Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Bugliosi Letter

During my days as Charles Manson's "Minister of Information" in the 1990s I very often received mail and other communications from all kinds of people who had an interest in Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murder cases. Many of these contacts were made through "backdoor" channels by people who were involved in their own intrigues related to the case and who wanted us to be aware of their activities or the activities of others. One such backdoor communique was The Bugliosi Letter. 

The Bugliosi Letter was sent to me by a person who had received it from a literary agent after he had asked the agent for examples of pitch letters for a book. Amazingly, among the pitch letter examples sent by the agent was the one that Vincent Bugliosi wrote when he was trying to sell the concept of what would later become the bestselling true-crime book of all time -- Helter Skelter.

Bugliosi early on recognized the financial possibilities of the case he had been assigned to prosecute, and already during the trial he made arrangements with the literary establishment to position himself as the authority who could write the definitive book about the Charles Manson case. 

This in confirmed in the book The D.A.: A True Story, by Lawrence Taylor. Writing about an aspect of the political intrigues of the L.A. district attorney's office that he dubbed "Bugliosi syndrome," Taylor said,

"When the Tate-LaBianca slaughters had horrified the world, then-District Attorney Evelle Younger named the most experienced deputy in the office, Aaron Stovitz, to prosecute Manson and his "family" for the murders. A younger deputy by the name of Vincent Bugliosi as assigned to assist him.

"The carnival-like atmosphere of the Manson trial quickly turned Stovitz into a media celebrity. The press seemed hypnotized by the charismatic Manson; stories of biblical prophecies, race wars, and sacrificial murders captured headlines for months. Younger, who was later to be elected attorney general for California and later still to lose in a bid for the governor's mansion, began to perceive his ace prosecutor as a political threat: Stovitz was seen as using his new fame to position himself for a run at Younger's job. In a pattern that was to become familiar in the office for many years to come, the D.A. removed Stovitz from the case, replacing him with Bugliosi.

"Bugliosi, it turned out, was considerably more ambitious than Stovitz ever was. A younger deputy was assigned as "second chair" for the trial, but he was not to conduct any important cross-examination or present evidence to the jury. The younger deputy sat silently at the counsel table, content to research legal issues and organize witnesses, while Bugliosi performed daily before the world's press. Unknown to anyone at the time, Bugliosi had already arranged to write a book about the trial -- with himself as the hero; his ghostwriter, Curt Gentry, was given a valued press pass and sat in the courtroom audience. The book, Helter Skelter, eventually became a bestseller. And, ironically, Bugliosi used his newfound fame to do do exactly what Younger had feared of Stovitz -- announce his candidacy for the office of district attorney."  (The D.A.: A True Story, pages 33-34)

Lawrence Taylor

The Bugliosi Letter substantiates all of this.

Clearly the letter was written while the trial was still in progress. Note the references "After the trial, many more books will be written…." (page 2, emphasis added) and "I'm the one who is engaging in a veritable life and death struggle with Manson and who will ultimately ask the jury to return a verdict of death against Manson and his 3 female co-defendants." (page 3, emphasis added). The defendants were not even convicted and yet Bugliosi was very eager to go.

"It's a big case," Bugliosi wrote to the literary agent. "The book we're contemplating will likewise have to be 'big' in every sense of the word…. 

"I feel there should be one definitive, authoritative book on this case. I believe that I'm the one to write this book…. Other than Charles Manson himself, I don't think that there's any other person who knows as much about these murders and the madness that led to them as I."

Among the most base selling points, Bugliosi recognized, would be the inclusion of the death photos from the murder scenes on Cielo and Waverly Drives. "The book will have official photos of the murder scene that no other book on the market could possibly have since only the Los Angeles Police Department and the District Attorney's office have said photos," he explained to the agent.

Compare this photo pitch to the reason Bugliosi gave in Helter Skelter for not providing the defense with evidentiary copies of the death scene photos before the trial: "I also strongly opposed providing the defense with copies of the death photos. We had heard that a German magazine had a standing offer of $100,000 for them. I did not want the families of the victims to open a magazine and see the terrible butchery inflicted on their loved ones." (Helter Skelter, page 286)

Perhaps sensing the unseemliness of people finding out that he was shopping around a book about a trial while he was in the process of prosecuting it (is there any kind of ethics issue involved here?) Bugliosi later presented a different version of why he decided to write Helter Skelter. In a 1997 interview with Playboy magazine, when asked about the circumstances that led him to write the book, he replied (and lied), "When the trial was over I kept expecting someone of Truman Capote's stature to write a book about the case. But there was no one, and that's when I decided to do it."  (emphasis added)

One could collect together all of the fallacies presented by Vincent Bugliosi over the years and end up with something reminiscent of the closing sequence of Citizen Kane. We will never know if the Bug had a "Rosebud" moment before his recent death ("The…. 'g'…. is…. silent…"?), but one thing we do know: He will always be as big, as consequential, and as controversial, as Orson Welles' character in that film. 

