Just how many people have been killed by the Manson Family? Ten? Twenty? Forty? It’s possible that even Charlie doesn’t know.
Manson himself was convicted of arranging ten killings, right? And we’ve all heard tons about the Tate and LaBianca murders. Five people and a fetus 8 1/2-months along all died in the first set, and two more folks in the second. But far, far less has been said about the other two victims. Who were they?
First, there was Gary Hinman.
What kind of a guy was Hinman? Something of a pacifist, it would seem. A laid-back type who let all sorts of people crash at his house in Topanga Canyon. He developed an interest in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism sometime in 1968, and began to plan a religious pilgrimage to Japan for the following year.
On the other hand, he started hanging out with the Manson Family, and got involved in some low-level drug dealing with biker gangs. The two that get mentioned: the Gypsy Jokers and Satan’s Slaves. Not what I would call light-weights.
Was Gary just trying to raise some money for his trip to Japan?
The deal that he got into with Bobby Beausoleil (one of Manson’s hangers-on) supposedly involved some bad synthetic mescaline, which Bobby in turn tried to pass off on some of the bikers. The bikers took exception to the presence of strychnine in it. And really, who wouldn’t? Then again, given Bobby’s habit of putting on an innocent face and blaming everyone else for his problems, this whole story line may be complete bullshit.
Bobby Beausoleil, in younger days…………….and later on, after he acquired a good deal of jailhouse art. Beausoleil was a native Californian and a musician with credits on a Frank Zappa album, among others. He first met Manson when Bobby was living in the basement of Hinman’s house.
Even if the drug deal gone wrong story is true, the amount of money involved, $1,000, was pretty small potatoes. But Bobby said he wanted his money back (or he may have needed to pay the bikers back). So on July 25, 1969, Beausoleil paid a call on Hinman. Bobby took Susan Atkins and “Mother Mary” Brunner along with him, but said at his trial that the two women had nothing to do with the drug deal. They were simply along for the ride. Visitors.
Before she met Charles Manson, Susan Atkins worked as a topless dancer, and was in one San Francisco show called the Witches’ Sabbath, organized by Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey. She promptly became one of Manson’s cheerleaders, and it was Charlie who bestowed the nickname “Sadie Glutz” on Atkins.
Susan says she and Mary went with Bobby that day because Manson told them to. There was a rumor flying around about how Gary Hinman had come into a small inheritance of $20,000 (or maybe $21,000), and Charlie wanted it. He sent the threesome as his emissaries. They were supposed to persuade the musician to join the Manson Family. That, of course, would mean adding his resources to theirs, including that inheritance check. Oh, and Charlie wanted the pink slips to two of his cars too.
Whatever was said when they got there, Hinman’s answer was clearly no. And the trio proceeded to hold him prisoner. Apparently, he did try to make a run for it at one point, but the door he went for was locked. The threesome heard him and quickly put a stop to that.
Things got no further, however, till Manson showed up, along with Bruce Davis.
Bruce Davis’ mug shot. You might think a construction worker raised in the Deep South (Alabama) would have very little in common with Charlie, but no. Like Manson, Davis was an ex-con, a decent musician, and he had an interest in Scientology. More on that later.
Gary doesn’t seem to have realized that Manson was behind all this. When Charlie walked in, followed by Davis, Gary yelled, “CALL THE POLICE!”
Manson’s response was to slash him across the ear and face with a sword (provenance and disposition unknown). Then Charlie told Gary, “Look, you can cooperate, and give us everything you got, and you won’t get hurt! I want your money, and anything else of value, or you’re gonna get killed!”
Hinman didn’t believe him, it seems. He asked them all to leave. So Manson and Davis did, driving away in one of Gary’s vehicles. Meanwhile, with Bobby standing guard, Mother Mary and Susan sewed up Gary’s sword wound with dental floss.
Yeah, that’s what I said, too. No way.
Rather than put up a fight, however, Hinman let them do it, and just kept asking all three to leave.
Finally, on the 27th, Beausoleil pulled out a Bowie knife and stabbed him in the chest. Twice.
Beausoleil then wrote “POLITICAL PIGGY” on the wall in blood. He also drew a leopard’s paw print on the wall, in a rather silly attempt to make the cops think the murder had been done by the Black Panthers.
On the whole, it was a pretty brutal murder.
