Photo by Patty of the approximate location of James Willett's murder
29 Oct - A group of seven (Pitman, Cooper, Lauren and Heidi (infant) Willett, Goucher, Monfort and Craig) arrive in Stockton driving James Willett’s car (1965 Ford wagon, white). Pitman posing as ‘Karen Willett’ rents a Flora Ave home from Maria Kopes (friend of the owners) paying a $290 security deposit with cash from a large roll of money.
30 Oct - William Goucher and Michael Monfort (posing as James Willett) are arrested for the armed robbery of Eden Square Liquors (929 N Eldorado St), less than 12 blocks from the W Flora Ave home.
31 Oct - Monfort (using James Willett’s ID) posts bail of $10,000. Goucher remains in jail.
(Warning: Pure guessing follows: A bail bond had been issued by a private company for an amount which would pay for half a house in 1972. They have a financial interest in securing this risk from presumably James T. Willett of Bardstown, KY who is a member of a family, which owns Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. They likely checked with the DMV for a vehicle to use as an asset and may have verified with James’ family his identity and past residences. They would be the most tuned to recapture ‘James’ should he jump bail as was to be the case. Using James Willett’s ID, Address: 704 ¼ Coronado St, Los Angeles, CA, may have been the first domino to fall in this case which led police to the car parked in front of 720 W Flora Ave.)
8 Nov - The body of James Willett is discovered near Guerneville CA. Willett’s body was initially reported as an unidentified man aged 20 to 40. Also discovered in the county were three bodies linked to Hell’s Angel member, George ‘Baby Huey’ Wethern (Although ultimately not associated with the Hell’s Angels case, Willett’s body appears to have been a point of confusion for more than a day or two).
8/9 Nov - Lauren Willett is shot and killed (How could the Flora Ave gang have learned about the discovery of James’ body?).
During this same time frame James Willett, aka Michael Monfort fails to appear in court triggering a skip trace for the return of $10,000, in 1972 value ($54,464.83 in 2012 Dollars).
10 Nov - According to Paul Fitzgerald (Krenwinkel defense attorney), Squeaky phoned him and said she had arrived in Stockton via bus, late Friday (10 Nov) then spent the night in the Flora Ave house before visiting Goucher in jail on Saturday (11 Nov). Somehow Squeaky managed to locate Pitman at the W Flora Ave home, in spite of the fact that Pitman had lived there less than two weeks.
11 Nov (8 PM) - Police respond to a report that Willett’s car was seen parked in front of 720 W Flora Ave. Entry is forced after a female occupant slams the door on a police officer.
(Is it mere coincidence that a co-defendant of Monfort (Goucher) is being visited in jail by Squeaky Fromme who had to sign into the jail, presumably with an address? Did she unwittingly write 720 Flora? Write a phone number which was searched in a reverse listing?)
Inside the Flora Ave house is an infant (7-8 months old) identified by Nancy Pitman (using alias of Lauren Olmstead) to be Heidi Willett, adding the mother having just left for Kentucky to be with the father, Jim Willett (Would Pitman admit this association knowing that James Willett’s body was discovered?).
Pitman (using second alias Karen McCartney), Cooper, Craig and Monfort (using second alias Gordon Foote) are arrested.
Fromme calls the Flora Ave house after visiting with Goucher in jail looking for a ride. Police oblige and return Fromme to the same facility she was visiting.
Heidi Willett is placed in Mary Graham Hall.
12 Nov (5 AM) - Stockton police obtain search warrant then discover Lauren Willett’s body buried under the Flora Ave home.
13 Nov - Sonoma County District Attorney files charges against Craig, Monfort and Goucher for the murder of James Willett.
(Monfort and Craig were escapees/parole violators from prison as well, making the testimony of James Willett about various robberies appear superfluous compared to simply being turned into police with an anonymous call. Would James have been murdered to keep him from talking about other robberies?)
14 Nov - Priscilla Cooper states Michael Monfort accidentally shot Lauren Willett in the forehead while demonstrating the dangers of Russian roulette.
Research provided by Farf
Nice job Farf!
