Like all major events which attract great public attention, the phenomenon generally known as “TLB” has produced its share of phonies and frauds. From fake Ruth Moorehouses and Gypsy sons, to altered photographs (Manson playing guitar in prison before 1967, Dennis Wilson with Manson, the Spiral Staircase House), to publicity generating personal anecdotes (Danny Trejo, Bryan Cranston), to false memories (Pete Porteous) and forged memoirs (Robert Earl Murray), to the proliferation of phony Manson artwork, crafts and other personal effects and memorabilia (including ashes), fraud has occurred in the past, in the present, and likely will occur into perpetuity.
A couple of the most recent and still relevant instances of Manson-related fraud were two alleged Manson wills that were filed shortly after his death on November 19, 2017. Although one claimant quickly withdrew his effort, the other will has lingered on and is still a point of contention in the current tedious legal fight over Manson’s estate.
But why it is, is a mystery to me. Because that will is such an obvious fake that I don’t see how anyone could take it seriously enough that it would still be in play.
There are so many things wrong with this alleged will that it’s hard to know where to begin to start critiquing it. But perhaps the best place to start would be with the fact that Charles Manson would never have had anything to do with such a document in the first place — not in a million years.
First of all, the assertion that this fairly concise and literate will was actually written by Charles Manson is an absurdity on its face. But beyond that, even if he allegedly just signed it, the Charles Manson I knew for the decade before this will was supposedly crafted on his behalf had such a disdain for signing anything legal that it is unthinkable that he would consider and assent to such a detailed and precise legalistic document turning over the rights to every aspect of his entire existence — to the exclusion of anyone else, including specifically all living biological relatives — to a casual acquaintance murderabilia dealer.
And I’m not alone in this opinion. If you talk to anyone who knew Manson — and by “knew” I mean people who had intimate, ongoing, relationships with him for years and/or decades, not just people who spoke with him on the phone (Newsflash! Manson called anybody!) or visited him a few times —they will all tell you the same thing. I’ve spoken with people who knew Manson for almost fifty years, other people besides myself who assisted him daily for years and years during his incarceration, and inmates who did time with him, and all of them are instantly and unanimously clear that Manson would never have signed over the rights to his life to anyone — much less to an individual so casually involved with Manson that he would later refer to himself as a pen pal and not as a friend.
And indeed, Manson did not sign such a will. And the best evidence of this is the will itself. One look at the document shows what a crude and ludicrous effort at forgery it is. All of the particulars of the will are on the first page, and Manson’s allegedly assenting signature is on the second. But since it is obvious that the printed portion of the second page has been formatted to fit around the handwriting and signature, the only conclusion one can come to is that the printing was formatted to fit around handwriting that was already on the paper. In other words, someone got a piece of paper with a Manson signature on it and fit the printing of the bogus will to go around it.
There can be no other reasonable explanation for page two’s odd formatting.
Why this is not glaringly apparent to anyone who sees it is beyond me.
But finally, aside from the fact that Manson signing such a document would be totally out of character for him, and aside from the fact that it sure looks like the printed text was superimposed over Manson’s written text, there is another glaring clue pointing to the will being a fake that has a particular and personal resonance for me, and that is the signature of one of the purported witnesses, Roger Dale Smith, also known as RD.
When I saw RD’s signature on the will, that was the clincher for me that the will was dirty, because there can be nothing good or honest about anything that was ever connected with that guy.
I don’t like to use expletives in my writing, but when it comes to RD Smith it’s impossible not to, because he was a truly vile piece of shit.
I knew RD way too well, having met him in the visiting room on several occasions and spoken with him on the phone many times — until I got to the point where I finally got tired of his lying bullshit and hung up on him and his scams.
RD was about the most disgusting human being I’ve ever had the occasion to meet. No, he was the most disgusting. A murderer, he was loathed within the prison system and had been shivved by other inmates so often that his nickname was “Pincushion.”
He was a monster. He was fat and disgusting, and he had sloppy swastika tattoos on his forearms. His dishonesty and deceit knew no bounds. He was a snitch beyond belief, and I know of more than one instance where his snitching cost Charlie months of his life spent in solitary confinement in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) while prison officials investigated some supposed Manson scam based on “information” provided by Smith. He bullied Charlie incessantly, demanding money and other favors, and Charlie asked me on more than one occasion why I couldn’t do anything to “get this motherfucker off my back.”
He was a corpse fucker and proud of it. Charlie told the story in the visiting room about how RD’s cellmate died and RD had sex with the corpse until the guards realized the guy was dead and took him out of the cell. Asked why he was fucking a corpse, Smith replied, “because the hole was still good.” As Charlie recounted the story, RD was standing there, beaming, like, “Yep, that was me!”
