Monday, May 24, 2021

Shorty Shea: Wrongful Death Lawsuit


March 18, 1971 a lawsuit by Phyllis Shea on behalf of herself and daughter Karen Shea was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.  The suit named Charles Manson, Bruce Davis, Steve Grogan, John Doe Grogan, Mary Doe Grogan and Doe’s 1 through 20, inclusive as the defendants.

 The suit asks for 1.5 million to be awarded to the plaintiffs for the wrongful death of Donald Jerome “Shorty” Shea, husband of Phyllis and father to Karen.  Phyllis claims in the suit that Shorty was the sole support for her and her daughter and that she and her daughter are his sole surviving heirs.


John Doe Grogan and Mary Doe Grogan are Steve Grogan’s parents.  The plaintiff’s attorneys were not privy to Steve’s parents first names at the time the suit was filed, nor were the names ever produced during the time the suit was still “live.”  Steve was under the age of 21 when Shorty’s murder was committed therefore his parents could held financially responsible for his actions.  As an aside, Leslie Van Houten is commonly referred to as being the youngest member of the Family to be convicted of murder when, in fact, Steve Grogan was the youngest member of the Family to be charged and convicted of murder.  He had turned 18 years old about three weeks prior to Shorty’s death.  Leslie turned 20 two weeks after the LaBianca murders.

Phyllis Shea was living in Sonoma California at the time the suit was filed and she retained two Napa California attorneys to handle the lawsuit.  Both of those attorneys have since passed.  It’s quite possible that Phyllis was still married to Shorty at the time of his death.  There are no records of a divorce.  Shorty would have committed bigamy with his subsequent two marriages after Phyllis.   Shorty and Phyllis did not live together for very long after their marriage.  They were separated before daughter Karen was born.

It’s doubtful that Shorty contributed financially to Phyllis or Karen for any length of time after their break-up.  Shorty never had much money and always had trouble keeping up with his bills.  Added to that, Phyllis met another man and had four children with him between 1963 and 1969.  She later married this man in 1982 and according to her 2016 obituary they were together for 54 years.

The 76 pages of the lawsuit are not complete, you can tell that there are missing pages but they are all that I received from my request to the Archives and Records Center at the Los Angeles courthouse.  The suit was eventually dismissed in 1978 due to no parties in the suit making an appearance in court at their last scheduled court date.

PDF file download (202mb file - takes time to download)



29 comments:

starviego said...

Can't download the zip file. Anybody else with this issue?

Panamint Patty said...

nice pic Patty remembers that day.

DebS said...

I just tried Starviego and got a 404 error. I'll let Matt know, he's the one who put it in the post for me. Thanks for letting us know.

Cappy said...

I do not understand this – perhaps someone can help me.

Taking my information from the OP, it seems that a lawsuit was filed March 18, 1971, the plaintiff claiming a very large (for the time) amount of money on the grounds that Shorty was the only form of support for her and her daughter, while at the same time she was living with another man by whom she had four children and with whom she lived for another 54 years.

How does this work? How does this case ever get filed? I do not live in the US, but in my country I think it would never get on the books.

Peter said...

Anybody can file a case about anything as long as they pay the filing fee.

Cappy said...

Peter said: Anybody can file a case about anything as long as they pay the filing fee.

So no judge/attorney has to decide whether a case should be heard? And people can be subpoenaed and obliged to appear no matter how ridiculous the case is?

Just asking, as this is quite outside what I am used to.

Matt said...

The link is fixed. Apologies. I must have been working too fast.

Peter said...

You can move to dismiss and if the case really has no merit, if, even taking everything alleged in the complaint as true, there is no case, the case is dismissed. There are other procedural and jurisdictional reasons a case can be dismissed, but that's it in a nutshell. This all happens first thing. So with Shortys case, presumably it had enough merit to survive a motion to dismiss or the defendants just defaulted by not responding to the complaint.

starviego said...

Matt said...
The link is fixed.

That's 14 pages of Randy Starr's testimony from the Grand Jury, not from any lawsuit.

Panamint Patty said...

uh oh...lol

Matt said...

Well when I screw something up I don't dillydally around, I take it to the house. It's definitely fixed this time. I guess we'll leave the post up longer to give everyone a chance to read & discuss.

Peter said...

Kanarek for the win.

Peter said...

I for one wouldn't want "Manson Family Vivtim" on my memorial. Why not add a wrench to the sculpture.

