Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Johnny Ussery Part 3- Whats Next??

“I’d love to find out who killed my mother and grandmother”, he told me. "Many others do as well", I replied back. 

We are sitting in his kitchen - Johnny Ussery, his wife and me.  We had just settled in. In my anxious and nervous state, I had showed up a little early. Johnny was still getting dressed when we shook hands. His wife had let me in, and warned me about the dogs, but so far they hadn’t smelled our cats on my clothes. We all said our hello's. I went reviewed for him the posts that Patty, Matt and Liz had done on his family. I mentioned Patty specifically as one person who has done so much research on what happened to his mother and grandmother. In a perfect world, it would be Patty here talking with him, as she knows so much more than I. But geography being what it is, it's me. I had my tape recorder and my laptop this time to take better care of getting his feelings and words in the most accurate way possible for a rookie like myself. I also had a couple of beers and, with the first shot of Coors-lite sliding down my mouth and into my stomach, I finally was starting to settle down. So I began by telling him about Alisa and Brie. He had not ever heard of them. I explained what Brie had been through, and gave him a copy of Restless Souls. I spent a few seconds on Doris and the impact she made. After briefing him on the Tate family and other books on the case in general, Johnny brought up Helter Skelter. He knew exactly what page of the book mentioned his mother and grandmother. He asked me if it would be possible to get him a copy, and I promised to send one right away. I took a few seconds to make sure he understood how to approach Bug's story and motivations with a fair amount of open eyes and mind. Then I brought out some of the old newspaper articles about his mother and grandmother, including a 40 year anniversary piece printed in 2008. Johnny had never seen any of them, and asked me to send copies of all of them with the book. He took a very long look at the first one I showed him, which had faded black and white pictures of his mother and grandmother…

“Is this mom and grandma?”  (He is squinting, holding the printout of the photo very close to his face)

 I told him it was.

“Well, you can barely see this”.  (The photos were rough to begin with, and as Johnny has no internet, I had to print some of them out. I was only able to show him saved copies and printed articles.)

Then Johnny’s wife showed me the few pictures they had of Johnny and his brothers, as well as the only photograph of his mother that he can locate - a wedding photo of her and his father, John Ussery. We looked over the newspaper clippings and his family photos for a few minutes with a somewhat nostalgic feeling hanging in the air. Although the subject matter was very dark, I still feel it seemed to have somehow comforted him in a way to be surrounded by images and thoughts of his mother and grandmother, albeit in such a tragic way. 

We both needed another beer by now. So we opened another round and then we got down to business. I had names to ask about, and names to give. We had been contacted recently by Deb Silva who has done extensive research on this case and is credited in one of the newspaper articles Johnny and I had just read.  She has done various things in her past that make her qualified to assist him if he decided he wanted to open, or re-open, that can of worms. Deb has expertise in these matters, which would benefit Johnny greatly. Deb has also been in contact the publisher of a newspaper out in Anderson County, California. Should Johnny want to do so, Deb could put him in touch with those back in California who understand the channels necessary to possibly put the ball in motion. But first, I need to make sure Johnny is wanting to go back down that very dark road. He started with a question for me....

“What do you feel when you’re looking across from a guy like me?”  

 What a way to start.  “Sort of like I am looking at a legend in a way," I answered him.  “Surreal,” I offered as well.

“I am far from a legend. Let’s just put it that way. You’re somebody who is fascinated by it all, but were just real people like everyone else. You know in your post you said mom and grandma were stabbed to death. They weren’t. They were beaten and strangled to death.”

 (I can’t believe I made that type of mistake, but acknowledge and apologize.) I tell him that the Tate Labianca crimes were similar and the victims were stabbed in those crimes...

"Yeah but in that case they know Manson did it. In my mom's case they don't know that Manson did it."

We both agree though that it couldn't be ruled out. I read some of the email questions including asking about a specific Aunt XXXX (Not the same as the “crazy aunt” from first interview), and gave some family information from Deb Silva…

“I would love to be able to get in contact with Deb Silva.” I don’t know who XXXX is. I would love to call my dad right now and ask about this person. Let me call him.”