It makes perfect sense to me that JW was a little surprised that he had "bonded out of jail" for an armed robbery he probably had no knowledge of and that his family back in KY was likely VERY worried about him.
His natural response at this point (it seems to me) would have been to collect his girls and get the heck out of Dodge! But that would have blown the lid off of things for the Monfort/Goucher/Craig AB gang.
Human lives were a cheap commodity for Nancy and the company she kept back then. That to me is a big factor when discussing the TLB motive. They were just bad people!
Did the authorities determine a date for James' murder? Did he know someone was bailed out using his ID, or was he already dead?
There is some info about the Willett murders on Lynette Fromme's Wikipedia page. Here's the link:
Someone in another blog claiming access to the police report said this:
Michael Lee Monfort was the first to shoot James Willett in the back with a Sturm Ruger 22 caliber automatic pistol, which knocked him face down.
William Merlin Goucher aimed the next shot at the back of Willett's neck with a 12 gage shotgun.
James 'Spider' Craig proceeded to fire with yet another shotgun as Willett lay face down on the ground.
They then cleaned out Mr. Willett's pockets, rolled him down the hill and then just kicked some leaves and dirt over his body.
(The police and coroner were never certain as to the exact day James Willett was murdered. They determined it was around October 17, 1972.)
Patty also remembers that being the case: the police were not certain of the exact date of death.
PS Farf's full name is FARFLUNG, we have just started referring to him as Farf. Hope he does not mind...
Patty wonders if it is still Maria Kopes living in the Stockton house.
Last time The Pattys drove by, the owner was out there in the street with a friend who appeared to be fixing the engine of his mobile home. The owner was pointing at her house as if people drive by all day every day looking for it, which might be the case. It was a weird scene, so The Pattys decided to NOT slow down that day.
Apparently the owner knows Mark Turner and has expressed interest in charging money for tours of the crawl space where Lauren was found. Patty wonders if that was what she was doing in the street out in front of her home?
It would be extremely interesting to know how they kept James' murder from Reni for almost two weeks.
‘Farf’ is just fine for a name, considering all the other four letter options Panamint Patty.
Here’s some information on Mrs. Maria Kopes:
According to the news article Kopes along with her husband Hans (also deceased), were acting more like agents in regard to renting the home for the owners who were named as: Mr. and Mrs. Clemens Bermeyer.
Flora Ave Owner
Looks like Patty may have seen the progeny of the owners or someone else. It is difficult to believe there would be that much traffic associated with curiosity seekers and what occurred in that home. But I’ve been wrong about many things and this could be another example.
Thanks, FARFflug. Xx
One of the items gleaned from various news articles included a statement that roughly indicated Lauren had traveled with the ‘Manson group’ by choice or of her own free will. What exactly was the source of that information; Nancy Pitman, Priscilla Cooper or one of the other members of this virtuous dynasty?
Why did Pitman need to use the alias ‘Karen Willett’ to rent the Flora Ave home?
The simpler method would have been to have Lauren Willett (alleged willing participant) use the alias of….. Lauren Willett, since she had a clean background and an infant to use as a foil for legitimacy. This would be somewhat more logical than using a rough hewn woman with an X cut into her forehead as a front person. Unless there was a reason not to trust Lauren, then what Pitman did makes sense.
Is there any information about Lauren being away from this crowd, with her baby and with an opportunity to leave or escape?
While there was a Manson/Aryan Brotherhood war going on inside of Folsom the Brotherhood was on the outside taking over the Family to carry out their own evil deeds.
The Manson girls had a house in which the Aryans used as a “half-way house” and to facilitate their drug dealing, sexual and criminal needs. Most of the Manson girls have been turned against him by some of the same Aryans and they took sole possession. The residents of the house were Manson girls Nancy Pitman, Maria Alonzo, Lynette Fromme, Priscilla Cooper, and Aryan Brothers William Goucher, James Craig and Michael “Ice Man” Montfort. Sandra Good had been staying there as well, but left for Oregon with her boyfriend Steve Bekins.