DebS said...

Peter, the memorial box was something that Michael Channels had made for Shorty. Years ago Michael was rooting around in the area where Shorty had been buried and he found some bones. They were very degraded. When the History Channel's Manson Speaks: Inside the Mind of a Madman was gathering material for the series they learned of the bones that Michael had found and contacted him. They offered to do the DNA testing to see if the bones might be Shorty's. If you recall all of Shorty was found intact except for his left hand which was missing. It was thought that animals probably carried the hand off.

The bones Michael found were small, like they could have come from a hand or fingers. The History Channel sent the bones off to be examined and it was determined some of them were human but they were so degraded that no DNA testing could be done. The LA County Sheriff was notified and told about the bones but they did not want them. Apparently the sheriff's office has boxes of odd unidentified bones so they couldn't be bothered! The bones were given back to Michael.

While it's not certain the bones are Shorty's, Michael thought it was possible and odds are he is correct, so he had the box made and it contains the bones he found. It was very respectful of Michael to have done it. At least he didn't grind them up to be used in a painting or tattoo or some of the other things that Manson's ashes have been subjected to.

Fayez Abedaziz said...

Those guys had grit, Shea and Starr, in playing/performing as stuntmen and so, that would, for the most part, be another part of movie making that, as Western movies go, are those of the past.
More loss of good old Americana. What a shame.
It would be nice to, posthumously, award these gentlemen that recognition along with the others in Western themed museums/displays.
You heard what I said.
There should have been compensation for Shea's daughter, Karen. What a nice name.
If there had been a 'Rico' act, perhaps it could (I think it shoulda) have been applied against the Spahn damn Ranch itself. Property and all. And, against any future earnings from any of the criminals from the 'brilliant' gang over there, that were convicted of crimes of murder.. Take a number, heh.
That day, 'Lurch,' Clem Grogan (though Lurch in the Addams Family 60's show had class and didn't have a distorted face like Grogan) and Larry Bailey, along with Davis and the others, of course, ganged up, as we know on Shea.
I would have slugged wimpy, sneak boy Bailey just on principle.
A swift kick to Grogan and Davis, after a good pummeling with a two b' four hard wood, right over a 200 foot high cliff would have been nice. I would have laughed and lit a cigar. (I like Dominican ones.)
These guys should have been executed.
Yeah, there's a place for capital punishment. Hell, for these creeps and for other criminals, I'd pull the damn switch. If the Warden allows me a pot of coffee and to smoke while I'm there.
I'd pay for the coffee if it was for crimes against children, then have the lowlifes take a seat on 'old sparky' or a firing squad and as we say, "you done it, now pay!"
You get the idea.
"You shoudn't oughta done it," (as we say in the South- I lived in South Denver for a while) Charlie and Tex Watson. No, you take a decent, hard working man's life, what are you freaks?
Leslie and Susan, time served is okay, some years, not life or Capital Punishment.
If you need anything, Leslie, all you gotta do is ask, I'll send it to you.

Matthew said...

From everything that I ever read about Shorty, he sort of lived hand to mouth and any extra money went toward alcohol and cigarettes. I doubt he was sending Phyllis any money. So to file a suit claiming that her sole income for both her and their daughter came from Shorty, wouldn't she need to have proof of that?

starviego said...

pg7 "....decedent was.... a dutiful father and spouse respectfully...."

Dutiful spouse? He had married another woman!

"...his heirs ...have therefore sustained pecuniary loss in the sum of $1,500,000."

Seems kinda high for a guy who was living out of his car.


pg66 (July 1975) "Defendant, Charles Manson, is informed and believes and, on such information and belief, alleges that Donald Jerome Shea is not deceased; if said Donald Jerome Shea is deceased, defendant, Charles Manson, has no information or belief on the subject sufficient to enable him to answer the allegations...."

Charlies always told the truth? Eh, nah, I don't think so.





orwhut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
orwhut said...

Wasn't there a rant by Charlie, in one of Robert Hendrickson's films saying, "The truth is not in your courtrooms"? If Charlie ever told the truth, that was probably one of the times.

DebS said...

The reason that the suit was allowed to peter out by Phyllis and her attorneys after seven or so years might have something to do with her not being completely honest about her situation. I guess she could have formally withdrawn the suit so there would be no ambiguity. If she had managed to be awarded the money and it was later learned she lied about her financial situation, she could probably be charged with something.

