Monday, March 12, 2018

The Sears Caper

The Canoga Park Sears 1964. The wrong Sears.
On the afternoon of Friday, August 8, 1969 Charles Manson sent
Mary Brunner and Sandra Good on a road trip to the Sears store in San Fernando, California. Depending on which version of the tale you believe the purpose of the trip was to either buy supplies for the upcoming murders including rope and lime to dispose of bodies or to buy a few trinkets to make the ‘girls’ happy and boost morale.

1030 Celis Street
The Sears store was located at 1030 Celis Street in San Fernando. At about 4:00 p.m. Brunner and Good parked in
the parking lot to the left in the image and entered the store. After acquiring a few items they proceeded to check out at a cash register where a Ms. Ramirez was working. Brunner made the purchase using a stolen credit card in the name of Mary Vitasek and signed the receipt 'Mary Vitasek' thereby adding the crime of forgery the the list. 

Apparently, one of the two women (Ed Sanders claims it was Sandra Good) was acting a bit hinkey, which caused Ms. Ramirez to check the card number against the 'warning list'. In 1969 this was no small feat. Lists of stolen credit cards (once they were reported by someone) were sent to merchants either in the mail or via telex if the store had that technology. From what I was able to determine the cards were listed by number (in numerical order) first and then by name. The lists came out once a week, typically arriving on Tuesdays.

Brand Boulevard 1960's
As Ed Sanders points out in The Family, had Bruner and Good left the store after the first purchase, they likely would have gotten away scot free. They didn’t.

Instead, they proceeded to another section of the store to buy more items. Ms. Ramirez found the card number on the list and alerted the store manager who attempted to detain Brunner and Good. The two fled the store with the manager close behind. The duo dashed to their ‘getaway car’ and raced from the Sears parking lot.

The manager ran to his own car and immediately gave chase. It is probable that rather than turning left from the parking lot and crossing traffic Brunner, driving the getaway vehicle, turned right towards Brand Boulevard and there turned right again heading down Brand Boulevard towards the freeways. 

At some point, I believe it was at the corner of Brand Boulevard and Laurel Canyon Boulevard (left), Brunner cut through a gas station, maybe where that Shell station stands today (to the right). The manager, undeterred, continued the chase.

Imagine this chase for just a moment. The dastardly duo racing down Brand Boulevard in a  1952 Ford, Continental Bakery, Hostess Twinkie delivery van. The van presented Good and Brunner with a bit of a problem. It is hard to imagine exactly how they thought they were going to escape notice and elude their pursuit. Brunner wasn’t likely to blend into the traffic driving that white van with a big Hostess Twinkie sign on the side.

It must have been quite the sight to
Not a 1952 Continental Bakery
Hostess Twinkie delivery van
any bystander: The seventeen year old Hostess Twinkie delivery van racing past, down Brand Boulevard in broad daylight driven by two young women. A few seconds later a typical American sedan (the police were not initially involved) following in hot pursuit as the van cuts the corner at Brand and Laurel Canyon bouncing through a gas station located there and then careens out into Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

At some point it must have dawned on the two outlaws that escape in their '52 Ford was unlikely. It was at this point that Good decided to toss the evidence. Ed Sanders claims Sandra Good tossed the stolen credit cards out the window of the van (although another version of the story claims the cards were found on the floor of the van). Sandra Good's last gasp effort to avoid conviction (or at least it was an effort not to be in possession of the stolen cards when arrested) probably explains the delay between about 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. that evening. Either that or the car accident or both. 

The San Diego Freeway 1960's
Approaching the San Diego Freeway (I-405) interchange in Chatsworth Brunner, Good and the white '52 Twinkie van careened out of control, likely taking a corner at say thirty-five miles per hour and crashed. Sanders claims that near the Chatsworth, San Diego Freeway interchange Brunner was involved in a fender bender. The chase was over. The authorities closed in and Brunner and Good were taken into custody together with a host of stolen credit cards and identification cards not belonging to either of the women. 

Initially, the pair were carted off to the hoosegow at the LAPD, West Valley Station in San Fernando. Since the West Valley Station did not have jail facilities much later they were transferred to Sybil Brand Institute for Women.

The Bail Money Motive

A 1952 Ford delivery van
The Sears Caper is the catalyst for a secondary motive: the need to raise $600 to get Brunner and Good out on bail.

Call it the Bail Money Motive.

“There were three basic motives behind the murders that took place sometime past midnight on August 9. The most obvious was the one Charlie had articulated to us that afternoon: to do what blackie didn't have the energy or the smarts to do — ignite Helter Skelter and bring in Charlie's kingdom. There was also the need for more cash, first of all to finance our preparations for Armageddon — the same thing that had motivated the drug burn and Bernard Crowe's supposed murder, the killing of Gary Hinman, and all the proposed abductions and murders in the Chatsworth area — and also to pay $600 bail for Mary Brunner, who had been arrested earlier that day for using a stolen Sears' credit card. If she had not been in custody, Mary would most likely have been the one sent with us that night, instead of Linda, since Mary had the other valid driver's license in the Family and had already proven herself at Gary Hinman's. Beyond getting money and bringing down Helter Skelter, there was a third, less important purpose: to clear Bobby Beausoleil of the Hinman slaying by committing a similar crime while he was in jail.”
Another 1952 Ford delivery van
“As we hurried away [from Cielo], I suddenly remembered that Charlie had told us to go on to other houses until we had $600.”