Below, The Bugliosi Letter: 

Bugliosi letter to me for signature comparison:

Postscript Note -- One thing that was always of concern back in the busier days of the 1990s was the fact that people were frequently trying to set us up. Most commonly such efforts consisted of offering us some kind of financial gain through dubious means. Other times people would offer to "do anything" for us. And then there were efforts made in order to make us look bad or to put us into an awkward legal position. Thus, we were (and are) always on guard against anything that might appear to be too good to be true. The Bugliosi Letter fit into this latter category and thus was initially regarded with suspicion in that it might be a forgery. However, I think anyone reading it would agree that it is genuine. The tone is pure Bugliosi throughout. Note the mis-use of the word "societies" on page 6, an unintentional indicator of Bugliosi's incompetence as a writer. And there are details in it that can be checked (the name of the literary agent, for example). I have no doubt that it is the real thing, and I freely present it here without any concern that it will ever be shown to be a fake.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nuel Emmons

Have you ever noticed that with this case many things that you thought were the absolute truth turn out to be a corrupted version of the truth.  It really doesn't matter which side you look at, the prosecution, the defense, the good guys or the bad guys every one regardless of bias cannot seem to tell the truth.  This case is still being talked about 45+ years down the road.  The perpetrators have been arrested, tried and sentenced.  The usual course would be that interest in the case would taper off and eventually fade from public scrutiny.  Not so with the so called "Manson Murders".
 The book Manson In His Own Words as told to Nuel Emmons has, on the back fly leaf, a short statement saying that Emmons knew Manson because he spent time in federal prison with him on two occasions.  The first time was in 1956 when Emmons had been convicted of car theft and the second in 1960 "under similar circumstances."   Any articles about these arrests of Emmons were completely elusive, there were none to be found.

George Stimson gave me a clue that ultimately opened up a new line of research for me.  George said that Charlie called Emmons "Mel" and he thought that Emmons first name might be Melton.  With that knowledge I was able to find one article about Melton Emmons where he and a friend were shooting rats at the dumps in Humboldt County California.  The friend, Theodore C. Annibel, was shot by a third person who was trying to scare the two men away. (The Times Standard Eureka CA Jan. 31, 1955 page 1)

Although interesting, it still didn't solve the mystery of the arrests that landed Emmons in federal prison.  At that point I hit upon the idea of going back and taking another look at Emmons obituary, sure enough the answer was there.  One of Emmons survivors was a son with the last name of Melton.  From there information on Emmons flowed.

Nuel was born Nuel Arnold Emmons September 17, 1927 in Ada Oklahoma.  His parents were Sidney and Christena (nee Folsom) Emmons.  His mother's father, Elias Folsom, died the same year she was born, her mother remarried and Christena used her step-father's last name of Russell until she married Sidney Emmons.  Christena's birthfather, Elias Folsom, is on the American Indian Rolls as being 1/4 Choctaw.
I was able to find Sidney and Christena Emmons in a Muskogee OK city directory in 1932.  They divorced shortly after 1932.  Sidney remarried and eventually moved to Texas.  His occupation was in the production end of the newspaper business. 
Christena moved out to California with her two children, Nuel Arnold and Theda Bara Emmons.  In 1935 Christena married Billy Marvin Melton in Oakland California.

The 1940 census shows Christena and Billy Melton living in Richmond, Contra Costa County along with Nuel and his sister Thedie B.  Both children were using the last name of Melton.  Nuel went to school in Richmond CA.  It was there that he met his first wife, Virginia Fessenden.  Nuel and Virginia had three children born in 1947, 1949 and 1953.  Nuel was still using his step-father's last name of Melton.
(picture of first wife)
While I was not able to find an article detailing Nuel's first arrest I was able to find a few articles where Nuel Melton was playing basketball for a California Youth Authority (CYA) team.   These articles were all in the Santa Cruz Sentinel and dated in the first three months of 1948 when Nuel would have been 20 years old so I am reasonably certain that it's the same person.  An article in the Nevada State Journal dated January 20, 1956 said that Nuel had served a sentence in the past in California's Preston Reformatory which was CYA facility.
The next time that Nuel popped up in the news was in 1952 when he was playing baseball for a semi-pro team called the Vallejo Builders.  The article says that Nuel had played ball for both the New Mexico and Texas leagues prior to joining the Vallejo Builders.  He was a 3rd baseman and is second from the left in the bottom row of this 1952 picture.

