Monday, January 21, 2019


When it comes to parole there is a slight distinction between Bruce Davis, Leslie Van Houten and the “Rest” (Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, Watson and Beausoleil). 

Davis was convicted of the murders of Shorty Shea and Gary Hinman as well as conspiracy to commit those murders and conspiracy to commit robbery. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. 

Van Houten was convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the LaBianca murders. In her last trial she was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole and had a minimum eligible parole date (MEPD) of seven years. Inmates who committed life
crimes prior to November 8, 1978 all had an MEPD of seven years. 

The rest were sentenced to death. The death penalty was temporarily abolished in California as being unconstitutional (cruel and unusual punishment) in 1972. At that time Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, Watson and Beausoleil all had their sentences commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole. 

Perhaps being a little too legally technical, their sentences were commuted to the available alternative sentence for murder that existed at the time of their original convictions: life in prison with the possibility of parole. In 1977 California added the alternative sentence for murder of life without parole. 

If Manson et al had been convicted under the sentencing laws that have governed California since 1977 their sentences would have likely been commuted to life without parole. It is possible that this fact plays a role in the parole denials that have come down from the Governor, even if the notoriety of the case was not a political factor. Put another way the Governor, in part, may be saying “if this happened today (conviction-death sentence-commuted sentence) they would never get out, so why let them out.”

Regardless, after 1972 all of them were serving the same sentence. 

Parole Suitability

The key to parole suitability is section 2281 of the California Code of Regulations cited as 15CCR section 2281. The general standard for parole suitability is set forth in section 2281(a). 

(a) General. The panel shall first determine whether a prisoner is suitable for release on parole. Regardless of the length of time served, a life prisoner shall be found unsuitable for and denied parole if in the judgment of the panel the prisoner will pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society if released from prison.

The controlling standard is the underlined words also called "current dangerousness". 

Within section 2281 the key regulations for determining current dangerousness are 2281(c) and (d). These set out the factors the panel is to consider for crimes committed before November 1977. 

(c) Circumstances Tending to Show Unsuitability. The following circumstances each tend to indicate unsuitability for release. These circumstances are set forth as general guidelines; the importance attached to any circumstance or combination of circumstances in a particular case is left to the judgment of the panel. Circumstances tending to indicate unsuitability include:

(1) Commitment Offense. The prisoner committed the offense in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner. The factors to be considered include:

(A) Multiple victims were attacked, injured or killed in the same or separate incidents.
(B) The offense was carried out in a dispassionate and calculated manner, such as an execution-style murder.
(C) The victim was abused, defiled or mutilated during or after the offense.
(D) The offense was carried out in a manner which demonstrates an exceptionally callous disregard for human suffering.
(E) The motive for the crime is inexplicable or very trivial in relation to the offense.

(2) Previous Record of Violence. The prisoner on previous occasions inflicted or attempted to inflict serious injury on a victim, particularly if the prisoner demonstrated serious assaultive behavior at an early age.

(3) Unstable Social History. The prisoner has a history of unstable or tumultuous relationships with others.

(4) Sadistic Sexual Offenses. The prisoner has previously sexually assaulted another in a manner calculated to inflict unusual pain or fear upon the victim.

(5) Psychological Factors. The prisoner has a lengthy history of severe mental problems related to the offense.

(6) Institutional Behavior. The prisoner has engaged in serious misconduct in prison or jail.

(d) Circumstances Tending to Show Suitability. The following circumstances each tend to show that the prisoner is suitable for release. The circumstances are set forth as general guidelines; the importance attached to any circumstance or combination of circumstances in a particular case is left to the judgment of the panel. Circumstances tending to indicate suitability include:

(1) No Juvenile Record. The prisoner does not have a record of assaulting others as a juvenile or committing crimes with a potential of personal harm to victims.

(2) Stable Social History. The prisoner has experienced reasonably stable relationships with others.

(3) Signs of Remorse. The prisoner performed acts which tend to indicate the presence of remorse, such as attempting to repair the damage, seeking help for or relieving suffering of the victim, or the prisoner has given indications that he understands the nature and magnitude of the offense.

(4) Motivation for Crime. The prisoner committed his crime as the result of significant stress in his life, especially if the stress had built over a long period of time.

(5) Battered Woman Syndrome. At the time of the commission of the crime, the prisoner suffered from Battered Woman Syndrome, as defined in section 2000(b), and it appears the criminal behavior was the result of that victimization.

(6) Lack of Criminal History. The prisoner lacks any significant history of violent crime.

(7) Age. The prisoner's present age reduces the probability of recidivism.

(8) Understanding and Plans for Future. The prisoner has made realistic plans for release or has developed marketable skills that can be put to use upon release.

(9) Institutional Behavior. Institutional activities indicate an enhanced ability to function within the law upon release.

The board then weighs these factors to determine parole suitability. One factor can lead to a parole denial, for example, getting into recurring trouble while in prison. Relatively minor problems with many factors can also lead to a parole denial. 

However, the key to what has transpired with Manson et al over the years really boils down to one factor: unsuitability factor 2281(c)(1), the nature of the original commitment offense.  

(1) Commitment Offense. The prisoner committed the offense in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner. The factors to be considered include:

(A) Multiple victims were attacked, injured or killed in the same or separate incidents.
(B) The offense was carried out in a dispassionate and calculated manner, such as an execution-style murder.
(C) The victim was abused, defiled or mutilated during or after the offense.
(D) The offense was carried out in a manner which demonstrates an exceptionally callous disregard for human suffering.
(E) The motive for the crime is inexplicable or very trivial in relation to the offense.

This also has been the basis for the Governor’s decision to reverse parole grants. 2281(c)(1) is tailor-made for the Governor. It allows him, by its terms to consider the heinous nature of the crime, regardless of how long ago it was committed. There is no time limitation in 2281(c)(1). 

The Governor

Since 1988, California’s state constitution allows the Governor to grant or deny parole regardless of what the parole board panel does. Specifically, Article V, section 8(b) says this:

(b) No decision of the parole authority of this State with respect to the granting, denial, revocation, or suspension of parole of a person sentenced to an indeterminate term upon conviction of murder shall become effective for a period of 30 days, during which the Governor may review the decision subject to procedures provided by statute. The Governor may only affirm, modify, or reverse the decision of the parole authority on the basis of the same factors which the parole authority is required to consider. The Governor shall report to the Legislature each parole decision affirmed, modified, or reversed, stating the pertinent facts and reasons for the action.

[Aside: It should be noted that since 1988 not a single denial of parole by the board panel has been overturned by the any Governor.]

So, how is the Governor supposed to “only reverse [the parole authority] on the basis of the same factors the parole authority is required to consider”? That is covered by California Penal Code Section 3041.2(a). 

(a) During the 30 days following the granting, denial, revocation, or suspension by the board of the parole of an inmate sentenced to an indeterminate prison term based upon a conviction of murder, the Governor, when reviewing the board's decision pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 8 of Article V of the Constitution shall review materials provided by the board.