(Will You Die For Me. Charles Watson as told to Chaplain Ray Hoekstra. 1978)

“According to Linda Kasabian, on the afternoon of August 8 Manson gave Mary Brunner and Sandra Good a credit card and told them to purchase some items for him. At four that afternoon the two girls were apprehended while driving away from a Sears store in San Fernando, after store employees checked and found the credit card was stolen.”

Another 1952 Ford (technically Mercury but
Ford made the same design)
 delivery van
(Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (25th Anniversary Edition) (p. 319). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.)

“By mid-afternoon [August 8th] the word came back that Brunner and Good had been arrested for trying to buy the supplies with a stolen credit card.”

(Atkins-Whitehouse, Susan. The Myth of Helter Skelter (Kindle Locations 1424-1426). Menelorelin Dorenay’s Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

[Aside: Atkins’ statement is clearly wrong. The pair were not arrested until after 4:00 p.m.]

“During the month of August, the days in southern California last until nine-thirty or ten o’clock in the evening. By the time we finished our dinner, it was almost dark. Mary and Sandy were still not home.”
“Shortly after ten o’clock the phone rang. It was Sandy. She and Mary had been arrested while shopping with the stolen credit cards. Squeaky took the call and relayed the bad news to me.”

(Emmons, Nuel. Manson in His Own Words (p. 198). Grove Atlantic. Kindle Edition.)

For the motive to be real one of the two women has to call Spahn Ranch a little after 10:00 p.m. on August 8th to inform the Family about their predicament. By at least one account that call was placed by Sandra Good and was received by Lynette Fromme. 

[Aside: Kasabian is pegged by Ed Sanders as the person who received the call two days earlier from Bobby Beausoleil informing the clan that he had been picked up for the Gary Hinman murder. That call allegedly triggered the copycat planning sessions and led to the murders. In fact, Sanders claims that Kasabian discussed the copycat idea with Beausoliel when he called the ranch. But I believe it is highly unlikely that phone call occurred as described by Sanders.]

A call from Good (or Brunner) has to be received at the ranch in time for the group (and allegedly Manson) to act on it. 10:00 p.m. is important because the killers have to leave Spahn Ranch to get to 10050 Cielo Drive by about midnight. 

Kasabian testified that the trip to Cielo Drive took a half hour or an hour. A Google map search the day I wrote this paragraph at 10:00 p.m. says the trip from Spahn Ranch to Cielo Drive should take 54 minutes. So likely a half hour is way too short. And given Atkins’ testimony before the Grand Jury that Watson got lost it probably took longer than an hour. 

“Q: Did Tex drive you directly to Terry Melcher's former residence?
A: We sort of got lost on the way. I think we took a wrong turn and ended up somewhere in Mulholland and we went directly there.”

Kasabian at TLB:

“Q. How long after you left Spahn Ranch did it take you to get to this house?
A. I don't know. I have no idea of time. Maybe a half hour or an hour.
Q. A half hour or an hour?
A. Yes.”

At the Watson trial Kasabian was a little more specific:

Q: How long did it take you to get to the place from Spahn Ranch?
A: I don't know. Not too long, I guess, but I don't know the time.
Q: Could you give us any idea? Did it take five minutes, four hours, an hour, what?
A: Probably around an hour, I guess.

But, of course figuring out exactly how long the drive actually lasted; when they left Spahn and when they arrived at Cielo Drive always suffers from Kasabian’s foggy memory regarding time. Maybe it is more fair to say she didn’t pay attention to time or have access to clocks so she didn’t know what time it was or how long something took.

[Oddly, at the Manson-Hinman/Shea trial Ella Jo Bailey didn't suffer from this time issue when she testified, identifying several 'times' and even saying dinner was at 6:00 p.m.]

Starting at the other end helps a bit. Rudolf Weber places them at his house at 1:00 a.m. Jerrold Friedman placed Parent’s phone call to him that night at 11:45 p.m. So, a pretty safe estimate has the killers arriving at Cielo Drive right about midnight plus or minus a few minutes. Some claim Parent's clock radio  frozen at 12:15 p.m. identifies the time he left the guest house. So that would place the killers' climbing the gate at about 12:20 a.m. after walking back up the hill. That puts them first arriving back around midnight. At least it is safe to say that the killers were not at Cielo at 11:45.

[Aside: Jerrold Friedman aka David Jerrold wrote The Trouble With Tribbles original Star Trek episode in 1967.]

That means they probably left Spahn sometime between 10:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. And that is why the phone call has to have been made, as the official narrative claims, shortly after but not too long after 10:00 p.m. By 11:00 p.m. no one is there to receive any instructions.

$600 Bail

The motive assumes there was a need for about $600 bail money. My first question was whether Brunner or Good would have known that evening that their bail was going to be about $600?

Judges are responsible for setting bail and it usually happens at the first court appearance. But because many people want to get out of jail immediately (instead of waiting for a day or longer to see a judge), most jails have standard bail schedules that specify bail amounts for common crimes. An arrested person can often get out of jail quickly by paying the amount set forth in the stationhouse bail schedule if their crime is on the schedule.  

Were forgery and burglary ‘common crimes’ in 1969 and thus on the posted schedule? I don’t know but they are on the LA Felony Bail Schedule, today. So I think Good and Brunner might have been able to figure out their bail. But, frankly, I don't think they did.

The Right to A Phone Call

My second question was did they even have a right to make a phone call?