 In 1953 the articles on Nuel's criminal activities started in earnest.  In May of 1953 a warrant for Nuel Melton's arrest was issued.  He was involved in a statewide car theft ring that when all was said and done consisted of a couple of dozen people from Ukiah to Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.  Melton came under scrutiny when a California Highway patrolman came under investigation because he had sold a vehicle with a stolen engine in it.  It seems that the Highway Patrolman bought a wrecked a car which he took to Melton's garage to be fixed for resale.  Unbeknownst to the Highway Patrolman, Melton put a "hot" engine in the car.  The officer had agreed to split the profits of the sale with Melton in exchange for the repair work.
Melton, naturally, disappeared when the warrant was issued but he did send a letter to the Richmond CA police, mailed from Rodeo CA, "absolving the officer of any guilt in the transaction" as related in the Oakland Tribune, May 14, 1953.  This same article describes Melton as being an "ex-San Quentin convict."  I was never able to discover why or exactly when Melton had previously been in San Quentin.
The aforementioned January 20, 1956 Nevada State Journal article states that Melton, of Klamath Falls OR, was returned to Reno NV to face federal prosecution for driving a stolen car across state lines.  This would be a violation of the Dyer Act, the same charges that Manson was in prison for at the time.  A February 4, 1956 article in the same newspaper says that Melton was given a continuance and a trial date was set for February 17.  Out of all the articles I found on Melton this was the only one that even mentioned a trial and I'm not sure that this trial ever took place because there are no articles saying as such.  It's quite possible that a plea deal was made before it came to trial.
Whatever the outcome of the 1956 arrest Melton did not serve much time because  in July of 1959 Melton was arrested at the San Ysidro CA/Mexico border for smuggling nearly three pounds of heroin that he had secreted in a false compartment in his car.  This arrest landed him back in federal prison in 1960 where he again met up with Charlie Manson but the arrest most certainly was not "under similar circumstances" of his 1956 incarceration. 
This arrest was kind of interesting in that his co-conspirator, Longino Castro, received a 30 year sentence, later appealed and reduced to 10 years, but Melton was out of prison by April of 1966 when he married his second wife in Alameda County.  The particulars of the crime are spelled out in a 1963 appeal filed by Castro.
Some of the highlights in the appeal are-
Melton and his wife, Virginia, were the occupants of the car when the arrest was made.  Longino Castro was not in the car but was at the Melton home in Costa Mesa babysitting the three Melton children while Melton and his wife made the heroin purchase in Mexico.  The car however was tied to Castro but it was determined that Melton had signed a false name to the "pink slip" for the car.  This trip to Mexico was not the trio's first time.
 Virginia Melton was not charged, she was allowed to go home to care for the children.  Melton was able to make the $20,000 bail, then promptly skipped bail and fled out of state.  Castro's trial was severed from Melton's due to Melton's absence and he went to trial  in September 1959, was found guilty and received a 30 year sentence as this was a second narcotics conviction for him.
Meanwhile, Melton described as a body and fender man, had taken the assumed identity of William O'Donnel and was working in Salt Lake City UT as a sheet metal worker.  The FBI located him and he was arrested January 1, 1960.  I was unable to find any further articles relating to this arrested leading me to believe that some sort of plea deal was made in lieu of a trial.
The next time that Melton was in the newspaper was when he and his first wife, Virginia, filed for divorce in Contra Costa County CA in 1964.

In April 1966 Nuel married Elizabeth (Bette) Quiett in Alameda County CA.  He married her using the name of Nuel Melton Emmons, combining his step-father's last name with his birth name.  Bette had two sons.

