Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manson gang con fails in parole bid

Second time a California governor nixed it

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LOS ANGELES -- The enduring mystery of why young people joined Charles Manson's murderous family appeared to be at the heart of Gov. Jerry Brown's decision Friday to reverse a parole board's recommendation and keep Bruce Davis in prison.

Brown said he wants Davis, who has been behind bars for 42 years, to come clean about all the details of his involvement with Manson's cult and the two gruesome killings of a stuntman and a musician.

It was the second time in less than three years that a California governor has rejected a parole board ruling in Davis's case. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused his release in 2010, citing the heinous nature of Davis's crimes and his efforts to minimize his involvement.

Brown repeated those reasons in a six-page decision, but added his belief that Davis still has more to disclose about the killings.

"Until Davis can acknowledge and explain why he actively championed the (Manson) Family's interests and shed more light on the nature of his involvement, I am not prepared to release him," Brown said.

"After 42 years of incarceration, it is encouraging that Davis is beginning to reveal the actual details of what happened. But it is clear that he continues to withhold information about these events," Brown said.

The state parole board, citing the prisoner's positive progress, approved release of the 70-year-old Davis, but the Democratic governor had the last word.

Brown gave his decision to The Associated Press at the downtown Los Angeles County courthouse after a meeting with District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who had recommended Davis not be paroled.

"I find the evidence... shows why he currently poses a danger to society if released from prison. Therefore, I reverse the decision to parole Mr. Davis," the written decision said. Brown's decision focused on Davis's role in the murderous Manson gang in the late 1960s.

"The record indicates that Davis fully embraced and championed the gang's distorted values and goals and was willing to protect the family's interests at all costs," the decision said.

Davis would have been only the second Manson-related murder defendant to be granted parole since the gang's killing spree began in 1969.

Davis was not involved in the notorious Sharon Tate-LaBianca killings but was convicted with Manson and others in the murders of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea.

Manson was a direct participant in both killings, according to witnesses. Steve Grogan, another participant in those murders, was released in 1985 after he led police to where the bodies were buried on a remote movie ranch in the San Fernando Valley.

Brown's decision outlined the killings in gruesome detail. It also quoted trial testimony of Barbara Hoyt, a former Manson gang member, who has become a constant attendee at parole hearings and an advocate for keeping all members of the cult in prison.

Many of the details she gave were proven wrong when the bodies were exhumed. She had spoken of dismembered bodies, but both men's bodies were intact.

Davis was 30 when he was sentenced to life in prison in 1972 in the case, which was a postscript to Manson's notorious reign as leader of the murderous communal cult.

Davis long maintained he was a bystander in the killing of the two men, but in recent years has acknowledged his shared responsibility. He said his presence may have emboldened others to take action because he was an elder of the group.

Brown said Davis's refusal to fully acknowledge his responsibility for the killings was central to his decision.

Davis became a born-again Christian in prison and ministered to other inmates, married a woman he met through the prison ministry and has a grown daughter. The couple recently divorced.

Davis also earned a master's degree and a doctorate in philosophy of religion.

Manson and three of his followers -- Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles "Tex" Watson -- remain in prison for life in the Tate killings. Their co-defendant, Susan Atkins, died of cancer behind bars in 2009.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2013 A15

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