One of the most often debated topics of the life, times and crimes of the so-called 'Manson Family' is that of the murder of 35 year old music teacher Gary Hinman and the true circumstances leading to his death at the hands of his friend Bobby Beausoleil on July 27th, 1969. Was it, as the official record states, the result of a thuggish attempt to rob Hinman to "finance Helter Skelter" as ordered by Charles Manson? Or was it the result of a drug deal gone sour in which Beausoleil was acting as a middle man between Hinman and the Straight Satans MC club?
Before we examine the details of the Hinman case, let us first look at an event which took place only 27 days earlier on July 1st. The near fatal shooting of Bernard "Lotsapoppa" Crowe at the hand of Charles Manson. We know, beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt that the shooting of Crowe was the result of a botched drug burn in which Charles "Tex" Watson had ripped him off of $2,000. But let's look at what some of members of The Family had to say of the crime, including one that the Prosecutor of the Tate-LaBianca murders, Vincent Bugliosi, would used as a star witness and go as far as saying was Charles Manson's "right hand man", Paul Watkins.
Dianne "Snake" Lake: "Gypsy told me Charlie had shot a black leader to start the revolution"
(LAPD Police Interview)
Brooks Poston: "and he’s talked about killing a negro, militant leader in Los Angeles"
(October 3rd, 1969 interview with Inyo County Sheriff Don Ward)
Paul Watkins: "Just because he said he was fuckin' little white girls. He says, "don't fuck with the white woman", BAM! He said he shot him with a 45 right through the heart"
(Interview with Lawrence Merrick)
..and what did Watkins say of the Hinman murder?
"He said uh...Gary wanted to come with the Family, see, ah uh, he says that Gary said uh, "Can I come with you and the Family?" And old Charlie, "Sure, how much we have in our bank account?" And uh, Gary said, "what do you mean in our bank account? And Charlie says, "Well, what's mine is yours, so what's yours in mine" And old Gary said, "Well uh, no thanks". Charlie told me had ten thousand dollars in his bank account"
Again, Paul Watkins is the man Vincent Bugliosi lead the public to believe was one of Manson's "right hand men". Now, if we had gone by what these individuals in this supposedly tight-knit "Family" had said of the Crowe shooting* we just might be arguing today as to whether it was was really over a drug burn or just because he was "fucking little white girls" and now a great deal of the testimony regarding the murder of Hinman has to be put to the question. Clearly, many involved in the Family were kept in the dark about the true nature of the crimes of July and August of 1969.
* Various different motives for the murder of Gary Hinman have been given. Inheritance, stocks and bonds, Hinman wanted to join the Family, Manson wanted Hinman to join and the best, as given by Mary Brunner: Manson wanted Hinman to join his pop group. Leslie Van Houten in her interview with attorney Marvin Part claimed the reason was to get money for Dune Buggies.
Now let's look at the murder of Hinman. Rarely, if ever during debate about the crime is it mentioned that in early October of 1969, Danny DeCarlo and the Straight Satans were suspects in the case. This fact never made it into any homicide report and was obmitted from Bugliosi's Helter Skelter. Mark Arneson who had purchased Hinman's Microbus from Charles Manson, sold it shortly thereafter to a person by the name of Louis Puhek. Puhek was pulled over in Venice, California (HQ of Straight Satans) after an all-points bulletin was put out for the vehicle on October 5th or 6th. After questioning Puhek, it was learned that a Danny DeCarlo was one of the possible owners of the vehicle. A request was then made by Hinman detectives to locate DeCarlo and for general information about him and the Straight Satans.
Before that requested was fulfilled however, they had received information on October 12th that a girl named Kitty Lutesinger in Inyo County. who they already had interest in upon learning her name from Beausoleil himself, had information about the Hinman murder and thus an investigation into the involvement of the Straight Satans was temporarily put on the hold.
In Helter Skelter, Bugliosi writes that Kitty told LaBianca detectives:
"Manson had tried to enlist a motorcycle gang, the Straight Satans, as his personal bodyguard. With the exception of one biker named Danny, the group had laughed at Manson. Danny had stuck around for several months. Only learning that the motorcycle gang hung out in Venice, California, the LaBianca detectives asked Venice PD if they could locate a Straight Satan named Danny"
Bugliosi doesn't tell us that Hinman detectives, who had passed what Lutesinger said on to the LaBianca detectives, were already looking for him. It's safe to assume they too received this information, on top of what Puhek had told them, which was significant enough for them to consider DeCarlo a suspect. Was Bugliosi twisting the facts on behalf of one of is golden boys?
