Woman Describes ‘Family’ Slaying of Hinman
Saturday, April 11th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Apr. 11 – The Manson Family fell apart Friday.
In a surprise move which even caught prosecutors off guard, one of the participants in the murder of musician Gary Hinman took the stand in the trial of family member Robert Beausoleil and implicated, not only herself and the 22-year-old baby-faced defendant, but three other “family” members, including the leader, Charles Manson.
Mary Theresa Brunner, a librarian at the Wisconsin University Library and a “family” member since the fall of 1968, accepted immunity for her participation in the murder of the UCLA graduate Friday and took the witness stand almost immediately. Up to that point she had not been expected to testify.
In cold, clipped sentences, she told the story of keeping the 35-year-old musician prisoner in his secluded Topanga Canyon home for three days, forcing him to chant Buddhist prayers as his wounds lay open. She said she and his other two captors ate a final meal with him before inflicting fatal chest wounds; held a pillow over his face when his death gasps became too loud and then stopped for “coffee and cake” en route home from the murder house.
The defendant began to show signs of strain, as the short-haired ex-hippie told a seven-man, five-woman jury the tale of brutal, cold-blooded murder. Beausoleil’s mother, sitting with her husband in a front row of the courtroom, wept openly.
“Bobby asked if I wanted to go to Gary’s house – but he didn’t tell me why then,” the girl began, glancing at Beausoleil. “We went there with Bruce (Davis) and Sadie (Susan Denise Atkins). It was a Friday. Bruce drove and just dropped us off; he didn’t go in the house.
“We decided that Sadie and I would go to the house and if Gary was there alone, we’d signal at the window. We were going to ask Gary for some money — for $3,000 or $30,000 — I’m not sure how much.
“Sadie and I talked to Gary, then signaled to Bobby — the signal was something like lighting a match at the livingroom window, because that’s the window you could see from the road.
“Anyway, we talked for a while, then Bobby asked Gary for the money, and Gary said he didn’t have any. Bobby said we weren’t kidding and pulled out the gun and there was a fight.”
Miss Brunner, who had a baby while staying at the Spahn Ranch, told the startled jurors that Beausoleil had come to the house equipped with a gun — the holster of which she kept in her purse — and a knife he kept in a sheath at his belt. She later identified the knife found in Hinman’s car and driven by Beausoleil as the one the young defendant used to kill Hinman.
In the fight, she testified, “Gary was pushing at Bobby and Bobby was hitting Gary with the gun.” When the scuffle ended, Hinman’s head was cut, and Beausoleil asked her to “clean Gary up”. As she started to take care of the musician’s cut head, Beausoleil went into the living room to make a phone call, she said.
“He had given Sadie the gun but Gary took it away from her. Gary asked her to ‘quit being like this,’ and to give him the gun,” she said.
“There was another fight, and Bobby wound up with the gun. It was shortly after this,” she said, “when we heard someone coming up the steps. It was Charlie (Manson) and Bruce (Davis) and there was a rush fight in the living room.
“They came in and it was just,” she said snapping her fingers, “instantaneous…there was pushing and shoving and they wound up in the living room.
Manson, she admitted, had a sword with him.
“Charlie came out to the kitchen where I was with his finger cut and asked me to bandage it — it was a good cut. While I was bandaging Charlie’s finger, Sadie was bandaging Gary’s ear. When I went out into the living room Gary and Charlie were talking. Gary asked us — Bobby, Sadie and I — to leave.
“It was still dark when Charlie left. I don’t know what they (Manson and Davis) came in, but they left in Gary’s Fiat.”
It was at this point, she said calmly, that “we all went to sleep.”
“Gary was asleep in the corner where he always slept; Bobby was in a chair next to him and Sadie and I were on the floor — but there was somebody awake all night long to watch Gary — so Gary would stay where he was.
“Nothing much happened all day Saturday. Gary had the cut on his ear, but otherwise he was OK. He just laid there most of the day and slept most of the time. He talked once in a while.
“Gary went to the door once, but it was locked — and we heard him — so he went back and laid down.”
The three kept the young musician prisoner throughout the day, the woman testified; Miss Atkins leaving the house only once, on Sunday to buy food and bandages, while she (Miss Brunner) sewed Hinman’s ear using a needle, dental floss and ice cubes.
One visitor — a friend of Hinman’s — and several telephone inquiries as to Hinman’s whereabouts were handled by the girls who said Hinman had left to see his parents in Colorado, Miss Brunner said.
Sunday, she said, they searched the house for money and valuables and found $20 and the ownership certificates of Himman’s two cars.
“Gary signed them,” she said calmly, “because Bobby asked him to.”
Sunday evening, she testified, Beausoleil called the Spahn Ranch.
“Later he told me we were going to kill him (Hinman) that night. Sadie told me too, so I guess Bobby told her too.”
But before they did, she said she cooked a meal and all four sat down to eat together.
“I was doing the dishes and Sadie was in the bathroom when we heard a noise and ran into the living room. Gary had been stabbed I saw blood coming from his chest — and Bobby was standing over him. Gary got up and walked to the bathroom – he looked like he might be in shock.”
As the musician apparently attempted to stop the flow of blood in the bathroom, the two girls “started cleaning the house — wiping fingerprints and gathering up all the stuff…there was a lot of blood and garbage.
“Gary went back into the living room and laid down. He was chanting all the time — Bobby had asked him to chant. (Earlier testimony showed Buddhist prayer beads were found near Hinman’s hands.) Gary went into some sort of a coma— he was breathing but his eyes were shut.
Bobby then called the ranch to see if someone could come and get us. They couldn’t, so Sadie and I went into the tree room (an exterior patio-type room) and Bobby came out and said ‘It’s all over with’.
“But just then Gary started breathing real loud — I guess people do that when they’re dying. So Bobby went back through the kitchen window because he had locked the door.
“He (Beausoleil) either put a pillow over Gary’s head or he opened the door and someone put a pillow over his head — I don’t remember. He was going to go into the kitchen and he asked me to hold the pillow and I did for a couple of minutes, then Bobby called me into the kitchen and I gave it to Sadie. She held it over his head and he stopped breathing.
“We took the rags and garbage with us…hot wired Gary’s Volkswagen and left to go back to the ranch.”
They stopped en route, however, she adds, at a restaurant:
“We dumped the rags and garbage in their trash can, had a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, and went home.”
By MARY NEISWENDER