In 1968 Nuel was again arrested for possessing heroin for sale.  He was arrested in the name of Nuel Melton in Berkeley CA even though he was using the last name of Emmons at that time.  According to newspaper accounts he had arranged to sell a little more than two pounds of heroin to a client that turned out to be an agent with the California State Bureau of Narcotics.  The heroin was said to be 80% pure, when cut and sold on the street heroin is about 5% pure, so this was an enormous amount of heroin in Melton's possession.
Melton's arrest was not reported by the press until other arrests of people associated with Melton were taken into custody.  One of those people was Michael Barrigan who was named by a US Senate crime-committee as "one of the biggest international traffickers in narcotics."  Barrigan, a Baja California rancher, had been sought by authorities for more than 20 years.  In all 6 1/2 pounds of "exceptionally pure" heroin was seized, it had an estimated street value of $2.5 million back in 1968.  In today's economy that $2.5 million translates to $17, 093,750.00! 
I located a San Francisco Chronicle article dated April 18, 1968 which says, in part, "Matthew O'Connor, Chief State Narcotics agent in Northern California said two of his agents, Henry Lopez and Julius Beretta, got on Barrigan's trail through the arrest in Berkeley last Friday of one of his customers, Nuel A. Melton, of Pinole.  Presumably Melton "talked,"  because the next day, Saturday, state agents struck in San Diego, arresting another man and seizing another 10 ounces of heroin."
When Barrigan and his confederate, Mike Ramirez, were arrested in Mexico the next Monday after a short gunfight where no one was injured, they were in possession of 70 ounces of heroin.   Barragan and Ramirez were held and charged for their crimes in Mexico.  Sources for these arrests etc. are The Times San Mateo, Oxnard Press Courier and The Oakland Tribune all dated April 17, 1968.   The image is of the San Francisco Chronicle  dated April 18, 1968.
 I have no doubt that Melton/Emmons turned out to be a snitch with this arrest.  He did not serve a single day in prison for the heroin trafficking charges.
In 1968 Emmons, his wife Bette and her two young sons moved to Lake County CA and settled there for the duration of their lives.  Emmons was using that last name exclusively now.  Bette got a job with the county and Nuel opened a body and fender shop in Nice CA.  Emmons mother and step-father, Christena and Billy Melton were already in residence in Lake County as was Emmons sister, Theda, her husband and their children.  Things seemed to be moving along fine, all happy families, until 1975 when Emmons was arrested again!
April 24, 1975 he was arrested in Lake County under the name Nuel Emmons and the charges were for possession of a stolen car and two stolen motorcycles according to a Ukiah Daily Journal article dated April 25, 1975.  The court proceedings, which George Stimson obtained and kindly shared with me, state that Emmons was charged with four counts of receiving stolen property.  The first count was that between July 5, 1973 and October 8, 1974 Emmons did knowingly receive stolen property.  Second count, that between December 8, 1973 and October 8, 1974 he did knowingly receive stolen property.  Third count, that on April 24, 1975 did knowingly receive stolen property and the fourth count, that between June 29, 1972 and October 8, 1974 did feloniously take property of another and the value of such property exceeded the sum of $200.00.
It seems that authorities had been watching Emmons for a while........
November 19, 1975 he plead not guilty and a jury trial was scheduled for December 9th.  On December 10th he withdrew his not guilty plea and plead guilty to a charge of receiving stolen property, sentencing was scheduled for December 22nd.  On January 21, 1976 Emmons was committed to the California State Department of Corrections in Vacaville CA for "diagnostic evaluation and recommendation" for a period of time not to exceed 90 days.  The outcome of this evaluation was that Emmons was to serve 6 months in the Lake County jail with credit given for the time spent in Vacaville.  He was also ordered to pay $1700. restitution to a specific person as well as abide by the usual conditions of probation once released from jail.  He was released from probation July 7, 1978.
There was no mention of any of Emmons prior crimes, under the last name of Melton, in any of the court proceedings that George was able to obtain so I have no idea if they were taken into consideration when sentencing was pronounced.
On Monday March 3, 1980 an article by Nuel Emmons ran in The Ukiah Daily Journal which was an exclusive interview with Charles Manson.  This article planted the seed for the book on Manson he wrote.
The article also seemed to be the start of Emmons newspaper writing career.  April 1980 Emmons began reporting as a special correspondent on various local and national sports stories.  August 7, 1980 he wrote another story on Manson this time reporting that Manson had been released from solitary confinement and was given a job assignment at Vacaville Prison.  April 1981 found Emmons giving a talk to the Mendo-Lake Prayer and Share Christian Writers Fellowship at a mobile home park in Lakeport CA.  He was billed as a "well known sportswriter".
It was announced that on June 12, 1981 Emmons would be a guest on NBC's Tomorrow show speaking about the autobiography of Manson that he had been preparing for the last 15 months.  This show also presented Manson's first televised interview which Emmons had arranged.  The book would not be published until 1986.  He would continue to write sports stories for the UDJ during this time.  September 11, 1983 Emmons got his own column in the UDJ, "Lake County Picquancy" a folksy column about the happenings and people in that county.  I found this column to be a bit cheezy and he featured his own family in many of the columns.
Here's a Mother's Day 1984 column that pretty much names every female he was related to.  The column ran on Sundays for about a year.
In 1986 "Manson in his Own Words" as told to Nuel Emmons, Grove Press, was finally published.  It was published by Grafton Books in 1987 in the UK under the title "Without Conscience".   The book duly received reviews from critics across the US and it was generally well received netting Emmons many interviews.  However the book's most vocal critic was Charles Manson, himself, who declared the book to not be a accurate representation of the truth. 
Ben Gurecki shared with me a letter from "Mel" to Manson that he has in his archives.  Ben has a story about Manson's false teeth involving Emmons that he hopefully will share with us in the comments.  Coincidentally, Ben and Charlie have recently been talking about Emmons and Charlie said Emmons was a "cheat and only lying to himself."  I have to wonder if Manson ever had an inkling that Emmons was quite possibly a snitch.  I don't think so because I doubt that he would have ever agreed to do the book.  Manson has spoken out about his feelings on snitches and they aren't warm and fuzzy feelings.
It is amazing to me that Emmons was ever allowed to interview Manson, let alone the many years it took to gather the information for his book.  Emmons was a convicted felon.  He had federal convictions as well as state convictions.  He was a drug trafficker.  His last felony conviction was in the 70s and he did not get off parole until a scant year before he started his interviews with Manson.  I thought that felons were not allowed, by law, to interact with each other particularly if one of those felons was still in prison.
Nuel Emmons died in Lake County CA on November 19, 2002.   Photo by George Stimson.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Losing Sight Of Victims' Families

From past postings I have done, you can probably come to the conclusion that I am not a "fan" of Manson, Tex, Susan, Pat and the others. I am also not one who thinks of conspiracies when analyzing this tragic, horrendous case either. It doesn't matter what I or anyone else thinks anyway. Nothing we write on here is going to bring back any of the victims or make anyone feel better. With that being said, I think, over the years, as people continue to discuss, analyze & debate different aspects of this case, we have lost sight of the fact that the Manson Family killers/helpers/perpetrators (whatever you want to call them) not only stole the lives of the victims, but they completely devastated & ruined the families that were left behind. How did the families function when they had to plan funerals, clean & sort through their loved ones belongings, deal with estate/inheritance issues, lawsuits, and financial losses, including IRS bullshit all the while knowing their murdered loved one suffered in the most brutal of ways? The LaBianca family, for example, went through so much unnecessary estate problems, because of all the debts & issues with Leno's financial problems. Not to mention the greed that came out of the woodwork too! What about the Tate family? They had been extremely excited about the upcoming birth of the new baby and had been planning accordingly,  but instead had to endure a VERY PUBLIC funeral in place of welcoming a new member of their family. These are just two examples of what some of the families went through. It would take a whole book to mention all the others. The heartbreak & loss was unimaginable, I am sure. On top of the severe depression & devastating loss, these people had no privacy to mourn in peace. Their loved ones were not only butchered, but then they were BLAMED for their own deaths. This is the stuff of nightmares. These people really, truly lived it and I, for one do not know how they survived. We've all probably seen this show, but watch how Patti Tate explained to Maury Povich how horrible it was the morning they found out about Sharon's murder:

