Monday, January 29, 2018

Mother Mary

Mary Theresa Brunner (aka: Mother Mary, Mary Manson, Marioche, Linda Dee Moser, Christine Marie Euchts, Och) was born December 17, 1943 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. For those who don’t know the area, that is near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Chippewa Falls is where Jack Dawson, the character from the movie the Titanic, was from. Ok, it is also about 100 miles east of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Aside for a short period of time when she testified for the prosecution in Bobby Beausoleil's trial for the murder of Gary Hinman, Mother Mary was completely devoted to Manson. In 1971 she, Catherine Share (Gypsy), Lawrence Bailey (true name: Larry Wayne G. Giddings) and Kenneth Como robbed a Covina beer distributing firm and later a Hawthorne surplus store. They were after cash and guns. The second robbery resulted in a shootout with the police where Brunner was wounded in the left hand. Brunner was sentenced, following the trial to, two, consecutive, ten year to life, terms for her role in the two robberies. She was 29 years old.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Arthur H. Alarcon said, “Whether as a leader or as a follower, Miss Brunner is an extremely dangerous person.”

The Judge also noted that a psychiatrist who had testified during the sanity phase of the trial had said Mother Mary had such an “icy, callous determination” to free Manson that she would have killed if necessary to get Manson out of jail.  (Long Beach Independent, Wednesday, March 21, 1973)

She was paroled in 1977.

Mother Mary, in this writer’s opinion, was one of the most, if not the most, unrepentant of the murderers. “Murderers?” let’s be honest, if Bruce Davis is guilty of the murder of Gary Hinman, Mary Brunner would also have been found guilty. On the legal side of things an error-a technicality-by the DA’s office allowed her to walk away free despite the fact she recanted her prior testimony. By recanting her prior testimony Mary, arguably is single handedly responsible for creating  questions regarding what exactly happened during the murder of Gary Hinman and Manson's involvement in the crime. 

Unlike Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian or even Leslie Van Houten or Patricia Krenwinkel there are no events in Brunner’s pre-Manson days that explain how she went from being an honor student at a Catholic high school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin to 'an extremely dangerous person' 'willing to kill' for Charles Manson. Nothing in her childhood explains why Mary stood casually by during the murder of Gary Hinman and possibly participated in suffocating him. 

Mary’s Childhood 

George Brunner 1942
Mary was the oldest of four children. She was named, after a fashion, after her paternal grandmother, Theresia Maria. Her parents were George and Elsie Brunner. 

George Fredrick Brunner was born June 5, 1910 in Eau Claire. He graduated from high school and is listed as living with his parents and working for a ‘sports shop’ in the 1940 federal census. He would continue to work at the Outdoor Sports Shop until he retired.

By the late 1940’s George is listed as an owner of the shop with a partner named Louis Philips. Philips purchased the shop in 1939 so it is likely George had some arrangement with him to acquire an interest in the shop over time.

Given the times Mary, as a first child came rather late in George's life. He was 33.

Throughout his life, George was active in the local community participating in various civic organizations, doing charity work and sponsoring little league teams. From what I could tell he was an avid golfer, hunter, skier and bowler. His name appears in the local papers frequently as high bowler during the 1950’s and early 60’s in this or that league and in 1962 he scored a hole in one playing golf.  He is pictured below right on a hunting trip with Elsie during the 1940's.

George and Elsie- 1940s
Elsie Jane Baker was born January 28, 1917 in Eau Claire. She graduated from Eau Claire Senior High in 1933 and from Luther Hospital School of Nursing in 1938. She worked as a nurse, first at the Luther Hospital in Eau Claire and then for doctors in private practice until she retired in 1970.

On April 24, 1941, Elsie married George at Sacred Heart [Catholic] Church in Eau Claire. According to Elsie’s obituary, Elsie and George met as they both walked to work down the Dewey Street Hill in Eau Claire. Elsie was going to Luther Hospital and George was headed to the Outdoor Sport Shop. "Elsie always said George was a good dancer and ice skater, two qualities that endeared him to her." They were married for 63 years and lived their entire lives in Eau Claire.

