Mulholland and Skyline Drives, in the Hollywood Hills near Laurel Canyon.  This is about 6 miles from the site of the Sharon Tate murders on El Cielo Drive.

Jane Doe was wearing a blue corduroy jacket, size 9-10, made in Canada.  She was also wearing “Landlubber” (hiphugger) style blue jeans made in Boston.  She had a tan sweater on, size 32, and she was wearing riding-style boots that might have been made in Spain.  The boots weren’t new.  They were well-worn and they’d been re-soled at one point.  She also had a woven leather belt, about two inches wide, made of one-inch leather strips and a circular brass ring-type buckle.  The belt was marked either ‘Thom 38″ or “Tham 38.”   She also wore a pair of rings.  The one on her right ring finger was made of yellow metal and set with red oval stones.  The one on her left middle finger was made of white metal bearing Indian designs and was probably made in Mexico.

janedoe59 another sketch  Another sketch of Jane Doe 59, showing the clothes she was wearing.

There were also a few indications that Jane was a recent arrival.  The medical examiner found no evidence of smog in her lungs, suggesting she was new to Los Angeles. He did, however, find tuberculosis.  It was a mild case, which she could have thought was no more than a cold.  The M.E. also found some coal dust in the girl’s lungs, the kind she could have acquired from living near coal-burning power plants or coal mines.

The big question, for me, was why this body wound up being classed with the others.  As far as I can tell, it’s purely because of the violence of the attack, the overkill.  That and the fact that Jane Doe had spent a short time out at the Spahn movie ranch while the Manson Family was in residence.  There were lots and lots of stab wounds, but not the distinctive damage done in the next two cases, and there was nothing related to Scientology on or with the body.  There has never been any evidence that the victim was ever associated with Scientology.  There were a couple of witnesses who remembered Jane Doe’s stay at the Spahn Ranch, but no one seemed to know her full true name.  One of them described her as being able to do a British accent, saying she was the person at Zero’s (John Haught’s) house in Venice who, in one account, answered the phone and spoke with a plummy English accent on the day that Zero died.  Which would mean she was there at the same time as Bruce Davis, and knew him.  The suggestion linked to that assertion, of course, is that she knew too much about Zero’s supposed “suicide” and so she had to be silenced.  But no one seems to even know whether she was really American, Canadian, or British.

In her Spanish riding boots, she would have been nearly six feet tall, so you would think she’d stand out on that count alone.  There was also all that dental work.  Was she, perhaps, one of the girls befriended by Dennis Wilson (yes, that Dennis Wilson, of the Beach Boys) when he was hanging around with the Family?  We’re told he paid for dental work for more than one of Charlie’s girls, but no one seems to know which ones, or which dentist actually did the work.

Dennis Wilson  Wilson seems to have had a soft spot for girls with bad teeth.  Then again, the suggestions keep coming up that methamphetamine was involved in a great many incidents to do with the Manson Family.  And crystal meth has a habit of causing “meth mouth” – it literally dissolves your teeth if you keep using the stuff.  It can also set off paranoid frenzies of the sort likely to cause 157 stab wounds.

So who was the vic?

The names offered up for Jane Doe 59 by various parties include Sherry Cooper and Stephanie Rowe/Susan Scott/Barbara Jr., Sherry Andrews/Claudia Leigh Smith/Collie, Collie Sinclair/Beth Tracy, Laura Anne Sheppard, and Diane Von Ahn.

The Sherry Cooper ID is based on the statement of Ruby Pearl, the girlfriend George Spahn acquired after his wife left him.  Pearl was, among other things, a onetime dog trainer and circus performer.

Ruby Pearl Ad     Ruby Pearl  Ruby, seen here in an ad from earlier days, and as she appeared in later life, was described by Gay Talese in a March, 1970 article for Esquire magazine as a “perky redhead of about thirty with lively blue eyes, a petite figure, and lots of nerve.”

When she was shown the clothing Jane Doe 59 had on when she died, Ruby said she recognized the shirt.  It was one she had seen all of the Family girls wearing at some point in time.  Ruby apparently told the authorities the last girl she had seen wearing the shirt was Sherry.

Sherry Cooper, however, turned up alive later on, in a video with a man known as Donkey Dan.

sherry cooper of simi valley  This is Sherry Cooper, supposedly from Simi Valley.

danny decarlo  This is Danny DeCarlo, also known as Donkey Dan, a sobriquet he was proud of since it referred to the size of his private parts.  Danny was also a member of the Straight Satans biker club. and may have been involved in various drug deals alluded to by Manson Family members in connection with Gary Hinman’s murder.

Susan Scott, aka Stephanie Rowe and Barbara Jr., is better known as one of the “Mendocino Witches” – and we’ll talk about that mess of murder and arson in my next post.  However, Rowe has been relocated recently, alive and unhappy about being found.   She apparently responded to the attempted contact with a lawyer.

susan scott aka stephanie rowe  Susan Scott, or Stephanie Rowe, or Barbara Jr. is believed to be Jewish and does not have any sign of buck teeth.  Unlikely, then, in any case that she’s Jane Doe 59.

So what about Sherry Andrews, aka Claudia Leigh Smith?

Well, Claudia, who was also sometimes called Collie, appears to have been too short, at 5’6″, to be the right girl.  In any case, she too is believed to be alive and well.  After Manson’s arrest, Claudia married Bill Vance, aka David Lee Hamic (who was involved in the murder of Shorty Shea).

claudia leigh smith  Sherry Andrews/Claudia Leigh Smith/Collie doesn’t look like a happy camper in this mug shot from 1969.  She also doesn’t have buck teeth.

Bill Vance  Marrying this guy, Bill Vance (aka David Lee Hamic), probably didn’t improve matters much.

All right, so we’ve struck out with all of those possibilities.  What about Collie Sinclair, also called Beth Tracy (at least that’s the name she used when arrested during the raid on the Barker Ranch)?

Collie Sinclair aka Beth Tracy  This is the only decent photo I’ve seen of Collie/Beth.  She is clearly a separate person from the other Collie (Sinclair, shown above), but no one seems to know what has become of her.  And once again, no buck teeth.

I have not been able to locate a photograph of Laura Anne Sheppard, nor any record of her, post-Charlie.

This, however, is what Diane Von Ahn looked like:

Diane von Ahn  Now, there we have some buck teeth, although no one describes her as tall.  Diane Von Ahn was apparently introduced to the Manson Family by Bill Vance, mentioned above, and later lived with Vern Plumlee, another Mansonite.

vern plumlee the welder  Vern Plumlee was an AWOL Marine at the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders.  He’s told a lot of stories, some contradicting each other, about what he got involved with, including doing Creepy Crawly home invasions – something Mansonites did in order to experience “the tidal wave of the Great Fear” Charlie talked about so much as a pathway to living in the NOW.

Well, if Diane did take up with Plumlee, she isn’t the dead girl.  Plumlee is known to have done five years in prison for a robbery/stabbing in Long Beach right after this, and then settled down to work as a welder and raise a family, apparently with Diane.  If so, then she can’t be Jane Doe 59 either, in spite of that toothy smile of hers.  Nor can we ask her about any other Manson girl with buck teeth, as she has passed away just recently.

So, at this point, we’ve run out of possible Jane Does.  The Sheppard girl is beyond my search capability, and has only been named by one party I know of, a guy who was never a part of the Manson Family and offers no particular reason for naming her.  After 45 years, it’s ever more unlikely that we will ever find out exactly who she was, let alone who killed her, although her DNA has been run through a number of databases.

Well, what about the other two murders, then?