Now that the 46 year anniversary of these horrible crimes has happened, I would like to just let our readers know that I hope we can continue respectful discussions over this case without losing sight of the victims and the victims' families that were left behind. We will not ever forget what this is about, which is the incredible, brutal loss of MANY lives......

Frank Struthers Jr-Rosemary LaBianca's son

 Suzan Struthers-Rosemary LaBianca's daughter

Jay Sebring's sister

Steven Parent's mother & father + sister

Abigail Folger's brother & sister

Wojiciech Frykowski family

Tate Family & Roman Polanski

Shorty Shea's wife

Kay Hinman Martley-Gary Hinman's cousin

Monday, October 19, 2015

Truman Capote's Credibility

Truman Capote

Recently I was reading some transcripts of Bobby Beausoleil parole hearings and I was interested (beyond Sassy Bottoms!) to see how much weight was given to the content of an interview that Beausoleil gave to writer Truman Capote when he was housed in a maximum security unit at San Quentin prison in 1972 (or 1973, depending on the source). That interview saw its final form as a chapter in Capote's 1980 book Music For Chameleons entitled "Then It All Came Down." Beausoleil's reaction to the interview can be seen in the two parole hearing transcript sections quoted below, beginning with where a hearing representative responds to some material which was submitted to the Board by the District Attorney's office for the 1985 hearing:

Hearing Representative Lander: The first part of the material is a letter signed by Mr. Franks (phonetic) from Random House, Incorporated, and it indicates that Mr. Truman Capote had conducted an interview with you, and for the purposes of writing a book about death row murderers, and to do a television special on the subject of Death Row.

Inmate Beausoleil: Hmmm.

HRL: This was never shown on TV, and he remarks that there are editing marks on the (reported to be) transcript of an interview conducted by Mr. Capote with you when you were at Death Row. This had been sometime, some years ago, when you were at San Quentin, in the early 1970s.
Counsel obviously has advised you of your rights related to this material. The material relates to your attitude at that time, as well as what had transpired during the crime, as well as your attitude at the time that you were imprisoned, and what your lifestyle had been. 
Are you willing to discuss this material with us today?

IB: Sir, I have been advised by my attorney that it wouldn't be appropriate at this time to go into that material.

Later, Bobby Beausoleil's Attorney Daniel Helbert said: I'd like to point out that the material that's been considered in connection with the Capote situation was material that was solicited by [LA County Deputy District Attorney Jeffery] Jonas. Also, I think, really, I understand that my objection's been overruled, and the panel's going to consider that information, but I think in terms of the weight of evidence that's going to be given to something like that, I think you have to realize, this material is material that allegedly came from the Capote interview. It's been edited by somebody, and that's indicated by the cover letter, by Mr. Fox. Furthermore, it's obviously been transcribed by someone, who we don't know who actually did the transcriptions.
It's also been punctuated by someone, and for instance, what appears to be an answer, in reality could be a question. Merely by putting four words together -- get me out of jail -- that could be a question, or that could be an answer.
And I think the panel is left with absolutely no direction whatsoever when you try to take a look at isolated excerpts from that type of a transcript.

On page 115 of the transcript Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Jonas says: In the information that we have submitted to this panel with regard to the interview by Truman Capote, there is a comment made by Mr. Beausoleil as to what influence he thought he had on Manson, and how they met, and basically he was with his girls, Manson, with his girls, met in a bar and it became sex and it became music and ultimately it became one family. And we'll get into that....

And you understand that this interview is now four or five years after the facts, the 19, uh, -70 statements. You'll see in the upper righthand corner, there are page numbers. 
I'm referring the panel now to page number 16…. On page 16 Mr. Capote is apparently asking why the killings, why Gary Hinman died in a certain way. And halfway through there, the question is:
"In other words, they committed these murders in imitation of the Gary Hinman murder so to prove that you couldn't be guilty? Is that what you said?"
Answer: "To get me out of jail."

Mr. Helbert: That doesn't have a question mark at the end of it, does it?

Jonas: Is that what you say? It has a question mark? Answer: "To get me out of jail," has no question. "To get you out of jail?" has a question mark. I think the panel can read that.
But the answer is far more significant, counsel.

Helbert: Unless it's a question, Mr. Jonas.

