Weather Hinders Hunt for Attorney
Wednesday, December 2nd, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 – Sheriff’s deputies were awaiting a break in the weather today to search for a missing defense lawyer in the Sharon Tate murder trial who is believed marooned in the Sespe area of Los Padres National Forest above Ojai.
Sgt. Bill Lindgren, rescue coordinator, said he planned to accompany a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter pilot today in a search for attorney Ronald Hughes.
The search, however, was called off because of the rainstorm and poor visibility, he said.
Hughes, who represents Leslie Van Houten, 20, a defendant in the Charles Manson trial, didn’t show up in court Monday or Tuesday. An anonymous telephone call said Hughes was left stranded at Sespe Hot by a mudslide during torrential weekend rains.
Sgt. Lindgren said two Navy helicopters scoured the area Monday and brought out 14 persons, but they could find no trace of the bushy-bearded novice lawyer in the area, a favorite camping spot Hughes.
“It’s a fairly rugged area,” Lindgren said, “and I suppose it’s possible he backpacked into a secluded area we missed.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older issued a body attachment order – similar to a warrant — for Hughes late Tuesday and called the Los Angeles County sheriff. A sheriff’s helicopter pilot and detectives came to court, conferred with the judge, then postponed the search until today because of bad flying conditions.
Chief defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald said he would assume that Hughes is in some remote area and his physical condition is unknown. “We don’t know if he has food and water or if he’s injured, and we are concerned,” he said.
Attorneys for Manson and two other women codefendants charged with seven slayings in 1969, continued talks in the judge’s chambers concerning jury instructions. They had expected to start summations this week, but Hughes’ absence is likely to delay them.
A newsman checking Hughes’ home found a note which neighbors said was left by a young friend of the lawyer, Larry Dyer.
“Ron,” the note read, “I told the court you were stuck at Sespe and …you are to be there two or three days at least. I also called Fitzgerald and let them know. Dig you whenever.”
Fitzgerald said he check with Hughes’ answering service which said the attorney hadn’t picked up any messages since last Thursday.