He was an opportunist who would do anything if he thought it would bring him some advantage, monetary or otherwise. He lied about everything and his word was absolutely worthless. And my refusal to go along with his bullshit was one of the main reasons why there was a wedge between Charlie and me for about half a dozen years. (That wedge was only removed when RD finally died of cancer, a day on which the world surely became a brighter place.)
I hated RD and I’m sure he hated me. And I have little doubt that if he could have, he would have fucked me, killed me, and then fucked my corpse
In short, Roger Dale Smith was a thoroughly dishonest, despicable, and disgusting human being of the type that would convince anyone to avoid prison at all costs so you wouldn’t have to be around someone like him for five minutes. Really, unless you have actually met and dealt with such a person you can’t have any idea of how horrible he was. Imagine the worst piece of shit asshole you ever knew in your life and multiply them by one hundred. That was RD.
That should give you some idea of the importance of RD’s signature on the will as a witness, because his signature screams out, “This thing is totally dishonest, conniving bullshit!”
And anyone who would get involved with anything RD was doing would have to be either a dupe or a co-conspirator with regard to whatever dishonest scam he was trying to pull. There was no middle ground with RD; if you were involved with any of his insidious enterprises you would have to either be too stupid or naive to realize it, or you would have to be in on it. (It’s possible that the claimant with this will believes it is genuine, but I doubt it.)
Here are what, to me, are relevant questions about this alleged will that might help to clear things up:
If the will is genuine, why is the text on the second page formatted around the handwriting? What other explanation for such strange formatting could there be other than that the handwriting was on the page before the printed text?
Why is the date of the second witness signature (said witness also being the exclusive beneficiary of the will) four days earlier than the date that Manson supposedly signed it?
Why didn’t Manson date his signature?
Why would Manson, who was notoriously uncooperative with anyone who knew him, and who regarded legal paperwork as bullshit nonsense not worthy of acknowledging with any kind of consent, agree to sign a legal document turning over every aspect of his reality — from the rights to his music and works, to the disposition of his property, to the disposition of his body — to a murderabilia dealer who he barely had any personal interaction with?
How did the pen pal gain the trust of the famously paranoid Manson to such an extent that Manson entrusted him with his entire legacy?
Does the murderabilia dealer have any recorded telephone conversations with Manson or written correspondence wherein Manson discusses the creation of this all important, once-in-a-lifetime document? (That would be particularly interesting to know, because from what I’ve heard there does exist a recorded telephone conversation where Manson states that he never signed any will.)
Would the pen pal detail his relationship with RD Smith and recount how he hooked up with him in the first place?
These should be easy enough questions to answer by anyone involved in a legitimate enterprise. But while we wait for those answers I’ll give my theory about the will and its origins.
What I think happened is that RD cooked up a scheme, very possibly with the will’s beneficiary, to create a fake will that would benefit the beneficiary (and thus RD) after Manson’s death. Enlisting the help of fellow Protective Housing Unit (PHU) inmate M****** C**** (C**** was good at producing passable legal documents — and snitching on Manson — when I knew him) they drew up a phony will that turned all of the assets of Manson’s post-mortem existence — to the very specific and complete exclusion of anyone else who could possibly make a claim for Manson’s estate — over to the beneficiary and then formatted that will around a piece of paper already signed by Manson. (The will’s page two contention that the contents of the will were actually written by Manson himself is ludicrous beyond belief.)
Since I first laid eyes on it it has been beyond my comprehension that anyone could believe that this will is genuine. And yet it has convinced enough people of its veracity that it has tied up court proceedings for over four and a half years. And that’s the real issue for me, because when this will was filed after Manson’s death the disposition of Manson’s body was in limbo for four months while it lay in the refrigeration unit of the morgue in Bakersfield — rotting. People have called the embalming of Manson’s body a desecration, but this was a much greater one.
When I saw Manson on the slab in the funeral home in Porterville the night before his funeral (Believe it or not, they needed someone to identify the body!), his body was literally falling apart. Juices were leaking out and the skin on his hands and feet was sliding off like loose gloves and socks. The famous forearm tattoos were just purple blobs of flesh. He had no eyes. The funeral director was genuinely shocked that the body was in such a bad condition.
Sure, it was just Charlie’s body and not his spirit, but it wasn’t good to see a friend of almost thirty years in that condition. And it was especially not good to realize that he was in that condition because people who didn’t care about him were fucking around with a phony money-making scam while his body was decomposing.
In a sense, the vultures who fed on Charlie figuratively for money when he was alive became almost literal vultures after his death, as his corpse decayed due to the delay in its disposition resulting from their fraudulent claims on his body and estate.
When I saw Roger Dale Smith’s signature on this alleged will my blood boiled. It was like being slapped in the face as I saw RD reaching out from his grave to fuck Charlie over one last time.
But that’s not going to happen if I have anything to do with it. And that is why I have written this article.