As some of you may recall, our friend "Chris" from Wales authored a very comprehensive thread (for us) last December. It was a time capsule, detailing the year 1971. His work was well-appreciated by all.
See Chris' original thread here:
Chris is back, with a follow-up time capsule for the year 1972 .
Although Chris doesn't post in the comments section, we've become quite close via email.
I've offered Chris a position on our staff, as an author. He has accepted my invitation, and will be contributing threads periodically. Please join me, in welcoming Chris!
The Family in 1972-73
The early 1970's would see the Family continue to fragment as the majority of those convicted of the 1969 murders began to distance themselves from Manson. 1972-73 was the period when some of those convicted of the Tate-La Bianca murders began to accept their roles in what Van Houten would later describe as “senseless” killings. When the Supreme Court invalidated the Death Penalty in California in early 1972, automatically commuting all death sentences to life sentences with parole, there was now a possibility of freedom for the recently condemned Family members. They began to realize that they were now facing lengthy prison terms, but with the hope of being paroled.
This effectively brought an end to the Family mantra of one-ness. No longer were they a single group fighting to maintain their way of life, they were now two: those inside prison, where each could in theory by demonstrating a willingness to rehabilitate themselves and show remorse might gain a release date, whilst those outside still attempted to maintain a united front.
With many of the Family either convicted or in jail awaiting trial, Fromme continued in her role as media liason for Manson, issuing statements and giving interviews, she also took on the role of Family secretary acting as a means of passing on messages and letters to Family members from Manson helped by a friendly attorney.
Fromme and Good would continue to portray the 1969 murders as an attempt to raise awareness of the detrimental impact of people upon the environment. With the Temple and Broadway vigil over, “the Girls on the Corner” had moved on. Fromme began to treat the writing of her book on the Family more seriously, working on it most days, Gillies, Good and Pitman would move away with their respective partners.
Watson was approaching the realisation that his guilt had been wiped away by the Christian God "at the cost of the life of His own Son, blood for blood, life for life". Spending his time watching television and conversing with fellow inmates, he could feel himself begin to heal. He would be transferred into general population by August.
Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten, housed in a newly built maximum security block within the California Institute for Women, worked on their embroidery whilst Atkins coped with being the others’ “personal snitch”.
Those Family members outside of prison would continue their association with the Aryan Brotherhood (AB). Whose members brought an increasingly casual criminality to what remained of the Family, mostly in terms of spur-of-the-moment armed robberies from local convenience stores and credit card fraud. These activities would eventually end in the murder of a young couple James and Lauren Willet (both recently associated with the group after meeting “the girls on the corner” during their vigil), and the arrests and convictions of more Family members.
1973 would see the conclusion of the Lauren Willett murder trial, as well as the trial for the 1971 Hawthorne Shootout and Covina armed robberies. Brunner and Share would call several Family members as witnesses, including Manson himself, for a Family re-union of sorts. A second re-union would take place when after their convictions Brunner and Share would be confined with Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten.
Back in early 1972 around the time teenaged Lauren Willet was giving birth to her daughter, AB parolee Steve Bekins, at the invitation of Pitman, came to stay with what remained of “the Girls on the Corner” in LA, at first in their apartment not far from the Paramount Pictures film studio, then in one not far from the Hollywood sign.
Good was still serving time in prison for her part in the Como escape, whilst Fromme steadily worked on the Family book. The book, with a death’s-head emblazoned on the cover, began with a roster of Family members, autographed in blood, it told the story of the Family, without the violence, with contributions from members. Bekins described it as “it hits you like a sunny day, like you’re at a picnic.”
When she was released Good moved in with Fromme and became involved with Bekins. Other housemates included: Susan Murphy, who unusually for the group, worked for a living as a nurse; James Willett an honourably discharged ex-marine, but regarded as slightly unstable by those who met him, accompanied by his wife Lauren; also sharing the apartment were AB prison escapees Michael Monfort and James Craig. Monfort would become involved with Pitman (their marriage would last for over twenty years).