At this point Johnny calls his father, John Ussery. I can clearly hear the voice in the background when his brother Lane answers the first call, and as well when John Ussery himself calls back…

“Hey Daddy....  Lost him....”  (He calls back)  Hello. I gotcha now. Hey, uh, do you know...do I have any aunt XXXX…

 He repeats name, and in background I hear his father say he never heard of her.

He never heard of her.”

He relays me. I wait for him to go on…

“Hey Daddy I’m talking to this guy right now who is involved in that Manson thing, and we're looking back to see. There is a whole bunch of people who are interested in things that happened in 1968 and 1969 and things like that. And one day I was looking at it, and I saw my name mentioned. I typed in there, 'Hi I am the 8 year old boy who found those two women, and I’m 52 years old and I am o.k.And, it’s kind of strange that so many people are interested in it, and a whole shit storm started from there.  Now I am sitting here in my house with a gentleman who lives in Fort Lauderdale who is showing me a bunch of stuff mentioning XXXX, who is supposedly your sister, but I've never heard of this woman. Anyway, there is this lady, who if I want her to help me find these people, can get a hold of them. I am going to let Saint, who is sitting here, go ahead and let this lady get hold of us and see what she can do. Anyway this guy sitting here has a computer and he is sincere about what he is doing. He has a bunch of old pictures and articles about my mother and Nancy Warren. I am going to go ahead and let them see what they can do. Hey Daddy, I am looking for -and so is Saint here- of a good picture of my mother. Do you have one?  No, me either. I thought I sent everything I had to you. I know YYYY has a bunch of stuff but she won’t talk to me….”

I could hear Johnny's dad  in the background ask if Johnny really wanted to talk to her? We all laughed at that. At this point Johnny said goodbye to his father, and tried again to reach the “Crazy Aunt” from our first interview. It went to voice mail. I told Johnny that Deb would be able to help him clear this up. I also needed to clear up the exact age of Johnny and if he remembers anything about the birthday just prior to his tragedy, or his stepfather...

“October 8, 1960. I had just turned 8 years old. In 1978 I went back to get hypnotized - that’s how they tried to do it.  They took me back year by year by birthday, trying to get me to remember things I liked and happy times. But I don’t remember the birthday before the murders. I also don’t remember Dulaney from Adam. I mean, nothing about him.”

As well, when I pointed out that it may not have been Dulaney's daughter who killed herself with his gun as Johnny had told me in our first conversation, but another step-daughter who had done it, he seemed surprised and totally unaware of this person. 

"No I did not know her. From what I understand it was from a marriage that happened after my mother died. I was told  about it in the 90's and just assumed it was his daughter. In fact I would be kind of intrigued about his real daughter if she is still alive. I would love to talk to her, but I doubt she would want to talk to me since I publicly accused her father of killing my mother." 

I asked him if he had any recollection of life with his real father, or times before the crimes, and he didn’t have much…

“Nope that is all gone. I remember Daddy coming to visit and it was always like Christmas when he showed up. That is what I remember. We always got so excited when Daddy was coming. He would bring us presents and stuff. That's what I remember.”

He seemed very pleased at the memory. Maybe we should leave it at that is what I am thinking. I know Johnny works very hard and had, in fact, worked all morning before I got to his house. I didn’t want to take up too much of his time. My job was done. I had delivered him the things he was unable to receive by email. I made a promise to send him the few items he requested. I made the plan to get him in touch with Deb Silva. I started to pack up my things.  Johnny’s wife asked him to tell me about the one thing other thing they thought I should know…

“Grandma Nancy always kept a gun in the kitchen - in a drawer next to the sink. When someone  knocked she would take it to the door. If she knew the person she would put the gun in a cabinet she kept next to the door before answering it. After the murder they found the gun in the cabinet next to the door. I don’t know if maybe she hadn’t just forgot it was there from the last time she put it in there, or if maybe that night the person who came over was someone she knew.”

