Jan 29

Bruce Davis, former Manson Family member on path to parole

Former  Manson Family member Bruce Davis listens to the decision of a parole board at his 20th parole hearing. Davis was convicted in March 1972. David Middlecamp/The Tribune

Former Manson Family member Bruce Davis listens to the decision of a parole board at his 20th parole hearing. Davis was convicted in March 1972. David Middlecamp/The Tribune

Three followers of notorious cult leader Charles Manson have been housed at California Men’s Colony, Charles “Tex” Watson, Bobby Beausoleil and Bruce Davis.
The Manson Family, as the members were described, were involved in at least nine Southern California murders in 1969.
Bruce Davis, now 67, was convicted for involvement in the murders of musician Gary Hinman and ranch hand Donald “Shorty” Shea.
Davis was not charged with being involved in the seven Tate-LaBianca murders.
Thirty-eight years after being convicted and 26 parole hearings later, Davis has a parole recommendation.
It is the first step in an up to five month process that also requires final approval by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other parole board members.
Few Manson Family members have been paroled.
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, an associate of Charles Manson, was paroled in 2009 after her 1975 attempt to assassinate then-president Gerald Ford.
Steve Grogan was paroled in 1985 after leading authorities to the grave of Donald “Shorty” Shea.
For many years Davis denied that he had been directly responsible for the killings though his palm print was found on a footlocker owned by Shea.
Davis attorney Michael Beckman told the Associated Press his client acknowledged for the first time that he shared responsibility for the Hinman/Shea murders.
“He said, ‘I was as responsible as everyone there,’ ” Beckman said.
Ten years ago I was in the room when the parole board denied parole for Davis at his 20th hearing. The board took their task seriously as did the subject. Here is the story published then in the Tribune. Patrick S. Pemberton has written other stories from other Davis hearings and he may have a blog post soon on the subject.


July 19, 2000
by Patrick S. Pemberton
After years of unanimous rejections, a former member of the Manson clan came within one vote of a parole recommendation Tuesday.
In a hearing at the California Men’s Colony, a three-member parole board voted 2-1 to keep Bruce Davis in prison. The board also agreed to reconsider his parole next year. Although it marked the 20th time Davis has been denied parole, his attorney said the hearing represents significant progress for the man who was convicted of two murders in 1972.
“It’s been a long, long time,” George Denny said afterward. “And I think, finally, the message is getting through: Bruce is ready for parole.”
All of Davis’ previous hearings resulted in unanimous decisions denying parole.
The prosecutor who handled the case 28 years ago said Davis needs to be reminded of his crimes daily.
“The only way he’s going to be forced to remember these awful crimes every day is through his incarceration,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Anthony Manzella told the board.
While one commissioner felt Davis had served his time, the two who voted against parole indicated that Davis was almost ready for release.
The shift in opinion represents just one step toward freedom, though. Even if parole was recommended, it would have to be reviewed by the Board of Prison Terms and Gov. Gray Davis, who has said he opposes releasing convicted murderers from prison.
Charles Manson and his “family” terrorized Southern California in 1969 during a murder spree that claimed at least eight victims, including actress Sharon Tate. Several members of the clan are now serving life sentences. Charles Manson, who is imprisoned at Corcoran, is set to appear for a parole hearing in 2002.
Davis was convicted of killing musician Gary Hinman and stagehand Donald “Shorty” Shea, who were both stabbed to death in the summer of 1969.
During his parole hearing, the 57-year-old, gray-haired inmate appeared calm, sitting with his legs crossed and hands folded. Originally from Louisiana and Tennessee, he still spoke with a Southern accent as he recalled first meeting Manson in California.
Davis, whose father was an abusive alcoholic, found Manson engaging.
“I had adopted Charlie as my dad,” he said.
Even after the group began committing crimes, he said he was dependent on them and could not break his ties. “The sex and the drugs made it easy to accept.”
Nearly three decades later, he said he feels remorse for the victims. While he denied actually killing the men, he said he regrets he was even involved.
“When I look at it now, I can’t believe I did it,” he said. “But I did. I was there, and I knew better.”
Davis said he remembered seeing a suspicious Manson on a porch, telling fellow members that Shea would have to die.
“Manson says, ‘We’re going to kill Shorty because he’s a snitch.’ ”
Although Manson wanted Davis to decapitate Shea, Davis told him he couldn’t do it.
“He said, ‘Well you gotta do something.’ ” So, Davis said, he sliced Shea’s shoulder with a knife. Other members, he said, then buried the body, which wasn’t found until 10 years later.
Hinman, he said, was murdered because the clan thought he had money. Davis remembered seeing Manson cut Hinman’s face and ear with a knife but said he was not present when Hinman was killed.
Manzella said Davis held Hinman at gunpoint as Manson performed the torture.
Davis has been working on his doctorate, and if released, he said, he has two job offers waiting in Southern California. His thick file included letters of support from more than 40 people, including a judge and a former Long Beach newspaper editor whose stepson once served time with Davis.
After the hearing, the inmate’s wife, Beth Davis of Grover Beach, expressed mixed feelings about the decision.
“My initial reaction was disappointment,” said Beth Davis, a 47-year-old flight attendant who met her future spouse while working with the prison ministry in 1984. “But I’m encouraged at many of the positive aspects of the hearing.”
The couple, who have been married for 15 years, have a 6-year-old daughter.
Beth Davis said her husband finds it difficult to believe he was involved in the murders.
“It’s almost like he’s looking at another person and saying, ‘How can that person have been so deceived and so foolish?’ ”
Davis has a good disciplinary record the past 18 years, and he has participated in therapy programs. He said he became a Christian while at Folsom prison in 1974.
His attorney, Denny, said he and Davis prayed together before the hearing. “But the Manson family mystique still hangs over him.”
Denny, who defended Davis during his trial, now lives in Texas but pays his California Bar Association dues just so he can continue to volunteer his time on the Davis case. Denny’s lips trembled and tears came to his eyes when he said he felt led to continue representing Davis.
While Denny thinks his client is no longer a threat to the community, Manzella said there are other factors to consider.
“Punishment is just as important a consideration,” he said. “And, Mr. Davis, you have not been punished enough.”

Related posts:

  1. Charles “Tex” Watson Wedding, the Manson murders 40 years later
  2. Tregeagle goes to San Quentin