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.

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

  1. Silentseason says:

    While Harold didn’t offer any real evidentiary revelations on part II, once again his observations of Manson were spot on. Since his relationship with the Family was more of an observational role rather than participatory one, he saw that Manson was “P.T. Barnum”. Also, as far as I can tell, his is the first recorded mention of the million dollar question: since he was just a kind of bumbling con man with a makeshift philosophy, exactly when and why did Manson decide it is necessary to murder people?

    Also noteworthy is that Stovitz is sort of the star of part II. His retelling of the Hinman murder was chilling, and he is somewhat loquacious in his banter with Harold, in particular in describing the girls and gallery of pictures.

    Another great post Cielo. Thanks for sharing.

  2. johnnyseattle says:

    Harold was smarter than most who hung around that crowd. He was highly educated and trained in making human observations.

    ‘Charlie is a lot of things, but he isn’t stupid.’ ‘Susan Atkins is a pathological liar. She has a castration complex.’

    ‘Susan was always making up big stories.’

    Comment about ‘The Family Jams’ was out of left field in that his lawyer states that it is possible that at a later date Harold ‘may’ have an ‘interest.’

    I didn’t realize Phil Kaufman and Harold True lived so close together.
    Pat Krenwinkle, always taking a shot. ‘The ugly duckling.’

  3. johnnyseattle says:

    One thing that everyone seems to agree upon in this interview is that Susan Atkins was someone prone to lie or exaggerate. Yet throughout it is her story line that is being followed.

    Harold has recordings of Charlie’s music?

    Aaron does a nice job of asking Harold ‘can you think of anything to help us sort out truth from fiction’ as opposed to asking straight out for Harold to testify against Charlie.

    Again Aaron mixes a little humor to get some rapport with Harold such as the crack about ‘blowing up the picture to 9 by 7 for your collection.’

    Then Aaron segues to a graphic description of what Charlie did to Hinman. One can imagine the educated/Peace Corp Volunteer Harold True’s face as he is hearing this. ‘So Charlie took a biiiig sword and cut off his ear. He couldn’t hear very well after that…please let me go please let me go…’

    It was good to hear Harold quietly murmur ‘…me too’ when asked about the fear factor that Mary Brunner felt.

    To hear Harold’s reaction to Aaron’s rendition of Charlie ordering murders. ‘This is the part that doesn’t make sense. Charlie wasn’t that way. He was the con man. People would give him things….the impression I have is that something happened in which all this change came about.’

    On Charlie’s Philosophy:
    ‘…he (Charlie) used a lot terms that I knew he didn’t know what they meant… Then he put them in his repertoire. …sometimes they were so mixed up and confused he would contradict himself …I found it funny.’

    Harold, ‘I just got married. Sometimes one woman is too much.’

    I love Aaron’s way of ending the end of the interview ‘…okay Mr True’ as he slyly emphasizes the name True.

    Thank you Cielo.

    I wonder if Harold would ever come to your site and comment on the tapes.

  4. johnnyseattle says:

    Silentseason
    I like the way you phrased the observational role of Harold. I had the same feeling.

    One gets the feeling that maybe Harold was doing some anthropological work on an criminal aboriginal tribe that didn’t live far away but close by in Chatsworth. Almost like if Harold could just get the right Thesis Advisor that he had a possible doctoral dissertation on the topic of the Manson Family.

    • Silentseason says:

      Johnny,

      Agree that Harold was something of an intellectual, kind of a soft spoken academic. I think in his time spent with the Family he was sort of a bemused student, learning from a bunch of crazies but not getting too close to them. The fact that he was able to see through the BS of Manson further confirms this.

  5. johnnyseattle says:

    One comment that always struck me about Aaron Stovitz -and this is from an interview that Col Scott did many years ago- was this quote about Helter Skelter in response to a question from Col Scott…

    “Hey Son, your interest is grand, and you aren’t wrong about Manson being wronged, at least legally, but before you go get too stressed, ask yourself- don’t you think he’s happier now that Vince made him who he is?”

  6. cielodrive.com says:

    Aaron impressed me as someone who was very friendly, outgoing and had a good sense of humor. About ten years ago, Aaron sent me a bunch of his press clippings from throughout the years. One of them was a Times article that described him as part Columbo, with a dash of Perry Mason.

    In stature and appearance (dark, wavy hair) there is a suggestion of television’s insouciant detective Columbo (Peter Falk, if you prefer).

    It would come as no surprise if he ambled up to the witness stand wearing a raincoat and asked as an afterthought: “Just one more question, sir, if you don’t mind”

    This is Aaron H. Stovitz who, at 52, is the head deputy district attorney for the Pasadena area – a man whose confident yet diffident manner, an associate says, has been deposited by experience as an overlay on his once youthful brashness.