Monfort and Craig were partners in crime who made their living by committing robberies with another AB associate William Goucher, who was himself involved with another Family member Maria Alonzo (in 1974 she would be arraigned for her part in a kidnap plot to free two inmates and extort $250,000 cash in ransom, but would eventually plea bargain the charge down to conspiracy to assist in an escape and serve six months with five years probation).
April 21, Bruce Davis began to serve a life sentence with parole after being found guilty on two counts of first degree murder for his role in the killings of Hinman and Shea. He was transferred to Folsom Prison in July. He would later state that around this time (1972-73) he gave up drugs. Atkins would later write that she and Davis corresponded regularly, and it was Davis who encouraged her to become a Christian.
By June, what remained of the Family went their separate ways. Pitman was by then living with Monfort in a separate apartment. Bekins and Good moved to Oregon. Fromme and Murphy moved to San Francisco to be closer to Manson incarcerated at San Quentin prison, but was also attending the pre-trial hearings of Brunner and Share for their part in the Hawthorne Shootout. Fromme felt that the Family book at 150-200 pages was nearing completion and looked to find a publisher. Original Tate-La Bianca defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald remarked in his files that the Family was over. “Lynn [Fromme] was sad about it, girls have finally broken up. It finally ended. Amen.”
A month later in Portland, Oregon, Bekins and Good were arrested in a raid on the home of a prison acquaintance. Released on bail Good returned to California to join Fromme and Murphy in San Francisco.
In August Manson would be taken off Death Row in San Quentin Prison, before being transferred to Folsom Prison in October.
Monfort, Craig, Goucher, Pitman, Alonzo, Priscilla Cooper and the Willetts roamed California on a crime spree. Between July and November they used one stolen credit card 128 times to purchase fuel. By October, after a three month period of travelling, the group decided to rent a cabin in the redwood country of Guernville.
Around this time, James Willett apparently confided in his wife Lauren that he was growing tired of their lifestyle and companions and was considering going to the authorities. Lauren Willett mentioned this to Pitman who told the others.
One evening Monfort, Craig and Goucher had James Willett accompany them into a wooded area. The reason given was to find somewhere to hide stolen items, upon reaching a suitable spot Willett dug a shallow trench, and it was then decided to engage in weapons practise. Monfort shot Willett in the back of the head with his .22. After Willett had fallen, Goucher and Craig both used their shotguns on him, Craig firing twice. The body of Willett was rolled into the shallow trench and then covered.
On October 31, Lauren Willett asked her mother for money as her husband had left her. The group then relocated to Stockton, a city 30 miles away from Sacramento and rented a house. A little over 24 hours after having moved in Monfort and Goucher robbed a local liquor store. The employee set off a silent alarm and both were arrested by police as they were leaving the premises. Monfort identified himself as James Willett using Willett’s ID card.
With Monfort and Goucher in jail, Pitman and Fromme got back in touch with each other. Goucher asked his mother to bail him out. She flew to Stockton and was met at the airport by Lauren Willett and Pitman and taken to visit her son. The pair, with Goucher’s approval, convinced Mrs Goucher to bail out Monfort (still believed by authorities to be James Willett) instead of her son. Pitman and Willett along with Mrs Goucher spent the night in San Francisco at Fromme’s apartment, returning to Stockton the following day whereupon Monfort was released on bail.
Driving James Willett’s vehicle and still using his ID Monfort and Craig returned to San Fransico robbing a supermarket not far from Fromme’s apartment. Monfort and Pitman then decided to visit an acquaintance in Florida for the weekend.
In early November, a hiker discovered the body of James Willett. The body had been uncovered and partially eaten by animals, and was missing much of its insides, a hand and head. The condition of the body was such that initially the coroner was unable to determine the gender or how long it had lain there. Within days, the police were beginning to consider it to be that of the bail jumper from Stockton. Fingerprints later disputed this and the police began to question Goucher who remained in custody. He gave them the make, model and licence number of Willett’s car.
