As I waited in my little graffiti-covered cell
in the Collin County Jail, I started hearing about
that pale-faced Jesus of my childhood again. I
refused to see any ministers, but my parents let
me know they were praying for me. My mother even
suggested I might want my old Bible. I was more
interested in the magazines they brought-they
were good for something. I could cut brightly
colored pictures out of them and paste together
surreal visions of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine"
characters popping out of flowers and huge insects
and animals gliding across purple landscapes in
a scrapbook I was making. Sometimes at night those
visions would leap from the pages into my head,
mingling with blood and Charlie and the desert
and knives, and then the other prisoners would
call for the guards because I was going crazy
in my cell, throwing myself against the bars and
The flashbacks didn't come very often, though.
Mostly it was just passing time, doing nothing.
Outside, Bill Boyd fought the extradition step
by step, using every device our legal system offered
him to keep me in Texas.
In his book Helter Skelter, Los Angeles Prosecutor
Vincent Bugliosi, understandably frustrated by
his inability to get me out to California for
trial with the others, states that Roland Boyd
was campaign manager in a race for state attorney
general by the very judge (David Brown) who granted
"delay after delay after delay" in the
extradition request. The implication that the
Boyds used political influence to stretch the
law is simply not true: Roland Boyd was, in fact,
not campaign manager for anybody running for any
state office; Judge Brown issued only one thirty-day
continuance; and the law was not stretched. The
normal processes of appeal, if followed to the
end, naturally take nearly a year. It was just
that no one had ever fought an extradition case
as thoroughly as Bill Boyd did mine.
Early in December, a few days after my twenty-fourth
birthday-the first I would spend in jail-two lawyers
from Los Angeles arrived in McKinney, announcing
that they were my attorneys. These men had represented
my claim in the accident case several years before,
and we'd smoked grass together a few times, but
beyond that, the only thing that could possibly
have brought the two of them to Texas was the
smell of publicity and money. They insisted to
the news-hungry press people who were stuck in
this very small, very boring town that I was being
held incommunicado and that they were being kept
from their client by the unscrupulous Mr. Boyd.
It finally ended up in the courthouse down the
street from the jail. I was asked by Judge David
Brown if I wanted to talk to them or be represented
by them, and as I stared up at the stained ceiling
of the old courthouse that looked more like a
Baptist church than a court of law I murmured,
"No . . . ."
Since Boyd was planning to argue against extradition
on the basis of pretrial publicity, he had me
wear a coat over my head for the short walk from
the elevators to the courtroom (I'd been brought
in a panel truck from the jail to the courthouse
basement). We were not going to provide any publicity
of our own, he said. Eventually Judge Brown ruled
that each of the frustrated cameramen could take
a limited number of pictures in the courtroom
while we were in recess.
On December 14, the Los Angeles Times exploded
with Sadie's front-page account of TWO NIGHTS
OF MURDER, and Boyd had more support for his
case. He had hired Bill Reed, formerly of the
local McKinney paper and now on the staff of the
Dallas Times-Herald, to do a complete survey of
all news coverage of the Tate-LaBianca cases in
California and Reed ended up with 114 exhibit
samples. In printed material alone it ran the
gamut from Ladies' Home journal to a sleazy Pageant
article that tried to link the evils of Hollywood
"sex clubs" to the deaths. This impressive
display of the saturation coverage in the state
(it nearly equaled that of the Kennedy assassination)
did not convince the Texas secretary of state.
He granted the extradition on January 5, 1970,
and the next day the order was signed by the governor.
Boyd immediately filed a writ of habeas corpus
in Judge Brown's court and on the sixteenth the
judge granted a thirty-day continuance. But on
February 16 he ruled that, while there had indeed
been extensive press coverage, there was no evidence
of irresponsibility by the media (". . .
sensational events cannot be accurately presented
in prosaic terms . . . ") and that any decision
about detrimental pretrial publicity should be
made by a California court, not his own.
