Hippie Cult’s Ranch Combed For Cowboy’s Body
Thursday, December 11th, 1969
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11 – Twenty-five sheriff’s deputies today combed the former ranch home of a hippie cult implicated in the seven Tate-LaBianca slayings for the body of a cowboy who disappeared while the nomadic group lived there.
White deputies began their search Wednesday by digging up several abandoned wells, three young women, members of the psendo-religious cult, appeared in court and delayed entering pleas to murder charges. They were held without bond.
The leader of the group, Charles M. Manson, 35, was to be arraigned today on seven counts of murder.
The young women, appearing like errant schoolgirls in a standing-room only courtroom, spoke only once and that was to reply “yes” when each was asked by the judge if she understood her constitutional rights.
The three women and three other members of the cult, including Manson, were indicted by the county grand jury and it was believed testimony before the jury triggered the deputies’ search at the ranch.
Investigators reportedly searched for the body of Donald “Short” Shea, 40, who was said to have been slain and thrown down a well at the old Spahn Movie Ranch near Chatsworth.
The cult lived at the ranch at the time of the Tate and LaBianca slayings in August. It was in July Shea disappeared. The “Manson Family” later moved to the edge of Death Valley.
The sheriff’s department would confirm only that it had a unit at the ranch, but it was understood a witness at the grand jury proceedings testified about the man’s death. According to that testimony, Shea allegedly was stabbed while talking to Manson.
Two deputies suffered minor injuries when one of the several wells on the property partially caved in.
The three young women, Susan Denise Atkins, 21, Linda Louise Kasabian, 20, and Leslie Van Houten, 18, were ordered to appear in court separately later this month. Miss Atkins, demure in a short velveteen dress, turned informer against the family and admitted taking in the slayings of Sharon Tate and four others in the Tate home. Her attorney said she would plead innocent.
By JACK V. FOX