So, the Governor’s job is to apply the same suitability factors as the panel and review the same materials submitted to the panel. He or she is essentially repeating the job of the panel except that he does not have the benefit of being at the actual hearing.

Both Davis and Van Houten have seen their parole grants reversed by the Governor. In order to understand why or how it is necessary to understand the case law that has been decided by the California Supreme Court as it relates to parole denials. 

The Courts 

What happens after the Governor denies parole and reverses the board is where the issue gets legally.... well….. muddled. In fact, it is a mess. 

Once a parole grant is reversed, someone like Van Houten appeals the Governor’s decision to the courts by filing a writ of habeas corpus. That literally means 'you have a body [inappropriately]'. The court then reviews the decision of the Governor. 

Anytime a court reviews an executive branch decision it applies what is known in the law as a standard of review. In all cases they get to look and see if some level of evidence supports the decision. The 'level' can be anything from 'eh, good enough' to 'it better be cast iron'. Each of these standards has a name like rational basis or substantial evidence. 

In re Rosenkrantz

In California, the courts do not have the authority to review the basis of the parole reversal. In other words, they don’t perform a new parole suitability review. Instead they review the decision of the Governor (or the board for that matter) based upon what is known as the ‘some evidence’ standard. 

And that originates from the case of In re Rosenkrantz, 59 P.3d 174 (Cal. 2002). Prior to 2002 it was an open question whether a court had the authority to review the Governor’s decision at all.

“Although neither the California Constitution nor any statute authorized judicial review of the governor’s parole decisions, Rosenkrantz also subjected the governor’s decisions to the some evidence standard. Because the governor’s decision “must be based upon the same factors that restrict the [BPH] in rendering its parole decision[s],” the inmate’s liberty interest in the parole decision was the same whether the BPH or the governor made the decision. When the governor conducted his “independent, de novo review of the prisoner’s suitability for parole,” the court concluded that the judiciary had to protect the inmate’s liberty interest and ensure due process of law through the some evidence standard.” 

(Charlie Sarosy, Parole Denial Habeas Corpus Petitions: Why the Supreme Court Needs to provide More Clarity on the Scope of Judicial Review, 61 UCLA Law Review 1134 (2014).

I hope it is obvious that the critical inquiry then becomes what does some mean or, if you will, how much is some evidence? 

Rosenkrantz drove a pretty big nail into the parole possibility coffins of Manson et al. Rosenkrantz explicitly stated that the nature of the crime could be enough evidence to deny parole. The severity of the crime can be some evidence. 

The second issue decided in Rosenkrantz was how the court should review whether there was some evidence to support the Governor's decision. The court concluded that the some evidence standard is to be “extremely deferential” to the Governor or the board and not an independent review of the merits. 

For the next six years in most cases the basis for the Governor’s reversal was the nature of the original offense. Court’s reviewing the Governor’s decision would frequently drift into comparing the heinous nature of this crime to that crime. While it remained predictable that the Governor's decision would be upheld, different courts got there from different directions

In re Lawrence

Then along comes In re Lawrence 190 P.3d 535 (Cal 2008) which gave hope to those who had either been denied parole by the board panel or who had been granted parole only to see it reversed by the Governor. 

Governor Schwarzenegger reversed Sandra Lawrence’s parole grant even though she was a model prisoner, had been granted parole four times and declared not to be a significant danger to the public the board panel and by five psychologists. He did so based solely on the nature of the offense thereby finding her to be currently dangerous.

The California Supreme Court determined that there had to be a rational connection between the nature of the original offense and the conclusion that the inmate is currently dangerous. To the Lawrence court the nature of the crime alone could provide an implication of current dangerousness but that implication had to be confirmed with some other evidence. A many decades old crime, the Lawrence court said would rarely be enough to show that connection without something more. Court’s after Lawrence then, could review the merits of the Governor’s decision to ensure the existence of the connection. 

After Lawrence this meant that in Van Houten's case, for example, just because she participated in the "Manson Murders" and all their horror that wouldn't be enough, alone to establish that she was currently dangerous. There had to be something about her now, today that established that connection. 

The problem with the Lawrence opinion was that the court failed, again, to say how much evidence the Governor (or board panel) had to have to establish that connection. 

Lawrence resulted in the sudden explosion of parole board panel and Governor reversals based upon "lack of insight". This became the other evidence of the connection and typically was taken from the hearing transcript. 

Shaputis II

Then along comes In re Shaputis, 265 P.3d 253 (Cal. 2011)(also known as Shaputis II).This time the court addressed the issue of how much evidence the board panel or the Governor had to have to deny parole. It did not go well for inmates. 

The court decided that a reviewing court “must consider the whole record in the light most favorable to the determination before it”. This means the court is really looking for a way to uphold the determination. 

[Aside: Shaputis’s case it was a parole board panel denial.]

According to the California Supreme Court a reviewing court need find only a “modicum of evidence” supporting the conclusion that the inmate is currently dangerous. 

A parole denial (or a Governor's reversal) failed the some evidence standard only if it “lacks any rational basis” or is “arbitrary.” When deciding if the denial was “arbitrary”, the reviewing court cannot reweigh the evidence or assess the inmate’s current dangerousness, but only determine the existence of a rational connection between the nature of the crime and current dangerousness.

These three cases play out in Leslie Van Houten’s appeal of her last parole reversal in the ruling of Judge William C. Ryan, available here:

First, Judge Ryan acknowledges that the Governor relied primarily on the nature of the offense unsuitability factor 2281(c)(1) and notes that this is permissible. 

“The Governor based his decision on Petitioner's commitment offense, finding that the "crimes stand apart from others by their heinous nature and shocking motive." (Reversal at p. 4.) A commitment offense that is perpetrated in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner is a circumstance tending to show unsuitability for parole. (§ 2281, subd. ( c )( 1 ). ) The commitment offense may be considered especially heinous, atrocious or cruel when: (A) multiple victims were attacked, injured, or killed in the same or separate incidents; (B) the offense was carried out in a dispassionate and calculated manner, such as an execution-style murder; (C) the victim was abused, defiled, or mutilated during or after the offense; (D) the offense was carried out in a  manner which demonstrates an exceptionally callous disregard for human suffering; and (E) the motive for the crime is inexplicable or very trivial in relation to the offense. (§ 2281, subd. 22 (c)(l)(A}-(E).) In this case, all five factors are present.”

Ryan then went on to factually establish the five factors including (E) which was the Helter Skelter motive. 

This is drawn from Rosenkrantz

Then Ryan addresses In re Lawrence and the requirement that there be a connection between the nature of the offense and current dangerousness. He notes, consistent with Lawrence that seldom, after so long a period of time, is there such a connection. But he also says something rather startling, suggesting, contrary to Lawrence, that some crimes are so bad they might not need the connection.