Doreen Gaul and James Sharp…They’re a two-fer.

Doreen Gaul 2  Doreen Gaul was all of 19 when she died.  The eldest of four children, she had  graduated from a parochial high school in Albany, N.Y. in the spring of 1968.  Formerly a devout Roman Catholic, she was fascinated by Scientology and came west to learn more about it.

She didn’t last long.  Shortly before midnight on November 21, 1969, a man taking a short cut through an alley between Arapahoe St. and Magnolia Ave., south of 11th St. in Los Angeles, stumbled across the bodies of two teenagers. They were both nearly faceless, and so badly damaged, police assumed they had been the victims of shotgun blasts. Both had been stabbed fifty or sixty times, and their right eyes had been cut out.  Both had tire marks on their bodies from a motorcycle.

James Sharp, only 15 years old, was still fully clothed and had his ID in his pocket.  Gaul, however, had been stripped, and wore nothing more than a string of beads around her neck.  The two were linked by the only thing they had in common beyond their murders – Scientology.

scientology symbol  This is the “new-era” Scientology symbol. The “S” stands for Scientology. The top triangle represents a set of Scientology factors — knowledge, responsibility and control. Collectively the first three factors make up the KRC triangle. The lower triangle consists of the ARC triangle of affinity, reality and communication.  And that, my friends, is just about all I know about Scientology.

At the time, Scientology had four “church” and administrative buildings in Los Angeles, and a number of communal living quarters in old Victorian mansions on side streets in the neighborhoods near MacArthur Park.  This was about half a mile from the alley where the bodies were dumped.

James Sharp was living with an older Scientology worker in an old three-story apartment building at 921 S. Bonnie Brae St.  A block away, Doreen Gaul was living in 14-room commune called Thetan Manor at 1032 S. Bonnie Brae, but had only been there for four days.  Gaul was about to become a Thetan “clear,” which meant she had reached an advanced level of study, the same level Manson claimed he had achieved, while in prison.

800px-South_Bonnie_Brae_Tract_Historical_District,_Los_Angeles  1032 Bonnie Brae is the house on the left, with green trim, located just off the Historic Route 66.

Sharp was the son of a well-to-do salesman, and came to California with his father’s permission to study Scientology.  His family lived in an upper middle class suburb called Crestwood, southwest of St. Louis.  The boy had left high school in June, and his father described him as “very, very intelligent boy.”

Gaul was also described as bright.  In the words of her father, “She was a good kid, but an emotional kid.  She was always looking for green grass and rainbows.”

The bloom was off the rose where Scientology was concerned, however.  Just before her murder, Gaul apparently made a telephone call to her father, asking for an airplane ticket home.  Mr. Gaul told New York Times reporters that he’d promised Doreen he would send her a round trip ticket.  She replied that she only needed a one way ticket.  Her father says she then told him, “I think this stuff is all a bunch of crap.”  She was planning to leave the Church of Scientology.  She had been offered a job by a friend in New York.

Why, then, did she supposedly leave the commune that Friday night with James Sharp for the purpose of an auditing session, to be conducted by the younger student?  What happened between that night and the discovery of the bodies?

auditing  Auditing with an e-meter goes something like this, according to the Church of Scientology.  I’ve never tried it.

No one seems to know where they went or what they did.

The resident agent of Scientology’s American St. Hill Organization at 2723 W. Temple St. was the Rev. Natalie Fisher,  who said, “This organization has no facts or information regarding the circumstances of the crime, but we are doing everything in our power to assist law enforcement agencies to see that justice is done.”  And in the end, the Church offered a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer(s) – $30,000.

Still, the Church got touchy when asked for membership lists.  It was left to other residents to inform the police that Bruce Davis had spent a lot of time in the very same communal house as Doreen Gaul, and had, in fact, dated Doreen along with several other young women.  Witnesses said Davis was extremely angry when he found out that she was seeing a black man at the same time, owing to the prejudice against blacks he shared with Manson.

When questioned later, after acquiring two life sentences, Davis was offered immunity but denied even knowing Doreen, although he did admit to being intimate with nine other girls at the same address.  His exact whereabouts at the time of the murders, however, remain unknown.  He disappeared from public view right after the death of Zero (John Haught) in Venice on November 5th, and then he’s said to have left the country on or about the 24th of November, 1969, eight days after Jane Doe 59 turned up and three days after Gaul and Sharp were found.  Which gave him plenty of time to get to London before Joel Pugh’s death on December 1st.

Quite the busy boy, if he did all five of them in.

But some people think he did much more than that.  Some people think Davis was also the Zodiac Killer, of (mostly) San Francisco fame.  Partly this is because of Davis’ known taste for meth, and the violence involved in the Zodiac killings, but mostly it’s because of a note found in Doreen Gaul’s room at Thetan Manor.

zodiac     bruce davis 3

A sketch of the Zodiac Killer isn’t completely unlike Bruce Davis’ mug-shot, aside from the glasses.

Most of what we know about this Zodiac connections comes from the case files of Lt. Earl Deemer, who was called out to the scene on November 21, 1969 (coincidentally, the night of the full moon), and took part in the search of Doreen Gaul’s quarters.  Deemer, a homicide dick, found a typed note among her possessions that was a carbon copy of the original (never found).  The note caught his attention because it was all in capital letters, and it rather closely matched the Zodiac letter found in the Cheri Jo Bates case of November 29, 1966.

I couldn’t reproduce the image, but you can find it and take a look for yourself here:


And here is the “confession letter from the Cheri Jo Bates case, the only Southland murder even tentatively assigned to the Zodiac Killer:

cheri jo bates zodiac letter

It’s typed in all caps, and has the same misspellings as the note in the Doreen Gaul case.

cheri jo bates confession letter

Here’s a somewhat more legible version of the same letter, mailed to a newspaper, the Riverside Press-Enterprise.


And this is the threatening note from October 29, 1966, signed “Z,” and associated with that case.

cheri jo bates crime scene  Bates was also stabbed over and over again, on the night before Halloween in 1966, in Riverside, CA.

The connection seems iffy, at best, to most of the folks who’ve examined it.  If you’re interested in that aspect, however, you might want to check out a book called “The Zodiac/Manson Connection” by Howard A. Davis, or “Manson Behind the Scenes” by Bill Nelson.  Neither one provides much in the way of citations or solid proof of their assertions.

manson behind the scenes cover   This one is self-published, and can be ordered online.  No cover photo was available for “The Zodiac/Manson Connection.”

Nelson claims an ex-Family member told the author he “knew” Bruce Davis and Tex Watson were the killers of Gaul and Sharp, but doesn’t name this stalwart “witness.”  He never mentions Jane Doe 59 at all, perhaps because Bobby Beausoleil has been pointed out as Davis’ accomplice on that one, and on equally untenable grounds.

Nelson does talk about some interesting aspects of Lt. Deemer’s part in the whole investigation, but the sad truth is, there has never been enough evidence, really, to take these cases anywhere.  Absent a genuine confession by Davis, I don’t believe they ever will be resolved.  I still have my opinions, though, and Davis seems to have left his stamp on all four Scientology killings as well as Zero’s “suicide.”  That would mean he’s good for six, not four, and maybe more.

And we’re still not done with the Manson Family murders…

Next time up:  A tragic case of triple homicide, arson, and over-the-top revenge in the case of The Mendocino Witches!




A Hell of a Hoax! Part 8: The Scientology Murders

Did the Manson Family kill four people because of their links to Scientology?

Or was it because of their links to Bruce Davis?

manson logo  Sorry, Charlie.  You’re neither one.