The Aryans carried out a string of armed robberies during this stint. Friends of the Manson girls James and Lauren Willett became confidants and in the end just knew too much. When James Willett threatened to go to police the Aryans took him out in the woods and shot him several times and buried him. He was presumed “missing” for several months until Michael Montfort was arrested using James Willett’s identification.
An investigation led them to the Manson girls’ house where the Willett’s 8 month old daughter was found playing with Nancy Pitman. A shovel in the home made them suspicious and later the body of Lauren Willett was dug up in the crawl space of the home. The girls were arrested and charged with the murder. However, they all escaped with “accessory” charges.
When the trial came to a conclusion Aryan Brother James Craig was suspected as a snitch. He was later found in a burning car— with another body— with half of his face blown off. His last words were “she’s dangerous.”
That’s what is frustrating about this story sunset77, all the various and diametrically opposing versions of this crime.
According to news articles, the Flora Ave home was occupied from 29 Oct till 11 Nov when the entire gang was arrested. How well known could an ‘AB headquarters’ or ‘half-way house’ be when two of the ‘brothers’ were in jail less than 48 hours after moving into the place? This entire mess took place in less than two weeks.
Even the ‘basement’ grave has at least three variations. This is a 2 bed, 1 bath (with 7 people) home built in 1921 in Stockton, CA. I have never seen a basement in California, but I’m sure there must be some in existence. They simply are not nearly as common as they are in the Midwest or East Coast.
I have read basement with a dirt floor, cellar, under the house and crawl space to describe the location of Lauren’s grave. Which is accurate? The dimensions of her grave were listed as around 54 inches by 31 inches and 24 inches deep. How could such precision be published with basement or crawl space?
This is what I choose to believe (I’m probably wrong) until other information is supplied. There is likely a crawl space accessed through a closet floor, hatch. A person could stand upright in this opening and dig to their heart’s desire without any fear of detection. Who goes into a crawl space versus a basement? Lauren’s body is hidden and if she is ever discovered there will be a long list of renters to sort through, one of whom was named ‘Karen Willett’.
If they planned to kill Lauren because she was going to talk to the police, why fire a gun in a suburban home? Why not take her out to the boondocks and remove any association with the occupants of the Flora house? Why would she ‘announce’ going to the police to the very people who killed her husband? Yes, I realize I may be expecting too much in the way of intelligent behavior from this group.
I'm pretty new to this "Willet" murder farflung, I didn't even hear about it until about 2 weeks ago.
The various news reports are "sketchy" at best. What I'm thinking is this:
The police estimated James Willet's murder occurring around Oct. 17. I'm guessing at some point there was friction between James Willett and the AB's, probably of crimes committed by the AB's. Willett threatened to report them to the police, so they murdered him.
James Willett was reported "missing" to the police, I would assume that his wife Lauren did the reporting because none of the rest of them would have done that. I read at some point the people in the house became aware of the murder, (not including the ones that murdered him because they already knew damn well what happened to him) from "news reports". I expect that James Willet's body was discovered murdered, it was on the news and Lauren Willet either heard or seen it, or both.
I would guess that once Lauren Willett knew her husband was murdered, she may have threatened her housemates. I read that she was shot in the head with either a .32 or .35 caliber or something similar. That caliber doesn't match the caliber used on her husband. I think Pittman said she committed suicide playing Russian roulette, of course that's garbage. They apparently hid her body in the crawl space.
I'm guessing that house had a crawl space, I read that in several places. My neighbors house has a crawl space, it has a hatch, you take the screws out, open the hatch and crawl under. Not exactly the best place to hide a body of someone they murdered, the crawl space under the house where they were staying.
There is some info on the Sonoma County Sheriff Office's website abut this case, but not much.
I'm sure people on this blog probably know much more about this case than I do, I'm just trying to piece it together for myself as best I can.
Sunset, just search "Willett" here on the blog. There is a bunch more.
Sunset, just search "Willett" here on the blog. There is a bunch more."
I did the search, and you were correct, there is a bunch more. I should probably do a search like that BEFORE I try to post things on this blog.
