Author Archives: cielodrive.com

Trial Testimony: Paul Watkins, People V. Charles “Tex” Watson, Thursday, August 26, 1970

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Belladonna

Tex Watson mugshot from April 23, 1969 Belladonna public intoxication arrest.

Tex Watson fingerprints from April 23, 1969 Belladonna public intoxication arrest.

Location of Tex Watson’s fingerprint at 10050 Cielo Drive.

Dec. 12 – On Thursday, August 26, 1971, former Manson family member, Paul Watkins, was called to testify as a prosecution witness in the murder trial of Charles “Tex” Watson.

On the witness stand, Watkins discussed Charles Manson’s philosophies, drug use, women’s roles within the family and his impressions of Charles “Tex” Watson.

Watkins’ testimony on the family’s use of Belladonna, indirectly provided the back story to the one piece of physical evidence that connected Charles “Tex” Watson to the August 9, 1969 murder of Sharon Tate and four others.

Belladonna, one of the most poisonous plants in the United States, was sometimes used as a recreational drug because of its strong hallucinogenic effects.

“People call LSD a hallucinogen but it is not anywhere near as hallucinogenic as belladonna,” Watkins told the courtroom. “I mean, you hallucinate so strongly that you completely lose touch with what you would call reality. In other words, if I were on belladonna now, I wouldn’t necessarily have to be seeing all these people in this courtroom and all you. I may just be seeing some plum trees and the ocean and in another reality.”

Watkins, who became familiar with Belladonna in his mid teens while on a Hopi Indian reservation, had seen the plant growing in the hills around Spahn Ranch.

“[Charlie Manson and I] were driving through the hills and we met some guy that kicked us off his land,” said Watkins. “So [Manson] said he wanted to poison him and asked me if I knew any poisons and so I said, ‘Yeah.’”

At Manson’s request, Watkins dug up some Belladonna roots and began brewing them into a tea, making about a gallon.

A month before Watkins testified, Tex Watson was examined by Dr. Kenneth Grosvenor Bailey at the request of Judge Adolph Alexander. During the interview, Watson told Dr. Bailey about his experience with Belladonna.

“I was at the ranch and a girl named Brenda [McCann] cooked some Belladonna roots that Paul knew about and found growing wild at Spahn’s ranch,” Tex told Dr. Bailey. “He pulled it up, she cooked it and I walked into the kitchen enroute to the motorcycle shop.”

According to Paul, Tex took a chunk of the root – which look like yams – and told them he was going to hitchhike down the road to go pick up his motorcycle. Watkins told the courtroom he watched Tex leave the ranch chewing the root and didn’t see him again until three days later, when Watson returned with his face bruised up.

Tex told Dr. Bailey what had happened after he left the ranch that day.

“I was hitchhiking and nearly crawling on my knees, and my mouth was foaming cotton, my body was sort of red and I fell down three or four times before I got the cycle cranked up and then I couldn’t stand,” recounted Tex. “The last thing I remember was blaring down the road in the daytime…and the next thing I remember, the police were dragging me out of some car..in the valley. I was in Van Nuys Jail the next morning.”

Tex was arrested for public intoxication. He was fingerprinted, but unable to sign his name, as noted on the print sheet. His wild-eyed mugshot showed him grinning and making faces. Hallucinating and unable to talk, Tex’s unstable behavior began bothering his cellmates.

“Three guys in the cell jumped me and beat me up,” remembered Tex. “They said I was very strong; they took me to the hospital to have my right eyebrow sewed up.”

Tex Watson was released the following day. But the minor arrest proved to be significant seven months later, when on November 30, 1969, the Latent Prints Section of LAPD matched up Tex’s right ring fingerprint to the print found on the front door of the Tate residence.

Executive Review: The Next Step

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Dec. 6 – Next February, Bruce Davis’ case and parole decision will land on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, where it will undergo it’s final review. Brown will have 30 days to review Davis’ case and prison records, and then affirm, modify or reverse the Board of Parole Hearings’ decision to grant him parole.

This process is nothing knew for Davis. In June of 2010, then governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed a Board of Parole Hearings decision that would’ve granted Davis parole, saying, “I believe his release would pose an unreasonable risk of danger of society at this time.”

