Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Conversation with Johnny Ussery- The Then 7 year old son of Clyda Dulaney!


MansonBlog catches up with Johnny Ussery... (Picture and interview posted with his permission). Johnny is alive and well in the Southeastern United States.

In the early morning on October 13, 1968 just south of Ukiah, California, Johnny, the not quite 8 year old son of Clyda Dulaney, woke up and started what was to be the most shocking and frightening day of his young life. Indeed, the experience he would have in the next couple of hours would change the course of his future, and alter his memory and emotional capacity forever. For this little boy was about to find both his 24 year old mother, and his 64 year old grandmother, lying within a short proximity of each other lifeless as a result of a horrific attack. Both victims had been beaten and stabbed multiple times. The victims, both fully clothed, were slain in identical fashion, garroted with new leather boot laces. Two turns had been taken around the neck and the laces were knotted in back. His mother was very pregnant at the time - carrying the child of a law enforcement officer who was out of town in Sacramento doing a special training course. Several members of the Charles Manson Family had been in the area around the time of the attacks. In fact, a few had been previously arrested nearby in the infamous "Witches of Mendocino" bust. The similarities between the savagery in the Ukiah case and that of  Cielo/Waverly made some wonder if the fact that family members were so close to the Ukiah tragedy timing/geographically-wise, in combination with the eerily similar traits of the brutal slayings, was more than just coincidence.