    Through his experience, in which he has brought to heel many criminals. Stovitz has learned that the real denouement for those who break the law often comes from successful prosecution in the courtroom and not at the scene of the crime as is often depicted in televised detective fiction. Thus, Perry Mason, come closer to the reality of Stovitz’ profession than does Columbo

    I’ve always felt Evelle Younger overreacted when he took Stovitz off the case because of the Susan Atkins/Sarah Bernhardt comment. I realize Stovitz had already gotten in trouble for the Rolling Stone article, but I don’t think he should’ve been taken off the case for what he said about Atkins.

    I’ve never actually read “Porfiry’s Complaint”, the Rolling Stone article that Stovitz got in trouble for. But below is an excerpt from an article about it, it’s interesting…

    The newly alleged motive for the murder of actress Sharon Tate and six others, including Leno LaBianca, hinges on the killing of musician Gary Hinman by Robert Beausoleil, a member of Manson’s “family,” according to the interview.

    Manson’s only chance to help Beausoleil was to show the actual murderer of the Topanga Canyon musician was still at large. Beausoleil had called Manson from county jail following his arrest for the Hinman murder and informed him “he had said nothing,” the article said.

    Because of this friendship, Manson ordered Charles V. Watson and three girls to go to the home of Terry Melcher on Cielo Drive and kill anyone they found there, the prosecutor said. Most important, Manson indicated that they leave a sign, similar to the one, “political piggy,” left at the Hinman home, according to the article.

    Susan Atkins, one of the defendants, wrote the word, “pig” on the door of the Tate home. “Political pig” was written in blood also at the LaBianca home, the article indicated.

    Never-published details revealed in the article included the facts that a fork was left sticking in LaBianca’s stomach, a knife in his neck and pillow cases were placed over his head.

    The prosecutor admitted in the article that the district attorney’s case was not strong in the LaBianca’s deaths, and all they were depending on was the testimony of Miss Atkins and later Linda Kasabian, who is now a witness for the prosecution.

  7. johnnyseattle says:

    Hey CD
    I concur.

    Aaron seems like the kind of person you would want as a boss or share a beer with. A wry sense of humor but battle tested so he isn’t gonna let too much get to him.

    What do you think he meant by that comment about Charlie getting ‘legally wronged.’ I get the part about Charlie getting what he wanted. Sounds like he is making an ends justify the means comment.

    • cielodrive.com says:

      Johnny, you’d have to ask Col Scott about Aaron’s comment. I could only speculate on what he was referring to.

      • johnnyseattle says:

        I’ve often pondered what Aaron Stovitz meant. I have a lot of respect for him.
        I thought you may have some insights as it isn’t often a Prosecutor would say the Defendant had been legally wronged.

        I hope you had the chance to hear the Shreck podcast. It went a long ways to explaining some of the ‘noise’ about Shreck regarding who he was and who he is now.

        • cielodrive.com says:

          I have listened to most of the podcast.

          Regarding Stovitz’s comment, I could think of a few things he might’ve been talking about, but I wouldn’t read too much into it.

  8. johnnyseattle says:

    BTW, your ad for Archives.Com and ‘Discovering Your Family History’ has a dual meaning here… LOL

  9. Poirot says:

    Harold True is a con man too in his own way. He tries to present himself as the educated gentleman intellectual yet he too is a scumbag wandering druggie who is intrigued and taken in by Charlie, the 6th grade dropout, who was the 20th century’s most notorious cult murderer. On his own Harold True continued his visit Charlie in prison after it was known what horrors Charlie had created. Harold get’s embarressed when he senses people know he lives on both sides of the railroad tracks. BTW, Stovitz outsmarted Harold: Stovitz got what he wanted from Harold. He established that in 1968 the killers regularly hung out next door to the murder house of night two of Helter Skelter.

  10. Johnnyseattle says:

    i do agree that Aaron Stovitz outsmarted him. Aaron was a trial lawyer with uber amounts of experience in questioning witnesses/victims/suspects.

  11. Gina says:

    I don’t understand why there is not one mention of Linda Kasabian and no questions asked of Harold True regarding her. He knew her and her husband separate from the others, as well.

    I’ve listened to all of these tapes so far, and were the police just clueless to Charles Tex Watson, or did they already know everything there was to know about him. They seem very uninterested in the man who actually plunged the knife into these people and more interested in building a case against Manson. That does not make sense to me, and it does not seem to serve justice.

  12. Gina says:

    I’d like to know what he was doing in Texas. He told some woman who called him for Bill Nelson that he was in Ethiopia when the killings happened, but here that is not what he says. And at the end of part one an ongoing criminal case is brought up and then the subject is quickly dropped. Was this testimony in exchange for a deal?

  13. cielodrive.com says:

    Aaron was definitely a smart guy, but I don’t get the impression he was outsmarting Harold. True had nothing to hide and was freely volunteering information. Same goes for Phil Kaufman who Stovitz talks to next. We will listen to that next week.

    These conversations revolve around Charlie because based on the investigation and interviews, he was the man calling the shots. There is a reason why witnesses are talking about Charlie and not Tex.