We’ve seen that Charlie Manson had some links to Scientology.  He studied it for a while, but it’s unlikely that he was ever a true believer, in spite of his claim to be “clear” of the engrams described in Dianetics.  After all, he also spent time with some Satan-worshipping types in San Francisco, and he had some very odd ideas of his own.  But whatever formal links to Scientology might have existed have been scrubbed out of the records.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the Scientology connections clearly visible in the death of Joel Pugh.

joel pugh grad pic  Joel Dean Pugh’s graduation photo.

Pugh was born June 7, 1940, to David and Marjorie Pugh.  His Dad was a radiologist at the world-famous Mayo Clinic, and the younger Pugh took an interest in the natural sciences.  He earned a degree in zoology from the University of Minnesota in 1962 but then wound up being drafted into the Army.  By all accounts, he was a congenial, funny guy with a quirky sense of humor who liked to play the guitar and hang out with his friends.

joel pugh playing guitarjoel pugh hanging out 

Photos from the website set up by Simon Wells


Pugh was lucky enough to get out again in 1965, just before things took a serious downturn in Viet Nam.  He was demobilized in San Francisco, where he soon got a job as a lab tech at a university there and continued his studies.  He also met Sandra Good.  She was a student at San Francisco State and the daughter of a stockbroker.  Things between them went along pretty well, it seems.  The two families approved of the match (hers lived in Boulder Creek, and his in Minnesota).  Joel’s best friend, Jim Balfour, did not.  He described Sandra as “a very loose cannon” and found her behavior disturbing.

joel pugh and sandra good  Joel and Sandra in happier days.

Then, sometime in March of 1968, Charlie came into the picture.

Sandra Good dropped everything, even adopting the nickname Manson gave her – Blue, for the color of her eyes.  She began hanging around with the Manson Family, and followed Timothy Leary’s famous advice to Marshall McLuhan:  tune in, turn on, drop out.

TimothyLeary-LectureTour-SUNYAB-1969  Timothy Leary started out as a psychiatrist but took his own advice, and then took his family and his band on lecture tours, touting the benefits of psychedelic drugs.  This “lecture” was given at State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo in 1969.

According to Joel’s brother, Daniel Pugh, Joel was utterly unimpressed with Manson and considered him a phony.  Charlie was, to him, “an embarrassing character” and the self-important kind of guy Joel considered a “Gnarl.”

It wasn’t long before the couple split up, and the loss appears to have been a major one for Joel.  Sandra Good was his first “real” girlfriend, and yet she’d dumped him for a chunk of phony baloney.  His goal was marriage, while Manson’s had a lot more to do with Sandra’s trust fund.  Her father had died by then, leaving her with an income of $2,000 a month.  That money became the Family’s mainstay, and Manson had no intention of letting a husband come between him and the moolah.

Sandy herself, however, never totally parted ways with Joel.  They did not marry, yet she claimed his name. The year after the breakup, she was arrested during the August 17, 1969 raid on the Manson Family out at the Spahn Ranch, when the L.A. Sheriff’s Department charged the lot with operating an auto-theft ring and VW chop shop.

spahn ranch raid  The Family, living on the Spahn Ranch at this point, was making money by turning stolen Volkswagens into dune buggies and selling them “under the table.”

Good was booked under the name “Sandra Collins Pugh” and called herself “Mrs. Pugh” on the occasion of several later arrests, including the Barker Ranch raid of October 10, 1969.  She also named Pugh as the father of her son Ivan when he was born on September 16th of the same year, listing Joel on the boy’s birth certificate.

It seems unlikely that Joel was the father.  His friend Balfour says Sandy turned up in San Francisco again in the summer of 1969, pregnant, and tried to get Joel to marry her then, or at least to say they were married.  She apparently told Joel that she intended to give his name to the baby, but Balfour insists that Joel’s response was clear-cut:  “No way.”

Other Family members have named Bobby Beausoleil as the most likely paternal candidate, and the continual round of “free sex” indulged in by various Family members makes for several other possibilities, not least Manson himself.

ivan pugh all grown up   A Friedman family photo, rather fuzzy, date unknown, includes a grown-up Ivan Pugh (aka Bucky).

bobby bo pic  IMHO, “Bucky” looks a lot more like Bobby Beausoleil (shown here) than he does Joel Pugh, but DNA is probably the only way to be sure, and Ivan has a right to his privacy.

Pugh himself never did acknowledge the child, and neither did his family.  After Good went to prison, the baby was raised by Irwin Kaufman Friedman, aka Johnny Friedman and later on as Partee Friedman.  This was Crazy Jake in the Argosy story about the Manson Family, and the masked man on Geraldo Rivera’s Family reunion show.


Friedman and his second wife, Patricia (aka Holly), raised Ivan Pugh in the vicinity of Guerneville – which is where this series started, with the murder of ex-Marine James Willett (See Part 1).

Following the split with Sandy, Joel Pugh apparently toyed with LSD.  He had a bad trip that started him on a downward spiral.  He did not seek professional help, though his friends offered him advice gleaned from the works of R.D. Laing, a Scottish psychiatrist.  Laing was associated with the anti-psychiatry movement, and was considered a thinker of the New Left.

220px-Ronald_D__Laing  R.D. Laing thought the expressed feelings of his patients were valid descriptions of lived experience rather than symptoms of some separate or underlying disorder, which did not exist and therefore did not need to be treated.

Pugh somehow concluded that he himself was schizophrenic, but was never formally diagnosed, and was by then rather past the age (late teens/early 20’s) when schizophrenia usually strikes its victims.  He slid further into depression, quit his job, and moved back to his family’s home in Minnesota.  There, he ran across a book on rain forests that hooked his imagination, and his family ended up funding a trip to South America with a new girlfriend.  That relationship ended quickly, and Joel came home alone.  Subsequent travels took him to Morroco, Spain, and then England.  Along the way, he became convinced that he could predict the future using comic books, and by the time he got to London, he’d picked up another girlfriend.

That’s when Pugh took a room at the Talgarth Hotel in West Kensington.

Talgarth Hotel  The Talgarth Hotel, 7 Talgarth Road, London.

Three weeks later, the girlfriend was gone.  So was Joel’s interest in life, in food, and in friends.  He withdrew further into his comic books, sharing them only with the 7-year-old son of the hotel manager and teaching the boy to write mirror script.  He still talked about Sandra Good now and then, but claimed to be on a quest to “find” himself and again refused to seek professional help.

mirror writing  Mirror writing is backwards, and meant to be read by looking at its reflection in a mirror. 

Meanwhile, back home, the Manson Family had finally been connected to the Tate-LaBianca murders.  On December 1, 1969, the LAPD announced it had issued warrants for the arrest of Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian in the Tate case. Manson and Susan Atkins were already in custody, and Leslie Van Houten had not yet been connected to the LaBianca case.

Manson arrest  Manson (center) during his arrest at the Spahn Ranch.

That same morning, in London, Joel Pugh came out to the lobby of the Talgarth Hotel, made himself some coffee, chatted a bit with the manager, and returned to his room.  That was the last time anyone saw him alive.

The next morning, the maid found the door to Pugh’s room locked.  This was odd, because Pugh was not in the habit of locking his door, by day or night, but the maid did not raise an alarm.  She simply notified the manager that she was unable to clean the room.  It wasn’t until 6 p.m. that evening that the manager decided to check on his guest.  When there was no answer to his knock on Pugh’s door, the manager used his pass key, but the door wouldn’t open by more than a foot or so.  There seemed to be a weight leaning against it on the inside, and when he reached in, he said he touched something that “felt like an arm.”