Two months ago, Parole Commissioner Jeffrey Ferguson asked Bruce Davis about his reaction to former governor Schwarzenegger’s reversal.

“I’m very sad that the Board’s decision was vetoed,” answered Davis.

When Ferguson inquired if Davis had read Schwarzenegger’s letter, he responded, “I read it more than once and at the end of reading it, I realized that I should have been more explicit in my assumption of responsibility for my crimes.”

“Do you think that the Governor made some valid points?” questioned Ferguson.

“I recognized the Governor’s concerns, his worries, his suspicions, and everything has a degree of validity, I suppose,” said Davis.

Davis, 70, is serving a life sentence for the murders of Gary Hinman and Donald “Shorty” Shea, and has been in prison since April 21, 1972. Since that time, Bruce has been active in many self-help and spiritual groups within the prison. His prison disciplinary record is near spotless, with only 2 rules violations in over 40 years, last one occurring over three decades ago.

Davis has continued his education, receiving a Master’s degree from Borean School of the Bible. In 1998, he received a Doctorate degree in philosophy and religion from Bethany Seminary, graduating summa cum laude.

“By no conceivable stretch of anyone’s imagination has Bruce Davis not rehabilitated himself,” said Davis’ attorney Michael Beckman. “No one, not even the District Attorney from Los Angeles County said anything negative about his prison program.”

In October, a California Parole Board granted him parole for the second time in as many hearings.

“You’ve lived in a very difficult environment for over 40 years and you’ve managed to completely avoid any violence whatsoever,” Commissioner Ed Alvord told Davis, after announcing the board’s decision to granted him parole. “You’re to be commended for that. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, especially not for that length of time.”

Whether or not the decision will be upheld after the review process, is still up for debate. In February, the AP reported that Governor Brown has allowed about 80 percent of decisions by the parole board to free convicted killers. While Former Governor Schwarzenegger had allowed only 25 percent and Governor Gray Davis allowed just 2 percent to walk free.

According to the 2011 Executive Report on Parole Review Decisions, Governor Brown reversed or modify the parole decisions for 71 inmates, 28 of which, were first degree murderers. Reasons given for the reversals ranged. According to Brown, some inmates lacked insight, some minimized their culpability, and others posed an unreasonable risk of danger to society.

While none of the 71 inmates whose paroles were reversed by Brown in 2011 had been incarcerated as long as Davis, some of the cases dated back to the 1970’s.

In March of 2011, Governor Brown reversed the parole decision for Calvin Thornton, who in 1972, conspired with Phillip Ross, to rob James Dover, a neighbor they had just purchased drugs from. When Dover refused to give the two men money, Thornton and Ross beat him to death.

According the Thornton’s parole decision, “the Board of Parole Hearings found Mr. Thornton suitable for parole based upon his participation in self-help programs and vocational training, positive institutional work record, realistic parole plans, enhanced ability to function within the law upon release, expressions of remorse, and reduced risk of recidivism due to age.”

Governor Brown commended Thornton’s prison accomplishments, but said they were “outweighed by negative factors that demonstrate he remains unsuitable for parole.”

“[Thornton and Ross] were motivated solely by their desire for money,” continued Brown, “a very trivial motive in relation to the offense. The two men carried out the attack in an unnecessarily gruesome manner demonstrating an extreme callous disregard for the suffering victim.”

In 10 of 71 cases Governor Brown reversed in 2011, Brown noted that opposition from the District Attorney’s office, police agencies, and victim’s next-of-kin, factored into his decision to reverse. In one case, Brown even indicated potential public outrage was a factor in his decision.

This will be a significant hurdle for Davis, since his release is opposed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney, members of the Shea and Hinman families, and the public.

Also opposing Davis’ release, are Sharon Tate’s younger sister Debra Tate and former Manson family member Barbara Hoyt. Both attended Davis’ October hearing and read opposition letters from Hinman and Shea families.

Debra Tate spoke first, reading a letter to the board from Gary Hinman’s cousin, Kay Martley.