The process of appeals began-the Court of Criminal
Appeals of Texas, the United States District Court
for the Eastern District of Texas, the United
States Supreme Court. Each was denied, but with
each new appeal, two more months were allowed
by law for preparation and presentation of briefs,
plus the time required for the judge or judges
involved to reach a decision. Finally the Supreme
Court declined to admit the case for hearing-and
it was over. I was on my way to California. The
trial of Charlie, Sadie, Katie, and Leslie was
already in its third month.
I left for Los Angeles on September 11, 1970,
over a year after the murders. Bill Boyd's last
words to me were: "Don't say anything to
anyone. You have the right to remain silent."
And all the way to California, as newsmen with
video machines and cameras tried to get at me
and the two detectives who were with me tried
to interrogate me, I wouldn't open my mouth, even
to the stewardess. During processing at the "Glass
House" in downtown Los Angeles, I refused
to answer even the simplest question. Boyd had
said not to talk, so I would not talk. This barrier
of silence would eventually drive me deeper and
deeper into myself, working on me, building with
so much else inside my head that it seemed as
if I would lose not only my sanity but my life
Late on the night of my arrival, as I sat in
my cell high up in that enormous Los Angeles City
jail, the earth began to tremble. Charlie had
always said there'd be an earthquake soon, just
before Helter Skelter. It would be one of the
signs, he said.
The next day I was transferred from the city
jail to the sprawling county installation just
northeast of the Civic Center. I still kept my
silence and it was strange-the longer you went
without speaking, the easier the muteness became.
Words no longer flew to your mouth; it was as
if the connection between mind and tongue slowly
withered. I did finally talk to the chaplain there,
John Goffigan, although at first I was certain
even this quiet, gentle man was a spy for the
D.A. My mother had written him and sent a Bible
that he gave me along with several other books.
Back in McKinney I hadn't been interested in reading
any Bible, but things had been different then.
I'd grown accustomed to my little cell in the
Collin County Jail. I'd had my family nearby.
It had been a world I understood, for all the
twisting and turning that went on inside my head.
Now suddenly I was part of a huge institution
where everywhere I looked there were staring eyes
and .hostility, from guards and inmates alike.
I was immediately the object of morbid curiosity
and violent hatred. Here was the creep who'd butchered
Sharon Tate when she was eight months pregnant!
I don't blame anyone for what he felt, and I
know I didn't make things any easier when I refused
to talk to the few men who did stop at my cell
bars and try to make conversation. I was a stranger
in a strange land, unconnected and apart, an object
to be stared at by a hostile world. I was cut
off from my family and the Family that had replaced
it, cut off from both realities I'd lived, cut
off even from the one outsider I'd been able to
trust since my arrest, Bill Boyd. In a world like
that, the only place to go is in. But in for me
was a confused country. Sometimes I felt like
my own mother's son again; at other moments I
was still and always Charlie's child.
Partly to get relief from everything that wouldn't
stop churning through my head, partly to find
something to focus on besides the negative vibrations
coming at me from every direction, I started reading
the Bible my mother had sent - sometimes the Psalms,
sometimes verses I'd memorized long ago as a child
in the Copeville Methodist Church. Often I'd just
open the black book at random. I understood very
little of what I read, but that didn't seem to
matter. The words washed over me like soothing
water; they made me feel at peace. They were the
place of stillness in my world of constant light
The God of my childhood had been that hazy blond
man with long hair and insipid features who smiled
out of Bible illustrations and Sunday-school calendars.
He was often pictured nailed to a cross, with
purple skies seething behind Him, though how He
ended up there I was never sure. All I knew was
that on Easter there was a lot of special music,
flowers that made the church look like a funeral,
and you wore new clothes and had ham for dinner.
Perhaps that's exaggeration, -but whatever I may
have been able to rattle off in a Sunday - school
class or evening devotional, I never really understood,
or even bothered to wonder about the meaning of
this Jesus whom I supposedly belonged to through
personal experience (Of what?) and water baptism.