I don't have any problem with her wanting something for their daughter, she just shouldn't have included herself in the suit.

Milly James said...

What I find to be the saddest thing about Shorty Shea's murder is that once his earthly remains were discovered, nobody claimed them. Where were Phyllis & Karen et al then? I understand the local authority had to provide a 'potters field' burial. A very lonely end.

DebS said...

Agreed Millie. Nikki, Shorty's last wife, was in prison back east when his remains were found and she did not have the wherewithal to have him buried. Shorty was a veteran and could have been buried in a military cemetery. Law enforcement knew that because there is a letter among his autopsy documents that states just that. Shorty also had at least one living brother in 1977. Phyllis and Shorty's second wife, Sandra, both testified at the trials for his murder so it's not like no one knew Shorty had more relatives. I'm not sure where the ball was dropped when it came time for him to have a proper burial. It is very sad.

Matt said...

Familial relationships can be complex and strained. Also, Shorty was an unpopular guy with most people. Rarely steadily employed, preferred underage girls, sold sex toys, career couch surfer, etc. Even the Spahn girls thought he was creepy. I'm guessing most people felt the world was a better place without him. Yes Deb... sad.


Fayez Abedaziz said...

Matt,
how's it going, quite well, I trust.
Well, then,
we have seen that before, Shea was not going to be given a 'pillar of the community'
award anytime soon, in say, 1968 or '69. Or be a guest at the Cleavers (Leave It To Beaver) or even at the Brady Bunch home.
Not even at a local dive bar where we had 'friends in low places.' I still know some. "barkeep, gimme a shot and a beer... where's the pickled pigs feet jar and the pickled eggs..."
Not to mention at a Holiday Inn banquet room (used to be the best chain in the world).
Or even at a so-called strip bar: Chatsworth? A young lady whistled at and called Sadie..? hey hey
Yet, one has to say that, even with Shea's sordid behavior and endeavors,violent, murderous attacks by the thug punks was hardly justified.
I know that you're not saying/implying that, yet I have read some people on a site here and there, to do with our Jolly Campers at Spahn, that, well, Shea wasn't such a good guy, so...
As if that excuses the bums that, as bullies do, attacked Shea.
Charlie talked with some there, about money and, of course, a place to live, like, we're here man, at this here resort, "someone causing us trouble, snitchin' to the law...some s.o.b.'s"
They, you all know, didn't want to be kicked out of the easy life at the old Ranchero.
But, what the hell happened to the thousands and more thousands Charlie grabbed from the Linda Drouin (aka Kasabian) crime and from Juanita Wildhairish too?
Stop me before I make some unsavory jokes about her. I have several I already have made up. Never mind. For now.
Paul Watkins said Charlie gave old man Spahn several thousand dollars to pay some tax bills.
Still, I wonder if Charlie didn't hide some 1,000's of dollars someplace, for the future and, later, as he enjoyed the accommodations at California's public 'hotels,'
did he finally give the location to a trusted former Spahner?
So, in the end, minutes of violence led to the gray steel and concrete of prisons and, just before that, they had full sun shine on the hills and fields, free food and cheap thrills. Stupid people with guns, knives and warped heads are always there, around corners ready to ruin things. And, in the case of our gang at Simi Chatsworth, it was vicious and so needless. Only two weeks after Cielo and Waverly.
For the love of God...

Fayez Abedaziz said...

Wait, ah, I just finished posting here and, what the heck is that about, just above mine, the post that is?
ha ha where and what in the world...

orwhut said...

Fayez,
The comment above yours appeared to be an advertisement for an escort service. You know, when a kid can't get a date for the prom, he hires one of the service's beautiful employees to go with him to impress his friends. He dances with her, drops her back off at the escort service, and all his classmates are envious.

Milly James said...

He needs to review his target audience! Proms sound horrible btw. Being British of a certain age, I've only seen such things on films. I get the impression that if you're fat, spotty, have buck teeth, are not particularly good at sport, too clever or too thick, they would be the stuff of nightmares. When we left school, we just went to the pub with our mates. I was going through my Stevie Nicks phase at that point so a headband and a right arm rigid with bracelets and bangles would have been involved.

orwhut said...

Milly,
I think there was a film where a kid hired a hooker to be his prom date. That was the basis of my joking comment to Fayez.

Peter said...

If you're fat, spotty, have buck teeth, are not particularly good at sport, too clever or too thick, prom is the least of your worries.