The British Metropolitan Police were summoned, in the person of a PC Wright, who forced his way into the room.  Joel Pugh was found lying on his back partly against the door, naked except for a sheet across his lower body.  There was blood everywhere, and a pair of razor blades lying a couple of feet away from the body.

The coroner reported bruises on Joel’s forehead and on his left shin.  He had three-inch-long cuts on both sides of his throat that had severed his jugular veins.  He had several slashes along the long axis of both forearms, and a superficial cut across the front of one elbow.  The report also notes “hesitation” cuts – the shallow slices sometimes seen when a person attempting suicide doesn’t apply enough force to do the job, and has to try again.  There was also a knick in Joel’s left hand, which the coroner ascribed to his holding one of the razor blades and accidentally cutting himself.

defense wound  These are defensive wounds, incurred when the victim tried to shield him or herself with the hands and forearms.  Alone, the gash at the bottom right might  just as well be viewed as an offensive wound, incurred when the attacker’s grip on the weapon slipped.  Most such cuts occur in the webbing between the thumb and forefinger, or as shown here, at the base of the little finger.  Where was the cut on Joel’s hand?  We don’t know.  The files have been destroyed, along with any photos that might have been taken. 

The pathologist (Dr. Richard Pearce) concluded, “There was no wound not capable of being self-inflicted,” and there was no evidence of violence or a struggle.  His conclusion:  suicide.

There was also no suicide note.  And the only drugs in the room?  A pipe with some cannabis residue.  Not generally something associated with suicide, though “hesitation cuts” are.

hesitation cuts  The fatal wound here is accompanied by several hesitation cuts that did not do serious damage.  Often these are the result of the victim’s attempting to work up his or her nerve to do the deed.  In some circumstances, however, they might be an indication of torture.  Here’s a good explanation of hesitation cuts:


Two weeks later, at Hammersmith Coroner’s Court in West London, Coroner Dr. John Burton concluded that this was an “obvious” case of suicide, noting the locked door, the presence of weed, and the victim’s emaciated state as well as a disturbed state of mind (he appears to have based at least part of this last on the comic strips and scraps of mirror writing that littered the room – items a psychiatrist said suggested “depressive withdrawal”).

Dr. Burton, by the way, would later become the Royal Coroner, and attend the autopsy done on Princess Diana.  His assumption of jurisdiction would also generate quite the controversy in that case, since, as Coroner of the Queen’s Household, he could then convene a jury consisting entirely of royal staff members (unlikely to be completely impartial, don’t you think?).  But that is neither here nor there where Joel Pugh is concerned.

The problem, you see, is that at least one Manson Family member/informant told Vincent Bugliosi (Manson’s prosecutor re the Tate-LaBianca murders) that they’d done a murder in London as well.  So the authorities in Los Angeles got in touch with Scotland Yard and inquired further.

They were stonewalled.

This in spite of several interesting facts:

(1)  Joel Pugh’s hotel room was on the ground floor and accessible through a window.

(2)  The window was never examined or processed for signs of an illicit entry.

(3)  The Manson Family was known to conduct “Creepy Crawly” expeditions in which Family members slipped or broke into houses and crept around in the dark while the residents slept, unawares.

(4) Pugh never locked his door at any other time in the 5 weeks he stayed there (arguably, he might have if it was indeed a suicide and he didn’t want to be found by the 7-year-old he’d befriended).

(5) The crime scene was extremely similar to the bloody messes seen at the Tate and LaBianca murders.

(5)  That claim of responsibility.

(6)  The overkill exhibited (I’ve got much more to say about this in a bit).

(7)  The sheet – a lot of suicides choose to strip for the deed, but I’ve never seen one who stripped and then covered up again with bedding or a towel or anything else.

(8)  A Manson Family member who has since been convicted of two bloody murders, and implicated in several others, was in England at the time – Bruce Davis.

davis  Bruce Davis, imitating Manson, carved a swastika into his own forehead after his arrest in the killings of Gary Hinman and Shorty Shea.  

Somehow, neither Interpol nor Scotland Yard found any of this compelling.

To me, however, it’s quite the puzzle.  Even if Pugh’s state of mind were in such as to make his suicide plausible, why do it this way?  We’ve all seen it done plenty of times in movies or on TV, but very few people actually do themselves in with a blade – only 1.5% of “successful” suicides, as a matter of fact (that’s according to the FBI).  For one thing, it’s painful.  For another, it’s messy.  For a third, it fails.  A lot.  When a blade is used, suicide is much more often attempted than accomplished, and usually it indicates a cry for help rather than determination to do the deed.

There’s also the question of why he cut himself so much.

Both forearms, I can see, and gashes being along the axis of the blood vessels he targeted – that’s something you see in the case of someone who means it, who knows that horizontal cuts across the wrist all too often will not do the job.  The superficial elbow cut is unusual, but I’ve seen it before (I’ve worked on some aspect of more than 400 death investigations in the U.S., aside from war crimes investigations overseas).  A deep cut at the elbow can be very effective, but hard to do yourself unless you’re drunk, drugged up, or in some sort of frenzy for other reasons.  What I don’t understand is why he would cut himself on the neck as well?  And beyond that, on BOTH sides of the neck?

Cutting or stabbing yourself in a frenzy can lead to this kind of overkill, but while he was stoned?

Okay – there were two bloody razor blades found at the scene.  He could have had one in each hand.  But neither were found in the victim’s hands, and there’s no mention of a “death grip.”  That’s what frenzies do – they use up all the ATP in the smaller muscles, especially in the hands, and so death can result in instant rigor mortis.  ATP is the chemical the body uses as fuel for everything it does, including muscle contraction and then relaxation.  So when it’s gone, the muscles stiffen.  In a situation of extreme stress and exertion, it can happen in the moment of death, and it can actually involve the whole body, not just the hands.  And it can’t be faked.  That’s why the death grip is considered diagnostic in things like this.  The woman who dies with a death grip on a butcher knife and has 27 stab wounds to her own abdomen and upper torso can be confidently ruled a suicide if all those wounds are within her reach – and yes, that example comes from a real case often used in teaching crime scene investigation.

What’s more, people who stab themselves use their dominant hand, not both.  Especially in a state of high excitement.

self inflicted stab wound  This man died of self-inflicted stab wounds.  The location of the wounds and the angle of the blade are both consistent with a right-hand grip and the use of considerable force.

Then again there’s that nick on Joel’s left hand – the pathologist called it defensive, but some wounds could go either way, and we don’t know much about this one – exact size, location, angle, depth or anything else.

And what would explain the bruises on the man’s forehead and shin?  Nothing was ever offered up about that, just the coroner’s decision that they weren’t signs of a struggle.

I don’t buy it.  Especially not when Bruce Davis was in the vicinity.

Inyo County DA Frank Fowles was one of those who made inquiries through Interpol, asking them to check visas to see if Bruce Davis had been in England at the time. Scotland Yard’s reply?

“It has been established that Davis is recorded as embarking at London airport for the United States of America on 25th April 1969 while holding United States passport 612 2568. At this time he gave his address as Dormer Cottage, Felbridge, Surrey. This address is owned by the Scientology Movement and houses followers of this organization.

“The local police are unable to give any information concerning Davis but they understand that he has visited our country more recently than April, 1969. However, this is not borne out by our official records.”

scotland yard   Scotland Yard doesn’t seem to have kept close track of visas in those long-ago pre-9/11 days.