Eau Claire has a population today of about 68,000 today. In 1970 the population was about 44,000, not a large town.
210 Barstow

George in the shop
The Outdoor Sport Shop was located at 210 Barstow Street in Eau Claire. Unfortunately, it appears that the building was torn down as a result of a city redevelopment program and replaced by a parking lot- a Pretenders song comes to mind.  The shop was located near the right end of this parking lot. 

The shop, as the name implies, sold sporting goods, everything from outboard motors to skis, golf clubs, balls, bags and shoes, baseball and basketball gear and.....firearms....lots of firearms.

George and Elsie lived a comfortable middle-class life. Their kids attended school, stayed out of trouble, made the honor role and went to church. 

After their marriage in 1941, the Brunners first lived in a duplex located at 1109 1/2 Summit Street (Mary's first home). By 1951 the couple and their children had relocated to 1418 Lyndale Avenue and by 1954 they had moved to 1703 Laurel Avenue where they continued to reside until 2003. This address is frequently misstated as '703' in online documents.

George was the victim of crime on a few occasions during Mary's childhood. These crimes seem to foreshadow future events in Mary's life. 

In 1955 the Outdoor Sports Shop was burglarized by two juveniles who made off with what was described in the local press as ‘an arsenal’. Based upon the press clippings, they did. The thieves made off with rifles, four automatic pistols, seven black jacks, two switch blade knives, a set of throwing knives, several knives in sheaths and 30+ boxes of ammunition. The culprits (ages 13 and 14) were apprehended without incident. (The Daily Telegram, Saturday, June 11, 1955)

In 1959 George caught a fellow named Donald Steele trying to pass a bad check at the shop. George called the police who responded and pursued Steele. He was apprehended after a brief chase where he attempted to toss his identification. It was recovered and he was charged with forgery and robbery. (The Eau Claire Leader, Saturday, April 18, 1959)

In 1960 a thief stole a .22 caliber revolver from the shop but subsequently returned the weapon and other loot with an apology note. (The Eau Claire Leader, Thursday, February 18, 1960)

In 1962 a fellow named Donald Carpenter stole George’s car, a 1954 metallic silver and white top, Oldsmobile, from behind the Outdoor Sports Shop. The car was recovered in Madison, Wisconsin. George had left his keys in the car. (The Eau Claire Leader, Sunday September 30, 1960)

George passed away November 15, 2004 and Elsie on December 27, 2009. A comment from Elsie's obituary: “Elsie was an example to her family for never giving up on those she loved.”


Mary's Teens

Regis High School
I was unable to determine for sure whether Mary Theresa Brunner was raised in the Catholic faith or the Lutheran faith. Elsie was a lifelong Lutheran but George appears to have been Catholic (Sacred Heart Church, where they were married is a Catholic church).

Mary attended a Catholic school from the seventh grade until her graduation, now, Regis High School in Eau Claire. I believe it is likely she was raised as a Catholic but can't prove it. The aerial view of the school to the left gives an idea how large it likely was when Brunner was there in the late 1950's. The dark brown roofed section is the original school based upon drawings in the 1955 yearbook (the year it was constructed).

Unfortunately, Regis High School yearbooks are few and far between and I was not able to find a picture of Mary in high school.

Mary was an honor student. She was also a member of the Spanish Club and displayed at least some musical talent (below) that might have served her well with the Family Jams crowd a few years later.

Eau Claire Leader, Friday, November 11, 1960

Mary Went to College

Mary graduated from high school in 1961 and initially attended Wisconsin State College in Eau Claire, aka Eau Claire State College (now The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire). She studied history and volunteered as a librarian's assistant.

In 1963 she joined Sigma Pi Kappa sorority. Some web sites claim she was a member of 'Phi Theta sorority'. Being a former 'frat rat' I can tell you that Phi Theta is actually a professional organization for budding physical/occupational therapists. Brunner was not a member.

