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






10 thoughts on “A Hell of a Hoax! Part 6: Cold Cases

  1. and (ironically) it’s a hoax pic somebody knocked up in photoshop, from a photo of Denis & a fanzine writer in the late 70s.


  2. Pingback: A Hell of a Hoax! Part 13: Jane Doe 59 | Bone Speak

  3. hi- it seems that every site dealing with the whole Manson ‘family’ subjects has either Barker or Myers as Catherine’s grandmother.
    Myers is her grandmother, apparently, but then they all say that Barker was the old lady that let the group stay there.
    They all need to clarify or to not even mention anything except that the gang found and were arrested at Barker Ranch.


  4. quite right Carissa, and, if I may…
    I will:
    Dear Susan blabbed for several reasons, which were to ‘get things off her chest,’ so to speak, and for attention and to show the women there that she, cute Susan, was tough…so, don’t try anything, well, you know, sexual.
    Dear Fayez

    Liked by 1 person

  5. macewen2013,
    I appreciate your open mind to people and happenings.
    I’d like to say, also that, among what some other ‘family’ members had to say about shiny hair Susan,
    Bobby Beausoliel said, you know, “Susan was a ‘motormouth,’ blabbing and wanting attention.
    Brother Charlie said, at least once, when asked, well, Charlie, what about Sadie going and talking before the Grand Jury, you know..?
    Charlie did not attack Susan for that, but rather said that well, there was “something inside Sadie, that made her…that she needed to get out…” and she did by talking to the Grand Jury.
    Charlie, RIP, as we should say about any one that ‘goes home,’ so to speak, from among us,
    also talked numerous times about Sadie being insecure and regularly trying to get some recognition here and there, from not only him, but from other ‘Spahners.’ (my word)
    I spent a day with Susan in July, ’69. We talked, ate, walked, and ‘more.’
    We were together for at least eight hours.
    Right by Spahn Ranch and she was a talker and she would just say what she felt.
    How can I forget, especially when I found who she was some years later.
    Talk about a ‘head trip.’ I still like her. That’s the way she was.
    And, that’s the way I am. You know how the mind can be with some of life’s experiences.
    What we saw in the late 60’s… those of us who had different experiences and are still standing.
    Thanks for listening

    Liked by 1 person

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