Davis spent more time on Scientology than Manson ever did.  He was actually a member of the Foundation Staff at Saint Hill (Scientology’s Head Office in the United Kingdom) from 1968 up until April 1969.  That’s when he was officially sacked (for drug use), but Davis clearly maintained some connections with the group right up until he himself was arrested for murder.  So it doesn’t surprise me that he would take advantage of a Scientology center just outside London, if only for the sake of free housing.  However, there doesn’t seem to be any connection at all between Pugh and Scientology.  So it would be hard to construct a scenario in which Scientology was directly involved in any attack on Pugh.  Providers of unwitting assistance?  Much more likely.  And when you consider the other three murders, you’d have to see Scientology as a kind of collateral victim since they lost at least two members to homicide, and possibly three.

I’m talking about the deaths of Doreen Gaul, James Sharpe, and the girl still officially known as Jane Doe.  But we’ll chat about their murders next time!


A Hell of a Hoax! Part 7: The Scientology Connection

Charles Manson has declared himself to be Jesus.  And Satan.  Simultaneously.

Quite a trick, if you ask me.

What does he really believe?  Well, there’s this pseudo-environmentalist credo he spouts sometimes that sounds a lot like the Una-Bomber’s manifesto, but I don’t think Charlie is nearly as much of a true believer as Ted Kaczynski.  He once had his followers spend irrational amounts of time out in the desert, searching for the Bottomless Pit, but I don’t know what the heck that was supposed to accomplish.  Unless he was in his Satanic phase, and looking for some lost real estate.

Too bad he wasn’t exposed to a wholesome and nutritious religion in his youth…

fllying sm

But not everyone is touched by His Noodliness.

Apparently, Charlie did spend time studying Scientology.  And Buddhism.  And several other things that caught his interest and had something to do with how the mind works.  The story goes that Manson was exposed to Scientology back in the early 60’s.  Enough so that when he was arrested in 1961, Charlie put it down as his religion.

There’s no mention of how that started, however, or who Manson might have studied with.  The first time any of that comes up, it’s 1962 and he’s in the federal pen on McNeil Island, in Puget Sound.  That’s where he encountered another convict named Lanier Rayner.  Rayner was running group sessions, explaining Scientology to fellow convicts and “auditing” them.

dianetics  This is the current edition of L. Ron Hubbard’s book on the principles behind Scientology.  I don’t really know what it says, since I found myself unable to make it through chapter 2.


Fact is, I’m not all that familiar with Scientology either.

My contact with it has been limited to the Writers of the Future program, now known as the Writers and Illustrators of the Future.  That’s a contest established by L. Ron Hubbard’s will which takes entries from un- or very-little-published writers of spec fic and fledgling artists in the same genres (sci fi, fantasy, horror, etc.).  Judges from the field pick out quarterly prize winners.  Once a year, the first prize winners for each quarter get to compete for the Grand Prize for that year.  Then the prize winners and a few runners-up are invited to take part in a workshop aimed at helping them develop their skills and prepare for a full-time career in the field.

The winning stories and illustrations are put together in an anthology, and you get a check for that as well as your prize money.  It’s been a while, but my first published story came out in one of those.  A vampire story called “A Winter’s Night” appeared in the 1987 collection, volume IV.

writers of the future  Somewhat to my surprise, this has now become a collector’s item.  Not that pricey, but between three and four times its original cover price.


Mind you, when I first got the phone call telling me I’d won a prize for the First Quarter, I just laughed.  I had to.  They called me about it on April Fool’s Day!  But then the check showed up, and it didn’t bounce, and none of my friends could afford to carry a joke that far.

Then I was worried about whether I should accept the invitation, because Scientology was getting a lot of bad press.  It still does.

scientology protest  These protestors say they wear V-type masks to avoid retaliation by Scientologists.  Some claim to be ex-members.


In the end, though, I went, and wound up spending a week with the likes of A.J. Budrys, Orson Scott Card, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, learning the finer points of story structure (thank you, Mary Sue) and catching a clue about things like interviews, research techniques, and career planning.  Only heard the word Scientology once, in that entire week. It came up on the last day, during the session re tips on handling interviewers, both friendly and hostile.  That’s when they suggested that if we were asked about it, we should just tell the truth – that this was the only time it came up.


Algys Budris, 2 years before I met him a sweetheart of a man and a hell of a writer.


 Kristine Kathryn Rusch, date unknown,  is the award-winning author of several series of note in science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance under various noms de plume,  and is also a former editor of both Pulphouse and the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.


        Orson Scott Card in 2008, author of Ender’s Game, the Alvin the Maker series and many other books.         

I know that some people don’t believe the contest and the Church of Scientology are really separate, funding-wise.  I don’t know about that.  For me, the workshop, the check, the anthology, and the sheer validation provided by all of that was immensely valuable, and I’m grateful for it.  Among other things, it was a chance to meet some people who have either bought my work since or made their own splashes in the field.  The Grand Prize Winner that year, for example, was Nancy Farmer, who has since won a slew of awards for her young adult and children’s novels, including the Newbery medal – three times!

John Moore was also part of that group, and Mary Turzillo, and Rod Garcia Y Robertson, all of whom are now much more published.   Quite a few other authors have taken that hand up since then, like Jay Lake and John Scalzi.  So far as I know, none has become a Scientologist.

jay lake   Jay Lake in his heyday, before he was stolen from us by cancer.  He was the author of ten novels, five collections, and more than 300 short stories.

john scalzi   John Scalzi,  raconteur and Hugo-winning author of “Red Shirts” and seven other highly entertaining novels.


I don’t know that Manson ever formally joined, either.  He did claim that over the course of his year-long studies with Rayner, he achieved Scientology’s highest level and became a “clear.”

What does that mean?

Well, according to Wikipedia, Scientology is all about dealing with fallout from a dude called Xenu.  Check it out for yourself, if you like:


The whole thing was started by the science fiction writer mentioned above, L. Ron Hubbard, in the early 1950s.  Hubbard said his goal was to help people overcome toxic thought patterns (my interpretation).  Along the way, as those patterns are brought to the surface and eliminated, the subject becomes “clear” and more capable of rational thought.  When you get past that stage, and into Operating Thetan levels One and Two.  At that stage, you’re let in on the real story of how people got so screwed up…Xenu’s story.

Hubbard wrote about it in a screenplay titled Revolt in the Stars  in 1977.

l ron hubbard  L. Ron Hubbard aboard his yacht.  He spent a lot of time at sea in later years.

According to Hubbard, Xenu was the ruler of a Galactic Confederacy some 75 million years ago.  The Confederacy consisted of 26 stars and 76 planets, including Earth.  The planets were overrun by excess population, topping 178 billion (which doesn’t seem like a lot, given that many planets – it works out to 2.34 billion per planet, about a third of Earth’s population right now).

Anyway, things were headed south and Xenu was about to be deposed.  To save himself, Xenu called for income tax inspections or audits, and his minions called citizens in by the billions.  His henchmen would then paralyze these people and freeze their bodies in a mixture of alcohol and glycol, supposedly so he could capture their souls.

I have no idea why either alcohol or glycol would have any effect on a person’s soul, but that’s how the story goes.

The kidnapped were then loaded up on spacecraft that looked just like DC-8’s but without the fanjets.

DC8  Not sure why they would have looked like DC-8’s, which are not at all well designed for interstellar traveling comfort, nor yet the mass transport of frozen folks.

dc8 like  It would have looked something like this, back in the day (that day being about 10 million years before that nasty asteroid hit Chicxulub and wiped out the dinosaurs).


Arriving on Earth, then called Teegeeack, the bodies were stacked up like cord wood around our volcanoes.  Hydrogen bombs were used to set off eruptions, and caused all kinds of havoc but failed to destroy the thetans (the immortal spirits, or souls) of the slaughtered.  Those Thetans were forced to undergo brainwashing by Xenu, corrupting them.  And when they were released, they promptly attached themselves to early humans, and are supposedly still haunting us.