Early on the morning of Friday 9 November, the group visited a department store and purchased picks and shovels to aid them in hiding their weapons and scrapbooks in the earth in the crawl space beneath the house they rented. A security guard remembered seeing Cooper, and clerks remembered Craig and Monfort as they always paid in quarters.
Fromme, who was now in Los Angeles attending the Hawthorne Shootout trial as a spectator, telephoned Alonzo who was staying with Goucher’s mother to plan a visit to Goucher the following day. In the meantime, she intended to pay a visit to Pitman. Alonzo went ahead with her own visit to Goucher and was stopped and searched and found to have an illegal switchblade weapon on her, she was promptly arrested and then questioned about the Willett murder.
A little past midnight, Alonzo had revealed Pitman’s address and police went to the house, but could not see Willett’s vehicle, and so decided to maintain patrols in an effort to arrest Monfort if and when he returned.
In the house sometime during the evening, Monfort, using a .38 calibre handgun, had shot Lauren Willett in the head just above her right eye. The bullet exited the back of her head. Fromme was apparently en-route to Stockton.
Cooper claimed that she, Pitman and Willett had been playing with a gun in the dining room. Monfort had taken it from them, admonishing them on their lack of firearm safety. Sat on a couch, spun the cylinder, looked down the barrel before pointing the handgun at Pitman and twice pulling the trigger. He looked down the barrel again, held the gun to his head, this time not pulling the trigger, before pointing the gun at some cabinets behind Willett.
The unexpected shot awoke Craig who ran in to the room to find the others huddled around the shot Willett. They wrapped her in blankets with the intention of taking her to hospital as she still had a faint heartbeat, until Monfort, who later admitted being drunk, decided it was too late.
Monfort and Craig carried her down to the basement and buried her with all the photographs showing the group together. Fromme arrived shortly afterwards.
The following day as Fromme visited Goucher, Monfort returned to the rented house driving the Willett vehicle. Armed police surrounded the property, a plainclothes police officer Sergeant Whiteman knocked on the outer door. Pitman answered, closing the inner door when the officer displayed his badge. Whiteman then called out to Pitman that he wanted to tell her something. When she reappeared he informed her that the house was surrounded by armed officers and that those inside the house did not stand a chance. She slammed the door once more. Whiteman after knocking for a final time and not receiving a reply kicked the door in and he and four armed officers entered the property. Inside they found Pitman holding the Willett’s baby, Craig, Monfort and Cooper. They were lined up with palms flat against the wall and questioned.
Searching the bedroom closet police discovered James Willett’s military separation papers, as well as the trapdoor that led down into the crawl space beneath the house. Fromme phoned the property to ask if someone would come and get her. The police did exactly that, bringing her to the house before taking all the occupants to Stockton police station.
The police gained a search warrant to look for the weapons that had killed James Willett. They discovered shotguns pistols, rifles and boxes of ammunition, as well as stolen property. Also found were Family Satan’s Maidens embroidered vests styled on Motorcycle Outlaw gang back patches as well as a detailed map of Family sites in Death Valley.
By Sunday afternoon the police turned their attention to the crawl space discovering freshly turned earth. Two feet down, wrapped in blood-soaked blankets they found the body of Lauren Willett. Her head turned, legs bent backward with her bare feet touching her back.
With Fromme jailed the Family communication system began to falter, but her appearances in court generated international press interest, and she gave several interviews.
On 14 November those arrested for the murder of Lauren Willett were formally charged: Fromme, Pitman and Priscilla Cooper, and two AB members Michael Monfort and James Craig. All five were held without bail until 27 November. In addition a sixth person William Goucher, already in custody for armed robbery, was also named. The two AB members were also charged with possessing firearms, and Pitman for felony possession of marijuana. All except Fromme were also charged with receiving stolen property (a TV set). Police also named them as suspects in the murder of James Willett.