Today, for the first time, we will hear the words of an adult Johnny Ussery. He is happy and self employed living in southeastern U.S. He was good enough to give me a few minutes to share his thoughts, both then and now, regarding his family tragedy and any connections to the Manson Family he feels may have existed. Of course, our conversation started with an expression of great sorrow and compassion for his experience and loss. We then talked a bit about the general questions surrounding the tragedy. It all started, of course, on that tragic morning. Naturally,  at the time, a young Johnny Ussery had not heard the name Charlie Manson yet. He was just a child about to start another day. He didn’t wake up thinking about Devils, or Witches, or the darker side of life. What he woke up thinking that fateful morning was a thought many children his age wake up with every day. Such a simple and basic thought: he was going to be late....
"I knew I was late because I could see the sun shining through my window, and that normally hasn't happened yet when I wake up.  I went out to my mother's bedroom and I immediately noticed the bed was still made, which I thought was weird. Her purse was open and dumped out all over the bed, which nobody had slept in. None of it made any sense. I went outside. There was a gravel walkway between our trailer and my grandmother's trailer. My grandmother lived in one trailer by herself, and mom, me and my brothers lived in another trailer right next door. We always went over there for meals and stuff. I went outside and right away I saw mom lying on the gravel between the trailers. The thing I'll never forget is that she was blonde, and her face looked the same color as her hair. She was all white. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I screamed like crazy and ran into my grandmothers trailer. The first thing I noticed was that the television was still on, but the screen was fuzzy. Then I saw her lying there the same way as mom. I ran out of there.  I didn’t want to pass back by my mother, so I went out of the back of my grandmother's trailer and went around the back to ours. I got up my brothers and dressed them and started to get them out of there. I will never understand why, but something made me stop and grab the three piggy banks we kept on top of the refrigerator. With one each in our arms, we ran to a neighbor’s house where I told them mommy and grandma are dead. I remember after a little while looking across the field at the trailer and seeing all the cop cars. I remember everything up to that point crystal clear."
For the better part of the next 5 years that is the last thing Johnny Ussery remembered or can remember. He told me he recalls every detail of that tragic day from the moment he woke up until he uttered those words to the neighbors, but cannot remember even the most rudimentary details of his life after those words left his lips for at least the next several years. He asked me if I thought that is weird. I did not know how to answer him. I am not sure it is. I was not planning on asking Johnny to go into the details of the worst moments of his life, but he was open, and even seemed eager at times to share. He took me back with him to a place I am not sure I was really ready to go. It is hard to ask someone who was so young at the time to make sense of something that happened so long ago, and made such little sense. I do not know if he has made any sense of it, but he seemed to be at ease discussing it. When he finished his recollection of that morning, he took a few seconds to point out all of the even most trivial things in the immediate years after the crime he has lost memory of.  I asked him what his thoughts were regarding the possible motive of the crimes, and if he thought there were any possible connections to Manson or his people.
" I actually really don't believe Manson had anything to do with it."
Johnny then explained to me he that feels that Clyda’s husband at the time - the cop who was away in Sacramento was responsible. (A wink out to Panamint Patty who voiced this opinion in the past).
"That cop mom was with (Don Dulaney) did it. I am sure it was him."
He told me that his family hired a private investigator who determined that although Don Dulaney was accounted for in Sacramento - he showed up late, and used the excuse of forgetting his uniform and having to return home to retrieve it. Johnny is convinced that there is some time (30 minutes or so) unaccounted for in his alibi. He went on to say more about the character of the man he referred to throughout only as "That cop"...
"That cop had a daughter who at the time was about 8 years older than I was, I think. She was a straight A student and had no history of any type of trouble or problems, until the day she shot herself with her father's service revolver. No good reason. Nobody could figure out why. Incidents like this led to a lot of pressure until eventually this officer was forced to resign his position. He was up to something, but this man is dead today, so there is no way anyone will ever really know for sure."
I agreed. Highly probable we never will know for sure. In fact, Johnny told me a few times during the conversation that he honestly doesn’t know for sure if it was "that cop",  Manson, or anyone else. Nor did any motive come up for anyone discussed. But he thinks he knows for sure who might know the answer to both...
"There is an Aunt, who to this day still lives up in Santa Rosa, who I think knows exactly who killed mom. She is a very strange bird. I don’t know why she won’t tell anyone. She is hard to describe, but I am sure she knows everything."
Well, I didn't want to push too hard, and he seemed content himself that there were issues with this woman, and that was pretty much going to have to be that. Not being able to go any further down that road, I asked about a couple of rumors I wanted to straighten out. I read that the cops never questioned him after the crimes, and that his family had started a lawsuit against two men and one woman referred to as John/Jane Doe. The implication was his family must have had some inkling as to how many were involved (and of what sex) to bring a case so specific as to number and gender...
"To my knowledge, nobody ever asked me a single time about the crimes. not one police officer ever. But remember what I told you earlier, after I got to the neighbors and told them what I had found, the next few years are mostly a blur. I don't remember almost anything. That lawsuit was really instigated by one person and any details of number, or sex, didn’t come from me. This person is the one who always pushed that stuff."
I mentioned the names listed on the lawsuit, and he told me which one was the instigator. I am not personally going to drop anyone's name on the Internet without their permission. Two things worth pointing out: first, at a couple of different times during our conversation, Johnny reiterated to me that he has trouble remembering much of what happened in the years immediately following the crimes. 
 "You gotta understand at one point they brought me back to the area and tried hypnosis to help me get past and remember what happened." 
Obviously it was a very painful time. I can understand why he might have some trouble revisiting a memory that caused him so much stress and grief. Second, Johnny is not Internet savvy at all. He is not informed of the many websites out there or the volume of people who are aware of his family history. As a result, he doesn't seem to have studied the various theories regarding his family as thoroughly as some of us have. He seemed sort of surprised there was interest. He was very friendly and open, and I couldn’t have asked for more as far as candor and straightforward answers right down to mentioning specific names and confirming others. This is a very nice guy. He has his own theory about the identity of his mother and grandmother's killer, and it doesn't involve the Manson Family. However, he did have one more thing he wanted to tell me about regarding Manson before we hung up the phone. It was unsolicited and this is his story as told to me as close to exact as possible...
"You know what, you might think this is interesting too. My father did an unusual amount  of time in prison back in the day. You know how Charlie Manson is in Corcoran Prison now? Well, he used to be in this prison called Vacaville. Well, dad was at Vacaville for a while, and he told me he was walking down the halls one day with a bunch of guys, and they see Charlie Manson sweeping one of the floors. That was his job at the time - sweeping floors. Anyway, my dad sees he is not looking at them and shouts over to Charlie, 'Hey, who did that thing up in Ukiah?' Now dad told me there was no way Charlie could have known exactly which guy yelled it at him, but he looked up and looked dad right in the eye. He said back directly to dad, 'You'll never know will ya?' Then he looked back down and went back to sweeping without another word. Dad said it was eerie having him stare right into his eyes like that..."



(This interview is the result of my conversation with Johnny Ussery. I am quoting him from my notes, and not every word may be 100% verbatim. This is as close to his exact verbiage as I could write while he spoke. As much as I  possibly could, I have repeated his word for word responses. There are some instances where I am putting together (in no specific order) several quotes he made about the same subject.)






22 comments:

Doc Sierra said...

Great job Saint.......

Matt said...