There is a misconception shared by many people that you have a Constitutional right to make a phone call after your arrest. This likely finds its way into our collective understanding because of TV crime dramas. 

There is no Constitutional right to a phone call. Any such right is a creation of state law. In 1969 California had such a law and it provides some circumstantial evidence regarding what may have happened (or may not have happened) after Brunner and Good were arrested.

Here is the phone call statute (California Penal Code Section 851.5) circa 1969. It does not read the same today.

" (a.) Any person arrested has, immediately after he is booked, and, except where physically impossible, no later than three hours after his arrest, the right to make, at his own expense, in the presence of a public officer or employee, at least two telephone calls from the police station or other place at which he is booked, one completed to the person called, who may be his attorney, employer, or a relative, the other completed to a bail bondsman. 

(b.) Any public officer or employee who deprives an arrested person of his rights granted by this section is guilty of a misdemeanor. 

The first thing we learn from the statute is that Brunner and Good had the right to make two phone calls immediately after being ‘booked’ and no later than three hours after their arrest.

If the police refused to allow the calls the officer could face criminal (misdemeanor) charges.

If the call was placed at about 10:00 p.m. the call was not placed within three hours of arrest unless the arrest happened after 7:00 p.m. And while that could have been the time of the arrest (Sears closed at 9:00 p.m.) the official narrative says the events took place during the late afternoon, shortly after 4:00 p.m. So, it is likely that the ‘physically impossible’ clause in the statute came into play.

This delay may have been due to the accident or perhaps retrieving the tossed credit cards. It is not likely the cops would stop at a pay phone to allow the call.

Would Brunner or Good Make the Call?

This was my first real question when I started looking at this. I don’t think they would call because of that statute there.

During the Manson-Hinman/Shea trial Deputy John Stephen Sheehan (LASO) testified as an identification witness. His purpose at that trial was to identify Danny DeCarlo as the person who signed his booking slip with the name Richard Allen Smith after his Spahn Raid arrest. In the Hinman trial that name was important because Richard Allen Smith also was the individual who purchased the gun used in the Hinman crime. The goal was to connect the gun to Manson. 

During the course of his testimony Sheehan also may have shed some light on how the phone call process occurred in 1969. At the end of the booking process DeCarlo was offered his phone call and signed his booking slip either declining or requesting the calls. 

Q (Manzella): Now did Mr. Smith or the person you also knew as Mr. DeCarlo, did he sign the document, People’s 74, the booking record in your presence?
A: Yes, he did.
Q: Did he sign it once or more than once on the document?
A: He signed it more than once.
A: He signed it—he signed it up here for his phone call.
Q: You’re talking about in the upper right-hand portion, where it says “Prisoner phone call”?
A: That is correct.
Q: And where else did he sign it?
A: He signed it down in the portion below that, where it says “Prisoner’s complete signature.”
Q: And did he sign it anywhere else on the form?

A: Yes, he did. He signed it down on the property portion of the booking slip in the lower left corner.

I don’t know if the process was the same for LAPD but I think it is safe to say that it was at least very similar. Whether Brunner or Good requested their calls is unknown but we do know how it would have happened.

First, they would not be allowed to call anyone they wanted. Call #1 can be made to an attorney, a relative or an employer. Call #2 can be made to a bail bondsman.

For Brunner or Good to have made the call to Spahn they would have had to request the calls when offered at the end of the booking process but also would have had the have the presence of mind to claim that someone at Spahn was a relative. While it is common to refer to the group as The Family or The Manson Family today there were no actual relatives at Spahn. I’m not sure they would think to lie about that on the spot. If told they could call a relative, lawyer or employer they very well might have declined the calls.

But there is another reason I don’t think they would make the call.

Brunner and Good had the right to make the calls in the presence of a public officer or employee. In other words, a cop is listening when you make the calls.

You have no expectation of privacy during these calls as long as you have been warned someone may be listening. This is the case even if you object to them listening. The terms under which the calls could be made was likely explained when they signed the form. The signature is to verify the prisoner was told of his rights (and thus avoid a possible misdemeanor). I think it is safe to say the police were not likely to liberally construe the statute.

Do the police listen to these calls? Of course they do.

"Here are some circumstances that I have experienced from inmate phone calls or visitations: In several instances inmates get wrapped up in their conversations and forget the call or visitation is being recorded. In others, inmates who are scared try reaching out to anyone they can and in their haste while trying to seek help say something meaningful. It might be an inmate asking someone for an alibi to cover their tracks or hide potential evidence, it could be an “apologetic” confession to a parent, relative or boyfriend/girlfriend, it could be an argument between an inmate and someone else where the inmate says something valuable in the heat of the moment or it could be some disparaging remarks about the police investigation. Whatever their motivation and despite the given warnings, I assure you inmates talk and as an investigator, if you are not taking advantage of this investigative resource, you really should!" 
"Just as important as what an inmate says is who an inmate is calling or who might be visiting. Like cell phone records, when examining the incoming and outgoing phone numbers associated with a particular inmate, jail and visitation calls as well as visitation logs can help investigators link other people and locations to the inmate or a particular crime."

(Moe Greenberg. Inmate Communications: An Investigative Source. Detective's Notebook, January 31, 2012)

Would Brunner or Good have called Spahn to discuss their arrest for being in possession of multiple stolen credit cards and IDs with a police officer hovering over them and listening?  I don't think so, especially given Manson's golden rule: keep your mouth shut.  

