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 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 2: The Body in the Basement


There was a Manson murder in my home town.
charlie loves you

Stockton is usually considered a backwater. It’s an agricultural town with a little light industry here and there.

The two things most people remember about it? The first big schoolyard shooting took place here about 25 years ago, and now the place is bankrupt.
Cleveland School scene
A young girl, wounded in the chest by Patrick Purdy during the shooting at Cleveland School, being attended to by medical personnel. Photo by Michael Chow//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Stockton does have a deep water port on the Sacramento River, but mostly the place is just, well…flat. Featureless. The water goes every which way because Stockton sits on the eastern end of the river delta feeding into San Francisco Bay. There’s so much water, we get lots of floaters – stiffs adrift in the sloughs and canals, in the rivers and creeks. So many, in fact, that when the long-dead are found anywhere else, the local LEOs tend to describe them as “dry floaters.”

Basically, it’s the kind of place people avoid because Fresno is classier. And less dangerous. Stockton is, after all, now rated as being “safer” than only 3% of American cities. Your chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime here are one in 64, compared to one in 236 for California as a whole.

Check it out for yourself:


It’s always been a rough and ready kind of town, and not just because of the naval base that used to sit on Rough and Ready Island, a bit further into the Delta west of town. Remember that old TV series, the Big Valley? Some of the sleazier stuff in that one happened on Stockton’s waterfront, and a lot of it wasn’t so fictional. Sailors were shanghaied, and traffickers dealt in all sorts of things. Opium dens were connected by tunnels that still exist in some parts of what used to be Chinatown. By the 1940s, the place was wide open as far as drugs and booze and ladies of ill repute were concerned.

lee majors

For a young and hunky Lee Majors, The Big Valley was his big break… not least because as “Heath” he was often shirtless!
Still, so far as I know, Charlie Manson has never set foot within the city limits. Or has he?

In March of 1967, Manson was released on parole from a federal prison on Terminal Island, in L.A. He was given permission to relocate to San Francisco, where the Summer of Love was about to get started. He wanted to be a musician. In fact, he’d been taught how to play a steel guitar by a fellow inmate, none other than Alvin Karpis, a famous bank robber of the Great Depression.

alvin karpis

Alvin Francis Karpis (August 10, 1907 – August 26, 1979), a Depression-era gangster nicknamed “Creepy” for his sinister smile.

Charlie didn’t have much luck plying that trade, however. He got by on panhandling. Then he took up with Mary Brunner, a 23-year-old library assistant at UC Berkeley. Manson moved in with her, and then talked Brunner into allowing other women to move in. Eighteen of them.

By the end of the summer, Brunner was pregnant, and Manson had turned himself into a guru. Together with eight or nine of his devotees, he got hold of an old school bus and did it up hippy-style, replacing the seats with brightly colored rugs and pillows. The group wandered on up to Washington state, then moved southward again, all the way down to Mexico.

So, yeah. Manson could have passed through Stockton. He pretty well had to, since Interstate 5 just didn’t exist in this part of the Central Valley yet. That left him with only three north/south choices – the Pacific Coast Highway or U.S. Routes 101 and 99. The coast road isn’t school bus friendly for several long and ultra-curvy stretches. U.S. 101 is better, but turns pretty narrow and curvy too, by the time you get up to Oregon. Rte. 99, however, cuts through this berg like a meat cleaver.

manson04   Manson poster

     In 1967, Manson looked more like this…………….…….…..…than this.

Mary Brunner gave birth to her son on that bus, reportedly while smoking weed to help her relax. The group, after all, saw no need for prenatal care, for hospitals, birth certificates, or vaccinations. She named her son Valentine Michael Brunner, an obvious reference to Valentine Michael Smith, the hero of Robert Heinlein’s novel, Stranger in a Strange Land. I don’t know whether Manson ever read the book, but Stranger was pretty damn popular with the younger generation about then, especially hippies.

I’m sure Heinlein would not have approved. He grew hugely annoyed with the people who kept turning up on his doorstep, wanting to camp out on his property (for free, of course) and try to grok the universe with him.

mother mary brunner & Valentine                      Stranger in a Strange Land

“Mother Mary” Brunner and her baby                                    Charlie might have seen
  boy, Valentine Michael, in 1968…                                              himself in this role….

To my further surprise, I discovered that Valentine had a childhood nickname: Pooh Bear.


Now I disapprove.

My family nickname is Pooh Bear, damn it! And I’m not sharing. Not with the Manson family. Maybe I did spend some time in the City while Charlie was there, and maybe the family did kill somebody on my turf. Maybe an ex of mine did time at Corcoran State Prison while Charlie was there. But that’s it – no more little coincidences, y’hear me?


