Cult Girl Tells How Manson Gathered Flock
Wednesday, February 3rd, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 3 – The saga of a Charles Manson who used guitar, song and kind words to gather teen-aged girls into a hippie tribe was unfolded in court Tuesday by one of the first girls who chose to “ride on the winds with Charlie.”
Two of Manson’s three girl defendants — Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — had parents relate the good in them, but only Manson’s parole officer had spoken about him, and he had little good to say.
Then, red-haired 22- year-old Lynette Alice Fromme, one of the first members of Manson’s girl-oriented cult, took the stand to tell of “giving up” to one man, who “has no evil.”
Wearing a jail uniform Miss Fromme smiled and blinked as she entered Los Angeles Superior Court. She has been in jail since December charged with conspiring to prevent a prosecution witness from testifying.
Born and raised in the Santa Monica area, she was graduated from Redondo Beach High School and was in her first semester at El Camino College in Torrance when she met Manson.
“In between being kicked out, I resided with my parents,” she said, adding quickly, “my father is an aeronautical engineer and I come from an upper middle-class family.
“On this particular night…I didn’t have too many friends, so I hitchhiked to Venice, I figured that was a swinging place to go, but when I got there it wasn’t.
“I was sitting down crying when a man walked up and said, ‘Your father kicked you out of the house’. We talked and he asked me to come with him. I said no because I was in school, and he said he’d like me to come, but couldn’t make up my mind for me, and started to walk away.
“No one had ever treated me like that — he didn’t push me — so I picked up all I had and went with him.
“That was Charles Manson.”
Miss Fromme, still wearing an “x” in her forehead, told how she, another girl and a boy, left with Manson for San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Although the boy and girl left them, Manson picked up another girl — Mary Brunner — when they got to Berkeley.
“Charlie had previously met Mary,” Miss Fromme said. “She was a librarian at the University of California at Berkeley…she wasn’t content either. Mary had her paycheck and we went to Mendocino and rented a cabin and just lived off practically nothing.”
The three then went to Sacramento where they exchanged their old car for the “big, black school bus,” and in it they went back to San Francisco. “There were a lot of kids around there just trying to get away from that life,” Miss Fromme recalled.” “We took anyone that wanted to come.”
She related how they met Patricia Krenwinkel. “Charlie had a friend in Manhattan Beach, and we met Katie (Miss Krenwinkel) there. We played music. She loved music. And we sang.”
“Charlie,” she said with a smile, “Sings so as it would make you want to sing.
“Anyway, we all walked on the beach and spent time together, Katie was looking, like all kids are looking, for the truth — and peace — and someone to love her.
“We sang and talked and finally she said ‘I’m coming with you.’ She had a job with an insurance company; it was a drudge. She said she was tired of it. We weren’t trying to give her advice. We were just living and having a good time. We didn’t do anything about her job. The more you try to tie up loose ends, the more loose ends there are. Her sister was making a scene, protesting, but we left. It was that simple.”
Asked by chief defense counsel Paul Fitzgerald if there was a leader to the group, the girl answered a quick: “No…We were just riding the winds. Charlie is a man and we were all looking for a man who would beat our feet in his love, but wouldn’t let us step on him.”
Then, in a burst of enthusiasm, she told of Charlie:
“Charlie is our father in the respect that he would point out things to us — help us. He’d tell us to watch things.
“It began with me — giving myself up to one man. It was hard. We had been taught there should be one man and one woman. There was jealousy among the girls, but it was a beautiful experience.”
Then, as the courtroom burst into laughter, she added, with gestures, “We had the blanket going back and forth…and we’d yell at each other until we finally looked at each other in the eyes and realized we loved each other.”
The group picked up Susan Atkins in a commune in San Francisco.
Later, Miss Fromme said, the group met and gathered in Ruth Ann Morehouse , labeled “Quish” who had’ “pretty much been kicked out. of her house too.”
When the group got back to Topanga Canyon, they picked up Brenda McCann, who “came from a pretty wealthy family.”
Just before they all moved to the Spahn Ranch in Chatsworth, Mary Brunner gave birth to Manson’s baby in a condemned house in Malibu.
“We called it Sunstone Hawk,” Miss Fromme said with a laugh, “because the sun was coming up over a stone and a hawk flew over the house.”
The group then went to live at the ranch and slowly moved from a back house on the 40-acre spread to the owner.
George Spahn’s house, which, she said, they cleaned up and painted.
But, she kept repeating, “Manson was never our leader. He’d follow us. All he had to do when he got out of jail was to do things for us. We’d mention one thing, and he’d look around and pretty soon we’d have it. We did what women should do.”
“Charlie,” she said, “used to walk off when we’d get feisty — and we’d straighten up. We all loved Charlie. We loved love.
“We love Mr. Bugliosi (chief prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi) too, and he’s trying to kill us.”
Manson, she said tenderly, “was a father who knew it was good to make love.”
“Making love to Charlie…was guiltless…like a baby. He has no evil in him.”
Samuel Barrett, Manson’s probation officer for more than a year before the Tate-LaBianca killings, however, claimed that the ex-convict’s four-inch high file didn’t show he had been an angel for 36 years.
Although Barrett refused to release the Federal files of Manson’s prison record to the court, he admitted that the hippie leader had been neglected by his mother at an early age and spent 23 of his 36 years in prisons or institutions.
By MARY NEISWENDER