She was also active in the college's Spanish Club and may have spent the summer of 1963 in Mexico. Many student members of the club travelled to Mexico that summer. The yearbook, at least, tends to suggest the whole club took the trip. 

By 1966 Mary had transferred to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She graduated that year with a degree (BA) in History. During her stay in Madison she had also been a student volunteer at the university library and likely planned a career as a librarian.

1966 University of Wisconsin Yearbook
She was not, as some websites say, 'employed' at the University of Wisconsin library. After graduating in the spring of 1966 she headed west and obtained employment at the University of California-Berkley library. About one year later she encountered Charles Manson and her life changed forever....... and not for the better. 

Mary had three siblings: Katherine (Katie or sometimes Katy) and Ann. From what I have been able to determine Katie and Ann both attended Regis High School. Katie graduated in 1963 and Ann in 1966 both were honor students.
1964 Eau Claire State College Yearbook
Both Katie and Ann initially attended Eau Claire State College. I was only able to track Ann attending college for 1967 and 1968. She spent the summer of 1967, while Mary was meeting Manson, in Finland, as a foreign exchange student.

Katie's Graduation 1967
Katie, like Mary, also transferred to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She graduated from the school of nursing, there, in 1967.

In 1966 Katie married Steven Berkley. They had a child September 12, 1968 about five months after Katie's older sister gave birth to Manson’s child 2,000 miles..... and a world away.

Mary After Manson

[Aside: I found it interesting that during Mary's fifteen minutes of fame in 1970-3 there is, aside from AP stories from Los Angeles, no mention of the 'local girl gone wrong' in the Eau Claire newspapers. In fact, I noticed that while I was able to find stories about the Hinman nurder and Hawthorne shootout, those articles that were printed locally omitted the reference to 'Eau Claire'. In other words, certain stories you can find in, say, the LA Times that would mention Brunner 'from Eau Claire' are 'missing' from the local paper.]

Mary's presence on the Manson stage centers on her testimony and subsequent effort to recant that testimony in the Hinman trials of Bobby Beausoleil and Manson as well as her participation in the Hawthorne Shootout. 

I have to admit that my statement, above, that she is one of the most unrepentant of Family members could probably meet with the legal objection that I am assuming 'facts not in evidence'. 

I have to acknowledge that I don't know if she ever 'repented' her past or took any steps to make amends for her prior actions (or in the case of Gary Hinman her lack of action). After her release from prison Mary Theresa Brunner changed her name and disappeared from the stage of history. There are several mentions of a 'Mary Brunner' or a person with her 'assumed name', post Manson, in Eau Claire that suggest a certain civic mindedness- working for charitable organizations- but I can't say it is definitely Mary Brunner. 

Unlike Kasabian, there is no record of subsequent legal issues, drug abuse or strange behavior. I do know that she returned to Eau Claire after her parole. She may have continued to reside with her parents on Laurel Avenue. Her son did at least until 1994. 

Mary currently resides in Eau Claire, although her name is no longer Mary Brunner. 

There is also absolutely no record of any child abuse, teenage drug use,  criminal activity or delinquency surrounding any of the Brunner children. The worst thing that I could find related to Ann, who appears to have had her drivers’ license suspended for 30 days when she was 16 (1968) for making an illegal left turn and speeding. Aside from these two deplorable acts, there is no mention of any legal problems regarding any of the Brunner children. There is also no record of any of the other problems (broken homes, teen pregnancy, etc.) that seemed to plague other ‘Manson Girls’.

So Why did Mother Mary fall for Charles Manson? 

[Aside: Mary Brunner was at UC Berkeley in 1967. She may have heard Martin Luther King speak there on May 17th.]

