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May 2008

Tumbleweeds in the desert, Death Valley, California. Copyright © Jeff Goldman

The purpose of the Monthly View is to share the testimony of Jesus Christ, but the web site hits have tripled this month due to press coverage of the possibilities of bodies being found at Barker Ranch in Death Valley where members of the Manson family were arrested in October 1969. I feel it is my obligation to address the questions about this possibility.

What Is The Agenda?

In the 1990’s and early 2000s, the late Russell W. “Bill” Nelson wrote tabloid-like stories about former members of the Manson family. He led a search party to Barker Ranch on rumors of bodies made by a man named Larry Milton, who claimed he had been a former Manson family member. No bodies were found, but he continued to stalk the families and children of former Manson family members like myself. His agenda was vengeance and to seek self-aggrandizement.

On March 16, 2008, in an article entitled, “Oak Ridge scientist help tests for bodies in Manson ranch”, Associated Press writer Juliana Barbassa stated: “Manson follower Susan Atkins boasted to her cell mate on November 1, 1969, that there were ‘three people out in the desert that they done in.’” It seems that Susan’s agenda was to boast in pride to her cell mate, but I agree with Debra Tate: “If there are bodies here,” she said at Barker ranch, “we need to find them and send them home.” I’d like to hear what Susan Atkins has to say today, about what she said in 1969? [I hear only through the media concerning former Manson family members.]

What is the agenda? Is it to write books for personal gain? Is it to hype the Manson murders in the press before parole hearings? Or, is it so families of possible victims can find closure? If it is the later, let’s dig with much skepticism. I know of no bodies.

My Definitive Statement

  • I have no knowledge of any murders committed by the Manson family, other than those which have already been prosecuted by the authorities.
  • I have never personally heard any Manson Family member speak of any bodies being buried at Barker Ranch.

Where Was I?

In order to avoid more murders, I fled to the desert a couple of days after the Tate/LaBianca murders on August 9 & 10, 1969 and before the raid by the Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies at Spahn Ranch on August 16, 1969. I was not one of the twenty-six arrested at Spahn’s Ranch. I wanted the killings to stop, so I lied to Manson, who sent a few of us to the desert. We roamed around Olanche and the Owens Lake area for a couple of weeks, until the rest of the family showed up at Barker Ranch the first week in September 1969. As described in my 1978 book, “Will You Die For Me?”, Chapter 15, last three paragraphs, I wrote the following:

“I wondered what would happen this next night and the night after that. Although Susan Atkin’s later claim that we had a death list of famous Hollywood stars was untrue. Charlie had made it clear that two nights would not be the end of it, that we would do more and more killings until either the blacks or the whites took matters into their own hands—and Helter Skelter would begin.

I have no doubt that things would have continued just as Charlie planned—for another night, for three more nights, ten, however long—if later that Sunday afternoon my mother hand not called Willis Carson in Los Angeles and asked him to get in touch with me because she hadn’t had a word from her son in six months.

That call, and Willis’s to the ranch that followed, set up my lie about the F.B.I. having come to my parents’ home in Copeville [Texas], accusing me of murder. And that lie stopped the killings and sent us all to the desert where, nearly two months later, I refused to murder again for Manson and headed home to Copeville, with its peeling white wood and railroad, home to the store and the gas pumps and the kitchen—back to the world I thought I’d blasted out of my mind forever.”

“He’s A Runner”

As stated in the last paragraph of Chapter 16, “I refused to murder again for Manson”, when he asked me to kill a couple of desert rangers the last week in September. “I headed home to Copeville” driving a ’46 Dodge Power Wagon [Monthly View, June 2007] down Golar Wash, running from Manson. I was fearful of not carrying out Manson’s orders and the repercussions of it. This was two weeks before October 10, 1969, when Stephanie Schram and Kathryn Lutesinger turned themselves into the California Highway Patrol, “afraid for their lives” (as reported in Associated Press on March 16, 2008).

You will just have to read Chapter 16, “He’s A Runner” to find out what I did in the month of October 1969, but I’ll share briefly. I hitched from the desert to San Bernardino with a truck driver. I wired my parents for money, took a helicopter to LAX and caught a plane to Dallas where my sister picked me up. I didn’t stay long, flew to Mexico, back to LAX, to Hawaii, back to LAX and took a bus back to Trona, California.

The, I walked across 25 miles of desert trying to get back to Charlie, only to turn around half way up Golar Wash, still fearing Manson. I stopped at a trailer where a man named “Tex” lived, he told me the Manson family had been arrested, and I should leave. He drove me to Ridgecrest and I flew back to LAX and back home to Texas where on November 30, 1969, I turned myself in.

“Bodies Buried?”

This is what CNN asked me when they requested an interview on March 26, 2008. I turned down the phone interview and a visit, but I responded to their questions by mail. I do know that no one had been buried by the Manson Family at Barker Ranch when I fled Manson two weeks before they were arrested on October 10, 1969. The only runaways I knew at Barker Ranch were Stephanie and Kathryn, a.k.a. “Kitty”. As reported above, they were picked up by the California Highway Patrol. There are only two faithful members of the old Manson family left. It stands to reason that if there were bodies buried at Barker Ranch, at least one of the rest would have come forward with reliable information during the past forty years.

CNN also asked, “What was it like in that remote location?” This is where the title of my book was derived when Manson asked me, “Will you die for me?” My book begins with the answer to this question and tells what life was light living in fear. I said “yes” with a knife to my throat, but in reality, I was boasting too! In a couple of weeks, I would be running from Manson in fear for my life.

What was it like in the desert? We had only the food that we brought with us. I was hungry and questioning Manson’s philosophy. I was tired, regretting my decision and realizing I had made a tragic mistake that I could never take back. The faces of seven innocent lives haunted me. I couldn’t shake what I had done, nor run away from it. I was left with no where to run, so I decided to face the consequences. I have faced them daily ever since. But because of God’s mercy, I live by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who loved me and gave His life for me. 1 I am forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness. 2 I am accepted just as I am. 3 “For God has not given me the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.” 4 Jesus lives to make intercession for me. 5

A Prayer for You

Heavenly Father, I pray these comments may minister righteousness to those who read them. That those with wrong agendas be convicted by the Holy Spirit for their actions. That bodies or lost victims, if there be any, be found and identified. I pray that all victims of crime will find salvation and closure. And that all former members of the Manson family receive salvation, even Charles Manson himself, in these last days before Your Son’s soon return. Come quickly Lord Jesus, in whose Name I pray. Amen!

Scripture References:

1. Gal. 2:20
2. 1 John 1:9
3. Eph. 1:6
4. 2 Tim. 1:7
5. Heb. 7:25

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