“Ordinarily, after a long period of time, immutable factors, such as the commitment offense, typically no longer indicate a current risk of danger to society in light of a lengthy period of incarceration. (Lawrence, supra. 44 Cal.4th at p. 1221.) The Governor normally may base a reversal of parole upon immutable facts only if something in Petitioner's pre- or post-incarceration history, such as her current demeanor or mental state, demonstrates that she remains a continuing threat to public safety. (Id. at p. 1214.) 

However, Lawrence, supra, actually holds that "the underlying circumstances of the commitment offense alone rarely will provide a valid basis for denying parole when there is strong evidence of rehabilitation and no other evidence of current dangerousness," leaving open the possibility that, in a rare circumstance, the commitment offense alone can provide evidence of current dangerousness and unsuitability for parole. (Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 1212, emphasis added.)

Petitioner's crimes terrified a generation, and remain imprinted on the public consciousness to this day. If any crimes could be considered heinous enough to support a denial of parole based on their circumstances alone years after occurrence, they must certainly be the crimes perpetrated by the Manson Family, including the LaBianca murders for which Petitioner was convicted. Indeed, if not Petitioner's case, then it is hard to envision what sort of case would support parole denial on the facts of the offense alone. This was one of a series of sickening, "grotesque," brutal, and literally senseless murders, which were at the time the most horrific in California at least since World War II, and are among the most horrific since their commission.”

Judge Ryan is actually going out on a limb here to support the Governor. The 'rarely' reference was not intended by the Lawrence court to leave a window open. It was meant to close the door on the details of a decades old crime being the sole the basis for a parole denial or reversal. Admittedly, the choice of the word rarely by the court left the door ajar.

But then Judge Ryan finds the the belt to go with his suspenders. He finds the other evidence that supports connecting the nature of the crime to current dangerousness as required by In re Lawrence. And it is Van Houten's lack of insight. 

“The Governor's decision was also based on Petitioner's minimization of her role in the commitment offense. (Reversal at pp. 3-4.) An inmate's lack of insight, minimization, or lack of remorse are not listed as unsuitability factors in either Penal Code section 3041 or its  corresponding regulations. However, section 2281 allows the Board to consider "[ a ] relevant, reliable information available," including the inmate's "past and present mental state" and her "past and present attitude toward the crime .... " (§ 2281. subd. (6).) As articulated by the California Supreme Court, "the presence or absence of insight is a significant factor in determining whether there is a 'rational nexus' between the inmate's dangerous past behavior and the threat the inmate currently poses to public safety. '' (Shaputis II, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p.16 218.) Lack of insight "can reflect an inability to recognize the circumstances that led to the commitment crime; and such an inability can imply that the inmate remains vulnerable to those circumstances and, if confronted by them again, would likely react in a similar way."

Notice Judge Ryan doesn't analyze whether there is any evidence of van Houten's lack of insight. That is because Judge Ryan, following, although not citing Shaputis II, concludes that his job is not whether he agrees with the Governor. His job is not whether he believes there is enough evidence of a connection between the nature of the offense and current dangerousness nor does he look at whether there was any, let alone sufficient evidence of Van Houten's lack of insight. His job is simply to see if there is any evidence at all. 

“This court is not entitled to reweigh the evidence before the Governor; rather it is tasked with determining whether the record contains some evidence in support of the Governor's decision. (In re Rosenkrantz, supra, 29 Cal.4th at pp. 656, 665-677.) This court finds that it does, and that there is a rational nexus between the evidence in the record and the Governor's determination of Petitioner's current dangerousness.”

This, of course means that the court is not actually 'judging' the Governor’s decision. There is no standard being applied to the decision. No one is making the Governor prove his point ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ or ‘clear and convincing evidence’ or even by a 'preponderance of the evidence'. Nor is the Governor's decision being reviewed to see if it is supported by some level of evidence. There is no, "well, he needed two pounds of evidence and he only had one" analysis going on here. The test being applied to that decision is: is there any evidence at all or was the Governor’s decision completely arbitrary.

And that means the Manson Clan is likely not going anywhere.

The Prognosis for Parole: Very Bleak

The basis for nearly every parole reversal by any Governor of California has been that section up there that focuses on the commitment offense. The murder crew here have a whopper of an offense. There are movies about it (two more in production), TV shows, TV whatever they are, like Dateline that pop up about twice a year.  There are dozens of books including the original best seller, Helter Skelter. The original crime scene photos in all their gory detail are all over the internet. There are blogs like this one and at least one author subsequently quoted by several other writers has said that this crime ended the sixties. Judge Ryan describes the crimes as "terrifying a generation". 

Combine this with the politics of parole reversals. Why would a governor ever allow a murderer to be paroled? There is no political upside. While actual paroled inmates who kill again are very rare, when they do, they garner headlines. The 1400 or so others who fade into obscurity do not make good headlines. In fact, as to every high profile convicted murderer, as the Governor, it is far better to reverse parole and have a court overturn you than to ever let one pass. Then you can blame those damned unaccountable judges. 

Then there is the argument that but for one of those damned courts the death penalty would have been applied and none of them would be appearing at parole hearings. 

[Aside: In researching this post I was struck by how many current era articles about Leslie Van Houten actually lump her in with the rest saying she was sentenced to death, her sentence was commuted and she became eligible for parole. While all that is true her conviction was overturned and that is seldom mentioned.]

The 'they should be dead' argument doesn't help them. 

Finally, there is no real judicial review. There is no court watching over the process. The ‘some evidence’ standard might best be described post- Shaputis II as the “the Governor says there is evidence, so there is” standard. 

The Impact of The Manson Mystique

Does anyone really believe that being associated in a general or broad sense with the “Manson Murders” doesn't impact the possibility of receiving a parole grant? Whether you murdered Shorty Shea or Gary Hinman or conspired to do so lumps you into the "Manson Murders" as soon as his name is mentioned. This is the case even though probably only the people who read this blog (and others) and a few dozen other people could actually name all nine victims.

Many of the factors reviewed by a 2011 study conducted by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center suggest that the Manson Mystique does impact their parole possibilities. Here are a few quotes and data from that study. 

[Aside: A ‘lifer’ is an inmate sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of life. In other word, they were sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.]

“For the 1499 individuals who served term-to-life sentences who were released from custody between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 2010, the average amount of time served was 225 months or 18.75 years. Of approximately 1,000 lifers who had been sentenced for murder and were released from custody during the 20-year period from 1990-2010, the average number of years served was about 20 years. 

The average length served by the largest categories of crime type is depicted in Chart 9.”

Manson et al have served (or served prior to their deaths) far longer than the average lifer. In fact, they have served more than twice as long as others convicted of the same offense and more than twice as long as their peers, those convicted in the 1970's. 

The parole rate for female lifers is far higher than males. About 25% of women lifers are paroled. The parole grant rate for lifers at the California Institute for Women was 33% for the period 2007-2010.


“A major—perhaps the major—question in public debate about the current lifer population is their risk of recidivating. While data is limited, interim information suggests that the incidence of commission of serious crimes by recently released lifers has been minuscule, and as compared to the larger inmate population, recidivism risk—at least among those deemed suitable for release by both the Board and the Governor—is minimal.”

