Monday, February 20, 2023

Who had the power to kill the story?


The American people became aware that the Tate/LaBianca murders had been solved when LAPD Chief Ed Davis held his live television news conference on Monday, December 1, 1969, announcing that arrest warrants for three of the suspects had been issued.  The next day the name 'Charles Manson' would be revealed as being the guru leader of the group.  The media was supposed to be as surprised as the public at this news, though Bugliosi conceded that the press was already circling the story, saying "there were reporters all over Independence.."(by the 27th of November, 1969)
(Helter Skelter, pg215)
But this was hardly accurate.  In fact, the evidence shows that a huge swath of the mainstream media was fully aware of the link between the Manson Family and the Tate/LaBianca murders by about October 15--six weeks earlier:

My Life With Charles Manson, by Paul Watkins, Chapter 23
On October 13, Brooks, Crockett, and I were escorted to Independence by Don Ward and officers of the highway patrol. Brooks and Paul had already made statements to law enforcement officials (including Ward) as to the nature of “goings-on” at the Barker Ranch. They had talked about Charlie’s philosophy and Helter-Skelter. The law, however, at that point, was little interested in such bizarre and unlikely tales. Their primary concern, it seemed (at least on the surface), was that Manson and the others be identified and linked to the stolen vehicles found at the ranch. We were shown photographs of dune buggies and Harleys and asked to identify them. We did; both privately to Dave Steuber of the highway patrol and later that week during Charlie’s preliminary hearing in the Inyo county courthouse.

But during that hearing, things changed drastically.

One morning flocks of reporters appeared in the courtroom; not only L.A. and local press, but foreign correspondents as well; what had started out as a quiet, routine procedure became suddenly a circus of spectators, reporters, cops, and lawyers. Word was out that this was not a simple case of auto theft. Charles Manson had become a murder suspect.


LADA files Box 46 vol32 pg69 Paul Watkins Aug 11, 1971 testimony in Grogan's murder trial
"Q: When did you first talk to a policeman in connection with any investigations that was going on up there, let's say after the middle of August of 1969?
A(Watkins): The first time I started talking to the investigators was in Inyo County, the Inyo County Courthouse, on August--no; September the 13nth, 1969. [he probably meant October]
Q: I talked to Dave Steuber, head of the Highway Patrol; I talked to Frank Fowles, District Attorney(of Inyo County); I talked to Buck, Lynn Compton, Assistant District Attorney(of Los Angeles County); I talked to Paul Whitely, Homicide Officer(LASO); I talked to, I believe it was, I talked to some auto theft guys. I think it was Gleason(LASO)."
Q: Did you talk to any newspapermen?
A: Yes.
Q: At about this time?
A: Yes.
Q: Would it be fair to say that there were quite a few newsmen up there in that area?
A: Yes.


LADA files Box 56-2 Bruce Davis' Hinman/Shea trial Dec '71 to Feb '72 pg2338
George Denny(Bruce Davis' defense attorney): " Then on October 12th, Manson and all the rest of the members of the Family, the male members, were arrested; they were placed into custody; there was a great deal of publicity at the time that they had--that is, that the police had the murderers of the Tate and LaBianca murders."


Witness to Evil, by George Bishop c.1971 pg35
....the local citizens(of Independence, CA) gradually became aware, as did the authorities, that something far more ominous that a band of half-naked hippie car thieves had descended into their midst. Homicide detectives ... began arriving from Los Angeles and were quickly followed by newspaper and wire service reporters and television camera crews.
"It looked for a while like there were more TV cameras in town than television sets," a waitress at the Pines, Independence's only restaurant and the unofficial press headquarters during the days preceding the Family's arraignment*, told me.
Most of the press and police officers put up at the Winnedumah Hotel... (The hotel) is accustomed to having traffic speed by on US 395 ... Not so during that fateful October; the "No vacancy" sign flashed an unusual admonition.

*Referring to the arraignment on auto theft charges that occurred at the courthouse in Independence on Oct. 22, 1969.


The only media report I was able to find was a reference to a tiny item in the LA Times:
On October 13, a paragraph in the Los Angeles Times’ Southland section covered a raid on a “Hippie Commune” in Death Valley National Park twenty-one miles west of Badwater, CA.

So the question is, who had the power to get all those media people to keep a lid on the news story of the year?  The DA Evelle Younger?  The Governor Ronald Reagan?  The Attorney General John Mitchell?  The White House?  The CIA?  The FBI?  Whoever it was, the command came from on high.  But why was holding on to the story so important?