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Follower Vs. Leader: Bruce Davis Up For Parole

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Manson Family member Bruce Davis goes before the Board of Parole Hearings for the 27th time Thursday

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., Sept. 29 – In August of 1971, Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi asked former family member Brooks Poston to explain the relationship between Bruce Davis and Charles Manson.

“It seemed to me that Bruce was competing with Charlie,” said Poston. “He was trying to be an equal with Charlie or even he — he was loud-mouthed.

“Whereas when Charlie would generally speak most of the people in the family would keep silent and listen, unless he asked them something directly or he said, ‘What do you think,’ or, ‘Say something.’

“But Bruce would interrupt Charlie when he was talking and he talked in a real loud voice, and it seemed like that he liked the power that he had when Charlie wasn’t around because he could have one of the girls run and fetch him something.”

“You got the impression that Bruce Davis wasn’t subservient to Charlie either?” questioned Bugliosi.

“It seemed to me that he had more ego than any of the other guys I ever saw there,” answered Poston. “So that he hadn’t given it up to Charlie.”

This is the kind of portrayal that Bruce Davis and his attorney, Michael Beckman, will try to distance themselves from Thursday, when Davis appears before the California Board of Parole Hearings for the 27th time.

Much of the debate at Davis’ prior parole hearings, has centered around his role in the family. Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira has presented Davis as a leader within the group, while Beckman has maintained there is nothing to support it.

“If the District Attorney here had one ounce of proof that Mr. Davis had a leadership position in the Manson family, he’d be pointing you to the relevant pages from the trial transcripts,” Beckman told the board in 2008. “There’s nothing. He had nothing. There was nothing in these trial transcripts that said it at all.”

That same year, Sequeira cited a psych evaluation from 1980, that suggested Davis aspired to be a leader. “He is strongly motivated to leadership, it is unlikely that Mr. Davis would tolerate a subordinate, subservient role,” wrote Dr. Richard Lowenthal. “Consequently, the inmate’s implication that he was an unthinking follower of an intuitive charismatic leader is inconsistent with available data.”

Davis, serving a life term for the murders of Gary Hinman and Donald “Shorty” Shea, was recommended for parole in 2010, but was later denied by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In July of 1969, Davis drove Bobby Beausoleil, Susan Atkins, and Mary Brunner to Gary Hinman’s Topanga Canyon home with the intentions of getting money from Hinman.

“I didn’t know [Bruce] very well,” said Beausoleil. “He was one of the guys I looked up to, you know. He’s just one of the older guys that I was trying to emulate at the time. He hung out with Danny DeCarlo. They were into guns. I wasn’t. Bruce Davis gave me the gun that I took to Gary Hinman’s house with me.”

“Bruce drove and just dropped us off,” said Mary Brunner. “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.

“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.”

“I hit him with the gun two or three times,” said Beausoleil. “It was because I thought he was lying to me. That was my response and it was the instructions that I had been given by the guys who put the gun in my hand and told me to get the money back, Bruce Davis and Danny DeCarlo.”

The three held Hinman hostage for the weekend. Sometime during the conflict, Hinman managed to take possession of the gun. A call was made to Spahn Ranch, but by the time Charles Manson and Bruce Davis arrived to Hinman’s, Beausoleil had already gotten the gun back from Gary.

“We heard someone coming up the steps,” said Brunner. “It was Charlie and Bruce and there was a rush fight in the living room. They came in and it was just, instantaneous…there was pushing and shoving and they wound up in the living room.”

Manson slashed Hinman across the face with a sword, cutting his left ear and cheek. Davis took back his .9mm and left with Manson in Gary Hinman’s Fiat.

Finally on Sunday evening, after Hinman signed over the pink slips to his two cars, Beausoleil stabbed him twice in the heart. Beausoleil, Atkins and Brunner took turns smothering Hinman with a pillow case before hotwiring his Volkswagen and returning to Spahn’s Ranch.

A month later, late in August of 1969, Manson told Davis they were going to kill Donald “Shorty” Shea.

“I was standing there. I couldn’t even get away. We were all just right there together,” said Davis. “I said, okay, here we go. I got in the back seat opposite him, Grogan was on my left, Watson was in front of me. Mr. Shea was driving.