Nuel Emmons claims Manson described his first meeting with Brunner to Emmons, as follows: 

“One day while on the U.C. campus I was strumming my guitar and humming in tune with the chords when a dog ran up to me and started sniffing at my foot. I poised my foot as if to kick the animal and a girl’s voice rang out, “Don’t hurt my dog.” I hadn’t intended to kick the pup, but when I saw the concern in the girl’s face, I played a game with her: get this ugly dog away from me or I’m going to plant my foot in its ass. The girl was a slim, redheaded, straight-laced type. She wasn’t pretty, but standing there in defiance of someone who might hurt her animal, she had qualities.

Mary Brunner was her name. She worked at the university as a librarian. I teased and threatened all the more when I saw it was irritating her. In a few minutes she realized it was a tease and laughed at herself for being annoyed. She then began criticizing my grammar, telling me, “You should stick to singing; when you talk, you come on like an ex-felon.” Smiling, I said what a smart girl she was and then, hoping to shock her, I told her of my recent release from prison. She accepted my statement without displaying displaying any emotion and quietly said, “Wow, I’ll bet you’re glad to be out.” Our meeting had begun with a certain mutual defiance, but the conversation mellowed and we found we communicated easily. Mary had just recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin and had moved to California to “broaden her horizons.” She was twenty-three years old, living alone, and as yet didn’t have many friends here on the West Coast.

With some encouragement on my part, she agreed to let me fall out at her apartment for the night. My immediate thought was, “Good, I’m going to score.” When we got to the apartment I was ready for sex and made a pass at her. She straightened my ass out quick. Firmly pushing me away from her, she said, “Look, I am giving you a place to sleep tonight; I’m not sleeping with you.””

(Emmons, Nuel. Manson in His Own Words (pp. 85-86). Grove Atlantic. Kindle Edition from 1986)

Ed Sanders in The Family adds little information regarding their meeting except to say it
happened near Sather Gate on the Berkeley campus. (Sanders, Ed. The Family (pp12). De Capo Press, 2002). 

Jeff Guinn in Manson describes the first meeting with less detail, but essentially parrots Emmons. (Guinn, Jeff. Manson (pp 82-83). Simon and Schuster, 2012) Of course, this is because Guinn read Emmons and lists his book in his bibliography.

Putting aside ‘how’ it happened the question remains ‘why’ did it happen. 

The straight-laced, shy, sheltered, Mary Brunner was anything but a radical, although Guinn suggests she was an environmental activist or at least had a strong interest in environment issues. I found nothing to support this claim. 

She was a librarian. She was well read, educated and probably also terribly naive: a nerd. In fact, given how little Manson ever actually ‘read’ as compared to 'borrowed' via word of mouth, I question who actually had the firmer understanding of Stranger In A Strange Land, Brunner or Manson. I would wager it was Mary. Despite other reports, I seriously doubt Manson ever read the book.

I do think her story gives some clues as to 'why' she fell for Manson. 

Mary was the oldest of four children with two working (and socially/civically active) parents. The shop closed at 9:30 p.m.. So George probably came home late on occasion. It is likely that part of her 'chores' included taking care of her siblings, a ‘job’ she apparently later embraced as Mother Mary of The Family. This probably limited her freedom and imposed responsibilities on her from a young age. 

She lived in a small town in the late 50's and attended a Catholic school. This is Ozzie and Harriet, My Three Sons stuff. Both of these factors would tend to make Mary more sheltered and thus, naive. 

I believe it is likely she was rather ‘bookish’. She chose a profession where she would be surrounded by books and a major in college (history) that is focused entirely upon books. I think its possible that she may have retreated into her books for comfort/escape when she was growing up.

Mary likely did not have many friends or boyfriends. None are mentioned or pictured. She did join a sorority in college, which should have given her access to a built-in social life, but she didn't live in a sorority house away from home and there is no indication she continued that involvement after she transferred to Madison, away from the watchful eye of her parents and community. 