Mind you, this stuff is only revealed to members who have already contributed large amounts of money (we’re talking six to seven figures here).  Otherwise, the Church of Scientology omits any mention of Xenu in public statements, and has gone so far as to sue people who bring it up for copyright violation and/or theft of trade secrets – oh, my!  Kind of cheeky, in my opinion, to claim copyright on behalf of Xenu, let alone attempting to extend that copyright for 75 million years.  Even more so when, if asked directly, Scientology officials have either denied or tried to conceal the tale of Xenu.

They have no shame on this point, however.  That may explain why and how they have also committed some truly awful science fiction to film.

battlefield earth  Based on a series of novels by L. Ron Hubbard, it’s the kind of sci fi film that gives Plan 9 From Outer Space a run for its Rotten Tomato rating!


At any rate, Manson never got that far.  He wasn’t told about Thetan Levels One and Two.  Still, according to Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote about it in his book, “Helter Skelter,” Charlie was at first so loudly enthusiastic about it that he drove one cell-mate to getting himself thrown into Solitary Confinement for the sake of the peace and quiet it offered.  But by the time of Manson’s release from the Federal Penitentiary at McNeil Island, he was all done with Scientology.

Charlie hung on to some of the phraseology, though – ‘auditing’ and ‘coming to the Now’ – and to ideas like karma and reincarnation, which the Bug remarks, “perhaps fittingly, Scientology had borrowed in the first place.” (pp. 144-145)

Manson also picked up recruitment tricks, and came up with the winning combination he used to bring so many of society’s castaways into his Family:  affection, acceptance, and the freedom to cast off the past and become someone brand new.  Not that any of this was completely new to him.  Apparently, when he was only six years old, Manson contrived to get several little girls in his class to beat up another boy he didn’t like.  At that tender age, of course, wee Charlie looked like an angel.


After his release from prison, Manson went to Los Angeles.  L.A. Times reporters say that he met several local Scientologists there, and that he attended several parties for movie stars, possibly including the July opening of the Church’s so-called celebrity center.

Later, when Manson and his Family were captured, detectives found Scientology literature at the ranch, along with an e-meter.

Mark VI model-Scientology_e-meter at Peoples Fair in Denver  This is a Mark VI e-meter, shown at the People’s Fair in Denver a few years back.


Mark_VIII_Ultra-E-Meter  This is the latest version, the Mark VIII.


What’s an e-meter, you ask?

The formal term is electropsychometer.  It’s a modified ohmmeter – that means it measures electrical resistance/conductance across the skin.  When the subject grabs the silver canisters, one in each hand, it induces an electrical current of 1 to 5 volts, in fractions of a milliamp, and then measures resistance.  It’s one of the elements used in lie detectors.

A trained Scientologist is supposed to be able to use an e-meter to detect spiritual impediments resulting from past experiences (including those of the Thetans haunting us).  On the one hand, it’s a religious artifact invented by Hubbard himself (not really).  On the other, it’s supposed to cure all sorts of physical and mental illnesses.  BUT – it’s not in any way a medical device, because then the Church would run afoul of the FDA, which has rules about people practicing medicine without benefit of a license and a medical degree.  The e-meter is supposed to measure the mental mass and energy of the subject’s mind, however, something which changes when problem thought patterns are cleared.  In fact, Hubbard himself claimed that it was so sensitive, he could use one to detect the pain a tomato feels when it’s sliced.

You can make one for around $5 worth of parts, but if you want the official version with the shiny futuristic case, it’ll run you about four grand.  The e-meters used by the Church of Scientology are manufactured by members at their Gold Base facility.



Nobody knows where Charlie got hold of his e-meter…some have even suggested he was actually recruited for some sort of Black Ops unit of Scientology.

Once Manson was arrested for the Tate-LaBianca bloodbath, of course, the Church of Scientology wanted no part of him.  Even before that, he seems to have been declared a “suppressive person” by the Scientologists.  When he showed up at the L.A. Org’s headquarters (in ’68?), telling them he was “clear” and wanting to know what came next, the receptionist referred him to the Ethics Office.  Apparently, this is standard procedure for those perceived to be psychos of some sort.  He may have caught on to that, because he never did show up there.

But that outcome may have been nothing to do with his psyche.  Maybe Manson’s reception had something to do with his joining the Process.

The Process has been described as a ‘sex and Satan’ sect, and was formally titled The Process Church of the Final Judgment.  It was founded by a pair of British Scientologists, Mary Anne (aka Mary Anne MacLean) and Robert DeGrimston (aka Robert Moor), who broke away from Scientology to start their own organization, based on the philosophy first espoused by Alfred North Whitehead.

robert de grimston

Robert Moor reinvented himself as Robert DeGrimston, but ended up working for the phone company after his church fell apart.


The general idea was that Jehovah, Lucifer, Christ, and Satan were all aspects of the same godhead.  In the end, Satan would become reconciled to Christ, and they would come together at the end of the world to judge humanity, Christ to judge and Satan to execute judgment.  That would lead to a further reconciliation between Jehovah and Lucifer.

L. Ron Hubbard did not approve.  He personally declared the founders to be ‘suppressive persons’ in December of 1965.

The pair decamped to Xtul in the Yucutan, then New Orleans, and eventually to San Francisco.

processianssmall  The happy couple, in their robes…


The Process wasn’t welcomed by the competition.  The DeGrimstons paid a visit to the Black Pope, Anton LaVey, but the head of the Church of Satan did not see them as kindred spirits.

Undeterred, they set up a church at 407 Cole Street in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, ground zero for the flower children of the 1960’s.  And a mere two blocks away, at 636 Cole Street, Charlie Manson was already building his own little Family.

Was there any direct contact?

I’d say so.  For one thing, elements of the Process turned up in Manson’s little rituals out in the desert.  For another, once the authorities had Charlie locked up and awaiting trial for the Tate and LaBianca killings, the Process sent people to visit him in jail.

Now, the purpose of the visit was supposedly to ask Manson about whether he had ever had any contact with Church members or ever received any literature about the Process.

The result?  The Church published an article about Manson, with part of it by Manson.  It was in the special “Death” edition of their magazine.

processdeathsmall  The cover is pretty lurid, but it’s also appropriate to its subject.


You can read the contents here:



Even so, the Process went to great lengths to disassociate themselves from Manson, denying that he’d ever ‘really’ been a member, just like Scientology.

I don’t believe either one, by the way.  For one thing, an FBI raid on a Scientology headquarters building yielded some paperwork indicating their records had been vetted not once but twice in order to erase any formal connection with Manson.  That says there was something to BE erased.

On the other hand, I don’t blame either Church for what Manson did, or for what his Family did.  That is all on HIS head, and on his followers’.  Manson certainly did borrow ideas and phrases and symbols and more from Scientology, and from the Process, and probably also from Anton LaVey’s group (one of Manson’s girls was, after all, a dancer in one of Anton’s productions).  It’s also possible that Charlie got some kind of logistical assistance from one or more of them, but… if that did happen, I’m pretty sure it was unwitting on their part.  Charlie’s agenda was just too crazy, too lethal, and too horrifying.  The rabid publicity afterward did none of these groups any good, and I think the people running them were smart enough to know how that would go.

All three groups have rhemselves been accused of some pretty abhorrent stuff in other venues, but I don’t have first-hand knowledge of any of that, and I’m not getting into it here.

What I am going to do, now that we have some background on Charlie’s ‘belief system,’ is take a look at four homicides with direct links to all of this.