That weak Messiah-behind whom stood a carping
Judge with the face of an old man and the moral
sensibilities of my mother-had never been more
than some sort of touchstone for my assorted guilts.
As I grew up, God rapidly became the least important
thing in my all - American world.
The next god that came into my life was Charles
Manson. His love was evident; I lived it. His
Family gave me what seemed to be a new life, even
as it took away all of mine, and he had his own
peculiar baptism-drugs and fear and sex and death.
But now it was beginning to look as if he, too,
had failed me-or was it that I had failed him?
My mother's Jesus, the Stranger in the white
robe or Manson, my Jesus, a stranger who became
the self with a thousand faces and whose last
face was death? And now, as I read the Bible which
Chaplain Goffigan had given me, there was another
Jesus, the real God. The events through which
They revealed themselves were the familiar stories
I'd heard as a child, but as I read now, the stories
became something more than fairy tales about men
in bathrobes. It was nothing I could put words
to, hardly even a feeling, far less than belief
. . . . Perhaps the name for it was hope.
While I had still been in Texas, Bill Boyd had
made contact with a lawyer in California who'd
agreed to take my case for $15,000. Somehow my
family agreed to what was an astronomical figure
for working people in Copeville, but when I got
to Los Angeles and called the man, the figure
had been raised considerably. During a visit to
the jail the next day, the attorney kept talking
about more and more money until finally, having
passed $100,000, he told me he would need "unlimited
funds" for my defense. I never saw him again
until I was taken to court for arraignment. At
that time he informed the judge that I could not
afford counsel, and Sam Bubrick was appointed
to handle my case, later to be joined by Maxwell
Keith, Leslie Van Houten's attorney.
Sam Bubrick was a somewhat nervous, overweight
man in his late fifties who seemed-at somewhere
about five-footnine-a little short to me (I'm
six-foot-two). He liked wide, flashy ties and
would tear at his fingernails when he was under
pressure. Keith was a few years younger and dressed
more like the image of a lawyer I'd come to expect
from Boyd-pinstriped suits and school ties. Somehow
I always picture him as coughing-he was a chain-smoker.
My first conversation with Bubrick was through
a plate of glass, with the two of us talking into
telephones in the visiting room at the Los Angeles
County Jail. I was afraid to say much of anything
to him. He wasn't Bill Boyd, so I had no reason
to trust him, and besides, I was sure the conversation
was being monitored.
The sense of being watched, trapped, observed,
and overheard at every moment, awake or asleep,
became the dominant reality of my existence. Each
day the shell that held together what little was
left of myself closed tighter and tighter. My
physical body seemed to suck in on itself, drawing
my arms and legs back into my belly. My body was
shrinking slowly to a tiny dot of presence that
one false wind could blow away forever. Yet the
smaller my self got, the farther apart the pieces
would float. I began to imagine that there were
television cameras following me everywhere I went
in the jail, hidden in dim corners and angles
of walls. I was sure there were bugs in my cell
and that every person except the chaplain who
showed any interest in me was a spy sent by the
police or the D.A. When Sam Bubrick would visit
me, I'd tell him frantically that they were putting
drugs in my food and that at night my hands glowed
in the dark.
The confusion wouldn't stop, it would only pound
at me, harder and harder, like some gigantic engine.
Family member Bruce Davis was being held on the
tier above me and, whenever he thought the guards
couldn't hear, he'd call down messages to me from
Charlie, which the girls who were free brought
him in the visiting room. Day and night his voice
would boom out in the metallic hollowness of the
jail: "Cease to exist . . . remain one .
. . Helter Skelter is coming down soon . . . ."
Even the food became an enemy. They mixed together
the meat and vegetables on the paper plate they
shoved into the cell, so there was no way I could
avoid eating flesh except by not eating at all.