During Beausoleil's first trial, Sgt. Paul Whiteley, head of the Hinman investigation said on the stand:
THE WITNESS: "He had nothing to do with this car, as far as I know. In other words, I originally received information fourth hand that Daniel Decarlo had possibly been in possession of a Volkswagen bus at some time. Just about the time that I received this information, I was called to Independence, California, where I talked to other witnesses who told me that Daniel Decarlo had nothing to do with the car; that it was another person, and I just completely dropped him at that time"
THE COURT: But it subsequently revealed that he actually did have something to do with it?
THE WITNESS: Yes.
But what? There were no further questions and by this point, DeCarlo was already in bed with law enforcement and Bugliosi. Granted, he states that upon interviewing Lutesinger, that he learned DeCarlo wasn't involved. But whatever information he learned later that revealed he did, he does not elaborate on.
It was Lutesinger who implicated Susan Atkins in the Hinman murder. According to Helter Skelter, it was Atkins who revealed they went to Hinman to get money he "supposedly inherited". But as Bugliosi points out, she wasn't being totally truthful (was she ever?) and Hinman detectives suspected such. Because unlike Kitty, Atkins did not mention Manson, nor did she admit to stabbing anyone. If she was smart enough to leave out Manson, Brunner and Davis, all whom were eventually charged and convicted in the Hinman murder, it's safe to assume she was keeping her mouth shut about the possible involvement of DeCarlo.
Let's examine Lustenginger for a moment. She, the pregnant girlfriend of Beausoliel didn't learn until "several weeks later", according to Helter Skelter that he was even arrested and "much later" that it was for the murder of Hinman. Even she was kept in the dark, so if the crime it's self was kept from her, how could she be a reliable witness as to what the motive was?
On November 12th, Vence Police Department contacted the Parker Center and told them an Al Springer, member of the Straight Satans and his friend Danny DeCarlo had information about the Tate LaBianca murders. In this interview, Springer talked about everything from the shooting of Crowe to the murder of Shorty Shea and implemented Manson, Watson and Grogan in the murders. Despite this, detectives were unimpressed. Though Springer testified in the Hinman/Shea trial, he was not asked to testify in Tate-LaBianca trial as it was unclear as to weather he had heard about these things first hand or just repeating things DeCarlo had told him. Still, Bugliosi considered his taped interview with detectives to be of great, yet overlooked importance.
In regards to Hinman, Springer says something very interesting:
"this other girl kitty, or Patty or something like that. She not only probably has talked to ya, but once she sees Danny, her on her own, from what he hears, she's going to let it all hang out too. Everything she knows right to a T, So I figured I'd get the ball rolling. because I don't want to see Danny get in trouble for something he didn't do"
Right here we have evidence of a possible conspiracy involving DeCarlo and Lutesinger to establish a story that absolves Straight Satans of any involvement, or perhaps Lutesinger was strong armed into establishing the story she laid out. Clearly, they KNEW Lutesinger talked to police. Did they know before or after? Was there more to them squealing than pending charges? Did Venice PD tell them Hinman and LaBianca detectives were looking for them? What exactly was Springer worried about Danny getting in trouble over? Whiteley said he learned DeCarlo wasn't involved, but as pointed out, Lutesinger and DeCarlo were talking to each other at some point and they knew she would "let it all hang out" again.
The day after they had interviewed Springer, they spoke with DeCarlo. One week later, Bugliosi would be assigned the Tate-LaBianca case and Decarlo would be his personal tour guide of the Spahn Ranch. A little less than two weeks after DeCarlo's police interview, Bugliosi would be assigned the Hinman case after Beausoleil's first trial ended in a hung jury, thanks in part to the jury not believing DeCarlo.
Back to Atkins, why did say inheritance? We know, that Gary Hinman wasn't the hippie in Topanga Canyon to inherit $20,000. It was Charlie Melton. While it's safe to say that many of the Family weren't the brighest bulbs, I still think that they, especially those involved in the actual crimes weren't so stupid to believe that not one, but two hippies in the Topanga area connected to the Family had inherited a large lump sum of cash at the same time. So we can cross the idea that anyone really believed that Hinman had $20,000 off the list of possibilities. Could it be, Atkins substituted Melton with Hinman under pressure in an attempt to conceal the true motive, so to not incriminate Danny DeCarlo? She did, after also tell Ronnie Howard she stabbed Hinman while Bobby held him (sound familiar?) and that she stabbed Sharon Tate, when we know it was actually Tex Watson. Role reversal seems to have been a staple in the Fanciful story telling of Sexy Sadie.