Johnny, first I want to say that it's heart-wrenching to hear your story. The visual of the three small children getting dressed, grabbing their valuables (the piggy banks) and exiting the house through a door so as not to pass by their mother's body is more than any child should be made to bear. It doesn't surprise me a bit that your brain went into protective mode and thus the amnesia. I hope that the three of you have fared well in life.

I respect your opinion of believing it was Don Dulaney who did it but what bothers me is the ritualistic nature of the crimes. It seems to me that he would have wanted to get it done quickly and get to his training class early. But if the bed was unmade, that would tell me he did it the night before. So then why was he late? Why would they have cleared him of the crimes given that flagrant hole in his story?

Suze said...

Johnny, I second those sentiments. What a horrible thing to have gone through. I hope you kids were able to proceed through life well in spite of this tragedy.

I also agree with Doc. Great job Saint!

eviliz said...

Awesome job St.

God Bless You Johnny.

Cindy Lee said...

Great post, Saint - your best one ever,imho! You wrote it in such a way that I could see and feel the scene.

And Johnny, the amnesia is no surprise given the trauma you endured at such an early age. Thank you for opening up to Saint and sharing your story with us. Be well.

Panamint Patty said...

Wow. Thank you both very much. Hugs

leary7 said...

great stuff Saint. very well written. A home run.
the "strange bird" aunt, now she is someone Claire Watkins should have written about. Sounds like a trip.

Ole J.C. said...

This is interesting as hell. Thanks!

snooproose said...

Very interesting Saint, great job all around. Now I want to know more about that "crazy aunt" thanks for sharing this!

Bing said...

Great job St.
You are a great addition to a great team of people at eviliz.com
I look forward to reading more of your contributions

Bing said...

Great job St.
You are a great addition to a great team of people at eviliz.com
I look forward to reading more of your contributions

Heidi Snell said...

Heart wrenching story. Johnny must be made of some tough stuff to have survived all of that!
The part about Charlie in prison made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Could this have been a Manson Family hit job?

Matt said...

Heidi, here are some previous posts on the subject:

http://www.eviliz.com/2012/02/ukiah-daily-journal-october-13-1968.html

http://www.eviliz.com/2012/02/nancy-warren-clyda-dulaney-death-site.html

http://www.eviliz.com/2012/06/were-enforcer-bruce-davis-and-members.html

http://www.eviliz.com/2012/06/some-begin-to-connect-dots.html

Heidi Snell said...

Thanks, Matt!

Johnny Ussery said...

Thankyou all for your compassion and concern. I had no idea that there are people who care about something that happened 45 years ago. It was a traumatic experience and I have no doubt that it made me grow up sooner than I would have otherwise. I truly wish we could get to the truth of what happened that night. It comes down to the fact, I'm glad that the perpetrators left my brothers and I alone that night. Things could have been much worse.
Again, thanks, and bless you all. JOHNNY

Matt said...

Johnny Ussery said...
I truly wish we could get to the truth of what happened that night.


So do we, Johnny :)

Panamint Patty said...

Johnny, your candor and openness is astounding. You are a very special person. Thanks again

DebS said...

St. C, thank you for finding and speaking to Johnny. It was a great interview and thank you Johnny for speaking out. There is one thing wrong in what Johnny has been told about things and it could make a difference it who he believes may have killed his mother and grandmother. Don Dulaney's daughter did not commit suicide. It was his step-daughter who shot herself in the head with Dulaney's .38 revolver. This happened July 26, 1977, the step-daughter was Sheryl Malvesti, she was 16 years old, approximately the same age as Johnny. The daughter who lived with Dulaney at the time of the murders is still living and is in southern California. There is potential DNA in this case if the evidence was stored properly. The only way the case will be reopened is if family puts the pressure on to get it solved.

Sharon Lammers said...

not sure what to say since everyone forget about me even being around and yet hid me to keep me from saying anything, then took my kids to keep the secrets.

DebS said...

Sharon if you could please email me and explain yourself a bit more, I would appreciate it. I've spoken to Johnny but he does not recall your name but perhaps you have a married name now that he would not recognize. deb@mansonblog.com

Johnny Ussery said...

Sharon, this is Johnny Ussery. The little boy who found his mother and Grandma that terrible day in October of 1968. I would love to get some answers from back then and was wondering what you meant in your last blog. I have tried to get the case reopened by speaking with newspaper people and detectives but I've had no luck. It's like nobody wants to know the truth, especially if it involves a cop.

JT said...

I Googled Don Dulaney and found this: http://www.jeterandson.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=1493573