“In a cohort of convicted murderers released since 1995 in California, the actual recidivism rate is in fact minuscule. In particular, among the 860 murderers paroled by the Board since 1995, only five individuals have returned to jail or returned to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations for new felonies since being released, and none of them recidivated for life-term crimes. This figure represents a lower than one percent recidivism rate, as compared to the state’s overall inmate population recommitment rate to state prison for new crimes of 48.7 percent.”

It should be noted that the study believed but couldn't prove, because of the limited data, that the twenty year term and thus the age of the lifer upon release contributed to these figures. 

This statistic also raises a question about the whole notion of current dangerousness being at all related to the original crime. Lifers don't commit new murders. Of course, the counter argument as to the Manson Crew is that we don’t really know that because Manson Family murderers have not been released yet (except, of course, Steve Grogan, who is one of those successful statistics). 

You certainly don’t want the victims to show up at your hearing like they do at the parole hearings of Van Houten and the rest.

“When victims attend hearings, the grant rate is less than half the rate when victims do not attend.”

However, Van Houten and Davis are far from being the only ones who have had their parole grants reversed. Unfortunately, the data in the study ends in 2010. 

“But, the likelihood of any lifer convicted of murder being granted parole by the Board and not having the decision reversed by the Governor is and always has been slim. In 2010, the probability was approximately six percent.”


All quotes and charts are from: Robert Weisberg, Debbie A. Mukamal and Jordan D. Segall, Life In Limbo: An Examination of Parole Release for Prisoners Serving Life Sentences with the Possibility of Parole in California, Stanford Criminal Justice Center (2011) (Permission is granted for reproduction of this document, with attribution to the Stanford Criminal Justice Center.)

It is, in my opinion, highly unlikely any of the Manson Family will be granted parole and not have it reversed by the Governor. As stated, the Governor has nothing to lose and would likely rather be reversed by a court than be the guy who let out a murderer. 

But section 2281(c)(1) is really the key to understanding what has happened to Van Houten and Davis. On its face 2281(c)(1) allows the board panel or the Governor to look at the heinous nature of the original crime regardless of how many years have passed. He, like Judge Ryan, needs only recite the details of the murders. Then he can pay lip service to the Lawrence connection by citing lack of insight and use any fact he can find to support that. In Van Houten's case that can be the actual fact that she likely did stab an already dead Rosemary LaBianca. This combination makes it easy for the Governor to reverse the panel but it also provides a legitimate basis for that action. 

If 2281(c)(1) did not exist it would be very hard to keep at least Van Houten and probably Davis in prison. Since it does, it is easy.

You may believe that Van Houten and/or Davis should be paroled or you may believe they should be paroled because the panel responsible by law for making that decision says they should. You may be in the camp that believes that should remain right where they are.

But no matter where you come down on that issue or where you are on the liberal-conservative spectrum or where you sit on crime and punishment you should at least take one moment to ponder the real bottom line here.

The Governor of the State of California has the power to change an indeterminate sentence of life in prison with the possibility for parole into life without parole and no one can overturn that decision. 

Pax Vobiscum


Friday, January 18, 2019

Charles Manson’s top follower is now a ‘friendly’ upstate neighbor

By Maureen Callahan (NY Post)

MARCY, N.Y. — On a quiet little road in upstate New York, about 250 miles from the city, resides an older woman whom neighbors describe as friendly, polite, averse to drama or confrontation. She largely keeps to herself in the small outbuilding, where she lives with her equally reclusive boyfriend, but in the spring and summer can be seen happily walking her small dog.

She is one of the most infamous criminals in modern American history.

Before she was known as one of Charles Manson’s favorite cult members, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme had minor renown as a child performer. Born in 1948 to a homemaker mother and aeronautical-engineer father, Lynette showed an early interest in dance. By the late 1950s, she had joined the Westchester Lariats, a popular Los Angeles-based touring group that performed on network television and at the White House.

She attended Orville Wright Junior High School, where she got A’s and B’s and took drama classes for about two years. It was there that she met a young Phil Hartman, who would become a close friend and go on to stardom on “Saturday Night Live.” She loved him.

In a 1998 letter to “48 Hours: Mystery” producer Paul LaRose, Fromme wrote that Hartman “was more supportive than competitive and so enthusiastic that it was fun to go to class with him.” She had been following, with great fascination, the coverage of Hartman’s recent death, killed by his wife in a murder-suicide.

“I wonder if he had any notion that such was possible or he did not believe her,” Fromme wrote, “or she did not say.”

Fromme had a boyfriend and graduated high school in 1966, but not much more is known about her childhood or adolescence. A well-researched 1997 biography by Jess Bravin suggested that Fromme had been sexually abused by her father, an assertion Fromme denied. Yet by 18, she was homeless, living on Venice Beach.

And there she met a man. “Name’s Charlie,” he said.

As she recalls in her memoir, “Reflexion,” begun in 1973 and published last year, the connection was immediate.

“So your father kicked you out,” he said to her. She told him yes, that she felt trapped and wanted so much more. He hooked her with the first of many paradoxical platitudes. “Don’t want out and you’re free,” he said. “The want ties you up. Be where you are. You got to start someplace.”

He knew all about it, he said, because he had recently been trapped himself, having just served 7½ years in prison — for what, he did not say. He told her he was headed north to visit his mother, and she was welcome to come along. She stood there, silently thinking about her boyfriend, the people in her life, this total stranger who had a gaggle of people waiting several feet away.

Lynette Fromme at the Alderson Federal Correctional Institution in 1980
“I can’t make up your mind for you,” he said, and didn’t get more than half a block before Fromme grabbed her one bag, full of books, and ran to follow Charles Manson.

She would soon learn she was one of many girls, some as young as 13, whom Manson could spot on sight as damaged, broken, willing to sleep with anyone. In Fromme’s retelling, Manson wanted to protect them. She seems to believe this, even as she writes that Manson had sex with her and with another member of his growing “family” named Mary. Sometimes, it was all three of them together.

“He once asked us each to sit in a chair and watch him make love to the other,” Fromme wrote. “Beyond initial discomfort, I saw moving artwork and dance, tenderness and surrender.”

He suggested the three of them all marry one another, even though it was illegal and he had already been married once, to the mother of his son, who had changed the child’s name, filed for divorce and fled. He did not approve. “It would be better for a man to have a hundred wives,” Manson told her, “than to divorce one.”

They lived at Spahn Ranch, so named for its owner, an elderly man who nicknamed Fromme after the noises she made when he grabbed her. It has been implied that she traded sex for the Family’s rent, but there is nothing of her time with Manson — not the starvation, not the orgies, not the absence of TV or radio or games or shoes to wear or the nearly 100 people living in squalor nor any real contact with the outside world — that Fromme does not consider the high point of her life.