Fromme claimed she was charged because she used her right to silence and refused to co-operate with the authorities. In an interview she explained “A man has got to be his own man and inside the prison they get strong, and they learn to live with themselves and violence. We foresee a lot of violence in the street. We only want to survive.” Shortly afterwards Fromme’s charge was lowered to accessory to murder. Monfort pled guilty to second-degree murder, and Cooper, Pitman and Craig all pled guilty to accessory to murder.
On 20 December a police officer recognised Good at a San Francisco bus stop and she was arrested for absconding bail on the charges of harbouring Bekins, and held before being extradited to Oregon where eventually she would receive three year’s probation.
By 2 January 1973 all charges against Fromme were dismissed. Murphy and Fromme’s attorney went to pick her up the following day, however as soon as she left the jail she was arrested by Los Angeles police who charged her with robbery of a convenience store on 13 October the previous year.
A seventeen-year old customer had identified a photograph of Fromme as being the robber. At a pre-trial hearing on the 12 January the witness confirmed that unlike Fromme the robber did not have an X carved into her forehead. A few days later the real culprit was arrested and charges against Fromme were dropped other than her being fined $63 on a previous charge of failure to stop for a pedestrian. She would later send a thank you letter to police who helped her load up the possessions seized from Pitman’s house.
The trial for the murder of Lauren Willet was underway by 11 January 1973. Monfort’s attorney wanted his client tried separately because of comments made by the others that he felt may harm his client. In court the men were separated from the women. Pitman complained to the judge about having to wear handcuffs in court, but the judge explained it was a matter for security personnel to decide.
By May Monfort and Craig were sentenced. By June Cooper would be sentenced. Pitman would have her sentencing delayed as she was under going a 90 day diagnostic study. Found guilty of being an accessory after the fact she would serve less than two years and shortly after her release go on to marry the jailed Monfort.
Also in June Goucher appeared in front of a Grand Jury convened to hand down indictments for the murder of James Willett. Goucher pleaded guilty to second degree murder and implicated Monfort and Craig. His testimony would be necessary to convict as there were no other witnesses.
Those responsible for the murder of James Willett would be convicted and sentenced in early 1974. Goucher had pled guilty to second degree murder, but later stated if called to give evidence in the trial of Monfort and Craig he would repudiate his testimony. Initially Monfort and Craig pled not guilty, but when Goucher gave testimony without repudiation they both entered into a plea bargain. As with their convictions for the murder of Lauren Willetts, Monfort pled guilty to second degree murder and Craig to being an accessory after the fact. Pitman and Cooper, held in Fontera Women’s Prison were scheduled to give evidence for the defence but the change of pleas made their testimony unnecessary.
The Hawthorne Shootout and Covina robbery trial was finally underway by February 1973, after more than a year of delaying tactics the accused Share, Brunner, Como and Bailey would see the guilt phase of their trial take just eight days.
Unlike their co-defendants Lovett and Rice were only charged with the Hawthorne robbery and had previously pled guilty. On 29 June 1972 Lovett was sentenced to 10 years to life. Rice (in ‘early 1973’) was sentenced to 6 months to 20 years but was released two years later. Rice testified for the defense stating that the robberies were part of a plan to free Manson. At one point the judge had Fromme removed from court for laughing during his testimony.
During the trial two of the jurors were excused after stating that they would be unable to give the defendants a fair trial as they had received telephone threats. The judge, although suspecting Fromme, announced that there was no evidence the defendants were responsible.
Few of the Family members supoenaed gave evidence because the judge refused to allow the defendants to confer with them, only with their attorneys. The defendants believed that this denied them a fair trial. “12 killers” were subpoenaed and transferred from their prisons to Los Angeles County to take part in the trial. The judge remarked “it is dangerous to have these defendants and these killers together.” He also stated he was aware of an escape attempt by the defendants.
Share testified that she accompanied the defendants on both occasions but was unaware that the intent was to rob, and that she had not taken part in the shootout with police.
A psychiatrist testified that Brunner would have killed if necessary and that she displayed an “icy, callous determination”, with regards to freeing Manson.
Brunner’s attorney did request that the judge marry Share and Como. Como had apparently asked to marry her, failing that he wanted to marry Brunner. The judged declined.