Ronnie Howard: "She says he was a hippie too and I asked her, I said, "Well, why did they do it?" She said, "Well he owed them some money or something. He owed this Bobby and her some money and some other girl. I heard them talking on the telephone. I heard them trying to kill him. So they got him out for a ride. He thought he was just going out for a nice drive"
(November 25th 1969 interview with LAPD)
Owed is the key word. Granted, Susan was obviously engaging in her aforementioned fanciful story telling during her jailhouse confessions. It's also possible Howard got her facts mixed up, since her statement contains clues of the Shorty Shea murder and not that of Hinman. But Atkins was clearly going for shock when she opened up her mouth to Howard and Graham, So why no mention of an inheritance rather than a mundane scenario involving Hinman owing money to Bobby? Again, owned is the key word.
"Kid come to me and said Hinman owes me"
- Charlies Manson (1992 interview with Bill Murphy)
Ella Jo Bailey is one ex-Family member who's testimony is often used by people who favor the official record. However, what they fail to look at, is that Bailey wasn't interviewed in regards to the Hinman case until March of 1971. After Manson was already sentenced to death in the Tate-LaBianca trial and needless to say, long after the Manson myth has already been established. She was, yet another example of somebody with pending criminal charges of her own. So it's more than safe to assume she was simply telling them what they wanted to hear. Ella, also never said anything about any inheritance. Her reasons were stocks, bonds and the two junk vehicles Hinman owned. One overlooked comment from her interview though, is that fact she mentions Susan saying something about drugs before they left for Hinman's house. She claims Bill Vance left because he didn't want to go out on any "Capers". Yet we know the ex-con already was engaging in criminal activity on the ranch. As we'll see later, there might have been a reason she mentions Vance in regards to the Hinman case. Further more, did in fact confirm Hinman supplied the Family with mescaline.Those who claim the topic of drugs in relation to Hinman never came up during any of the trials, can no longer say that.
From the People Vs. Davis on January 12, 1972:
GEORGE DENNY: They got some of their mescaline from Gary Hinman; is that right?
ELLA JO BAILEY: I believe so, yes
GEORGE DENNY: And you got some of it for the Family from Gary Hinman; is that right?
ELLA JO BAILEY: I don't recall ever --Gary Hinman turning over any mescaline to me.
GEORGE DENNY: But you used that which had been gotten from him; is that right?
ELLA JO BAILEY: Yes.
GEORGE DENNY: He manufactured it for the Family and others; isn't that right?
ELLA JO BAILEY: I don't know if he manufactured it.
In Death to Pigs, Lawrence Merrick asked Mary Brunner if Gary Hinman "was into dope dealing" and her reply was, "yeah". What did Hendrickson and Merrick hear at such an early date that prompted them to ask about Hinman and dope dealing?
"Hinman deserved to die. He was selling bad dope"
- Charles Manson (1971, Hinman/Shea trial)
In 2012, a relative of Gary Hinman, or somebody claiming to be so, made a letter from Beausoleil available to read online. This letter has been used as "proof" that the Hinman murder did not involve a dope deal by those in favor of the court's findings. But let's look.
"However it would be hypocritical and disingenuous to say that Gary was a drug dealer. The story about the drug burn was just something put into my head by others, and there are plenty of reasons to be suspicious of the story considering its source. Gary wasn't the kind of guy to burn anyone in a drug deal or otherwise. I chose to buy into the story and allowed it to be part of the internal narrative I used to justify my decision to rob him. And later to rationalize some lame reasons for what followed."
Beausoleil says somebody "put into his head" by others, but doesn't say if it was before or after the murder nor does he name these "others". He then goes onto say:
"Back in the 60s everyone I knew traded in such things as pot and capsules of peyote cactus among friends and neighbors, and this includes me. None of us thought of one another as drug dealers"
So Bobby doesn't deny some sort of transaction too place, he only apologizes for the characterization of Gary as a drug dealer. A term that needless to say carries a lot of negative connotation.
Of the five people charged in the murder of Gary Hinman, only two have said that the that the true nature of the crime was drug-related. That is Charles Manson and Bobby Beausoleil. It's often questioned as to why this is the case and why none of them made this be known at trial. What must be understood is that Bobby Beausoleil was tried and convicted in a separate trial* in which his defense strategy was to lay blame on Charles Manson. Despite his efforts , he was convicted and sentenced to death in the slaying. Manson, Susan Atkins and Bruce Davis were tried together directly after the Tate-LaBianca trial. Atkins plead guilty having already been sentenced to death in the Tate-LaBianca trial and did not wish to go through with another trial. She received life in prison for the Hinman murder. Mary Brunner turned state's witness and testified in exchange from full immunity.