Jonas: Well, that doesn't sound like a question to me. "You know, they've called us a family?" No, it's, "You know, they've called us a family, and we are a family. It's just like if you're really one with a family." Is that a question? "I mean like we're mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son." Question? "To each other, that's where it's at. That's our family." That's a question, counsel? "That's our country, our world, and our society if you want to call it that. If a member of that family was to be in jeopardy, like you know, a family that loves wouldn't abandon that person. So for the love of brother those killings came down."
Not a member of the Manson family?….
Question: "You say you don't believe in killing just now? Before you said you didn't think there was anything wrong in the Sharon Tate murder case."
"Anything wrong? You see, when it comes to right and wrong, everyone has their own idea of right and wrong. Some people believe in the right and wrong that society dictates. My right and wrong is different. I don't even have a right and wrong. It's just whatever's right for now. That's the way it is. I don't judge it."
…. And I submit to you that I'm very, very concerned about that statement, because I submit to you that I am still concerned about Mr. Beausoleil's perspective of right and wrong, and who makes the rules, and whether we go by Mr. Beausoleil's rules, as he makes them up, or whether we go by society's rules….
But you know, there's something else that's a little bit curious in all of this. Mr. Beausoleil goes on and he talks about the Tate-LaBianca murders in this interview with Truman Capote. And Capote says, well, they were relatively innocent, weren't they? -- this on page -- meaning Tate and all those other people….
And he says, "Relatively innocent?" "Relatively innocent." check page 126.
On page 19, another question is asked by Mr. Capote: "But what possible justification could there be for the murder of the man and his wife the next night?" Meaning the LaBiancas. Answer: "You know I was in jail at the time, you know." Question: "Yes, but you approve of those things. You say, well, we're all a family and anything goes. All for one and one for all. (You're) saying you approve of it." 

Answer, Mr. Beausoleil: "I just don't question my brothers and sisters, you know."

Bobby Beausoleil

Twenty years later, this is from Beausoleil's 2005 hearing, starting at transcript  page 107:

Deputy District Attorney Sequeira: Did the inmate tell Truman Capote, in an interview that's in a transcript, that he was a member of the Manson Family?

Inmate Beausoleil: I never told Truman Capote that, and that was not a transcript. I know what you're referring to.

DDAS: Someone just made this up, is that what you're saying?

IB:Yes, and he is notorious for having done that sort of thing. He apparently -- the best that anyone has been able to determine, and of course that was also looked into in one of the investigations that Mr. Farmer referred to earlier, no one was able to get any sort of verification of that so-called transcript. Apparently it was something that he took out of his own head. Everything that I've read about him indicates that this is something that he did on a regular basis.

DDAS: I'm looking at a letter from the Random House publisher, specifically including the transcript copies, and saying that these are a copy of the transcripts and there's some writing on it. Some of the inks are by the copy editor, some of the pencils are his editing and that is Mr. Joseph M. Fox from Random House Incorporated.

IB: That was a transcript submitted by Mr. Capote to Random House. Yes. 

DDAS: And that's a transcript of the interview -- 

IB: No, it's not a transcript from the interview, it's a transcript that he made up, based on a very brief interview that did occur many, many years ago at San Quentin that I stopped in the middle because I didn't want to answer questions about the Manson Family.

DDAS: So you are saying that you didn't say in this transcript, "You know, they've called us a family and we are a family. It's just like if you were really one with family. I mean we are mother, father, brother, sister, daughter, and son to each other."

IB: I did not make that statement to Mr. Capote --

DDAS: Excuse me, let me finish Mr. Beausoleil.

IB: I'm sorry.

DDAS: "Where it's at, that's our family, that's our country, our world and our society if you want to call it that. If a member in that family was to be in jeopardy, like you know, a family that loves would [not] abandon that person, so for the love of brother those killings came down. I don't believe in killing, I don't want to believe in killing; but if I have to use violence I'll use it, you know?" So those are not your statements in the transcript?

IB: No, they are not. 

DDAS: The rest of the transcript, was that all made up as well?

IB: Pardon me?

DDAS: I'm not going to go into all the details --

IB: I'm sorry, you're fading out, I can't hear you.

DDAS: I'm not going to go into the detail of the rest of the transcript, but you are saying that this was all made up by Mr. Capote.

IB: To the best of my knowledge and to the best of the knowledge of anybody that has been able to figure out where it came from, yes. You know, I'm going to say -- 

DDAS: Is anything in this transcript true?

IB: No. The fact -- I don't know. There might be something that he remembers -- that he remembered at the time he made that transcript that is kind of similar to what I was talking about, but it wasn't about the Manson Family because I would not talk to him about that subject. He came to San Quentin saying he wanted to talk about prison problems. Well he had an agenda and he didn't tell anybody what the agenda was. He got in front of the camera with me and started talking about -- asking me questions, as I tried to evade him and that didn't work and I eventually just walked away. I did not discuss the nature of my relationship -- and I don't know where he got that or where he concocted it or whatever, but he has me in his book, sitting in a prison cell, chewing gum -- this is supposedly under the supervision of -- I don't know what he thinks but anyway --….