Bobby being a dim bulb in some ways, he didn’t get too far after that. On August 6, 1969, he was pulled over while driving one of Hinman’s vehicles. He gave the cops a strange, confusing story about his friend Gary hanging out with some radical people – basically black militants – and how they must have killed him. However, Bobby’s Bowie knife, the murder weapon, was found hidden in the wheel well of the very same vehicle, and Beausoleil was arrested on suspicion of auto theft and murder.
Because of that, he wasn’t available two days later, when Charlie announced to the Family that the time had come for Helter Skelter. But Susan Atkins was, and rode off into history at Sharon Tate’s bloody little soiree.
After two trials, Beausoleil was convicted of Hinman’s murder and sentenced to death. Then his sentence was commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was banned by the California State Supreme Court. He’s still in prison, but for reasons I don’t understand, he’s now serving his time in the Oregon State Penitentiary instead of a California facility. Maybe that’s because he is the only member of the Manson family to ever take full responsibility for his crime and express remorse for it. He also admits, now, that Gary Hinman was never part of a drug burn.
The letter is posted here:
The most disturbing part of this, for me, is the final outcome in court. Bobby Beausoleil was convicted, sure. Bruce Davis and Manson were also convicted, although in the end, all three had their sentences commuted to life. But Susan Atkins was never even prosecuted for her part, even though she was holding the pillow down on Hinman’s face when he actually died. Since Atkins wound up dying in prison anyway (of a brain tumor) for her part in the Tate murders, she did not really escape justice. Maybe the DA felt it was an unnecessary expense. But they were already trying the three men. Why not one more?
Mary Brunner got away with it, too. She turned state’s evidence against the men. But then her testimony was never used at trial. Why not? And if it wasn’t used, why did she get to keep her immunity deal?
Okay, so that’s the story on Hinman.
Who was the next victim?
Donald Jerome Shea, better known as Shorty.
What bothered Charlie so much about her? Mrs. Shea is black. That led Manson to look down on Shorty. And then, early on Saturday morning, August 16, 1969, the L.A. Sheriff’s Office raided Spahn’s Movie Ranch and arrested the Manson Family en masse on auto theft charges. They’d been stealing Volkswagens, converting them into dune buggies, and selling them off.
Strange how many VWs turn up in items about the Manson Family. At least one of the vehicles stolen from Gary Hinman was a VW bus. The mysterious Lauren Elder who drove Ronald Hughes to Sespe Springs (and his death) did so with a VW bus. How many more were involved in murder?
Charlie was convinced that Shorty had snitched on him to the police and helped set-up the raid, although it all came to nothing because of a clerical error re the date on the search warrant. This was only a week or so after the Tate-LaBianca murders, but the police and the sheriff’s deputies had not put their heads or their cases together yet. On the other hand, the Family was certainly on edge.
There was already bad blood between Manson and Shorty, anyway, and this too was over a woman, but not Shorty’s wife. It was all about Windy Bucklee. Windy was another of the “regulars” who worked off and on at Spahn’s ranch. She landed there in 1963 after a troubled childhood in an Indian boarding school.
Accustomed to the interdependence and loose social structure on the ranch, Windy let another employee, Bill Vance, have a set of keys to her truck, so that he could use it while she was at work. Then came the day she was pulled over by the cops and found out her truck had been used in a string of armed robberies.
Windy figured things out, right quick, about who had done what with her vehicle, but didn’t rat on Vance. Instead, she proved to the cops that she’d been at work when the robberies happened. Then she went and cornered Vance at his house and gave him a thorough tongue-lashing before demanding her truck keys. An hour later, Charlie showed up, wanting the keys back. When she refused to do it, Manson broke her jaw, then kicked the shit out of her while she lay on the ground. Windy apparently tried to shoot Manson for that, but was in bad shape by then and couldn’t get the safety off on her gun.
Such a pity.
Anyway, she wound up hospitalized for a couple of days but didn’t press charges. She had very little faith in the legal system that had stolen her from her own parents simply because they were Indians.
Shorty soon heard about all this, however, and when he got a look at Windy, he lost it.
Shorty turned on his heels and headed down the street to Bill Vance’s house, screaming, “Come out of there, you yellow bastard.” Little Harvey came out first and made the mistake of trying to calm Shorty down. The midget went flying. Then Vance came out, and Shea coldcocked him with one punch.
Next up was Manson, who came out talking tough, with a knife in his hand, but it did him no good. Shorty beat him right into the ground, and left him lying in the street, unconscious. Windy has said she thinks that beating is what got Shorty killed, and it’s why Charlie brought a whole posse along for the job, including Vance. He couldn’t stand the humiliation.