“I don’t recall any problems,” she wrote. Manson, she insists, was no mastermind, no cult leader, even though in less than two years, he would be indicted as such in the most sensational trial the nation had yet seen.

On Aug. 8, 1969, actress Sharon Tate — just two weeks away from giving birth to her first child with husband Roman Polanski — and four others were brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family, at Manson’s directive. The following night, those same Family members, along with two more and Manson himself, targeted the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. They bound the couple and stabbed them to death, Leno 12 times and Rosemary a total of 41.

Fromme was never charged in connection with the murders, but she remained a disciple. She and other Family members were a constant presence at the courthouse during Manson’s trial. Fromme, like other Family members, carved an “X” into her forehead after he did. She shaved off her famous red hair. She refused to testify at trial and was convicted of contempt.

“She was the main gal in the Family,” said prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who went on to write “Helter Skelter,” the definitive account of the crimes and trial. “Once Manson left the ranch, if he was anywhere else, she was in charge.”

Manson was sentenced to death and sent to Folsom Prison. Fromme moved to San Francisco to be near him.

Her status as a true believer — which seems to hold today — would be enough to make her a pariah. But when it comes to Squeaky Fromme, there’s always more.

There was another grisly crime, this one a double homicide committed sometime in September 1972. Fromme had moved here with Manson Family members Nancy Pitman and Priscilla Cooper and two ex-convicts, Michael Monfort and James Craig, who belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood.

Four of the five — Fromme again an exception — would be convicted of murdering a young couple named James and Lauren Willett. Convinced James was about to tell law enforcement about a string of robberies they had committed, they made James dig his own grave before shooting him to death. Lauren, investigators believed, was collateral damage. An 8-month-old infant was found in the home, alive and unharmed.

Once again, Squeaky Fromme had been closely involved with homicidal psychopaths, and once again, she walked away. Yet rather than retreat, Fromme became even more brazen. On Sept. 5, 1975, she donned a red robe, grabbed her Colt .45, and made her way to the California State Capitol Park Building in Sacramento, where she positioned herself feet away from President Gerald Ford and raised her weapon.

Secret Service agents put handcuffs on Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme
after she pointed a gun at President Gerald Ford.
The gun, she famously cried with remorse, did not go off.

Fromme had finally made history: She was the first woman to attempt to assassinate a US president. During her trial, she begged her lawyer to get Manson to attend. US Marshals would have to carry her in on days she refused to walk. During closing arguments, Fromme threw an apple at the prosecutor’s head, knocking off his glasses.

“Sandy Koufax couldn’t have thrown a better pitch,” her lawyer said years later. She was sentenced to life, but on Dec. 23, 1987, she escaped from federal prison in West Virginia, frantic to see Manson, who had been diagnosed with cancer.

She was found two days later and got an extra 15 years tacked on to her sentence. Yet in 2009, at age 60, she was granted parole. Her intent, she once said, had always been peaceful. “I stood up and waved a gun [at Ford] for a reason,” she wrote the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2005. “I was so relieved not to have to shoot it, but, in truth, I came to get life. Not just my life but clean air, healthy water and respect for creatures and creation.”

How peaceful is Squeaky Fromme today?

“She’s very friendly,” one neighbor told The Post. “She’s usually with her neighbor, who also has a dog.” Fromme moved here, to the small town of Marcy, about five years ago, joining boyfriend Robert Valdner, himself an ex-con. Valdner, now 68, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1988 for the shooting death of his brother-in-law. A reported Manson fanatic, he began writing to Fromme while both were incarcerated; he was paroled first, in 1992.

Today, says one neighbor, Valdner works at the nearby correctional facility. “He’s hooked up with the sheriffs,” said the neighbor, who adds that the couple has never caused any problems.

“They don’t get involved in drama,” said a third resident. “They’re not ones who are out [saying], ‘Oh, look who I am,’ bragging about their past.”

Only in America could a would-be presidential assassin live out her days in rural upstate New York, publishing a memoir she once reportedly considered too incriminating, one that lionizes Manson while neglecting any mention of the murders — themselves the backdrop for Quentin Tarantino’s forthcoming “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Dakota Fanning as Fromme, slated for release this July.

As for that new life, some things don’t change. The house she shares with Valdner is decorated with skulls. Fromme’s hair is long and red again. And her boyfriend keeps a baseball bat, which, as he made clear to two Post reporters who approached him, he’s not afraid to use.

Appreciation to Tom H for the tip.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

2019 Manson Blog Tour

The timeframe of the 2019 Tour will be May 15 - 20 in LA with some possible side trips.

If anyone is interested in attending please email either myself or Deb. There's no charge, but you need to make your own travel, lodging and other arrangements.

The exact itinerary is never announced before the Tour but the links below will give you an idea of what it's like.

Past tour links:

MansonBlog Tour 2018: Paying Respects
MansonBlog Tour 2018: Cielo Drive Killer Walk
MansonBlog Tour 2018: Scott Michaels and his Dearly Departed Tours and Artifact Museum
MansonBlog Tour 2018: The Spiral Staircase Revisited (Again)
MansonBlog Tour 2018: The Back Ranch at Spahn
MansonBlog Tour 2018: Respects to Ron Hughes from Ghouls & Fools
MansonBlog Tour 2018: A Few Reflections on the MansonBlog Tour
MansonBlog Tour 2018: Heartbreak and Change of Heart about the Manson Girls
MansonBlog Tour 2018: What it's like driving with Dreath

Tour 2017: Slipping in the Mix with Steve Grogan
Tour 2017: The James Willet Murder Area
Tour 2017: Mendocino
Tour 2017: NorCal Facts About The Victims
Tour 2017: Haight-Ashbury
Tour 2017: Sacramento

MansonBlog Tour 2016: Jane Doe #59
MansonBlog Tour 2016: The Gun Toss And Steven Weiss' House
MansonBlog Tour 2016: Independence, CA
MansonBlog Tour 2016: Death Valley, The Racetrack Playa and The Michigan Loader Site
MansonBlog Tour 2016: Nude Hippies And The Origin Of An Icon
MansonBlog Tour 2016: The End Of Summit Trail

Manson Tour 2015: Earth Day at Spahn Ranch
Manson Tour 2015: A Discussion With George Stimson: Part I
Manson Tour 2015: A Discussion With George Stimson: Part II
Manson Tour 2015: Olancha - Karl Stubbs' Neighbor and Hannum Ranch
Manson Tour 2015: Goler Wash
Manson Tour 2015: Gary Hinman's Bus -- Not
Manson Tour 2015: Benedict Canyon and the Surrounding Areas: Report on Strange Sounds, Gunshots, Indications of Violence, Related by Persons who were in Hearing Distance of the Polanski Residence on the Night of 8-8-69 and the Morning of 8-9-69

Manson Tour 2014: Stoner's Spahn Ranch Hike
Manson Tour 2014: The Museum of Death and The Sounds of Laurel Canyon
Manson Tour 2014: A Day With Aes-Nihil
Holy Cross

2013 Tour: Robert Hendrickson at The Silent Theatre
2013 Tour: Cielo Drive
2013 Tour: Easton Drive / Rudy Weber
2013 Tour: LaBianca
2013 Tour: El Coyote
2013 Tour: Lotsapoppa
2013 Tour: Westchester/Venice
2013 Tour: Hanging out with Michael on his Back Porch!
2013 Tour: Spahn/Chatsworth

2012 Tour Day 1: Vegas & Pahrump
2012 Tour Day 2: Devil's Hole, Father Crowley Point & Olancha
2012 Tour Day 3: Trona, Ballarat & Barker Ranch
2012 Tour Day 4: El Coyote
2012 Tour Day 5: Lower Topanga, Spahn, Box Canyon

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Matt Request For GoFundMe

Many of you who have been around here for a while know Trilby (real name Kathleen). Over the years she's been a great contributor. Much of it behind the scenes.