Who they called might give the police insight into possible accomplices in a ring of credit card thieves. If they don't make the call nothing else ties them directly to Spahn Ranch. Aside from stupidity, I can't imagine why Brunner and Good would call Spahn under the circumstances thereby creating the connection and giving the police the phone number and location of what were, indeed, accomplices.

[Aside: This is also where the Beausoleil call I mentioned above has problems. Would Beausoleil have discussed his arrest for the murder of Gary Hinman and a plan to get him off by copycat murders with a cop listening? Again, I don't think so. That doesn't mean the copycat motive isn't 'real' but it does mean the alleged Kasabian initiated conversation on the topic of copycat murders probably didn't happen.]

If the statute was enforced as it is written I don’t think Brunner or Good would make that call. I found nothing to suggest the police were not present, recording or eavesdropping when suspects made those calls. In fact, everything (including the words of the statute) suggests that the opposite is true.

Could Brunner or Good Make the Call?

Remember the call has to be made shortly after 10:00 p.m. and certainly no later than 11:00 p.m. for anyone to act on it or for the murderers to receive Manson's alleged instructions.

‘Booking’ refers to the process of entering the suspects name, the offense for which he is being held and the time of arrival at the station into the police log (originally a physical ‘book’). The suspect is then fingerprinted and photographed, told the reason for the arrest and then is allowed to make a phone call or two. Unless you are released on your own recognizance or quickly make bail you also get a fresh change of clothes and a bed for the evening. The process can take from one to three hours depending on how busy the police are that night.

To the right are mug shots of  Sandra Good and Mary Brunner (thanks to I don't know if this shot of Good is from the Sears Caper and it's not much help anyway.

[Aside: notice Sandra Good is curiously wearing glasses, something allegedly forbidden by Manson’s
absolute control and domination over The Family. Now that's odd.]

Brunner’s mug shot is a different story. This is clearly from the Sears Caper. See the date there in the lower left corner "8-8-69". There is some other information there and here is what it tells us:

Brunner was charged with violating PC (California Penal Code section) 459 (burglary) and PC 470 (forgery). Burglary? Actually, entering a commercial establishment with the intent to commit theft or any felony is burglary.

"Will TT for court app."- who knows what that means. 'Transport' for court appearance? Telephone for a court appointed attorney? Who knows. 

Brunner arrived at the LAPD West Valley Station in San Fernando ["LAPD San Fern."] at 10:21 p.m. and she was booked into Sybil Brand Institute for Women ["SBI"] at 1:50 a.m.

If Brunner didn’t arrive at the West Valley Station until 10:21 p.m. on August 8, 1969 she would not have completed the booking process (and thus be available for her monitored phone calls) until after 11:21 p.m. (assuming it took an hour) and that’s too late.

There was no jail facility at West Valley, which is why Brunner (and Good) were transferred to Sybil Brand. 

If the form is correct they couldn’t make the call in time. Now, some may argue ‘but maybe Good was booked first’. The time indicated on that form is not the time they were technically ‘booked’ or finished being booked or when they started the process. It is the time they arrived at the police station and they would have arrived together.

Did Brunner or Good Make the Call? 

There are really only two people who know whether they made a phone call to Spahn Ranch at about 10:00 p.m. on August 8, 1969: Mary Brunner and Sandra Good.

Sandra Good denies she made the call. Not only does she deny it, the available evidence suggests she couldn’t and in my opinion wouldn't have made such a call.

George Stimson. E-mail. February 22, 2018 (Thank you, George and Sandy)

That leaves Mary Brunner. Brunner, to the best of my knowledge has never directly answered the
West Hills Hunt Club 1958.
L-R: Robert Kronkright, Mrs. Lloyd Hanna
question. There are, however, two statements, one by Brunner, that may shed some light on what actually happened.

Brunner's statement.

MR. STOVITZ: Did eh - anybody come up to see you in jail after you were arrest on August the 8th?
MS. BRUNNER: Yah, Lynn Fromme.
MR. STOVITZ: Lynn Fromme. Did they tell you that they were trying to get money from Melba Cronkite to get you out of jail?
MS. BRUNNER: Yah, I called Melba and asked for money to get me out of jail.
MR. STOVITZ: Was that the same day you were arrested?
MR. STOVITZ: It was the day after?
MS. BRUNNER: It was some day when I was in court when I had access to a phone.
MR. STOVITZ: Did she say anything about Charlie had already asked for money and she told him, "no."
MS. BRUNNER: Oh, I remember it was the day that - not the day but when they got - when they pulled that GTA bust up at the ranch.
MR. STOVITZ: August 16th.
MS. BRUNNER: Okay, well, then and then what day was that?
MR. STOVITZ: August 16th.
MS. BRUNNER: Was that a Saturday?
MR. STOVITZ: I think it was a Friday. I think Friday.
MS. BRUNNER: Well anyway I saw the girls in the jail in the lock up there but they didn't lock up and then the next time we went to court after that, Monday or Tuesday after that and I didn't know what happened to them, you know - and all that and then I called Melba that day and asked if she (unintelligible) and bail me out. But Charlie was still in jail and she said she'd do it if she could and then later - eh I (unintelligible) she told me that Charlie said that he'd take care of it.

And then there is this from Stephanie Schram.