Payback happened on August 28, 1969. Manson Family members Charles “Tex” Watson, Bruce Davis, Steve Grogan, Bill Vance, Larry Bailey, and Charles himself took Donald Shea for a ride.
Now, where were we? Oh, yeah. That’s right. In the car. Possibly a ’59 Ford.
Shorty Shea, alas, found himself in the front seat, in the middle and surrounded on all sides as the car headed up a canyon toward Susana Pass, a route that has often been used by smugglers to ferry drugs across the Mexican border. Accounts differ somewhat as to who did what, exactly, but some things are clear. Shorty was attacked on two fronts at once. From the backseat, Grogan/Clem struck Shea with a pipe wrench while in the front seat, Tex Watson stabbed him. Davis later admitted to “cutting” Shea on the shoulder, but otherwise said he just couldn’t do it (well, he was talking to the parole board, trying to present himself as a human being).
The group then pulled over, pulled Shorty out of the car, and finished him off. In some versions, there was a second car, and it wasn’t the men but Leslie Van Houten who gave Shea’s body the kick that rolled him downhill to his final resting place, a shallow grave at the bottom of the slope. Some think the body wasn’t buried at all, that erosion of the hillside covered him up, but Clem later claimed to have dug the grave. What’s more, he said he did it all on his own, and he is the one who finally drew a map for police and told them where to find it…but that didn’t happen until 1977.
Rumors, of course, abounded after Shorty disappeared, along with his gear. Some said he’d gotten disgusted by George Spahn’s refusal to kick out the Manson Family, and moved on. Others said he’d been dismembered, chopped up into nine different pieces. Everyone soon found reasons for denying they’d had any part in it, even though the cover-up afterward seems to have involved at least half of the Family.
No matter. They didn’t do nearly a good enough job of cleaning up. For one thing, Shorty’s car turned up about four months later, on December 9th. Inside his 1962 Mercury, police found his bloody cowboy boots and his footlocker, sporting the fingerprints of Catherine “Gypsy” Share and a palm print left behind by Bruce Davis.
Shorty’s possessions were all packed up in that footlocker, too. Everything but his prized .45 caliber pistols.
Shorty Shea was in the habit of pawning those matched pistols whenever he ran short of cash, and he must have done so shortly before he was killed, because there was a pawn ticket in that footlocker, a ticket which somehow came into the hands of Bruce Davis, though he denied ever touching the locker.
Davis did have some sense of caution, however. He handed the pawn ticket off to Steve DeCarlo, and asked him to redeem the pistols. But by the time DeCarlo did so, he’d heard about Shea’s murder. So he didn’t turn the guns over to Davis. He took them to another pawn shop and sold them again. Then he split.
Despite the lack of a left hand, there wasn’t much doubt that it was Shorty’s body they’d found. For one thing, there were lots of old injuries and identifying marks. While serving as a paratrooper in Korea, Shea had made a bad jump, and shattered both hips and both ankles. He had five pitchfork scars on his chest from an accident he’d had as a teenager. He had tattoos of three horses on his chest, and another of a rose and a lady on his upper left arm. He also had the words “I’ll always love you Nicki” tattooed over his heart.
The autopsy report showed lots of wounds, and indications of several weapons used:
So how did it all turn out?
Well, as I’ve mentioned, Charlie Manson, Bruce Davis, Tex Watson and Clem/Grogan were all convicted of the murder. All were awarded the death sentence by the jury, but in Grogan’s case, the judge commuted that sentence to life in prison. And that made Clem eligible for parole.
Guess what? He got it. Grogan served only 14 years, in the end. Which is why the hoax about Manson being paroled was so damn believable to me.
Well, so far, Steve Grogan is the only Manson killer who has won parole after getting the death sentence. Others have for lesser offenses, but not the major players. And it looks like it served Clem well to play the dummy. He even managed to marry (twice) while in prison, to father two sons during conjugal visits, and then, having become a family man of a different kind, he was released as being “no further danger to the public.”
Rumor has it, he changed his name, and his sons’s names as well, and took up house-painting somewhere in the Simi Valley. But other rumors say that he no longer just picks a little on a guitar. It’s said that he’s become a highly skilled musician and excels at playing the blues. He has even been seen in Paris, playing in clubs on the Left Bank.
These are the killings considered resolved by the justice system. But there were more. Maybe a lot more.
Next up: Cold Cases