“Gary was killed under horrific circumstances and Bruce Davis was there and took part in his death,” wrote Martley. “Gary had never done anything that would have given Bruce Davis or Manson the right to take his life. Why should Bruce Davis have freedom?”

Following Tate, Hoyt read letters from Donald Shea’s first wife, Phyllis Arlene Gaston Shea Murphy, and his daughter, Karen Shea.

“I lived my life growing up wondering just what was my father like,” wrote Karen. “I was denied the chance to ever get to know my dad by the selfish, cruel, immoral actions of the people who murdered him when I was merely a child.”

After reading the letters, Hoyt went on and related her own experiences with the Family and Bruce Davis’ role in it. Unlike Tex Watson, who Hoyt referred to as a “very happy-go-lucky goofy guy who was submissive to Charlie in every way,” Davis was feared by the girls, whom he seemed to enjoy bossing around.

“The first killing that he participated in, that of Gary Hinman, didn’t phase him,” said Hoyt. “He still stayed. The deaths of seven more victims didn’t bother him enough to leave. He then helped murder Shorty Shea. Now nine murders have occurred and he still stayed. He was present when Zero was killed.”

Hoyt has opposed Davis’ release for years and testified at an En Banc hearing in November of 2006, after Davis received a split-decision earlier that year.

Hoyt’s testimony is a significant issue for Davis, because her account of Donald Shea’s murder contradicts Davis’ version. Davis claims it occurred in the morning, while Hoyt insists it happened at night. If Governor Brown believes Hoyt, he will have to conclude that Davis is still not being truthful about the crime. That alone would be grounds for Governor Brown to reverse the board’s decision to parole Davis.

It’s anyone’s guess, whether or not Governor Brown will see Davis as a rehabilitated man, or as a dangerous killer still withholding information about his crimes. Until February, like Davis himself, we will wait and wonder.

Audio Archives: Phil Kaufman Interviewed by Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz, January 27, 1970

Friday, November 30th, 2012

“Musically speaking, he is valid”

Dec. 3 – For this installment of the Audio Archives, we will travel back to Tuesday, January 27, 1970, and listen to Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz interview Phil Kaufman, in Stovitz’s office at the Hall of Justice.

In this short interview, Kaufman discusses Charlie’s music, the issues with getting it distributed, the murders, and newspaper accounts of the crimes.

Phil Kaufman

Phil Kaufman, 34 years-old at the time of this interview, was serving time in Terminal Island prison for smuggling marijuana when he met Charles Manson. Kaufman, who worked in the entertainment industry, was impressed by Manson’s singing and songwriting. Before Charlie was paroled in March of 1967, Kaufman encouraged Charlie to see a friend about recording his music.

In March of 1970, Kaufman helped the Manson girls get some of Charlie’s music released on an album titled LIE.

“Everyone else was afraid to put out the album,” said Catherine Share, “so we had to do it ourselves.”

In September of 1973, Kaufman’s good friend, Gram Parsons, fatally overdosed on a combination of Morphine and Alcohol. Before his death, Parsons had told Kaufman that he wished to be cremated at the Joshua Tree National Monument. To honor his friend’s wishes, Kaufman stole Parson’s body from LAX and drove out to Joshua Tree, doused it with 5 gallons of gasoline and lit the coffin.

Kaufman went on to become one of the most famous road managers, working for acts like Emmylou Harris, The Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa and Joe Cocker.

In 2003, the Kaufman/Parsons story was brought to the big screen, in the major motion picture, Grand Theft Parsons, with Johnny Knoxville playing Kaufman.

Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz

Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz, 45 years-old at the time of this interview, had been with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for 16 years.

Stovitz enlisted in the Air Force and flew 34 combat missions during World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He attended Brooklyn College, and then moved to California, where he attended law school at Southwestern University, graduating Magna Cum Laude.

At the age of 28, Stovitz became a Deputy District Attorney with Los Angele County in 1952, trying his first murder case 2 years later. Stovitz eventually headed the Trials Division, and supervised 30 deputy district attorneys.

He was the chief prosecutor in the Tate/LaBianca case until September of 1970, when District Attorney Evelle Younger removed him after some of Stovitz’s off the record comments about Susan Atkins made it to print.