I took my pad back out and made that very interesting note. And now, Johnny asks me what is next and where this is going to go? I told him then what I am telling you now….

I don’t know. This is beyond me now. I have taken Johnny as far as this train can go. He is in the hands of professionals now. We have done our best to put him together with those who can help him find his answers. Deb Silva will be updating us on their efforts, and where they may lead. I only wish there was more I could do. I was very privileged to meet a real survivor. Johnny Ussery has lived through something most of us can never imagine. Violent tragedy to the one person he needed more than anyone else. He has had to endure the added grief of never understanding why it had to happen. We spent some time talking about his life since, and like most of us, it has had its stumbles, and ups and downs, but he has made it through and is standing tall today. He is married to a very nice woman whom he appeared to love deeply. He went out of his way to tell me how special she was. For a guy who has been through so much, to demonstrate a heart so big, was a very satisfying thing to see. So, let's all hope for the best... times have changed much since 1968. There are things available today that were not around back then. For the first time in a long time there is some hope. Hope that this man can get some kind of answer to a question almost 45 years old. Who could do such an ugly thing? And why? It may still be a very long shot to ever find out, but now Johnny is at least pointed in the right direction if he chooses to aim. I think as a society we owe people like this whatever help we can give them. Maybe sometimes we can even get personally involved to do just a little bit more. In a world where people are capable of doing evil things like this in the first place, if we can’t count on each other to look out for one another....God help us all.

I’m leaving now, and almost to my car. Johnny and his wife are in the driveway saying goodbye.

“Hey Saint you know how I know you’re a good guy? In all the time we have been here this is the first time someone ever came here and the dogs didn’t go crazy.”

Funny, I had forgotten there were dogs in the house....

John Ussery and Clyda (Ussery) Dulaney

The Ussery Boys...

A later photo

Johnny Ussery Part 2 - The Encounter

I don't think this weed is working... Maybe I should have taken a Xanax. I should feel high as hell right now, and all I feel is scared out of my Goddamn mind. What am I doing here? How did I get into this? Sigh.... 6 years ago I was sitting in an office cubicle bored beyond belief, and I stumbled into the online world of the Manson Family blogging. A private, quiet hobby developed and somehow it grew into???? I don’t even know what. Now I am sitting in my car out in the street across from Johnny Ussery's house. He is expecting me. In a minute, I have to get out of my car and go up to knock on the door. Have I taken this whole thing too far?

The line between fantasy and reality is about to be crossed in my little world, and I am so not sure I am ready to do it. These are crimes and names from a very long time ago. Like most - I know them only from old articles and wiki searches. These people exist in the memories and archives of newspapers and back dated police blotters. The theories and conspiracies get tossed around like old tales at the campfire.

Until today. Now it gets real. Oh man and I mean real.  What is inside that house? What is waiting for me, and will I be ready? What if it is Chris Hanson and he thinks I am a predator??? Wait a minute… Maybe the weed is working a little.

Calm down Saint… breathe deep. Remember, I am here to help. I have information and contact information for people who can help Johnny. Eviliz has been contacted by people with information which might make some kind of difference. Smart, good people who are professionals at this sort of stuff. I am here to clear some things up, and to pass him on to those who can take him much further than I am capable of doing in his quest for the truth. My cause and purpose are right.

As well, I have a secret weapon in the car with me. I brought him the perfect gift. A copy of my very favorite book. It is the perfect thing to give in this situation. So apropos…

Finally, today I have a chance to make a difference. I wish it could be easier but we don’t always get to chose our circumstances. Sometimes they choose us. These circumstances leave us with a choice. Either we can back down and shy away, or we can step up and seize the moment. We can define the circumstances or we can let them define us. Johnny had no choice in his circumstance. I do. I call myself the Saint of Circumstance. Time to put my money where my mouth is…..

So I get out of the car and walk up to the door…..

                                 Coming soon… A Face to Face Visit with Johnny Ussery….