DEPUTY PALMER: How about Dennis Wilson?
STEPHANIE SCHRAM: Yeah, I, yeah. Not well, he probably wouldn't, you know. We were over there a couple of times.
DEPUTY GLEASON: Was Dennis ever up at the desert?
DEPUTY GLEASON: Just at the Spahn Ranch?
STEPHANIE SCHRAM: I never even saw him there but I was only there for awhile. He'd probably been there before though.
DEPUTY GLEASON: Did you ever go to Dennis' house? Who else was at Dennis' house?
STEPHANIE SCHRAM: Just me and Charlie went there.
DEPUTY GLEASON: Do you recall when that was?
STEPHANIE SCHRAM: Um, yeah, I think I could put it together. It was about a week after those two girls got picked up because he wanted some money to get them out of jail.
DEPUTY GLEASON: If was just before the raid then?
DEPUTY GLEASON: Just before the Spahn Ranch raid?
STEPHANIE SCHRAM: No just after, I think, because I was staying at the ranch not down in the canyon.
DEPUTY GLEASON: Did Charlie think that Dennis would give him money?
STEPHANIE SCHRAM: Well, I guess he did a record a long time ago and he wanted to see if there were any royalties left on it or something; but he no, he didn't give him any.
DEPUTY GLEASON: But Dennis was home though?

Statement of MARY BRUNNER April 6, 1970 and statement of Stephanie Schram, December 4, 1969.

Thanks to

Brunner mentions calling Melba Kronkright for bail money, not the people at Spahn, after being in court on some undisclosed date. She also mentions Fromme coming to visit her, which at least suggests that by the time of that visit the people at Spahn knew where she was. But it is difficult to tell from this small amount of information which came first: the phone call to Kronkright or the visit from Fromme because Brunner contradicts Stovitz' understanding of the events while at the same time saying 'Yah' in response to his statement.

As I read Brunner's statement it sounds to me like Brunner did not know how much her bail was going to be until she appeared in court court that day (which is not unusual, judges set bail). Otherwise, why didn't she call Kronkright directly and earlier. Of course, if I am interpreting this correctly that means Brunner did not know the bail amount on the night of August 8th and could not communicate the $600 figure to Spahn.

But why Brunner didn't call Kronkright earlier may also be revealed in the same passage from her interview: "It was some day when I was in court when I had access to a phone."

As I read her response it seems that Brunner did not have access to a phone until this later date.

Sybil Brand Institute for Women
Then there is Stephanie Schram. She states that Manson went to Dennis Wilson's home about a week after "those two girls got picked up" to get money to bail them out of jail. Deputy Gleason narrows the timeframe to just after the Spahn Raid. One has to ask why Manson would be seeking bail money from Wilson if part of the murder plan was to raise $600? We know, of course they didn't collect $600 those two nights so it could be argued because the plan was unsuccessful and Manson was looking for some other source. That is possible but why engage in the mayhem of those two nights before exhausting other avenues. Avenues that were then followed: Kronkright and Wilson. 

Both Schram and Brunner relate the effort to raise bail to events around the Spahn Raid and Brunner seems to be suggesting the first time she could communicate her predicament to the Family was when she saw them in jail after the raid. That also seems to be when Manson actively went after bail money. And to me that seems to imply no one knew where Brunner was or how much the bail was until they ran into each other (Family and Brunner) in jail.

Brunner: "Well anyway I saw the girls in the jail in the lock up there but they didn't lock up and then the next time we went to court after that, Monday or Tuesday after that and I didn't know what happened to them, you know - and all that and then I called Melba that day and asked if she (unintelligible) and bail me out. But Charlie was still in jail and she said she'd do it if she could and then later - eh I (unintelligible) she told me that Charlie said that he'd take care of it."

Schram: "No [going to Wilson's after bail money was] just after [the Spahn raid], I think, because I was staying at the ranch not down in the canyon.

In both instances (the Brunner call to Kronkright and the Wilson visit) the timeframe is after the murders and after the Spahn Ranch raid. It strikes me as odd that this would be a fall back plan. Instead it seems to have been the plan all along.
From the Spahn Raid Police Report

We also know, however, that either Schram's timeframe (after the Spahn Raid) or her recollection (the
two girls in jail) is not accurate. Sandra Good was picked up in that raid so she was clearly out of jail by August 16th. That may explain precisely what happened. Good may have been released on her own recognizance when the pair appeared in court on August 12th. Remember, they had little evidence against Good. She didn't use the stolen card. Her return to Spahn before the raid could have provided the information regarding Brunner's whereabouts and the need for bail. That too would have happened after the murders. 

[Aside: there is something else that is interesting about Brunner's short exchange with Stovitz. The official narrative claims, on August 12, 1969 Kasabian, not Fromme, attempted unsuccessfully to see Brunner and Good in jail. Here is what Bugliosi says about that.

“Early the next morning (August 12) Manson sought her out. She was to put on a “straight” dress, then take a message to Mary Brunner and Sandra Good at Sybil Brand, as well as Bobby Beausoleil at the County Jail. The message: “Say nothing; everything’s all right.” After borrowing a car from Dave Hannum, a new ranch hand at Spahn, Linda went to Sybil Brand, but learned that Brunner and Good were in court; at the County Jail her identification was rejected and she wasn’t allowed to see Beausoleil. When she returned to the ranch and told Manson she had been unsuccessful, he told her to try again the next day.