Kat is one of our own. I know her and I can vouch accuracy. She has been ill for about three years now and has burned through all of her savings paying medical expenses. 401k completely gone. Without immediate help she will be homeless.

I PERSONALLY AM ASKING ALL WHO CAN TO CONTRIBUTE. There is a GoFundMe page. Time is of the essence. This can't wait.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Sadie's Road Trip

In the late August of 1966 Susan Atkins and two young men embarked upon a road trip that led them from San Francisco to Stayton, Oregon a small town east of Salem, Oregon. This would prove to be her first foray into serious crime. 

In her first book, Child of Satan, Child of God,Atkins refers to her two partners as “Al” and “Cliff” but contemporary records identify the two as Gust Albert Sund Jr., age 24 and Clinton Talioferro also age 24. Atkins was 18 years old at the time. 

Meeting “Al” and “Cliff”

Atkins describes her initial meeting with Al and Cliff. 

“It was the night shift. The boss was upset about something, but at first I didn’t pay much attention. Then I understood what was bothering him. “If those guys don’t clear out of the back alley in five minutes, I’m calling the cops,” he said through clinched teeth. 

“What’s going on, Max?” I asked. 

“I don’t know except those guys are laughing and talking out there, and they’re up to no good; I can see that.”  

“What are they doing?” I persisted. 

“I can’t tell for sure. They just seem to be drinking beer and shooting the breeze.” 

When Max wasn’t looking I opened the door to the alley and stuck my head out. There were four guys—men—just outside the door. “Hey, you guys,” I whispered as loudly as I dared. “You’d better get going. My boss is going to call the heat on you.

I went back into the coffee shop. Things were slow.”

It was near noon when he stopped. Al turned to me abruptly and said point blank, “I’m going up to Oregon to take care of some things that have to be done, and I’d like for you to come along with me. I want you as part of my life. And when things get straightened out, and we can settle down, I’d like you to be my wife.”

(Slosser, Bob. Child of Satan, Child of God(p. 49-52). Menelorelin Dorenay’s Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Like most of her reporting this description is not entirely accurate. Atkins’ reporting of the events surrounding her first run in with the law is generally inaccurate and downplays her actual role in any criminal activity. She also omits from her narrative completely the only piece of this minor crime spree that would later come back to haunt her. The part that suggested her willingness or eagerness to kill. 

Looked at another way, Atkins’ report of her road trip is sort of a microcosm of her reporting in general: (1.) a charismatic male leads her astray (2.) she is present when crimes are committed but doesn’t directly participate (3.) it is filled with lies. Oh, and she even brags about her willingness to commit murder along the way, although this time to the wrong person. Wait, strike that last clause, it was the wrong person(s) later, too.  

In Lloyd Shearer’s The Manson Family Murders, Atkins is more accurately described as working, not at a coffee shop, but at a 24 hour burger joint. Since Shearer obtained his information from Atkins I guess she knew in 1970 (versus 1978) where she was working at the time. That restaurant is said to be Burke’s Restaurant at the corner of Market Street and 14thStreet in San Francisco. 

“In San Francisco she got a job hashing in Burke’s Restaurant on 14thand Market Street. It was there that she met a pair of ex-convicts, Al Sund, Jr. and Clinton Talioferro, both of whom had freshly stolen a new Buick Riviera from a San Leandro parking lot.”

(Shearer, Lloyd, The Manson Family Murders, in The Fresno Bee Republican, Sunday January 11, 1970)

[Aside: she also correctly called “Cliff”, “Clinton” in 1970, but never would, again.]

The actual name of the restaurant was Burke’s (Big Hamburger) Drive In. It was located at 2100 Market Street in San Francisco which was, indeed, at the three-way intersection of Market Street, 14thStreet and Church Streets. 

Corner of Market, 14th and Church 1966

Polk's 1966 Directory
According to Polk’s Directory for San Francisco Burke’s opened in 1955. It is listed as Burke’s Truck Stop in 1975 and disappears from the directories in 1976. 


Off to Oregon

On August 24, 1966 Talioferro (and perhaps Sund) stole a 1966 Buick Riviera off the lot of Western States Leasing Company in Hayward, California. Interestingly, while Atkins in the Shearer piece, above, denies knowing the car was stolen she also acknowledges meeting Sund and Talioferro in “early August 1966”.  I find it a little suspect that she would know about a planned road trip to Oregon and not know how they planned to get there. 

Atkins joined the two and they headed for Lake Tahoe, not Oregon. 

Atkins claims she went along on the road trip because she had fallen in love with Sund. 

“I changed clothes and away we went. At his place I was surprised to find six men living together in one large room. They seemed rough, but they were certainly polite enough to me, and they seemed to hold Al in especially high regard. They made me uneasy, but that all vanished as we roared off on his bike.
I had faith in Al. I knew he could take care of me. He was big, beautiful—and mysterious. I was in love with him and with the mystery of him. Even if he wasn’t precise about what was ahead, I still trusted him.”
I began to piece together the immediate plans. Way back behind my suitcases in the trunk was a high-powered rifle. It would serve to get more guns, which would open the way for a big heist. “Then,” Al said over and over, “we’ll have enough money to get married, buy a home in Oregon, and go straight.” 

My faith in him was so great that I believed him. 

In three or four days, we abandoned the Buick, guessing that an alarm for it was out by then. Using money stolen late at night from a gas station, we acquired what seemed to be the perfect car for us, a well worn, nondescript Rambler sedan, just right for young people doing some camping in the beautiful Oregon countryside.

Equipment was easy to steal from the local stores, and we had everything we needed for camping in the woods near a river. Our chosen site was actually property owned by relatives of Clifton.

(Slosser, Bob. Child of Satan, Child of God(p. 51-53). Menelorelin Dorenay’s Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

“I didn’t want to leave Al. I was in love with him. I just decided to stay with him and go where he went…..I didn’t realize they were stealing the car until after we were in Oregon.”