The Universe, as always, just laughs up its sleeve and refuses to answer. All I can do is turn back to the subject of my quest – the body in the basement. That happened in 1972.

What the heck was going on back in 1972?

This was after Manson’s trial. That ended in 1971, despite nearly endless disruptions in the courtroom and the disappearance of a defense lawyer (Ronald Hughes – you’ll hear more about him later). On April 19, 1971, Judge Older sentenced Manson and all three of the women tried with him (Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel) to death. Tex Watson, tried separately, received the same sentence in November of that year.

And in February, 1972, those five death sentences were all reduced to life in prison. That’s because the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty by way of California v. Anderson, 493 P.2d 880, 6 Cal. 3d 628 (Cal. 1972). Which is why Manson and co. are even eligible for parole. In theory, anyway. You see, in a separate 1971 trial, Manson had also been found guilty of masterminding the murders of Gary Hinman and “Shorty” Shea, and drew a life sentence for those two killings. So Manson had ten murders on his sheet. He also had half the family still on the street. Or on the road. And some of them were hanging out in Stockton.

Still, the killing there was only uncovered because of another.

On November 8, 1972, near Guerneville, an older fellow named Robert W. Stevens was hiking on an old logging road near the Russian River when he noticed a hand sticking out of the ground.

guerneville burial site

Parker’s Resort is where a subsection of the Manson Family stayed for about a month in October of 1972, including the Willetts. The headless body was found in a clearing NE of the mountain peak embraced by Mays Canyon (just follow the red line north on the map to the left).

The 71-year-old Stevens reported his discovery to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, and deputies dug up the badly decomposed remains. Whoever put the body there hadn’t done a good job of it, failing to dig the hole deep enough and doing nothing at all to disguise or secure the site. That’s why the corpse had the one hand exposed. As it turned out, the other was missing, along with his head. The work of scavengers, said the Deputy Coroner.

The Sheriff’s Office had been searching for a body just a week before that, supposedly the victim of a different sort of “family” – the Hell’s Angels. While three bodies were eventually located in other parts of the county (and linked to a biker called George “Baby Huey” Wethern), this particular search found nothing of note, and that site was clear across the Sonoma Valley from the one Bob Stevens stumbled across. Plus, the headless body was wearing the tunic from a Marine’s dress blues.

As far as I can tell, NCIS did not get involved, in spite of the uniform. It was detectives from the Sonoma Sheriff’s Office who finally identified the body as the remains of James L. T. Willett (apparently no relation to the James P. Willet who is San Joaquin County’s District Attorney at the moment – that’s just another weird little coincidence). The 26-year-old and very dead Willet was a former Marine, a Vietnam combat veteran who’d received an honorable discharge in L.A., taught ESL classes to immigrant kids, and then somehow fell in with the Manson family. It would later turn out that he had been forced to dig his own grave before he was shot with a .38 caliber handgun and buried in it.

The first person to be connected to Willet’s murder was an ex-con named Michael Lee Monfort. He was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, with whom Manson had formed an uneasy alliance while on Death Row. Rumor has it Charlie did so by becoming the submissive partner of another gang member also confined at San Quentin.

Monfort used James Willett’s identification after he and William Goucher Jr. were arrested for robbing the Eden Square Liquor store at 929 N. El Dorado St. in Stockton.

Since Willett had no criminal record, and his family owned Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (in Bardstown, Kentucky), Monfort would have looked like a fairly good risk to a bail bondsman. This, even though $10,000 back then was about half the price of a modest 2-bedroom house (it would be worth roughly 54 to 55 grand in today’s dollars).

Willett Pot Still Reserve

Willett Pot Still Reserve is first rate Bourbon and runs $45-$50 bucks a pop.

The bonding company would have demanded a 10% fee in cash or kind to secure the bond. They would have checked with the DMV for a vehicle in Willett’s name that could be used as an asset. They might have even checked with Willett’s family about his old addresses. One of them would have matched the address on his ID: 704 ¾ Coronado St., Los Angeles, CA.

The end result? Monfort got away with his impersonation of Willett. There was no automated system then for confirming his identity through fingerprints. So Monfort walked, and promptly skipped, while Billy Goucher stayed in the pokie.

Jim Willett’s body turning up brought things into focus, however, especially when Stockton cops looking for Monfort located the dead man’s station wagon outside a house in Stockton.