Stovitz was a D.A. with Los Angeles County for 30 years, leaving in 1981. He then worked as a special prosecutor for Santa Clara County on a murder case that was relocated and tried in Los Angeles. Stovitz then worked as a trial attorney in Ventura County for 2 years. Followed up by almost a decade of defense work, and then consulting.

Aaron died of Leukemia on January 25, 2010. The 85 year-old attorney was survived by this wife, daughter, two sons, and seven grandchildren.

Audio Archives: Harold True Interviewed by Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz, January 27, 1970 – Tape Two

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

“Charlie is still, uh, Charlie”

Nov. 27 – In part two of the January 27, 1970 Harold True interview, True tells Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz about visiting Charlie Manson in the County jail; about his relationship – or lack thereof – with the girls living next door to him on Chandler Blvd; and his impressions of Susan Atkins and her many stories.

Harold True

Harold True, 29 years-old at the time of this interview, was a college student that had met Charlie Manson in the spring of 1968, while picking up a friend in Topanga Canyon.

At the time, True was finishing up his masters at L.A. State, and living with a group of friends in a house right next door, to what would become the LaBianca house.

Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz

Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz, 45 years-old at the time of this interview, had been with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for 16 years.

Stovitz enlisted in the Air Force and flew 34 combat missions during World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He attended Brooklyn College, and then moved to California, where he attended law school at Southwestern University, graduating Magna Cum Laude.

At the age of 28, Stovitz became a Deputy District Attorney with Los Angele County in 1952, trying his first murder case 2 years later. Stovitz eventually headed the Trials Division, and supervised 30 deputy district attorneys.

He was the chief prosecutor in the Tate/LaBianca case until September of 1970, when District Attorney Evelle Younger removed him after some of Stovitz’s off the record comments about Susan Atkins made it to print.

Stovitz was a D.A. with Los Angeles County for 30 years, leaving in 1981. He then worked as a special prosecutor for Santa Clara County on a murder case that was relocated and tried in Los Angeles. Stovitz then worked as a trial attorney in Ventura County for 2 years. Followed up by almost a decade of defense work, and then consulting.

Aaron died of Leukemia on January 25, 2010. The 85 year-old attorney was survived by this wife, daughter, two sons, and seven grandchildren.

Audio Archives: Harold True Interviewed by Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz, January 27, 1970 – Tape One

Monday, November 26th, 2012

“I thought it was vacant”

Nov. 26 – For this installment of the Audio Archives, we will travel back to Tuesday, January 27, 1970 and listen to Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz interview Harold True, in Stovitz’s office at the Hall of Justice.

In this interview, True discusses his impressions of, and relationship with Charlie, the girls, and their visits to his Waverly address.

Harold True

Harold True, 29 years-old at the time of this interview, was a college student that had met Charlie Manson in the spring of 1968, while picking up a friend in Topanga Canyon.

At the time, True was finishing up his masters at L.A. State, and living with a group of friends in a house right next door, to what would become the LaBianca house.

Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz

Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz, 45 years-old at the time of this interview, had been with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for 16 years.

Stovitz enlisted in the Air Force and flew 34 combat missions during World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He attended Brooklyn College, and then moved to California, where he attended law school at Southwestern University, graduating Magna Cum Laude.

At the age of 28, Stovitz became a Deputy District Attorney with Los Angele County in 1952, trying his first murder case 2 years later. Stovitz eventually headed the Trials Division, and supervised 30 deputy district attorneys.

He was the chief prosecutor in the Tate/LaBianca case until September of 1970, when District Attorney Evelle Younger removed him after some of Stovitz’s off the record comments about Susan Atkins made it to print.

Stovitz was a D.A. with Los Angeles County for 30 years, leaving in 1981. He then worked as a special prosecutor for Santa Clara County on a murder case that was relocated and tried in Los Angeles. Stovitz then worked as a trial attorney in Ventura County for 2 years. Followed up by almost a decade of defense work, and then consulting.

Aaron died of Leukemia on January 25, 2010. The 85 year-old attorney was survived by this wife, daughter, two sons, and seven grandchildren.