Great contribution as always Farf!
anyone interested in the willett murders should get ahold of the police report--it is very detailed and has drawings of the crawl space. also read bravin's book on fromme, it is covered in more detail than in other books.
From the latest photos of Pitman, she has certainly "moved on" with her life rather well, considering the fact that she probably witnesses a lot of people being murderered. Doesn't seem to bother the woman at all. Manson sure did pick some "souless" women. I think NP should be in prison, along with the other hairballs.
As hard as it is to imagine the men that these girls associated with may have taken a turn for the worse once Charlie et al were locked up. I think Brenda was the hardest of the hard core but Gypsy, Mary and Cappie weren't far behind. This may have the most attractive collection of cold hearted women ever assembled despite their ungroomed state. Imagine how Cappie or Brenda or Ouisch or Leslie would have looked after a day at the spa.
I think one of the posters hit the nail on the head. Some of these Manson girls, were involved in or seen or herd about numerous murders, but yet they stayed and walk the walk and talked the talk.
With no direct proof I think alot of us,think there are many more murders not linked to them. So think about how sick and ruthless these girls were. I don't think Charlie made them that way, it was natrual for them, Charlie just spotted their 'talent'
Regarding the basement size, I can't speak for the Flora St. house itself, but I grew up down the street in another house at Flora, and we had a full-sized walk-in basement. In fact, my parents converted part of it into bedrooms for us kids. So it wouldn't surprise me to find out that that house also had a proper basement.(Lots of very old houses in that neighborhood.) Though it could have been just a crawlspace as well. Also, there's been some talk of it being a halfway house at some point before the murder (?). I'd never heard that before, but the house across the street from where I grew up(also on Flora) was a halfway house for women during late 60's to mid-70's, And Squeaky did reside there for a short time. (My older brother befriend her and brought her to our house on a couple of occasions. We had no idea of her past.) Just wondering if that could have been the halfway house in question. It had a plaque in front that read "The Wilsonia", if I remember correctly. But I don't remember ever seeing men living there, so it could be just a coincidence.
What ever happened to Goucher? I'm from Stockton (live here now) with the last name of Goucher. I'm very curious if I am related to him. Also, whatever happened to Heidi? I know of a woman named Heidi who is about the right age and was adopted by folks in Lodi.
William Goucher died in 2010. He was not from Stockton, that was just a place where some of the Family members lived for a very short time. William's middle name was Merlin, he had a brother named Veldon. Maybe that info will help you determine whether or not you might be related.
Lauren "Reni" Willett and her husband James Willett and their baby lived in a cabin right next to one that my girlfriend and I were renting at what was then called "The Guerneville Resort" up on a bank overlooking the Russian River, right near the Guerneville Bridge, while we were both attending college in Santa Rosa and the rent was VERY cheap. James "Spider" Craig visited a girlfriend frequently that lived in another cabin diagonally to ours.
One night I heard a young child screaming in the cabin where "Spider's" girlfriend lived and I called the sheriff. The deputies showed up, stayed in their squad car and told me to go and knock on the door to see if the child was o.k. (a very bad, lazy and dangerous thing for them to do to me). I knocked on the door and "Spider" answered and said everything was alright. The deputies laughed and drove away.
We began asking around about who "Spider" was and we were told he was a real trouble-maker and crazy, that he got in a knife fight at a bar recently and that he had thrown a pregnant lady off the Guerneville Bridge.
James and "Reni" Willett seemed like a very nice, committed couple who adored their little baby.
James Willett used to take my 7 year old son out night fishing for cat fish. My son really loved the time he spent with him.
"Reni" was VERY shy and frightened looking and I couldn't figure out why since her husband seemed like such a nice, calm, happy person. I felt sorry for her carrying her baby, who was getting too heavy for her, so I gave her my baby backpack to use since my daughter had outgrown it.
James was very outgoing and friendly and obviously very devoted and protective of his wife and child.
We used to have Baha'i firesides (an open meeting to introduce people to the Baha'i Faith) every Friday night. James knocked on our door one night, and asked if he could sit in our kitchen and "just listen" instead of joining everyone else in the other room.