This house, at 720 W. Flora Street:

720 W. Flora St.

Photo taken ca. 2011 – courtesy of The Grump from Pahrump, via the Manson Family Blog http://www.mansonblog.com/search/label/James%20Willett

Stockton police came back with a warrant for Montfort, but had the door slammed in their faces by a woman inside. The officers kicked the door in and dropped on the people inside, including Monfort and another Aryan Brotherhood member – James Terill “Spider” Craig.

The two women present had Manson’s X carved into their foreheads: 21-year-old Priscilla Cooper and 20-year-old Nancy Pitman (also known as Brenda McCann). The cops also found an 8-month-old baby girl who turned out to be Heidi Willett, the dead man’s daughter.

Priscilla Kay Cooper

              Priscilla Kay Cooper

Nancy Pitman aka Brenda McCann

Nancy Pitman, AKA Brenda, was once described by Manson as his leading candidate for Family assassin.

A few minutes after the police made entry, another woman called the house asking if someone could pick her up and give her a ride to the house. The cops obliged, and soon took Lynette, better known as “Squeaky” Fromme, into custody.

squeaky fromme

“Squeaky” Fromme became the unofficial head of the Family in Manson’s absence. http://www.mansonblog.com/search/label/Lynette%20Fromme

Inside the house, police found a number of weapons, including a sawed-off shotgun, and James Willet’s discharge papers. They also noticed extension cords running across the floor to a trap door that gave access to the basement. When they looked further, they found freshly turned earth underneath the house. Investigators raised their eyebrows at that and decided to obtain a fresh warrant. Around 5 a.m. the next morning, they exhumed the body of 19-year-old Lauren Chavelle Olmstead Willett, nicknamed “Reni” by the group. She was James Willett’s wife and Heidi’s mother, and she had been shot in the head.

lauren and heidi willett and Brenda

       “Reni” Willett, holding Heidi, while “Brenda” looks on.

sketch of ground floor 720 w Flora

A sketch of the ground floor of the house at 720 W. Flora, showing where blood spots were found on the floor.

sketch of basement 720 W Flora

A sketch of the basement at 720 W. Flora St., showing where the body of “Reni” Willett was found.

The body had been there no more than 24 hours. The cause of death: a gunshot wound to the head.

At first, “Brenda” identified herself as “Lauren Olmstead” and then as “Karen McCartney. She claimed that baby Heidi’s mother had just left for Kentucky so she could be with the baby’s father, Jim Willet. Meanwhile, Monfort was claiming to be “Gordon Foote.”

Then, after the body in the basement was discovered, Priscilla Cooper told the police that “Reni” had accidentally been shot by Monfort while he was explaining how dangerous it is to play Russian roulette. That didn’t explain why she was buried in the basement, however, and the timeline was so tight. So…suggestive.

Let’s have a look:

October 17, 1972

Jim Willett is last seen alive, near Guerneville.

October 29 

Brenda, Priscilla, Reni and baby Heidi, along with Mike Monfort, Spider Craig and Billy Goucher all arrive in Stockton by means of Jim Willett’s white 1965 Ford station wagon. They rent the house at 720 W. Flora.

October 30th 

Mike Monfort and Billy Goucher busted for robbing a liquor store twelve blocks away, at Eden Square.

October 31st

Monfort makes bail. Goucher doesn’t.

November 8th    

Jim Willett’s body is found in Guerneville.

November 9th or 10th  

Monfort Fails To Appear (FTAs) in court on the armed robbery charge. Reni Willett is killed.

November 10th      

Squeaky Fromme gets off the bus in Stockton.

November 11th 

Squeaky visits Billy Goucher in jail. Later that day, Willett’s station wagon is spotted, around 8 p.m. Monfort et. al. are arrested. Squeaky Fromme turns up and admits to having spent Friday night (the 10th) at the house on Flora Street.
Squeaky’s returned to the very same facility where she’d gone to visit Goucher.

November 12th

Reni’s body is dug up.


A suspicious mind might wonder whether someone in the vicinity of Guerneville heard about the headless body being found and somehow communicated that information to the folks who were by then hanging out on Flora Street, in Stockton. Within a day of that news breaking, Willett’s wife was killed. That left only the 8-month-old Heidi as a witness to whatever the rest of the group had been up to, in Guerneville, in Stockton, in various other parts of the state.

Heidi Willett 8 mos

Little Heidi, thank God, came through all this unharmed. She was taken to Mary Graham Hall, the children’s shelter for San Joaquin County, and later turned over to relatives. From what I’ve heard, she was raised by her mother’s parents (with the approval of the Willetts). At last report, she is doing well.

The big unanswered question about all this?

What was all this about? Why kill Jim Willett to begin with?

Next up: The Mystery of the Missing Attorney