“Watson tells him pull over. He hesitates. Watson stabs him. He pulls the car over. Grogan hits him in the head.

“I knew in the Hinman case that I was on — it was bad. I knew that. But you know, I had deceived myself into thinking that if I don’t — if I didn’t shoot Gary, if I don’t beat him up, that I’m okay.

“Manson pulled up in the car behind me. He came by and said let’s go. So I went. So I’m down there. They had already been stabbing him. He had a bigger knife. He handed me the machete.

“And he put the knife in my hand and said you better do something. Well, I know, I got the message.

“I reached out and I cut [Shea] right across the shoulder. I cut him with this knife. Boy this knife was sharp. It laid him open. I don’t know if he was dead or not.

“Steve Grogan and somebody, maybe somebody else, I don’t know if Grogan was the only person. They buried Shorty’s body”

Prior to Davis’ 2010 hearing, he had been given 23 consecutive one year denials. In 2006, he received a split decision and was later denied after an En Banc hearing in November of that year.

Davis’ hearing, originally scheduled for this past June, was postponed after Davis became ill shortly before its start. It was to be Davis’ first parole hearing with victims representatives in attendance. Debra Tate, sister of Sharon Tate, had planned to make a victim’s impact speech for the Hinman family. While former Manson family Barbara Hoyt, came to speak on behalf of the Shea family. Hoyt has opposed Davis’ release for years and testified at the En Banc hearing after Davis’ split-decision in 2006 .

“The public needs to know this man is very dangerous now as he was in 1969,” Tate told CNN in June.

Davis has been incarcerated 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.

In August of 2007, retired Superior Court Judge William Clark, wrote the board of parole hearings saying that “further incarceration beyond the 36 years served constitutes a miscarriage of justice,” and that Davis should be released.

Davis’ many support letters, from both inside and out of the prison walls, show the positive impact he has made during his incarceration.

In 2010, Davis’ attorney read a support letter from an inmate named Richard Kelly. Kelly wrote that he had planned to murder another inmate, but had a change of heart after conversation with Davis.

“I have observed Bruce during periods which would normally engender great stress in the average inmate,” wrote Kelly. “Nevertheless, I have observed Bruce to remain tranquil and apparently unaffected. When confronted with potentially volatile circumstances, I have observed him to be a force for calm. When faced with tests of his personal character and fortitude, I have observed Bruce to maintain a positive attitude regardless of the adversity.”

Which Bruce Davis will Thursday’s parole board see? The model prisoner and former follower that was reluctant to kill? Or the one time aspiring leader of a band of murderers?

There remains the massive stigma attached to those once associated with Charles Manson. There is still much speculation that there were other Manson family murders. There may not be solid evidence, but the court of public opinion needs little to convict.

Susan Atkins’ Last Parole Hearing

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Sept. 13 – Just after 8 p.m., on September 2nd, 2009, Parole Commissioner Tim O’Hara told James Whitehouse that the latter’s wife, Susan Atkins, was “not suitable for parole because the inmate currently poses unreasonable risk of danger if released from prison.”

O’Hara and Deputy Commissioner Jan Enloe had deliberated for an hour after listening to four hours of arguments, for and against, the parole of Susan Atkins.

Atkins, paralyzed by brain cancer, slept through most of the hearing on a gurney. Her only participation came when her husband/attorney, James Whitehouse, helped her recite Psalm 23.

Patrick Sequeira argued against parole for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. While members of Jay Sebring’s family and Debra Tate made statements on behalf of their loved ones.

Susan was given a three year denial, the minimum parole denial period under Marcey’s Law.

Twenty-two days later, late in the evening of Thursday, September 24th, Susan Atkins passed way.

While parole denials and Manson family members go hand in hand, Atkins’ death bed denial likely means most of those connected to the Tate-LaBianca killings will die – as their original sentences intended – within a California prison.

Twisted: The Devil’s Business

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Next Tuesday, Investigation Discovery will debut a new show about the Manson murders called “Twisted: The Devil’s Business.”

Show Description: Charles Manson and his so called ‘family’ would become the most infamous killers of the 20th Century. Their series of brutal and seemingly senseless crimes would shock the world. But how did so many young people fall under the spell of one man?

