Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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