* Beausoleil had two trials. In both, he tried to beat the rap and deny any involvement.
..and what of Mother Mary? It should be said that Bobby Beausoleil has stated that neither Susan Atkins nor Mary Brunner were told why he was going to Hinman's home and maintains to this day that they were not sent by Charles Manson, they simply tagged along. This could very well be true. There is a more than likely chance that Beausoleil had too much pride to tell the girls he was more of less being pressured to recoup money for a group of tough guy bikers. Initially, Mary claimed that when being questioned by detectives, she was more or less pressured to repeat what Atkins had already told them and had threats of her son being taken away from her and being sent to the gas chamber. With the help of a good lawyer, she was able to strike up a deal to testify against her co-defendants in exchange for immunity. She then recanted her testimony against Beausoleil and claimed she was coerced into testifying and that the purpose of her testifying against Beausoleil was an attempt to absolve Charles Manson of guilt. Her initial reason for the murder? Hinman refused to join Manson's pop group. Another question one could ask is, why no mention of Danny DeCarlo if he was involved? In her police interview, she claims it was Bill Vance who accompanied Manson to Hinman's residence, rather than Bruce Davis. Obviously they were all very selective and careful as to who to name.
*Later on, her lawyer was able to maintain the deal made using the excuse her copporation helped the prosecution's case and charges were once again dropped.
Susan Atkins nor Bruce Davis have ever said that the murder of Gary Hinman was anything other than a botched attempt to rob him. However, both Atkins, before her death and Bruce Davis worked hard to get parole. In the eyes of a parole board, reality is on paper under the heading of "Statement of Facts". Parole hearings are not retrials and to go against what the records say are the facts is taken as deception. This is why Bruce Davis has been granted parole for a three years in a row* and Beausoleil denied at all 17 of his hearings to date. Atkins, claimed that after the shooting of Bernard Crowe there was a desperation to flee into the Death Valley and that money and Dune Buggies were needed, thus an idea to get funds off Hinman went into effect. If the murder of Gary Hinman was indeed not over a drug dispute, then this is most likely the true motive. But selling stolen property of a dead man is too risky of a business venture, so it's safe to say that murder wasn't apart of the original plan.
*Davis was granted parole in 2010, 2012 and 2014 but the decision was reversed by governors Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010 and Jerry Brown in 2012 and 2014.
The changes in the story as presented by Beausoleil over the years has been a big reason people often cite that he and Manson have been lying about the drug angle. But has he really changed his story? The answer is actually no. Since 1981 the story has remained the same with the exception of some minor discrepancies and details. In his 2010 parole hearing, Beausoleil actually gives a logical explanation:
"Well, initially, I was too ashamed to admit to my parents that I had killed a man, and I made up a story that Manson had done it. And then later, in my first parole hearing in 1976, I wanted to accept full responsibility, but I wanted to do it without being perceived as a snitch*, because that would have been a death sentence in California at that time. So, I took responsibility for everything that had happened. I said that I had done it all, including slashing Gary across the face, and so that was the second version that I had told that wasn't entirely true. It was true other than that one part. And then subsequently, Manson himself admitted in this book that he had been involved in, admitted that he had slashed Gary's face, so I no longer felt an obligation to try to protect myself, and, you know, and being thought of as a snitch, because he'd already said that. So, I felt at liberty at that point to say exactly what happened, and that was, I think, in 1980"
*This may sound like a silly excuse to some, but in defense of Beausoleil, unlike Charles "Tex" Watson and Bruce Davis, he at that time was in San Quentin. A much harsher environment and he has, in the passed been involved in violent situations, one in which he was stabbed by another inmate.
In a 2009 documentary, Bugliosi dropped somewhat of a bomb shell when he said:
"Gary Hinman furnished drugs for the Family. He was not a member of the Manson Family, he was an associate"
In the end, it can not be proven for sure if drugs played a role in the death of Gary Hinman. But when one takes into consideration all that has been said and the progress and circumstances of the investigation and trial, I believe that there is good reason to believe there was in fact a drug transaction that escalated in a violent and deadly situation.
The Family, Ed Sanders
Helter Skelter, Curt Gentry and Vincent Bugliosi
Death to Pigs, Robert Hendrickson
Police interviews, parole hearings and other documents found at cielodrive.com