Coming Soon: The Audio Archives

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Dallas, Tex., Aug. 24 – We are currently sorting through hours upon hours of audio interviews recorded during the Hinman, Tate, LaBianca and Shea investigations. In the coming months, we will begin posting these historic recordings, all digitally remastered from the originally reel-to-reel tapes. Recorded in 1969 and 1970 by Inyo County Sheriffs, LAPD, LASO and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, the tapes include interviews of Manson family members, associates and witnesses. 

Temporary & Last Minute Moves

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

4053 Woking Way. The LaBianca’s home from 1963 to 1968

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 8 – It was November, 1968. Richard Nixon had just won the presidential election, defeating Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace. NBC had just angered football fans across the country, when the network aired Heidi, instead of the last minute of the Oakland Raiders’ epic comeback win over the New York Jets. The Beatles had just released their self-titled double White Album. And in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary were in the process of moving.

For the past six years, the LaBianca’s had called 4053 Woking Way home. Woking Way wasn’t so much a street as it was a curve in the road. It winds in between Parva Avenue and Amesbury Road in the hills overlooking Silverlake.

The house at 4053 Woking Way was big – just over 6,000 square feet – and had a fantastic view of downtown and the pacific. It’s living room had vaulted ceilings and a staircase that led up to a Juliet balcony. The French-Normandy styled house was built in 1932 by Walt and Lillian Disney. It was equipped with a screening room where Walt reviewed studio dailies.

Rosemary LaBianca’s JW Robinson credit card with Woking Way address

But for Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the Woking Way house had become a financial burden. So that November, The LaBianca’s made arrangements to sell the Disney house and buy Leno’s mother’s home.

The house at 3301 Waverly Drive was no stranger to Leno LaBianca. His mother and father had purchased the home in 1940, and Leno and his sisters had grown up there. The white stucco, two bedroom home was modest, especially compared to the Disney house. It was perched high atop a sloping front yard, where, at family get-togethers, Leno’s children, nieces and nephews would lay sideways and roll down the hill, racing each other to the bottom.

But although the Waverly Drive house was filled with memories, the move back was only supposed to be a temporary one. Leno’s long term goal was to move away from the city and build a horse ranch.

Three months later, and 11 miles west of Los Feliz, Sharon Tate Polanski had plans to spend the day with real estate agent Elaine Young. Sharon and her husband Roman Polanski had spent much of their first year of marriage living at 1600 SummitRidge Drive.

1600 SummitRidge Drive

The 2-story Cape Cod styled house at 1600 SummitRidge Drive sat high up on the hill overlooking Benedict Canyon. The Polanski’s were renting it from Sharon’s Valley of the Dolls co-star Patty Duke.

Columbia pictures had hired Bruce Lee to give Sharon martial arts lessons in preparation for her role in The Wrecking Crew. After Sharon introduced Lee to Roman, the martial artist would come by and teach the couple kung fu in the driveway of the SummitRidge house.

Sharon loved the SummitRidge Drive house, so Roman made an offer to buy it. But for whatever reason, Polanski and Patty Duke’s husband Harry Falk, couldn’t agree on a price.

In February of 1969, a newly pregnant Sharon began looking for a more permanent place for the couple to live and raise their child. Roman was scheduled to work on the script of Day of the Dolphin in London. Sharon herself, was booked to star in the Thirteen Chairs. With filming in Italy two months away, Sharon had little time to find a place to call home.

Elaine Young and Sharon looked at properties all over Los Angeles. Sharon finally settling on the secluded home at the end of Cielo Drive. The rustic farm house at 10050 Cielo Drive had been vacant for about a month. It’s previous tenants, Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen, had moved out shortly after New Year’s.

Roman Polanski signed the extended lease on February 12th, the same day opening statements began in the Sirhan Sirhan trial at the Hall of Justice.

Five months later, both the Polanski’s and LaBianca’s moves proved to be most unfortunate, when both of their new homes were invaded by a group dressed in black. Their futures were savagely erased, and forever linked to pure madness, speculation, and slander.

Both the Woking Way and SummitRidge Drive houses still stand today. 4053 Woking Way was recently on the market and sold for $3,700,000 on August 26, 2011. 1600 SummitRidge Drive has undergone some recent improvements and is currently on the market with an asking price of $5,395,000.