Both attorneys for Brunner and Share asked to be removed from the case because of disagreements with their clients over trial strategy, as to whether or not they should testify, and which witnesses should testify for the defense. The judge refused them permission to resign ruling that Brunner and Share had a right to testify if they wished, but that the trial strategy should be up to the attorneys.
At the end of February Share, Brunner, Bailey and Como were convicted for the Covina and Hawthorne robberies, the trial then moved into a sanity phase as all four had pled not guilty due to reasons of insanity, partly due to diminished capabilities owing to Manson’s influence.
Beausoleil gave evidence on the 25 February, arriving in court in manacles and sunglasses, he informed the court “As long as they are ripping off our world, our friends, our children…I’m at war with everybody in this courtroom - You better pray I never get out” when giving evidence on behalf of Share in regards to the Family’s persecution by law enforcement and society in general, Beausoleil stated that he had been responsible for getting her to do as he asked “if I told her to jump off a cliff, she would do it.”
Grogan also testified on Share’s behalf regarding police harassment, “you get an accumulated bitterness, man, when someone keeps messing around with you,” regarding Share’s state of mind.
Manson gave evidence to a packed courtroom on the 27 February, arriving at court barefoot, clean-shaven with short hair and like Beausoleil in manacles. He stopped infront of where the defense were sat and bowed before adding “isn’t this ridiculous?” He testified that all four defendants knew right from wrong and were neither mentally or physically ill.
In his opinion the problems of the Family stemmed from police harassment, and that harassment was caused by “sex paranoia”. Manson himself did not suffer from police harassment, but that the Family as a group had reacted to police harassment. He testified that he was vaguely aware from Share how she intended to free him.
Atkins followed him to the stand, but she refused to testify as she was not allowed to confer with the defendants.
At the beginning of March after less than two hours deliberation, the sanity trial ended when all four were found sane, a defense attorney Weitzmann announced he would appeal on their behalf as “by medical standards these people are mentally diseased.”
Sentencing took place in late March, Brunner sentenced to 20 years to life, the judge stated “whether as a leader or a follower, Miss Brunner is an extremely dangerous person.” Lawrence Bailey, also received 20 years to life, the judge describing him as a “vicious criminal who has declared war upon society.” Como received a 20 year to life sentence (or 15 years to life). Share, sentenced to 10 years to life, would be described as vicious by the judge who also felt that “she needs to be incarcerated for the longest period possible unless a miracle changes her attitude”. Share would however be paroled in 1975 and marry Como early in 1976.
By the end of the year both Share and Brunner had long since declared their allegiance to Como over Manson. Brunner wrote to Fromme “When I met Charlie, I was looking for a man and by some roundabout process found more than I ever really hoped I could in [Como], he is my life, my world, my King, you name it, for me, he is it.” Share wrote about Como “My soul moved me to give my love to one who gives his all, his life to our dream,” going so far as to describe the Temple and Broadway vigil as “that corner bullshit.” This led to an ending of the pact between Manson and the AB. Como himself sent Fromme a greetings card inscribed with ‘Red and Blue RIP’. In 1975 along with another inmate he would assault Manson in the yard of Folsom Prison.
Krenwinkel complained that if Fromme was so dedicated to them all why was she not in prison with them, adding that she was surprised Fromme wasn’t a housewife. To Pitman she would write ‘Spahns ranch is dead.”
The preceding essay was compiled in a neutral voice. It is intended to be factually accurate. It was created to allow interested parties to gain a contextual perspective to the Family in 1972/73 and also to promote discussion.
Any corrections or additions welcome, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to acknowledge: LSB3.com, truthontatelabianca.com, charlesmanson.com, cielodrive.com, susanatkins.org, and aboundinglove.org, for use of their materials. As well as the books Helter Skelter Bugliosi/Gentry. Squeaky Bravin, It’s Coming Down Fast Wells, Child of Satan, Child of God Atkins, The Family Sanders, and Charles Manson in his own Words Emmons.