(Shearer, Lloyd, The Manson Family Murders, in The Fresno Bee Republican, Sunday January 11, 1970)

There is a similarity between her sudden intense feelings for Sund and decision to join that ex con after talking to him once and her first encounter with another ex con, Charles Manson. Both appear to have wooed her into blindly following them in a very short time. In Sund’s case, if Atkins is to believed, it was a matter of hours. 

Atkins claims that the original plan was to head for Lake Tahoe but somewhere along the way they decided instead to head to Oregon. 

When the trio reached Salem, Oregon they decided to ditch the Riviera. According to Atkins’ accounts they purchased a 1957 AMC Rambler for $65 as a replacement after burglarizing a gas station. A newspaper article regarding their arrest says that the Buick was recovered by the police near Keizer, Oregon, which is just north of Salem. 

Capital Journal Tuesday, September 13, 1966

There may be some corroboration of Atkins in a small article about a burglary near Keizer shortly before their arrest. 

Statesman Journal September 5, 1966
Atkins mentions robbing a gas station and this burglary is near where the Buick was ditched in Keizer. The burglars also netted enough cash, according to the story, to make the Rambler purchase plausible. 

For some reason, the three determined that their best course of action was to head east from Salem along state route 22. Somewhere a couple of miles east of Stayton, Oregon they camped along the Santiam River. The image, below is what the area looks like today. It probably was not vastly different in 1966. It was and is rural farmland backing to the edge of forest wilderness. 

Atkins claims they chose the location because they were camping on Talioferro’s cousin’s property. I was not able to locate a “Talioferro” anywhere in or around Stayton but then again there is no reason his cousin would share his last name. Atkins says they stole what they needed from local stores and private citizens. Newspaper accounts confirm her story at least to the point of confirming the camp consisted of stolen goods and several reported burglaries in the area. 

The Police Close In

Around September 10, 1966 the battery of the Rambler gave out. In her book, Atkins claims that the plan was to hitch a ride with Talioferro’s cousin into town to buy a new battery. 

“Let’s go up to your cousin’s and see if he’ll drive us into town to get a new one,” replied Al calmly. 

“It’s worth a try,” said Cliff, “but don’t be surprised if he says no. I’m not his favorite cousin, you know.” Cliff smiled, evilly, I thought. 

We were camped more than half a mile from the cousin’s mobile home. As we approached it, we saw two Highway Patrol cars in the driveway.

(Slosser, Bob. Child of Satan, Child of God(pp. 53-54). Menelorelin Dorenay’s Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Atkins’ tale is inaccurate. Instead, the three stole a battery from Philippi Ford in Stayton. This event is what actually triggered the hunt for the three by the police. 

Apparently, a battery wasn’t the problem with the Rambler as they abandoned it somewhere in the vicinity and took off on foot. 

Atkins claimed to Shearer that the reason they were caught was because “Clinton told everybody about the stolen car, the guns and shot his mouth off.” This story also seems a bit problematic as it is difficult to imagine who Talioferro could have bragged to, being only the three of them around. It is possible that if the three were camping on Taliaferro’s cousin’s property that cousin may have been the one who heard the tale and it is also possible that he called the cops. 

Here is what happened. The police somehow got wind of the fact the three were camping near the Santiam River, possibly near at about the location in this image, below, which is the right distance from Stayton and reasonably accessible. 

As the police closed in on the place on the evening of September 11, 1966 one of the three saw the cops and they fled, leaving behind their stolen camping gear. The police staked out the campsite overnight but the trio didn't return and instead headed east, moving slowly in the dark. 

[Aside: Atkins claims helicopters with searchlights were involved in the hunt. They were not.]

The Arrest

At about 7:05 p.m. on the evening of September 12, 1966 Corporal Thomas Drynan of the Oregon State Police accompanied by an unidentified civilian was returning from a week-long horseback patrol through the wilderness northeast of Stayton. As Drynan would later testify, in Oregon the function of ‘Game Warden’ is performed by the state police. Drynan was out looking for poachers and, based on other newspaper articles from around the time where he is mentioned, he was also likely looking for individuals who would periodically steal small equipment and tools from logging camps in the region. He was heading back to Mill City where his office was located. Mill City is about 30 miles east of Salem, Oregon. 

Drynan was in civilian dress, wearing his badge and driving a four-wheel drive pick-up truck marked ‘Oregon State Police’ on both doors. He was hauling a horse trailer containing two horses. He turned onto Highway 22 from a gravel road at about the time he received a radio call about three suspects wanted on a warrant for receiving stolen property, who had earlier run from officers in the area: two men and a women. One man was wearing an Air Corps flight jacket.

A few moments later he spied Atkins, Sund and Talioferro walking east on Highway 22 in the west bound lane, the same direction he was traveling. One of the men was wearing an Air Corps flight jacket. Drynan stopped and called the three over to his truck and asked for identification. 

Drynan’s testimony actually creates a geographic impossibility. He testified where the arrest occurred. 

“It [the arrest] took place 20 miles east of the town of Stayton, about two miles east of Salem.” 

Stayton is about 17 miles east of Salem so he likely meant 20 miles east of Salem and two miles east of Stayton, which would place the arrest in this vicinity a couple of miles east of the possible campsite and close to Mehama, which is just out of the image to the right. 

Here is how Atkins described the arrest.

“Ten or fifteen minutes passed. Then we heard a car coming. Cliff and I both looked at Al. He kept walking. It was a Highway Patrol van. The next thing I knew I was lying face down on the concrete highway, with a booted foot pressed into the small of my back. A shotgun was aimed at my head. “Don’t make one false move or you’re dead,” said a voice above me. We were searched head to foot, then handcuffed behind our backs. With my head resting on the pavement, I looked solemnly at Al. I could feel a tear running across my nose. 

One of the two patrolmen spoke enthusiastically to the other. “It’s a good thing we got that alert down the road there. We might never have spotted them.” 

Just three miles up the road, they had received a radio description of two men and a woman, armed and dangerous, wanted on suspicion of robbery and parole violation. 

Al managed a smile at me. “We almost made it, kiddo.”

(Slosser, Bob. Child of Satan, Child of God(p. 55-56). Menelorelin Dorenay’s Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Here is how Drynan described the arrest during his testimony. For chronological purposes I have placed Bugliosi’s direct examination after Shinn’s cross examination. 