The second, and last time James came to one of our Baha'i firesides, about midway through the evening, "Spider" knocked on the door, looked past me at James sitting at our dining room table, and said he had a gift for us, and shoved a very large jar full of tarantula spiders at us. We thanked him but said we couldn't keep them because we were too busy with college, etc.
James left shortly afterward and that was the last time I saw both James and his wife and child.
We just figured that they had moved on.
Later we found out that James had been murdered. We wondered if "Spider" thought James was "getting religion" and that James was killed to make sure he didn't confess his involvement in any crimes.
Electric Buzz Machine your story is very touching and I would be tempted to believe it except for one thing. There are no catfish in the Russian River, never have been. Catfish are very distinctive, it would be hard to mistake one for another fish.
There are definitely catfish in Russian River and that's easily verifiable.
So verify it Karen! Post link to something that says you can fish for catfish in the Russian River at Guerneville. While the lakes, Lake Sonoma or Lake Mendocino, that drain into the Russian River do have catfish the river itself does not and certainly not as far down stream as Guerneville.
Here are the fish that you can expect to find in the Russian River.
"The Russian River is a year-round fishery. Summertime is prime fishing for Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, and Catfish. Early fall begins the small Steelhead run and the larger Steelhead begin to run in November, continuing through April. April through June is Shad season, with Catfish beginning to be plentiful as well."
" The Russian River is a year-round fishery. Summertime is prime fishing for Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, and Catfish. Early fall begins the small Steelhead run and the larger Steelhead begin to run in November, continuing through April. April through June is Shad season, with Catfish beginning to be plentiful as well."
I owned the home from 2002-2009. There is a 1/4 size basement with cement floor and 4 ft high cement block retaining walls which allow one to jump up and crouch under the house with enough head room to dig a hole. The clean-out for the original coal stove is down there, with coal still at the chute from the driveway. There is no trap door in a closet into the crawl space as Vincent Bugliosi wrote in "Helter Skelter". There is a door from the kitchen area with stairs into the basement. I know Heidi. She came to my home on Flora around 2008 to see where her mother had died. I have a fantastic story about all of this and hope to finish my book some day. Anyway...James Willett was shot with a .22, decapitated, and buried in the sand next to the Russian River in Guerneville, CA by Craig & Monfort. Hikers discovered a hand protruding from the sand and called the sheriff. James was wearing his Marine tunic. After identifying James, they put a BOLO for his car. A patrolling officer in Stockton noticed the car parked in front of the house on Flora and got a search warrant for the house. When the occupants refused to answer the door, the police broke one of the big plate glass windows in front to gain entry. It was never replaced with glass, but with a piece of wood with lattice attached. When I was remodeling and upgrading the house, I found some letters from "helter skelter" etched into the plaster under the old wallpaper in the living room. The "H" was in then-dried blood. The bullet hole had been patched, where "Rennie" (Lauren Willett) was sitting on the sofa when she was shot just above the right eye with a .38. I kept the wallpaper where some of those letters had adhered to the back of it. There was a stained wood cabinet in the house during this time (from police photos I perused) and it was in the garage when I bought the home. The home was haunted. I invited Hans Kopes over one day. I was remodeling part of the kitchen breakfast nook area and showing him pictures of what it looked like before when he exclaimed he had put up the wood wainscoting in the pictures. I had since removed all that wood on the walls - and upon doing so I found a swath of dried blood down at the register level on the wall leading to the basement....and when I asked Mr. Kopes if he remembered the blood, immediately in his German accent with a loud gruff he looked me square in the eyes and angrily said, "NO BLOOD! NO BLOOD!" MY blood turned cold and I made an excuse that I forgot I had to meet someone and needed to leave - to get him out of my house!!! Mr. Kopes came by several times after that but I wouldn't let him in. I went outside to talk to him. He called one day and invited me over to his house with the ruse he wanted me to watch a DVD tape of his speech in front of the city council on a problem he was having (I worked for the courts) and asked if I would come over to get it. Cautiously, I went. I met his wife Maria whom didn't speak English. They didn't know it but I knew Deutsch. And...the rest will be in the book.
Pam could you please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
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