Manson ‘Family’ Trial May Be Surprise

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 5 – Charles Manson — is he a Rasputin who sent a band of hippies on murderous forays? Or a gentle troubadour, a teller of tales, a singer of songs, a dreamer of dreams?

His upcoming trial is currently scheduled to start here April 20.

The state of California is expected to try to prove that Manson, who spent more than half his 35 years in reform schools and prisons, was so enraged by the refusal of Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day, to sponsor his recording career that he ordered a group of his followers to kill everyone at Melcher’s house.

Melcher was not in his home the night of Aug. 9 last summer, but pregnant actress Sharon Tate, who was renting the Benedict Canyon house, was. So were three guests and a youth visiting the property’s caretaker. All died from vicious gun and knife attacks.

Subsequently the county grand jury was told a grisly tale by Susan Atkins, 21, a winsome brunette who lived with Manson and his “family.” She said members of the group, including herself but not Manson, committed the murders.

The next night, Miss Atkins story went, Manson did accompany the group to the home of Leon LaBianca, a grocery chain owner, and there ordered them to kill LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, so “we wouldn’t lose our nerve.”

On the basis of Miss Atkins’ testimony, murder and conspiracy indictments were issued against Manson, Miss Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian, Leslie van Houten and Charles “Tex” Watson. All except Watson, who is fighting extradition from Texas, are scheduled to be tried together. Miss Kasabian’s case may be detached. It’s been reported she may be a prosecution witness.

There has been no contention that Manson, was present at the Tate home or that he remained at the LaBianca’s while the couple was killed.

The slight, bearded defendant has been depicted as a satanic leader whose gaze mesmerized his female followers.

Ex-convicts who knew Manson in jail and the flower people who call themselves the “Manson family” picture him in a different light.

“He didn’t do it, that’s all,” said Phil Kaufman, the producer of Manson’s new record album who met the defendant while both were serving time in a federal penitentiary.

“They know who did it, and they know Charlie didn’t, but they want to prove a conspiracy.”

Daye Shinn, 52, a Korean-American lawyer who helped Manson prepare motions when he was acting as his own attorney, now represents Miss Atkins, apparently at Manson’s suggestion.

Shinn says the girl, called Sadie Glutz by the family, will repudiate her entire confession as “lies.”

“Sadie was always looney,” said Paul Watkins, 20, a member of the tribe. “Like she would wear shoes that didn’t match or the finest dress she could find, with combat boots. She’s just looney.”

One of the family who visited Miss Atkins in jail said she told him. “It’s all a big movie, and I’m the star.”

The family, which scattered after the arrests, has regrouped. More than a dozen have returned to the Spahn ranch near Chatsworth, where Manson was living when the murders occurred. The girls told a UPI reporter who visited the ranch that they take care of George Spahn, the blind, elderly owner of the ranch where segments of Western movies are filmed, and he buys some of their food.

Family members clean stalls and tend horses rented to weekend riders. The Santa Susanna mountains provide a rugged, old West backdrop for the ramshackle buildings and trailers with mattresses covering the floor. There are a few chickens and swarms of flies.

The girls are barefoot, their hair seems clean, their faces are bare of makeup. The young men, fewer in numbers than the girls, are bearded, long-haired and soft-spoken.

“They may think they have Charlie locked up, but his spirit is here. You can’t lock up love,” says Brenda McCan, 19.

Publicity about the murders has attracted new members to the group.

Jennie Gentry, 19, is one. A pretty girl with long, carrot-colored hair, pale blue eyes and a faceful of freckles, she met two of the family last Christmas Eve, after the arrests. She spent several hours talking with them before a gas station attendant told her “Those two girls are members of the Manson family.”

“He said it like it was in red letters,” she recalled. “I thought, heck, I talked to them and I like them anyway.”

She joined the group.

“I met Charlie after I had been living with the family for about a week,” Miss Gentry said. “Everyone was showing all this concern and I began to be concerned, too. They took me down to the jail to meet him. It was like seeing an old friend. He was beautiful.”

A man who shared a cell with Manson at McNeil Island federal prison says Charlie is a gentle man.

“Charlie is a card. He’s a comic. He makes you laugh. I don’t recall one time in prison that Charlie ever got into a fight, and in prison, that isn’t hard to do. Charlie always had a smile on his face.

“Charlie’s never had a break. He was like a guy who walked around with a black cloud over his head. Charlie did 10 years in prison for a $34 check. Charlie won that check in a crap game. He didn’t know it was stolen. All his life he’s walked through the same kind of scenes.


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