Cowboy Witness In Tate Case Tells Of Threats On His Life
Thursday, October 1st, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 1st – A 6-foot, 5-inch cowboy, a key state witness at the Sharon Tate murder trial, testified yesterday that his life had been threatened repeatedly because of appearing as a witness against Charles Manson and the “family.”
Juan Flynn, 26, a rangy man in blue denim dungarees, said that two weeks ago while he was at the Spahn Ranch one of the female members and a man approached him as he was chopping wood.
“They told me they were going to do me in right there,” Flynn told the jury. “I had an ax, and I told them to help themselves. When the girl saw I wasn’t going to do what they wanted, she started crying.”
Flynn said they told him that “someone downtown” — presumably Manson — wanted to see him.
Flynn had acknowledged previously that almost a year had passed before he went to authorities and told them of Manson’s alleged admission that he was behind the seven Tate-LaBianca slayings. The witness said that fear for his own life was one of the reasons he held back his story.
Flynn said he also received telephone calls in the middle of the night and that a voice would say:
“Oink, oink. Snort, snort, Oink, oink. Snort, snort. They were pig sounds.”
The state witness said he also received two threatening notes, one of which read, “How big a change does it take to scrub away from the face of the earth a lazy image like you.”
Flynn said the second note started out, “This is an indictment on your life.”
Flynn, who lived with the “family” during the killings, testified previously that Manson boasted about the murders a few days after they occurred in August 1969.
Under cross-examination, Flynn admitted that he had not told of Manson’s “admissions” until last month although he had been questioned by police and also told his story to the author of a paperback book about the Tate slayings called “Five to Die.”
Irving Kanarek, Manson’s lawyer, suggested that Flynn had made up the story to get publicity to further his ambitions for a career in the movies.
“The kind of publicity I’m getting here, it won’t get me nowhere,” Flynn snapped back.
Kanarek and Flynn got into a bitter exchange at the conclusion of Tuesday’s trial session, winding up with the witness calling the attorney a “big catfish.”
At the start of yesterday’s session, Kanarek inquired sarcastically whether he had been called “a catfish or a codfish.”
“A catfish,” Flynn said.
The trial was delayed for more than an hour while the prosecution and defense lawyers conferred in Judge Charles H. Older’s chambers about the admissibility of testimony from two women who shared a jail dormitory with defendant Susan Atkins.
Miss Atkins is alleged to have told them in detail about the Tate-LaBianca killings, the first break in the case. Judge Older was seeking to make certain that their testimony applied only to Miss Atkins” guilt or innocence lest it lead to a mistrial.
The two women, Virginia Graham and Ronnie Howard, were expected to take the witness stand today.
Defense lawyer Ronald Hughes asked Flynn if a sheriff’s deputy had not threatened him with the gas chamber unless he testified. Flynn said he heard no such threat.
Hughes, trying his first case, then went into a meandering cross-examination about Manson’s philosophy.
“Didn’t Charles Manson once say that as a white man he accepted the responsibility for the killings of the American Indians?” Hughes asked.
“He didn’t accept no responsibility for killing no Indians,” Flynn said. “They all got killed like maybe 500 years ago, anyway.”