    Just because Bill Nelson decided to invent the idea that Tex Watson was some kind of criminal mastermind, doesn’t mean it was ever true.

  14. Poirot says:

    Harold True can run down a neighborhood by himself: intellectual or not.

  15. Gina says:

    What’s next? I can’t wait!

  16. Xfirehurricane says:

    Well said Gina.
    Funny that aint it. LK and TW dont figure at all.

  17. Xfirehurricane says:

    Sorry JS but I don’t hear any sly emphasis at any time on HT’s name.
    Can you tell us where and when this “emphasis” is made.

  18. Johnnyseattle says:

    No problem XFire, perhaps I read into it a little bit. But towards the end of the session as he is wrapping it up with Harold. It’s not particularly obvious or pronounced.

  19. Johnnyseattle says:

    CD
    Tex as a criminal mastermind? Yikes. I always saw him as a low level opportunistic drug dealer who would do a drug burn when he had a chance.
    But criminal mastermind? Not even Shreck paints that picture.

  20. Johnnyseattle says:

    CD
    Fully understood. I wasn’t saying you thought he was, rather I was addressing it towards Nelson.

    Frank Costello
    Lucky Luciano
    Meyer Lansky
    Tex Watson

    One of these doesn’t fit… 🙂

  21. Fred Bloggs says:

    “These conversations revolve around Charlie because based on the investigation and interviews, he was the man calling the shots. There is a reason why witnesses are talking about Charlie and not Tex.”

    The more you look at it chronologically, the less this idea of “Bugliosi’s fantasy” makes any kind of sense. The evidence just keeps on pointing to Charlie. Whether it was Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Ronnie Howard, Virginia Graham, Kitty Lutesinger, Mary Brunner, Stephanie Schram, Brooks Poston, Al Springer, Danny DeCarlo, these 1969 investigative interviews keep pointing in one direction – Charlie. Tex was merely an adjunct to proceedings ~ until it came to actually killing. It’s like no one could keep quiet about Charlie, even those that had only met him once or twice or never at all ! Love him or hate him, he certainly made his mark on peoples’ lives.

    [I’ve often pondered what Aaron Stovitz meant. I have a lot of respect for him.
    I thought you may have some insights as it isn’t often a Prosecutor would say the Defendant had been legally wronged]

    “Regarding Stovitz’s comment, I could think of a few things he might’ve been talking about, but I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

    From the Pasadena Star News reporter, Laurinder Keys in 1976 comes this;

    “Stovitz, 84, now terms his hallway remark ‘innocuous.’ He tells me he’s ‘really not bitter’ about his removal from the case, but adds that ‘it was a disappointment.’

    Had he remained, he reflects, he, not Bugliosi, would have written books and gained fame.

    ‘At first I felt resentful,’ Stovitz says, but adds that he was later able to convince himself, ‘Look, I’ve still got my job, my family, and, in the long run, it didn’t matter.’ ”

    Aaron Stovitz kind of reminds me of the likes of John Lennon, Brian Jones & Roger Daltrey who were the original leaders of the Beatles, Stones and Who or Gene Clark who was the original songwriter and rhythm guitarist in the Byrds and who all were ‘overthrown’ at some point by younger, sharper, more talented guys who took those respective bands to the heights that they are remembered for in history. With the Beatles, Paul McCartney was the musical ‘director’ that steered them through their legendary phase as John tripped out, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards basically became the Rolling Stones as Brian tripped out, Pete Townshend became indispensable to the Who with his songs and concepts and David Crosby ousted Clark on guitar, while Jim McGuinn took over as the Byrds main writer as Gene Clark….tripped out.
    Vince was the DA’s Jagger to Stovitz as Jones.

  22. Fred Bloggs says:

    Did no one notice on tape one that Harold says that Charlie asked him if he could move into the house next door to the LaBiancas when he was leaving and Harold said he’d have to ask his housemates that were still in the house so Charlie did……and they said no.
    Interesting.
    In George Stimson’s book, Charlie says that he first went up to the former True house before going next door, the night the LaBiancas were murdered. But he knew that Harold True no longer lived in that house and hadn’t done so for around 10 months. Was he hoping to find the three former house mates that had rejected his request to live there ?
    Ha ha, speculation abounds !

  23. rocky says:

    interesting tapes…..now there are investigators looking at other Manson killings between the nights of the tate murder and when they were arrested in Dec of 69. One investigator tried to promote the theory that Manson chose the La Bianca house because he was furious with True and the True house next door to La Biancas was vacant so they saw a light on at Labiancas and the rest is history………… True interestingly said Charlie didnt even remember who he was when he contacted him in jail, and that when he did remember he viewed Harold True as a friend. Scratch that theory. I would think the night of the Labianca murders that Manson was driving around for hrs looking for people to kill that lived in somewhat remote houses in the Pasadena area and he finally remembered the house next door to Harold True s on waverly

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