It's just simply that Mr. Capote is known for manufacturing things that he thinks will promote himself, I guess. I don't know how to say it any better than that. The interview that you just quoted from appears in a book in which I am sitting in a prison cell, with him, on the bunk, and I'm chewing gum and I'm acting a smart ass and I'm making these statements that you just read. I'm telling you that that interview never took place…. The interview that he provided a transcript to Random House did not take place.

And, a little later in the same hearing (page 113): 

Deputy Commissioner Garner-Easter: I reviewed the file and I did see that Mr. Capote came in there, his purpose was supposedly looking at Death Row inmates across the nation. This has been in contention at other Board hearings. I recognize that the Board of Prison Terms did an investigation on this matter. My understanding -- and you can correct me Mr. Beausoleil -- is that the investigation revealed that the interview took place, but no one can find the original transcripts. They've talked to Mr. Capote's personal attorney. He could not find it. He said the transcripts exist but they never could find the original transcripts and that you have always contested that those weren't your words. But I did not get the impression in looking at the documents that the interview never took place. That there [was] an interview but the question had to do with whether or not you said what he said.

Inmate Beausoleil: Precisely.

Where should we begin when attempting to determine the truth teller in this "he said/he said" situation? Perhaps a good place to start would be with the alleged interview itself, as it appeared in Music For Chameleons

Just a superficial examination of the interview chapter, "Then It All Came Down," by anyone even faintly familiar with Beausoleil's case shows that Capote is wildly inaccurate in many of his statements. In just the second paragraph Capote says that Beausoleil has been incarcerated for over a decade when in fact the true time span was less than half of that. In recounting the Gary Hinman homicide Capote mistakenly says that Hinman was killed when his throat was slashed (he was stabbed in the heart) and that "Death to Pigs" was written on the wall ("Political Piggy" was). Further, Capote has the name of the second half of the collective murders attributed to the "Manson Family" as "Lo Bianco" not "LaBianca." Beausoleil claims that additional erroneous reporting had the interview occurring in his cell instead of in an interviewing room and that he was chewing gum during the interview. But most importantly, in Beausoleil's view, Capote completely fabricated sections of the interview when he supposedly discussed his relationship with Charles Manson and "the Family" and his attitude towards the murders committed by the group. (Also in those sections Beausoleil concurs with Capote's suggestion that the Tate-LaBianca murders were committed in order to get him out of jail, i.e, the get-brother-out-of-jail/copycat motive.)

But looking beyond the chapter about Beausoleil it's worth a look at the credibility of the rest of Music for Chameleons as well. The centerpiece of the book is a 80-page bit of work entitled "Handcarved Coffins," which is described in the paperback edition I possess as a "nonfiction novel" and "A Nonfiction Account of an American Crime."  Both of these descriptions imply (to me, anyway) that the story was about something that actually happened. But after wading through four score pages of amphetamine-crazed rattlesnakes, piano-wire decapitations, and the handcarved coffins themselves, it's hard to believe that such an unusual case involving multiple victims wasn't better known and that in fact no one had even heard of it until Capote's rendition. At one point in the story Capote laments, "The amazing thing is, nobody seems to know anything about this case. It's had almost no publicity."  Well, the reason it never got any publicity was that it never happened -- at least not the way Capote wrote it. Instead, it was only very, very loosely based on a single event that did happen. (I won't take the time and space to critique the work here. Instead, you can read this complete investigative debunking of "Handcarved Coffins.")

But Capote's penchant for embellishing (okay, lying) wasn't just confined to MFC. The book that was the highlight of his career, In Cold Blood (the story of the 1959 shotgun slaying of the Clutter Family in Holcomb, Kansas by ex-cons Richard Hickock and Perry Smith), was also plagued with much fictional nonfiction.

Although hailed as a "masterpiece" by some reviewers at the time of its publication (1966) other critics were less kindly, some even calling the writing style hackneyed and contrived.

A  good takedown of In Cold Blood can be found in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood: A Critical Handbook, a college text edited by Irving Malin. In his book Malin presents convincing evidence that in In Cold Blood Capote manufactured scenes of events that never occurred, like the ending where the detective who solved the case met the best friend of slain Nancy Clutter at the family grave marker (that is described as "gray" instead of its actual red color). Nancy Clutter's horse Babe was not sold to a Mennonite farmer as a plow horse; instead she was sold to a Clutter neighbor determined to keep her in the area. (Babe lived long enough to play herself in the 1967 movie version of ICB.) The interactions between Perry Smith and the wife of the jailer at the Garden City jail as described by Capote were denied by her. Capote misrepresent Smiths's frame of mind during the murders. According to other witnesses present Smith did not apologize for the murders moments before he was hanged. Other critics of the book have pointed out that there are situations and dialogues recounted wherein the only person or persons who could have witnessed them were later murdered without first recalling them to third parties. Perhaps Capote's friend Harper Lee put it best when she later told an interviewer about his writing style, "He knows what he wants and he keeps himself straight. And if it's not the way he likes it, he'll arrange it so it is." 