It is unlikely she was popular in school. She was not the most attractive young woman, as others have noted (ok, let's be honest and less politically correct, she was rather unattractive) nor was she the captain of this team or leader of that club. In fact, in two of the yearbooks from Eau Claire State College where she should appear (because she was there) there is no mention of her, although only seniors are pictured. 

Her parents seem to have stressed education above all else, which makes sense, given Elsie had a career. 

 Certainly, no one stood in the way of a 2,000 mile move to Berkeley, California, for an assistant librarian job. This suggests to me that she didn’t have any very close friends or a boyfriend back home in Eau Claire.

Perhaps that move was an effort to broaden her horizons. Her stay at Madison may have exposed her to the happenings of 1965-66 in the world beyond Eau Claire. She, at least, chose to move to the center of student activism, the anti-war movement and what would soon be The Summer of Love. There are a lot of libraries around the country. Her choice seems unusual, given her background, unless it was a conscious decision. Is this a sign of a budding rebelliousness? I think it is.

Then into the mix add Manson and his 'pimp-shtick' that is recounted by at least two of his former 'conquests'. 

“WM: You became one of Charlie’s lovers very quickly, I believe. How did that happen?

Juanita: I didn’t know then how to say no to anybody. And then I was real needy too. And here were all these girls, women, falling all over him. And it was my door he was knocking on.
We went off to Malibu in my camper just a few days after I had gotten there. A man called Chuck, and Sadie and Charlie and I. My camper was one of those pop-up ones with a bunk at the top and a bunk at the bottom. And we had gone over there and dropped some acid. We spent the night there on the beach, and in the morning, when dawn was breaking, as it were, Charlie and I started making love, and Charlie told Chuck and Sadie to come down into the same bunk we were in. And I tolerated that, although we did not have group sex. I tolerated that, and that seemed to be significant to Charlie. And I remember after that Chuck and I went for a walk on the beach, and I said, “What’s this guy all about?” And Chuck said he was this really powerful, wonderful person.

[According to Lieutenant Earl Deemer's ‘Family list', Juanita is Joan Wildbush. According to Bugliosi in Helter Skelter that is 'Wildebush']

He was a good lover. Probably the most phenomenal lover I’ve ever had. But once I was hooked, he didn’t have much to do with me.

WM: What made Charlie such a good lover?
J: What makes anyone a good lover? He was very tender.

WM: You say you gave him all your money?
J: It was amazing how quickly Charlie read me. He seemed to know all the right buttons to push. Within a month I’d signed over my camper and something like a sixteen-thousand-dollar trust fund, which in 1968 wasn’t small potatoes.

WM: How did he get you to do that?

J: That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. Some of it was drug-induced, I’m sure. I can remember the night that I told him he could have the money. That day, we started early dropping acid and doing all those kinds of wonderful things. He had been telling me that the thing that stood between me and total peace of mind and heart was Daddy’s money—I was not going to be free of Daddy until I got free of Daddy’s money. Charlie started [saying] that I was my father’s ego. And I remember thinking, That doesn’t make any sense to me. Then later I convinced myself that it probably was [right], because Charlie was always right. Charlie never openly said that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, but if he didn’t say it, he sure to hell implied it.” 

(The Dichotomy of Evil: The Manson Girl Who Got Away, Win McCormack, Tin House Magazine #31, 2007.)

“In the decades since I first met him, I’ve turned the question over in my mind countless times. The obvious answer was that I felt an attraction to him, and as a fourteen-year-old girl, I reacted to that hormonally. But that’s not really the answer, or at least the full answer. More than just attraction, I felt a deep connection. It seemed as if he understood me completely and wouldn’t let me down or betray me as all the other important people in my life had. Ever since we’d “dropped out,” I’d been an afterthought, at various points a mouth to feed, jailbait, and a reminder of a previous life in the straight world.

With Charlie and the Family, from the beginning, there was none of that baggage. I had a place with them from that first night. I belonged in a way that I hadn’t anywhere in months. Charlie and the girls also made it okay for me to want and have sex. It seems so simple, yet this freed me from some of the deepest confusion and shame I’d been experiencing since I was nine.

