Manson Girl Freed in Murder
Thursday, February 1st, 1973
VAN NUYS, Feb. 1 – A former Manson family member, jailed since November in connection with a Stockton, Calif., murder and a Granada Hills armed robbery, has been freed and Dep. Dist. Atty. William C. Melcher said that clearing her was “my greatest satisfaction in three years as a prosecutor.”
Three other suspects have been charged with the murder and a Northridge woman has been arraigned on the Valley market robbery, he said.
Lynette A. (Squeaky) Fromme, 24, was arrested at the Spahn Ranch in Chatsworth in 1967 after the Tate- LaBianca murders.
She was one of the girls who cut X’s into their foreheads, Shaved their heads and lived in a van parked outside the downtown Hall of Justice during Manson’s murder trial.
The scar from the X and the shaved head may have saved her from going to trial on the Valley robbery charge; Melcher said.
“I knew the two witnesses must have misidentified her,” he said. “They did not mention the scar, which is still prominent, and they said the robbery suspect had red hair with black roots, implying it had been dyed. I watched Squeaky’s hair grow back after the shaving and it was naturally red.”
She was jailed in Stockton last November after visiting acquaintances who had rented a house where police found a murder victim. She was charged with the murder but later released as not involved with the incident. The people who rented the house are awaiting trial, Melcher said.
Her arrest in the Granada Hills market robbery occurred in January, when two victims identified her as the robber after they looked at a series of police photographs.
“I knew she was not guilty,” Melcher said. “She was shorter, lighter and older than the suspect they described.” He said she also denied the robbery to him and he felt he knew her well enough to believe her story.
He said his friendship with the nomadic group started at the Manson trial when he, intrigued by the “family’s” strange cult, often talked with the followers while they were on vigil outside the court.
The friendship between the prosecuting attorney and the cultists ripened at Christmas, 1970, when Melcher and his wife baked gingerbread cookies as a gift and took their two young sons on a visit to the van.
“I was intrigued by the fierce loyalty and the intelligence of this group,” Melcher said. “They have a lot of ill-feeling about the police and courts and I wanted them to know that justice also works on their side of the street.”
He has stayed in contact with the family members, many of whom have moved to San Francisco. Some are working at clerical jobs and some hope to enter college eventually, he said.
Four, including Charles Manson, are in prison, convicted of the five Beverly Hills murders. During the trial Miss Fromme testified for the defense that the group looked on Manson as a father figure.
Melcher said he keeps up the friendship partly because he hopes to write a book someday on the strange culture of the family.
“Most of the girls in the Manson clan had inflexibly stern parents,” he said. “Even though their parents had money and education they emotionally abused the girls who almost were forced to leave home because there was no love shown within their families.
“I’d like to write not an expose of the tragedy and violence, which I do not condone, but a book about the beauty I’ve seen in that group — their opposition to war, their truthfulness and their generosity.”
He said he has often talked with family members about metaphysical subjects, of magic and witches.
“When I accidentally bumped into Squeaky in the Valley courtroom where she was arraigned on the robbery charge, she called our meeting magic. I called it divine providence, but we were both speaking about the same thing.”
Not only did Melcher think that Miss Fromme was innocent of the robbery but also Investigator Robert Schebler, LAPD detective, who was dissatisfied with the case and wanted to work with the district attorney’s office.
“Schebler and I, working together, looked into the facts and within a few days identified another possible suspect who closely matched Miss Fromme’s description,” Melcher said.
The second suspect, Diane Milliner, 20, of 10331 Lindley Ave., Northridge, also a redhead, was picked up by police after allegedly passing one of the money orders stolen in the $600 Granada Hills robbery. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled Thursday, Feb. 8, in Division 117.
By PAT BRYANT