• ‘Manson’ Film Producer Slain

‘Manson’ Film Producer Slain

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27 – Producer-director Laurence Merrick, maker of the film “Manson,” was shot to death Wednesday at his Hollywood film school, police said.

His unidentified slayer, described as a young man in his 20s, escaped after the noontime shooting at 870 N. Vine St.

Merrick, 50, was shot once in the lower back as he left the school’s parking lot on the way to his office.

Stunned students at first thought he was acting when he called out “I’ve been shot.” But he collapsed in his office and died an hour later at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.

Merrick, who operated on the fringes of the Hollywood movie-making establishment, was the producer of the 1972 film “Manson,” about the hippie clan accused of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders. The documentary included an interview with three rifle-carrying Manson “family” female followers.

Nominated for an Academy Award in 1972, the film was plagued by legal problems which delayed its release for more than a year.

Just before the 1975 trial of Manson follower Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme for the attempted assasination of President Ford, the film was banned in the Sacramento area to prevent prejudicing prospective jurors.

Merrick, who was not related to noted New York stage producer David Merrick, also wrote, produced, directed and released two low-budget films in 1970. They were “Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?” and “Black Angels,” about a motorcycle gang.

Police said there were no witnesses to Wednesday’s shooting, though several persons claimed to have seen the assailant before and after the incident.

Students and teachers at the Laurence Merrick Studios school said a young man had been hanging around the three-building complex and at a small store across the street all morning.

One student, 24-year-old Darrow Minor, said the “suspicious” young man had been asking questions about Merrick, the school, and the Manson film.

Police described the suspect as white, 5 feet 8 inches or 5 feet 9 inches tall, of heavy build, and wearing blue denims, a yellow cap and sunglasses.

Merrick, who lived in Beverly Hills, had been owner-operator of the film school for 15 or 20 years, an official said. About 200 students are enrolled there in classes in acting, directing, producing and cinematography.


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