In Cold Blood killers Richard Hickcock and Perry Smith


As I said at the beginning of this article I was surprised by the importance given to Capote's questionable version of his interview with Beausoleil by the Parole Board and the Deputy District Attorney. But what was really surprising to me was that as much as I thought that the quotes attributed to Beausoleil by Capote had very likely been mangled and misrepresentative, I couldn't dismiss them as completely fabricated because they did sound like things that Beausoleil would have said at about that time in his life (early '70s). I've seen letters and other material from Beausoleil's time on Death Row that testify to a state of mind similar to that expressed in the interview, to cockiness, swagger, and braggadocio. So his words in the interview did sound like things I think he might have said when he was on Death Row, things such as, "When the police put me in chains -- put me in jail and threatened to kill me -- eight or nine people were killed in an attempt to free me. That's a strong love. That's the allegiance that we have with each other." 

I'm sure that Bobby Beausoleil would rather not have people think that an attempt to free him after his arrest for murder was the primary motive behind some of the most infamous murders in American history. Such a concept would surely be an unwelcome weight added to his already precarious legal situation. And while he certainly cannot and should not be held legally responsible for the actions of others on his behalf, it might be difficult for people meeting to decide on his parole chances not to extrapolate this take on the Gary Hinman murder: If not for Beausoleil's  crime, seven more people would not have been killed.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Walk-Through of Cielo Drive

These two short videos were done during Trent Reznor's time at Cielo Drive.  They are poorly filmed, almost to the point of making you carsick, but they do put a perspective on the layout of the house and property.


Thanks to Chats for the links!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Susan Aktins at Cielo!

I am sorry you cannot see this photo very well, but I had to get it by doing a "screen capture" from a documentary that was on YouTube. The documentary was one of many on the Manson Watson crimes, except this particular one was of a French journalist who interviewed people who have had relationships with convicted killers in prison. Noted was the fact that there were absolutely no interviews of the ex-wife of Tex, or bushy-haired Suzan Laberge anywhere on this documentary!

Mr. Whitehouse, who was Susan Atkins' husband has a shrine-like collection of photos of her in his home/office. One of the photos, I noticed, is of Susan when she was taken out of Sybil Brand Institute and driven around Beverly Hills to "help" the police. This particular photo was taken of her at 10050 Cielo drive! This is the ONLY known photo of her at the crime scene, which, is rather creepy, if you ask me, because she was smiling. Whitehouse, in the documentary said he liked the photo, because she is smiling and that the police were all around the house and she had the LA county "bracelet" on, also because now when "they" (meaning the authorities) talk about it, they insist that she never helped them. James Whitehouse, I am most sure was deeply in love with Susan Atkins, but displaying a photo of her in handcuffs, smiling at the scene of where she participated in a blood bath is sick, in my opinion. I'm not judging the guy for being in love with her, but come on, man, that's freaking weird!

You can get a little bit better view here:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

5000 miles from Spahn - Dormer Cottage and the Talgarth Hotel

The following contribution is courtesy of MHN:

Recently I took my wife and daughter out to a children's farm centre in Surrey, south of London, and afterwards we ate at a restaurant that was only a few miles from East Grinstead. Realising that I might never again find myself so close to a Manson-related site here in the UK I left them to enjoy their dessert, jumped into the car and drove until I found East Grinstead. It took me a bit of hunting around in bushes but I eventually found Dormer Cottage - the Scientologist-owned property where Bruce Davis is thought to have stayed during his trip to England in late '68 and the Spring of '69.

I spoke to the man who has owned the neighboring cottage for ten years, who told me that until two or three years ago Dormer Cottage had been occupied by a man named Nick and his Russian wife, who were Scientologists, slightly eccentric, and liked to hoard things. Sometimes, he told me, the downstairs was so full of junk you couldn't open the doors. He said he thought the property was built in the mid sixties by Nick's mother, though he wasn't sure of that fact.

He says after the Scientologists moved out a couple of years ago the property fell into complete dereliction and has now been bought by property developers, who will presumably demolish the cottage and build something more lucrative in its place.

One odd thing is that according to the official Land Registry here in the UK, Dormer Cottage was legally sold twice in the space of one day. It was sold for £54,000 and then again for £62,000  - both sales listed on Nov 27th 1998.

(Macabre Bonus: the restaurant near Dormer Cottage at which I briefly abandoned my wife and daughter was pretty much a Longhorn Saloon wild-west mock-up, and - I kid you not - the ribs my wife ordered came complete with unintentional reference to both the Tate and LaBianca crime scenes - the wife's ribs arrived at the table with a steak knife sticking out of it (Leno) and a US flag (Roman and Sharon's sofa).

I also took a trip recently to West Kensington, London - to see the Talgarth Hotel where Sandra Good's ex boyfriend Joel Pugh committed suicide by slashing his wrists, and his throat, twice - while Davis was allegedly in the UK. It's a depressing dump. I have tried its telephone number many times without anyone ever picking up, and I spent a good hour periodically ringing the front buzzer - but nobody ever answered. Access to the rear is currently closed-off for construction work but from across the train tracks you can see that access to the ground floor rear-facing rooms (which is what Joel Pugh had) would not be at all difficult for an experienced creepy-crawler. Do I think Davis had a hand in Pugh's death? No idea. There is no evidence that he did, and that's all I can say. Simon Wells  has looked into it as much as anyone I think, and he clearly thinks it was nothing more than a suicide.