There is no doubt that Charlie took advantage of me. This small man oozed self-confidence and
sex appeal, and as he would demonstrate time and time again in the months and years ahead, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was a master manipulator, while I was fourteen and essentially on my own. I was a naive, lonely, love-starved little girl looking for a parental figure to tell me “No, don’t do that.” As I discovered that first day in his magic bus, when he focused his attention on you, he made you believe there was no one else in the world. He also had the uncanny sensibility bestowed upon mystics, yet misused by sociopaths and con men, to know exactly what you needed. Charlie knew what you were afraid of, and could paint a scenario that would use all those insights to his advantage—traits that I would see in equal parts over time. Of course, in this moment, as I walked up the bus steps I saw none of these things. Instead, all I saw was acceptance.

But perhaps the most impressive trick of all was how he made this seem as if it was my idea. Ever since my father first left home, I’d cultivated a sense of independence. I’d taken care of my siblings, I’d cooked, I’d become a free thinker, I’d taken drugs. I might have been fourteen, but I thought I understood who I was and what was missing from my life.

What I needed was a family. And now it seemed I’d found one.”

(Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 2203-2221). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)

I believe these descriptions also provide an explanation for how Mary fell for Manson. Manson had an undeniable charisma and an uncanny ability to both recognize a person’s foibles and insecurities and plant the seeds for their later manipulation. He may have been a 'wizard' in bed. He certainly impressed more than one women. And likely the 'you are beautiful' mantra was his choice with Mary, something she had never heard before or likely, previously, believed. 

Manson certainly recognized how to manipulate someone. He explained this when he testified at the Hinman trial (some will claim his testimony was Manson joke based upon how he was portrayed in the previous trial; I don't think so.).

Manson: We [Manson and Whiteley] were talking about, uh, my being at the Hinman house. I was programming him for something. I forgot what it was at the time. But we were talking about the Hinman house. And I told him that I had to go over there because my brother couldn’t stand up. He was stuck in his mother’s mind.
I said [to Whiteley] I had to show Bobby with a motion how to stand up and be his own father, and that Gary Hinman being dead was no loss to the world, because he dealt bad dope anyway.
Kanarek: Now, have you told us everything that you recollect concerning the conversations that Sergeant Whiteley testified to?

Manson: Sir, I didn’t look at Mr. Whitely at [sic] anything but a brain that I could program. And I dropped a lot of information in his head that would be useful to me later on.

Manson seduced Mary with the same 'tricks' he used on Atkins, Fromme and Krenwinkel: he filled her head with mis-information that would be useful to him later on and preyed on her homeliness and loneliness, becoming the friend, lover and father she never had growing up. He told her she was beautiful. 

Within two years she would stand by and watch Gary Hinman be beaten and murdered (and frankly, from my review of her testimony and interviews, she never came close to shedding a tear.). And then she would sacrifice her freedom to free Manson. 

Ann- third from left

George at Laurel Avenue, date unknown. 

 The Brunner's 1954. Mary-George-Ann-Elsie- Katie.



"Bobby isn't guilty!!!"

Mug shot following the Sears Caper August 8, 1969. 


As I was putting this post together a thought kept running through my mind: I wonder how George and Elsie felt, what they experienced, emotionally, when they found out their oldest daughter was not just a member of The Family but had participated in the murder of Gary Hinman and shot it out with the police in blind devotion to Charles Manson. I wondered how they might feel knowing she was prepared to kill one hostage every hour to 'free, Manson'.

Their feelings probably ran the gamut from 'what did we do wrong' to 'look what drugs did to our daughter' to 'what is wrong with this country'. There was probably a little denial in there, too. And, if George is anything like me, more then a little anger and not at his daughter or the cops. At a minimum it must have been truly gut wrenching.

I hope the years that followed were filled with nothing but happiness for Elsie and George. 

Pax Vobiscum