Next Up:  The Scientology Murders

A Hell of a Hoax! Part 6: Cold Cases

How many murders has the Manson Family gotten away with?  Charlie himself was convicted of ten, but we know there were more.  A lot more.

manson vigil

Manson Family members holding vigil at Temple & Broadway, outside the courthouse where Charlie is on trial (1970).  One of them is Cathy Gillies, though I can’t tell which one in this shot – they’re all bald!


We’ve talked about the Willetts couple (Jim and Lauren), and Gary Hinman, and Shorty Shea, and Ronald Hughes.  Who else should be on the list of victims?

Zero, without a doubt.

haught 2

Zero was a petty thief, originally from Ohio.  Here, he’s hanging out with Manson, and looks like he’s ready to smack someone with that magazine. 

scotty davis

Zero came out west with his buddy, Kenneth Richard Brown, better known as Scotty Davis to the Manson Family.  The two of them helped turn stolen VW’s into dune buggies, which brought a lot of cash to the Family.  This is Scotty’s mug shot, taken after the Barker Ranch raid.  http://dirrtyr0ckstar.piczo.com/helterskelter?cr=5&linkvar=000044


Zero also called himself Christopher Jesus, and he was arrested along with Scotty Davis and the rest of the Family during the Barker Ranch raid of October 12, 1969.  His real name was John Philip Haught, although nobody knew that on the day he died.  Except, perhaps, for his companions.

Who were they?

Some, you’ll recognize.

Bruce Davis, for instance.

bruce davis 2   Bruce, of course, was present at both the Gary Hinman and the Shorty Shea scenes, although it was Manson and Bobby Beausoleil and Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins who actually did Gary in.  And according to Bruce, he only cut Shorty once on the shoulder with a knife.  It was the other four guys who killed him.


Who else was there when Zero died?  Why, Country Sue Bartell.

country sue    country Sue 2  Country Sue didn’t actually join the Manson Family until after the Tate-LaBianca murders, but did show up at the Barker Ranch in time to get arrested along with everyone else during that first raid.  She was driving a car full of groceries.

country sue at the courthouse  Here you can see her on the far left, with other Family members outside the L.A. courthouse where Charlie received his first death sentence.


Not much is known about Bartell, except that she wasn’t involved in the Tate or LaBianca killings.  She did, however, make a lot of phone calls.  To lawyers.  Threatening phone calls, aimed at motivating defense attorneys, and intimidating prosecutors.  She was never nailed for doing so, but it wasn’t so easy to trace a phone call back in the late 60’s.  She had a reputation with some fellow Family members too.  Onjya Sipe, for one, said Country Sue reminded her of a mean rattlesnake.

Devils Dropout  A very rare Manson book, in which Onjya Sipe talks about life in the Family, and describes several other members in telling detail.


Another Manson girl was present that day: Catherine Gillies, also known as Cathy Meyers, Patricia Ann Burke, Patti Sue Jardin, and Cappy (short for Capistrano, the nickname given her by George Spahn).

catherine gillies     Catherine gillies2  Cathy Gillies/Cappy was a (more or less) local girl whose grandmother, Arlene Barker, owned the Barker Ranch – Manson’s last hideout.  Charlie traded a Beach Boys gold record obtained from Brian Wilson to Mrs. Barker for the right to camp out at the Barker and Meyers ranches, now part of Death Valley National Park.  The Family stayed there off and on through 1968-9.


The word is, Cappy was a Buffalo Springfield groupie before she joined the Manson Family in 1968.  Charlie cultivated her, not least because he thought the Meyers and Barker Ranches were perfect for his purposes.  So perfect, he decided he’d like to own them.  This ambition reportedly led to a murder expedition being pulled together which included Cathy/Cappy, who was sent off with several others in order to murder her grandma.  The plan was that Cappy would thereby inherit the ranches a little bit early and give them to Charlie. But something went wrong – a flat tire, some say – and the whole thing was called off.

No one knows how serious Cathy/Cappy was about actually doing this murder, but everyone agrees that she was and is highly disappointed that she wasn’t chosen for the Tate and LaBianca killing crews.  She testified for the defense at the sentencing portion of the trial, and claimed the Tate-LaBianca crimes were copycat killings intended to get Bobby Beausoleil out of jail.  She said Charlie had nothing to do with them.  Reportedly, she still argues that the killings were “the right thing to do for those times” and supports the Family members who remain behind bars.  She calls them her “brothers and sisters.”  And her role in Zero’s death is decidedly suspect.

Still, there may have been one or two other folks present the day Zero died.  At least one witness reported seeing a white guy depart the place at great speed just before the police arrived.  Was that, perhaps, Mark Ross?

The house was rented in his name.

Zero_House_091     Zero_House_106

The house in question:  28 Clubhouse Avenue, just off Pacific Avenue in Venice, CA.


Exactly who Mark Ross was or is, however, is open to question.  Seems he also went by the name Y. Lee Freeman, and claimed to have lived with the Family on the Spahn Ranch in 1968 along with a guy named Crazy Jake.  Except that Crazy Jake is really Irwin Kaufman Friedman, aka Johnny Friedman, and later Partee Friedman.  Which is neither here nor there except for the fact that Partee Irwin Friedman died in Sonoma County, CA on Sept. 30, 2008, after living for many years in the Guerneville area.  Which means Crazy Jake/Friedman was handy when a chunk of the Family murdered Jim Willett there in 1972, and could have been the one to alert the Family when the headless body was found a month later.  That would explain how the Family fragment living in Stockton by then heard about it so quickly, and murdered Willett’s wife the next day (See Part 2 of this series for details about the Body in the Basement).

Paul Watkins, another Family member who wrote his own book about it, says Ross was a newcomer, though.  That he didn’t show up until after the Barker Ranch raid.

watkins book   paul watkins 2  Paul Watkins is the guy who gave the prosecution the whole crazed “Helter Skelter” theory of the crime when Manson and the others were charged with the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Either way, Mark Ross (per se) doesn’t seem to exist.   There is a Mark Rosen with the same birthdate, Feb. 27, 1947, according to one researcher, and that guy has a known aka of Mark Ross.  The researcher says Rosen no longer lives in California, but he might be well worth tracking down.

According to the article that was printed in this issue of Argosy, Mark Ross was a budding actor/movie producer who was instrumental in getting the documentary film Manson made.

argosy cover









If you want to read Ross/Y.L. Freeman’s article on life with Manson, here it is:



If you want to watch the hour-long movie Robert Hendrickson made with the help of Mark Ross/Freeman and his friend Crazy Jake, you can find it here:



As for what happened at Mark Ross’s place on Wednesday, November 5th, 1969, there are two principal versions.  One comes from Cappy/Cathy Gillies, the would-be granny-killer.

Cappy says that she was napping, and Zero came upstairs to wake her up.  He wanted her to fix dinner.  But somehow, in the process of waking her, he wound up on the mattress she was using.  Zero then picked up a gun belonging to Mark Ross.  Removing the revolver from its leather holster, he examined the weapon and specifically told her there was only one bullet in the cylinder.  Then, for reasons unknown, he decided to play Russian Roulette with the gun.  He put the barrel up to his head and pulled the trigger.

zero booking slip   The booking form gives the details on Mark Ross’s gun.  Source:  http://www.mansonblog.com/2013/04/who-was-mark-ross-argosy-may-1970.html


Except the gun was fully loaded.  With an automatic, that might have been an honest mistake, but not a revolver.  You can see the cartridges if you open it up, which Cappy says he did.  Cappy also says that she touched the barrel of the gun, but gives no reason for doing so.  I wouldn’t.  It would be hot, for one thing, after being fired.  And I’d be freaked out by the whole thing.

