Step Up Search for Tate Lawyer
Monday, December 7th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 7 – A search was intensified today for the missing Tate-LaBianca attorney as the lawyer’s “substitute” in the trial announced it would take him until Dec. 16 before he is ready to take part in the case.
Los Angeles attorney Maxwell Keith, appointed last week to replace Ronald Hughes, who has been missing in the Sespe Hot Springs area of the Los Padres National Forest since Thanksgiving, told newsmen today he had read part of the 18,000-page transcript and it was “going faster than I thought.”
He said he hasn’t decided whether to reopen the defense portion of the case. All defendants — cult leader Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Keith’s client, Leslie Van Houten — has demanded daily that their case be reopened. The other defense attorneys had refused.
Meanwhile, Ventura County sheriff’s officers announced they were intensifying their search for the missing lawyer today. Together with Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies they had conducted a ground and air search for the 35-year-old attorney last week. The search had been called off temporarily over the weekend.
Chief defense counsel Paul Fitzgerald, who went to the Hot Springs area over the weekend to aid searchers, expressed renewed fears for Hughes’ safety.
“We all have very, very grave doubts about his safety,” Fitzgerald told newsmen today. “The area is extremely rugged and terribly wild. In the event Ron is disabled he’s been so for eight or nine days and the temperature has been down to 23 degrees. If he were only lost, he would have been found by the searchers by now.”
Hughes went to the spa near Ojai with two teenage friends the day after Thanksgiving. The two friends had hiked out of the area when their car became mired in mud. Hughes remained behind and no word has been heard from him since.
The 25-week-old trial has only closing arguments before the jury begins deliberations. If Keith decides not to reopen the defense case, final arguments will begin Dec. 16.
Attorneys today conferred with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older in chambers, apparently discussing Hughes’ disappearance and possible problems which may arise in closing arguments
By MARY NEISWENDER