Ranch hand David Hannum said he had begun work at Spahn on August 12, and that Linda had borrowed his car that same day, as well as the next. And a check of the jail records verified that Brunner and Good had been in court on August 12.”

(Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (25th Anniversary Edition) (p. 332 and 334). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.)

Is Bugliosi referring to the same court appearance as Brunner or a different court appearance? I don't know but if it is the same one there is something wrong with the story offered by Kasabian.

If Brunner was in court on the 12th (likely for her arraignment) it was Fromme, not Kasabian, who went to visit Brunner and Fromme was successful. Now, it could be that the Fromme visit was sometime after the 12th.]

I don’t believe a call was ever made by Mary Brunner or Sandra Good to Spahn Ranch on the night of August 8th shortly after 10:00 p.m. Memories fade over time but the logistics of the call just don’t seem to line up and the person identified as making the call says she didn’t make the call.

The idea of murdering five (or seven) people for $600 seems ridiculous given the less violent efforts made after the murders. I have to agree with Bugliosi on this one:

“As an alternative motive, Aaron suggested that maybe Manson was trying to get enough money to bail out Mary Brunner, the mother of his child, who had been arrested on the afternoon of August 8 for using a stolen credit card. Again I played the Devil’s advocate. Seven murders, five one night, two the next; 169 separate stab wounds; words written in the victims’ own blood; a knife stuck in the throat of one victim, a fork in his stomach, the word WAR carved on his stomach—all this to raise $625 bail?”

Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (25th Anniversary Edition) (p. 268). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Pax Vobiscum



Peter said...

Excellent post on a small but important detail concerning the ultimate question of motive. You stuck to the facts, avoided speculation, and backed up your conclusion with solid research.

One question I have always had: Why do we assume that Parent's clock radio was set to the correct time when it stopped. Isn't it possible that he either plugged the clock in to show that it worked and set it to 12:00 to make that more obvious, or that the clock just defaulted to 12:00 as clocks often do?

starviego said...

So the purpose of this thread then is to show that the arrests of Brunner and Goode had nothing to do with Charlie saying "Now is the time for Helter Skelter" and thus was not a trigger for the murders? Is that right?

StillGrooving said...

Peter, I am with you on the clock radio. Parent had the radio in his car long enough to drive to the Tate residence, from wherever he lived. He plugged in the radio to prove that it worked. He probably set the alarm and waited for it to trigger to prove that the alarm worked, but there is no reason to assume that he would take the time and effort to set the clock with the correct time. This is one bit of "factual" evidence that has ALWAYS bothered me!

Peter said...

Is it possible that when Sandy and Mary just didn't show up at the end of the day, it was safe to assume that they had been arrested.

Trent said...

A variety of sources indicate that sunset would be 7:47pm on August 8. It is several weeks after the solstice. If that's correct, is the 10pm time frame valid?

Not that it really matters much with all the other indications that the call didn't really happen.

Matt said...

I see the Church of Scientology is going to have its own TV station. I'm down. It will be the first "religious" TV I've watched since Robert Tilton.

ColScott said...

This is well researched and written. I remember the Sears well but I am pretty sure it was in San Fernando not Canoga Park. Not sure if it still exists but it was a very quaint 1950s set up.

While admittedly freeing Mary and Sandy is a weak ass motive for the murders, we have to ask ourselves if murder was the intention. To this day they are called the Manson Murders when in fact they are the Watson Murders.

The problem with robbery as motive is that much valuable was left at Tate.
The problem with drugs is there is no clear connection to La Bianca
The problem with Helter Skelter is that BUG was mentally ill and invented it

The older I get is the more I start to believe that shit just got out of control. At every location. These were drug addled young adults who were shit scared and confused and in many cases fucking dumb.

Hinman- all reports confirm shit was okayish till Charlie cut Gary. Then Gary started promising police and then he got loose. There are endless versions of this story where Gary does NOT get murdered.

Tate- everything is described as calm and collected up till the point everyone is in the living room. Then Jay starts trying to defend Sharon and Voytek gets loose and it goes crazy. Again, easy to imagine versions where nobody dies.

LaBianca- Charlie describes a calm scene when he strolls down the path. Unclear when shit gets real here.

I guess what I am getting at is rather simple- does Charlie REALLY believe that a pretty boy like Bobby and a good ole boy like Tex has as BUG said "Murder in their hearts?" Or did shit get crazy repeatedly.


I know she is the SO of a board member but why state Brunner would have been there instead of Kasabian and leave out Sandy...would she not have gone? She was okayed for Sears but not Tate?

Peter said...

With drugs, there is no connection to either La Bianca or Tate. If Frykowski sold Tex bad drugs as alleged, why does Frykowski ask "Who are you?" when Tex wakes him up on the sofa.

ColScott said...


There are drugs present at Tate
Sebring has drugs
Voytek Dealt drugs
Drug dealers were initially suspected.

I never believed the allegation. But DRUGS at motivation for Tate- sure I would buy that IF the rest tracked

Peter said...

I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that some movie stars and a celebrity hair dresser were using and/or selling drugs in the 1960s. It just goes to show you that it's never the people you would think.

ColScott said...


I would try to track your position (It wasn't drugs...sarcasm)but clearly I am arguing with a buffoon.

Peter said...

No. You're a towel.

Peter said...

On the Lynne or Linda question, didn't Linda use her being sent to visit the girls in jail as the pretext for leaving. That she picked up the hitch hikers on the first day she was sent and arranged to meet them the next day and then on the next day, instead of going to the jail, she met up with them again and cut out to New Mexico.