A (on cross examination): They were walking down the opposite lane of traffic I was in with their backs to me. I drove up to the side of them in my own lane of traffic.”
A: I called them and asked them to come over to the vehicle. I wanted to talk to them.
A: Well, after I talked to them and got identification from them, yes [I got out of the pick-up].
Q (Shinn): So, after you got the ID, what happened after that? 
A: I ran a check on them with my office by radio.
Q: Yes, when did you get out of the vehicle?
A: As soon as I received information from Salem that they were wanted. 
Q: When you say ‘they were wanted’ how did you know they were wanted? 
A: Because they were all three identified by name.
Q: Did you draw your gun at that time? 
A: I did. 
A: I made them lay down on the ground. 
Q: And then while you were arresting her she was quiet, was she not, scared and crying?
A: No.
Q: At any time while you were questioning Miss Atkins on the road you never—she never pulled that gun on you, did she? 
A: She had it pointed at me.
A: In her pocket.
A: She had her hands in her pockets and she had something pointed in my direction and that was the only thing in her pocket.
Q: Did you at any time point your rifle at her neck?
A: Myself? No, sir.
Q: How about your partner or your friend?
A: He could very well have.
Q: Were you there when he pointed the rifle at her head, made her cry? 
A: She did not cry at any point in time. 
Q: She was scared of you, was she not?
A: No.
Q: Did she look worried and scared? 
A: It did not appear to me that way, no. 
Q (Bugliosi): Did you search Susan Atkins?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: Did you find any weapon on her person? 
A: Yes, I did.
Q: What type of weapon? 
A: A .25 caliber Germain-made automatic pistol. 
Q: Was the weapon loaded? 
A: It was. 
Q: How many rounds? 
A: It had six rounds with one in the chamber. 
Q: In route to Salem, Oregon, did Miss Atkins make any statement to you with respect to what she intended to do with that gun? 
A: Yes, she did. 
Q: What did she say? 
A: I asked Miss Atkins what she intended to do with the gun and she told me that if she had the opportunity, she would have shot and killed me. 

Atkins leaves a couple of important details out of her version like the fact she had a loaded gun (with one in the chamber) and the fact she pointed the gun at Drynan inside her pocket and the, later, critical piece of evidence that she told Drynan after being read her rights that she would have shot and killed him if he had not acted first. 

Drynan’s description of the arrest does call into question Atkins’ stated intention. She had plenty of time while he was checking ID’s and talking on the radio to shoot Drynan if she had really thought about doing so. Her statement to Drynan is likely the same type of bragging that would get her into serious trouble in a couple years.

Bugliosi used Drynan’s testimony in the penalty phase of the trial in an attempt to show the jury that Atkins had been eager to murder in cold blood back in 1966. Drynan had called Bugliosi in early December 1969 after someone in his office directed him to do so after Atkins’ name appeared in the press. Bugliosi later asked him to testify. I question how much of an impact Drynan’s testimony had. While the press made it a headline, given what the jury had already heard, this event is pretty tame by comparison. 

A few weeks later Atkins pleaded guilty to receiving and concealing stolen property. She received a six, month suspended sentence and two years’ probation. 
Statesman Journal September 27, 1966

Statesman Journal September 30, 1966

Albert Sund also pleaded guilty to receiving and concealing stolen property and also being an ex-convict in possession of a concealed weapon. He received two years in an Oregon penitentiary on each charge to be served concurrently. 

When he was released on January 31, 1968 after serving 16 months he was immediately arrested on charges stemming from a gas station robbery in 1966. However, you will note that the charges relate to a hold up, one that occurred at the Freeway Shell Service Station north of Albany, Oregon. Albany is south of Salem. 

Statesman Journal January 31, 1968
Albany Democratic Herald February 21, 1968
These charges were eventually dismissed by the DA because he could not locate a witness. Given the description of the robber, the fact he was alone and the fact he had stolen a car in Portland and was thus heading south towards California (the wrong way), the DA probably had the wrong robbery and Sund actually avoided being wrongly convicted of that crime. 

Statesman Journal September 4, 1966

Talioferro also pleaded guilty to receiving and concealing stolen property. He did not plead to the weapons charge, which is odd. He received a sentence of six months in the county jail but he was handed over to Federal authorities for transporting the stolen Buick across state lines. I was unable to find any record regarding the outcome of those charges. 

Some things have always baffled me about this case: how did the police/DA in Oregon know the three had stolen the abandoned Buick? How, as Drynan testified, did they police have their names before their arrest? And why wasn’t either Sund or Atkins pursued on the federal crime? Atkins’ parole hearings suggest she was charged but not prosecuted. 

It is possible, as Atkins claims, that Talioferro shot his mouth off to his ‘cousin’ who turned them all in. In fact, that almost seems to be the only answer to the first two questions. But that third question still baffles me. Why didn’t the feds go after all three?

It is possible that Talioferro actually rented the car and didn’t return it. Atkins claims the two told her the car was rented. That would place Talioferro on the ‘stupid crook’ list, like the guy who wrote the demand note on the back of a personal check when robbing a bank. It is also possible both Atkins and Sund made a deal and threw the third musketeer under the bus. 

Corporal Drynan went on to have a long and successful career with the Oregon Highway Patrol. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1972, Lieutenant in the mid-seventies and Captain in 1984. He was instrumental in establishing an official ski patrol in the Santiam Pass region in Oregon in 1977. He retired sometime before 1989 when he makes his last appearance in the press, now as an advocate of logging. 

“Tom Drynan, a retired Oregon State Police officer*****held up pictures of people he said were local leaders of Earth First! A group which has been involved in tree sitting, blocking roads and other protests at logging sites. 

He urged those present to pick up the pictures of the Earth First! leaders on their way out and carry them in their pickups, then report their license numbers and activities if they see them in the woods. 

Drynan also held up a Dr. Seuss book about environmental destruction and suggested it should be taken off local bookshelves.”

(Lothian, Bob, S. Home Rally Draws Crowd Backing Timber, Albany Democrat-Herald, Thursday, May 18, 1989)

Clinton Talioferro disappears from history after his brief encounter with Atkins. At least I could find no record of him.

All I was able to locate regarding Gust Albert Sund, Jr. was two marriages, One in the mid seventies and this one, which is at least a little spooky. 

Atkins’ Testimony

During the death penalty phase of the trial Atkins testified about her road trip. She testified that she went along with “Al” because she was in love with him and also acknowledges the gas station burglary. However, perhaps preparing for future parole hearings, she also claimed that Talioferro (whom she calls “Cliff”) threatened to kill her if she left the three at one point. Atkins also testified that the reason she had a gun was to defend herself from snakes. 

Atkins also discussed her road trip at her 1979 parole hearing. She, again reiterated that she had joined “Al” and “Cliff” because of her love for Al and also restated her claim that Talioferro had threatened to shoot her in the back if she tried to leave. 

To the best of my knowledge this is also the only time Atkins admitted threatening Drynan, stating that she said to the officer: “I should have killed you”.

Relying on one of her classic excuses Atkins claimed she said it to show how tough she was. That may be true and helped her as much as the second time she tried being a 'tough guy'. 

She also claimed the gun was tucked into the waist of her shorts. This was likely to refute the fact she actually pointed the gun at Drynan in her coat pocket. 

I have included a short article from the Albany Democratic-Herald from December 12, 1969, below. Notice how the facts of Atkins’ previous arrest were altered and are more in keeping with the whole ‘hippy cult’ concept. 

Albany Democratic-Herald, December 12, 1969

I find it ironic that one of the least credible witnesses to the events surrounding these crimes would have the story of her Oregon arrest reported using a series of inaccurate statements. The only thing they got right was the date of the arrest.

Pax Vobiscum