I went on reading, even when I didn't understand
what the black book was saying. Hour after hour
I'd turn the pages of the Bible and let the words
roll across the jagged edges of my mind. As I
did, something else began to happen inside me,
something that was perhaps the final straw to
my sanity: I began tasting the reality of what
I had actually done during those two nights of
blood. It was no more than the tiniest spark of
human feeling, somewhere deep inside my gut, but
it was enough to drive me wild. Suddenly they
were not nameless, impersonal things, not pigs-they
were terrified men and women who had begged to
be allowed to live, and I had battered and stabbed
and shot the life out of them without mercy. It
wasn't even so much guilt that racked me; it was
the beginning of compassion. I began to throw
myself against the bars, shaking them and screaming.
I'd already let my cell become a smelly mess,
my body steaming in its own filth. Now I started
squeezing my toothpaste out onto the walkway through
the bars and spattering the walls with food. I
was taken to the hospital ward upstairs and put
in restraints. Later, prosecution psychiatrists
would claim I had faked much of my disintegration,
but it was not true. All the little pieces just
finally came unglued.
I seemed to improve a little in the hospital,
so after a while I was sent back to my cell. It
began all over again: Bruce's voice screaming
down at me about hacksaws and escape and Helter
Skelter, and the negative vibrations all around
me driving me deeper and deeper into nothing.
When my weight dropped to 110 pounds from my
usual 165 I was sent back upstairs. Once more
I was bound to the cot with four-point restraints-both
ankles and wrists-and now orderlies came and jabbed
a tube down my nose. As humanitarian as forced
feeding may sound, it is hell to live through.
The sensitive membranes of the nose and throat
are torn by the tubing and most of the sickening
liquid being pumped into you is vomited back up,
mingled with blood. Strapped on your back, it
is all you can do to keep from drowning in it.
By this point I couldn't talk even if I wanted
to-and Sam Bubrick was afraid I would die. He
asked for three court psychiatrists to examine
me, and they determined that I was regressing
into a fetal state that could be terminal. I was
insane, they said, totally incapable of standing
trial. On October 29, Judge George Dell who had
earlier ruled on Leslie's sanity-had me committed
to Atascadero State Hospital for ninety-day observation.
"Jailhouse religion" they call it in
cynical prison slang: the sudden desperate piety
of an inmate who's up against it and hopes that
God will somehow bail him out, a kind of bribe
for an Almighty who has, up to that point, been
of little interest to the new convert. Of course
it often fades once the crisis has passed and
it is often based on nothing but an overwhelming
need to get out of trouble, with no thought for
what God might ask of us. Of course. But despite
all that, it was Jesus of Nazareth who said, "Come
to Me, all of you that are carrying burdens more
than you can bear . . . . I won't turn you away."
(See Matthew 11:28; John 6:37.) I believe He hears.
In fact, I know it. He heard me.
As I lay strapped on my back in the hospital,
the words of the Twenty-third Psalm-one I'd memorized
as a child and read again in the Bible my mother
had sent-began to run through my head: "The
Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want . . . ."
I repeated the whole Psalm, over and over, with
a sudden clarity of memory. First it was a prayer;
then it became the answer to the prayer. I was
suddenly aware of another presence in the stark
hospital cell, not exactly visible, but unmistakably,
powerfully there. It was this new Christ I'd been
reading about. There was no doubt of it; this
Son of God was saying: "Come to Me . . ."
and He was there. As the Psalm continued to flow
through my mind it was as if He took me to Himself,
held me, and filled me with a peace and a quiet
that left me sure that everything was going to
be all right, no matter what came next. Whether
I lived or died, I had nothing to fear: "Yea,
though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with
me." He was with me; I knew it and I could
rest. It didn't matter anymore what happened-He
would not desert me.
When I had been with Charlie, I'd stopped caring
if I lived or died because I was dead already.
Now it no longer mattered to me whether my physical
life continued-because, alive or dead, I knew
that Life Himself had made me alive in Him.
(Will You Die For Me? Copyright 1978, by Ray
Hoekstra. Published by Cross Roads Publications,
Inc. All Rights Reserved.)