ColScott said...


Trilby said...

She was very pregnant at the time. IIRC, her son was born in September. I can't see Manson sending her, for that reason.
Also, for as much as I believe he never cared about anybody but himself in his whole life, it does seem he held Fromme & Good in some higher standard of regard, maybe as close as he ever got to loving anyone as true "family". Obviously, JMO.

Trilby said...

2/Sorry, I didn't clarify that I don't see the advanced pregnancy as a barrier for what should have been just one more of their frequent & typical retail thefts/forgeries, had they not had the bad luck of combo of vigilant cashier & Wyatt Earp for a store manager.

While not annoying the ears of the metro/'burbs' population weekly as a featured teen singer on a local variety show, I worked several hours a week at a local Sears catalogue store (70s). I remember those credit card "watch list" booklets well. Constructed of the same kind of thin paper as appliance instruction manuals used to be, one step above tissue paper. Shaped like a rectangle, horizontally. Numbers in tiny print, so that even a teenager's 20/20 eyes blurred trying to read the print. I've always marvelled at their bad luck getting caught.

Trilby said...

I also forgot to add in my comments above: Great post, as always, Dreath. So much food for thought.

grimtraveller said...

ColScott said...

The older I get is the more I start to believe that shit just got out of control. At every location

That's only because your hatred of Bugliosi directs your blindness to the overwhelming evidence that took 11 months to gather and 9 months to present to the jury.

These were drug addled young adults who were shit scared and confused and in many cases fucking dumb

However true all of that may be, Tex knew what he was about those two nights and the women did whatever they were told to. Being scared and confused {only recognized years later in retrospect} didn't prevent Pat, Susan or Leslie from digging in where Tex led. Even where Susan was fighting with Frykowski and calls it "self defence", fact is, he was trying to get away, not clock her one.
On the other hand, Linda ran for her life and hid rather than take a strike at Frykowski

Hinman- all reports confirm shit was okayish till Charlie cut Gary. Then Gary started promising police and then he got loose. There are endless versions of this story where Gary does NOT get murdered

Actually, of the 6 people that were in that house, the only person that has said things were OK is Bobby. Charlie doesn't say things were OK {and contradicts Bobby, big time, along the way}, Bruce doesn't say things were OK {otherwise, what the heck was he doing there ?}, Mary never said things were OK {she played a duplicitous, but ultimately successful game there}, Susan never said things were OK {either when she was lying on the stand or writing in her books or mouthing off to Howard & Graham} and Gary never got a chance to tell us.
Having said all that, the one conclusion it is impossible to escape from is that Charles Manson guaranteed Gary Hinman's death, whichever theory one subscribes to.

Tate- everything is described as calm and collected up till the point everyone is in the living room. Then Jay starts trying to defend Sharon and Voytek gets loose and it goes crazy. Again, easy to imagine versions where nobody dies

Yeah, everything is described as calm and collected.....despite Wojiciech having been kicked in the head, Abigail having been dragged out by her hair, Jay and Sharon having been brought out at knifepoint and Steve Parent lying dead outside with 4 gunshot wounds to carry him to the great beyond.
If that's calm, I'd love to see your chaos.

LaBianca- Charlie describes a calm scene when he strolls down the path. Unclear when shit gets real here

Yeah, Charlie describes a calm scene. He wasn't the one tied up in his own house with his wife, totally helpless. How could they have been calm when 2 robbers left them and it was clear the night's action hadn't ended ? Charlie didn't half talk some rubbish in his time and saying the LaBiancas were calm rates among the upper echelon !

grimtraveller said...

Peter said...

One question I have always had: Why do we assume that Parent's clock radio was set to the correct time when it stopped. Isn't it possible that he either plugged the clock in to show that it worked and set it to 12:00 to make that more obvious

Well, if you think about it, particularly with the Rudolf Weber situation, the time showing on Parent's clock radio is a remarkable indication of the time stuff happened. We don't know the actual exact times but we have a series of markers that approximate the times and when you take Jerrold, Weber and the clock together, unless it's the coincidence of the century {beating Lucy in the sky with diamonds} then I can't honestly fathom why the time shown on the clock is so often flagged up for some communal mystery digging. Mind you, Bugliosi kind of picked up that gauntlet, acting on the disparate facts about sounds at various times that the Tate cops highlighted in their first progress report.
That said, whenever I am setting an alarm and I want to make sure it's working, I just set it to the time that it currently is and wait a minute. I've done that since 1974.

Is it possible that when Sandy and Mary just didn't show up at the end of the day, it was safe to assume that they had been arrested

Could be. I don't doubt Bobby's arrest had perhaps gotten people a little jumpy, same thing with Linda's disappearance the following week, especially with her leaving her child behind. But even if it was assumed that they'd been arrested, murder would be a little strong of a reaction without knowing for sure. I'd be inclined to think that Charlie had some weighty matters on his mind, especially taking into account what he'd said to Stephanie Schram's sister the day before, about Blacks, the Beatles, HS and people lying dead on their lawns and the fact he'd smacked Stephanie in anger having only known her a few days.

starviego said...

So the purpose of this thread then is to show that the arrests of Brunner and Goode had nothing to do with Charlie saying "Now is the time for Helter Skelter" and thus was not a trigger for the murders? Is that right?