Bruce Davis and Country Sue said they heard the gunshot.  They said it sounded like a firecracker.  Both ran upstairs and found Zero sprawled on the mattress with a gunshot wound to the right temple.  Bruce says he picked up the gun, realized that he shouldn’t have, and wiped it down.  Then he put it back in the holster and left it near the dead man’s right hand.  Which makes no sense, either.

Whether there were any fingerprints on the gun is a subject of some dispute, but the cops were apparently satisfied that this was a suicide, that Zero was either too stupid to realize the gun was fully loaded, or he intended to kill himself.  Either way, no big deal.  No one was arrested.  The body was hauled away.  Bruce and Cappy and Country Sue moved out, forthwith, and hid out in another house in the Simi Valley.

cathy gillies   Cappy/Cathy Gillies (the blonde) looks pretty normal in this photo.


The second narrative comes to us sideways, via Ronnie Howard, the jailhouse snitch who went to the D.A. with the story Susan Atkins had told her about the sexual release she obtained by stabbing Sharon Tate to death.  That story of Howard’s was what finally got the L.A.P.D. and the L.A. Sheriff’s Office to connect the dots between their cases.

ronnie howard  Ronnie Howard was described as a former prostitute in news articles although she also worked as a cocktail waitress.  Don’t know what she was in for when she met Susan Atkins, but she later said she regretted getting involved in the whole damn thing.


Ronnie said Susan Atkins also told her that Zero’s little accident was actually a death ritual.  The story goes this way.  Zero wanted to die while having sex, and had said that he wanted to die at the moment of climax.

Ronnie said Susan had sex with him, although there’s some confusion about which Susan is which.  Susan Atkins apparently told the tale as if she were the one involved, but she wasn’t there.  Definitely.  So did she imagine herself into that role?  Maybe even convince herself that somehow it was her, thanks to the “spiritual union” of the Family, when it was really Country Sue?  Or was it Cappy all along?

There’s no way to be sure, but the general description of events is still pretty chilling.  Whichever girl it was, they did have sex.  When she told Zero she was coming, he shot himself.  Reportedly, Zero did climax.  In fact, he “came all over himself” while his blood spattered the mattress, the wall and her, and some of it even ran down her throat.

Okay.  This may be exactly what happened.  Or Zero’s death may have been somebody else’s idea, meaning this was a sacrifice, all right, but not one that Zero himself made.  It’s more like one that Zero was.  Maybe Charlie decided to bring Zero “into the NOW” – Manson’s way of describing the moment of death, when everything becomes real.

Why else would anyone wipe the fingerprints off the gun?  Why flee the scene as soon as the cops were gone?  And who was that white guy seen leaving the scene?

It’s clear that no one at the police department connected any of these folks with the Tate-LaBianca murders, since arrest warrants for those crimes weren’t issued until almost a month later, on December 1st of that year.   The vast array of aliases and nicknames surely provided still more confusion.  But why didn’t anyone EVER come back and take another look?

Granted, there’s not much chance of getting information out of the folks who were there at the time.  Who can we ask?  Bruce Davis?  Who’s still waiting for his chance at parole on the other killings?  Not likely.

Country Sue Bartell?  Who has dropped off the map since then?  Hmm.  That’s where I would start, I think.

sanders book  ed sanders  Ed Sanders, author of The Family, interviewed as many Manson Family members as he could locate.  One could wish he’d dug a little deeper, though.  In far too many instances, all he did was scratch the surface.


When Ed Sanders talked to Country Sue Bartell about Zero’s death, he mentioned Danny DeCarlo (a Satan’s Slave biker dude who departed the Family after Shorty Shea’s murder – see Part 5 of this series for the details). Sue replied that Danny DeCarlo wasn’t at “the murder, I mean (pause) or whatever it was.”

A decent interrogator should be able to run with that, since Sue seems to be neither discreet nor terribly bright.  You would, however, have to find her.  Or Mark Rosen/Ross, who was pretty talkative at one time.

Otherwise, we’re left with Cappy/Cathy Gillies.  Who never ever denounced dear Charlie.  She did leave the Family, however, when it broke up in the early 70’s.  Rumor has it, she then joined a motorcycle gang, got married and then divorced, and had four children altogether.  She’s a grandma now, living out in the desert.  As far as I can tell, the only crimes she’s ever been charged with in connection with the Manson Family were the ones dropped after the Barker Ranch raid fizzled because of a misdated warrant.

cathy gillies 2011  This is a photo of Cappy/Cathy Gillies from 2011.

Cappy’s not at all likely to cooperate, though, and put her current life at risk.  Besides, she still thinks mass murder is called for, on occasion.  And Manson is still her personal hero.

That brings us to Charlie himself, I suppose, but he’s never admitted to anything, and almost certainly wasn’t there when Zero died.  Hands on really isn’t his style anyway.

We could ask Susan Atkins about it, except that she succumbed to a brain tumor in 2009.  We can’t even talk to Ronnie Howard.  She’s dead, too.

That’s odd.  Ronnie was herself murdered.  In 1979.  After years of harassment.

Apparently, a lot of people don’t like snitches, no matter how crazy or murderous the people being ratted out really are.  Ronnie said she lost a series of waitress jobs because none of her co-workers wanted a stool pigeon in their midst.  She had trouble with people following her, and was beaten up several times on her way home from work.

ronnie howard 2  Ronnie points out the bullet hole resulting when someone fired a rifle into her apartment.  She came to regret ever getting involved in the Manson case and told a reporter, “I should have kept my mouth shut in the first place.”


Interesting.  So ten years down the road, Ronnie Howard was on her way home from a weekend in Vegas.  She and her husband, Richard Lopez, and his brother Rudy, wound up at the downtown L.A. bus station.  When a gypsy cab showed up, she climbed in and the two men went to fetch their luggage.  But when they came back, the cab was gone, and so was Ronnie.  Later that night, Ronnie called her husband and said she’d been beaten and robbed by the driver, that he’d taken $400 she won in Vegas and about $800 worth of jewelry, then pushed her out of the cab in an industrial district.

Ronnie complained of headaches after that, but didn’t seek medical care for another 8 days.  That Monday, however, she was taken to Cedars Sinai and wound up dying on Wednesday of a subdural hematoma that had gone untreated for far too long.

Now, I don’t know all the details of this particular case, but a number of questions spring to mind.  Was the kidnapping/robbery ever reported to the police before Ronnie turned up at the hospital?  Did the police take a good hard look at her husband and brother-in-law?  Did the jewelry ever turn up?  Why were they so certain it wasn’t connected to the other assaults?  Or to the Manson Family?

Well, at first glance, I’d have to say that it just wasn’t brutal or vicious or stupid enough to fit into the general pattern.  She was bonked on the head, but there was none of the overkill that characterized the Tate or LaBianca murders, or Shorty Shea’s.  In fact, it seems likely the head injury wasn’t really intended to kill.  And she didn’t end up in a shallow grave.  But neither did Gary Hinman.  Nor Zero, for that matter.

Okay.  Overall, I’m much inclined to believe that Zero was murdered, and that the deed was done by a subset of the Manson Family.  Ronnie Howard, however, might have been done in by a cab driver, or by her husband (who might have wanted that $400 pretty badly if they were in financial straits such that they had to ride a bus to and from Las Vegas).  Or it might have had something to do with the Family, if someone seized the opportunity.  For now, my money’s split between the first two possibilities.

Other cases are more clear-cut.

Next Up:   More Cold Cases