Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family

More Confessions

People who knew them but were not part of the group reported other confessions from Manson and Family members about the same time. On November 12, the L.A. Sheriff's detectives had a chance to interview Al Springer who was a member of the motorcycle gang called the Straight Satans who had been involved with the Manson Family off and on.

The detectives were astonished when Springer told them that a few days after the Tate murders that Manson had bragged to him about killing people: "We knocked off five of them just the other night." Springer stayed clear of Manson after that, but mentioned that Danny DeCarlo, another member of the motorcycle gang lived at the Spahn Ranch with the Family.

Springer and DeCarlo
Springer and DeCarlo

In the course of the interview Springer asked if anyone had their refrigerator wrote on? "Charlie said they wrote something on the fucking refrigerator in blood...Something about pigs or niggers or something like that."

When the police finally got to Danny DeCarlo, they really got an earful about Charlie and his Family. Not only did DeCarlo confirm their culpability in Gary Hinman's death, but he implicated them in the death of a 36-year-old ranch hand named Shorty, a nickname for Donald Shea. He was killed because he'd tell the owner of the Spahn Ranch what was really happening on his property. "Shorty was going to tell old man Spahn...and Charlie didn't like snitches," DeCarlo explained.

Bruce Davis
Bruce Davis

DeCarlo had been told what they did to his friend Shorty: "they stuck him like carving up a Christmas turkey...Bruce (Davis) said they cut him up in nine pieces. They cut his head off. then they cut his arms off too, so there was no way they could possibly identify him. They were laughing about that."

Another Family member named Clem told DeCarlo with a big grin that "we got five piggies" the day after the Tate murders.

The two detectives shared this information with the detectives at the LAPD, but the latter did nothing with the information. The L.A. Sheriff's detectives, on the other hand, now focused their investigation on the Manson family believing that the hippie cult was somehow tied into both the Tate and LaBianca murder cases.

At some point in mid-November, Susan Atkins told her story to Ronnie Howard. Ronnie Howard felt that she had to tell the police about what Susan had revealed, especially since other people were future targets of the group. She asked for permission to contact LAPD, but was repeatedly denied, even though the woman she asked permission was dating one of the Tate case homicide detectives. Virginia Graham, who had been transferred to another facility, was running into the same kind of difficulty when she tried  to tell the authorities about Susan.

Finally on November 17, 1969, two LAPD homicide detectives came to Sybil Brand to interview Ronnie Howard. The message was finally beginning to penetrate the collective intelligence of the LAPD that they had just found a gold mine. After they interviewed her, they had her moved for her safety into an isolation unit.

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