Whether it's the purpose I can't say, but it looks increasingly that it had little bearing on actually triggering events that night. I don't doubt that part of going to Cielo was to get money. Atkins was saying that in private and public way back in '69 and DeCarlo earmarked robbery as one of the reasons he believed Tex was involved back in November '69. But I don't believe Tex about raising bail and I don't believe him about the copycat and I have my reasons.

grimtraveller said...

ColScott said...

There are drugs present at Tate
Sebring has drugs
Voytek Dealt drugs
Drug dealers were initially suspected.

I never believed the allegation. But DRUGS as motivation for Tate- sure I would buy that IF the rest tracked

It would certainly have been plausible.
If the rest tracked.
Problem is, the rest was so far off track.
Copycat would be plausible if the rest tracked.
But it doesn't.
Hippie types going gonzo would even be plausible if the rest tracked.
But it doesn't.
A mentally ill prosecutor making up an imaginative yarn to net some killers makes for a great tale.
Until you remember Brooks Poston, Al Springer etc and the rest of the stuff that doesn't track with that either.

we have to ask ourselves if murder was the intention

It's a good question.
The answer was provided 49 years ago.

To this day they are called the Manson Murders when in fact they are the Watson Murders

Ah, such are the vagaries of nuance, Scotty old bean.

Peter said...


That's an interesting observation, because didn't both Good and Fromme come from pretty well off backgrounds. Fromme's father was an aeronautical engineer and Good's a stockbroker. I'm sure that despite the conditions, they would have maintained a certain amount of social graces: the way they spoke, their deportment, their education. Some class signifiers can't be expunged. For all Manson's railing against the rich, he certainly sucked up to them a lot. Either consciously, as wtih Melcher and Wilson, or maybe unconsciously as with Good and Fromme. I think that was the true motive. Like any urban artistic community, there was an overlap between the moneyed class and the underclass. Charlie was afforded access to those that lived the lifestyle but he was never accepted as part of it. He didn't have the talent or the money. He would always be on the fringe, on the outside looking in. Bitterness at being shut out of elite society was the motive.

Peter said...

Buffoonery forsooth.

AstroCreep said...

For me, it always comes back to human nature and facts. I believe Charlie ignighted that evening because of all the heat surrounding the family. Likely a combination of all of the events happening to his family- a black panther shot and thought to be killed, family members in jail, etc. These events in themselves weren’t petty or minor crimes- murder, theft, forgery, grand theft auto (committed not necessarily convicted of).

Desparate times call for desperate measures and I believe that is the true motive of why the killings started... but also woven throughout the narrative is his Helter Skelter philosophy. Sorry, there are just too many facts about HS to ignore and too many sources who provide great detail thru statements to the police and others.

Two weeks ago, it was the CIA. This week it’s over $600.

When I see quotes from books that came out after the incarcerated had their death sentences commuted, I put ZERO credibility into what I read. These are statements from people that suddenly had the ability to be granted parole and so the need to sanitize their participation or bend facts and alternative motives becomes necessary.

Matt said...

AstroCreep, I'm in general alignment with your thoughts on motive. HS was "woven" in and cannot be discounted. But I cannot wrap my head around it being THE motive. There's the Bobby in jail portion, the panic over Crowe, the desperate need to hold the group together (money).

I think there's something missing though and it has something to do with either drugs, a number of vendettas or both. Hopefully the answer was known to someone other than Manson and who still breathes.

grimtraveller said...

Matt said...

HS was "woven" in and cannot be discounted. But I cannot wrap my head around it being THE motive

It was never presented as the motive. In court and in Bugliosi's book and elsewhere, it has always been one of the motives. The trial presented 3. All interwoven like the neural parasite that twines with Spock in the Star Trek episode "Operation ~ Annihilate!"

Mr. Humphrat said...

Great post David, although I admit I haven't finished it yet. Just wanted to ask didn't the women have their hair cut short by TLB? Wouldn't that suggest the booking photo of Sandy wasn't from that time?

David said...

Mr. Humphrat,

Thank you. I cannot confirm that photo of Sandy was from the Sears arrest (I hope I mentioned that). I chose it because she was wearing glasses and the aside on that. As far as the 'short hair' thing: I don't know, maybe someone else can answer that part.

grimtraveller said...

Mr. Humphrat said...

Just wanted to ask didn't the women have their hair cut short by TLB?

Just have a look at the mugshots from the Spahn raid a week later. Lots of long hair there. Short hair was definitely the exception for the women around TLB time.

Mr. Humphrat said...

Yes Grim I do see photos of women supposed to be taken August 16th and they still had long hair. Some of them cut it after that I guess. I know there was one source that said they had cut their hair and left a single little pony tail, or I don't remember what you call it. Sandy has the short hair by the time of one of her booking photos, maybe death valley, and Squeaky too. And I remember them in some photos across from the court in Independence with the short hair.

David said...

I think I derail my own post. Maybe most of you knew this but I didn't. There is a second Manson Film on the way: Charlie Says

Sun King said...

Awhile back I was looking for that Carl Street Address that Sandra listed as a residence. No I see it was from the Spahn Ranch arrest records. Any idea who had lived there when Sandy claimed that as a residence?

BTW, the house built in 1906, originally had one bathroom but has since been split into a 2 unit condo.

Jeremy James said...

I know it's been said that Folgers, Manson, and Robert De Grimston all have ties to the Esalen institute. This shouldn't be overlooked. De Grimston held lectures there for his warped religion lol