Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is HALF A SINNER, based on a story by Dalton Trumbo. The message is carpe diem, and who can argue with that? It’s all fluff, no substance–I’ve heard it described as screwball noir. The film stars Heather Angel and John King.
Enjoy the movie!
Ignoring the advice of her crochety old grandmother, straightlaced schoolteacher Anne Gladden decides to discard her glasses, buy a new outfit and relish one day of freedom doing exactly as she pleases. Things don’t work out exactly as she has planned, however, when, to avoid the unwelcome advances of a gangster, Anne jumps into a parked limousine and speeds away. Unknown to Anne, the car is stolen and a dead body is stashed in the back seat.
In October 1969 Susan Atkins, aka Sadie Mae Glutz, was booked on the Gary Hinman murder, moved to Sybil Brand Institute (SBI) the women’s jail for Los Angeles County, and assigned to Dorm 8000. She created a stir. She had that ridiculous alias and insisted on being called Crazy Sadie. If she hadn’t given it to herself, she would have earned the nickname—the other inmates thought she had a screw loose. She seemed happy to be in jail and would sometimes sing or start go-go dancing. Odd behavior in lock-up.
In the bunk opposite Susan’s was Ronnie Howard. Ronnie was in her early mid 30s. She was awaiting trial for forging a prescription.
Also, in the dorm was Virginia Graham. Virginia was about the same age as Ronnie and she was in for a parole violation.
Ronnie and Virginia had a history. They’d known each other for several years and worked as call girls together. They had more than that in common. Ronnie married Virginia’s ex-husband.
Virginia and Susan worked as runners, that means they carried messages for jail authorities. When they weren’t busy, they would sit and chat. In the evenings Susan would confide in Ronnie.
One day in early November, Virginia asked Susan how she ended up in the slammer. Common at the time would have been drugs, prostitution or bookmaking – that’s why Virginia’s jaw dropped when Susan admitted she was in for first degree murder.
Virginia thought Susan was wholesome looking, like a “babysitter” she said. She couldn’t reconcile the babysitter with the crime she said she committed.
Susan was bitter about her co-defendant, Bobby Beausoleil. She figured him for a rat. He wasn’t, but she didn’t know that. The squealer was another Manson Family member, Kitty Lutesinger. Kitty, jealous and vengeful, was the real rodent. Family girls vied with each other for Bobby’s affections. Nicknamed “Cupid,” Bobby was the bait Manson used to lure teenage runaway girls into the Family. Charlie was charismatic, but the guy was a troll. Not heinous, just not in Bobby’s league.
Virginia and Ronnie were accustomed to being locked up with women who committed non-violent crimes. Crazy Sadie’s attitude toward murder, even the murder of a woman 8 ½ months pregnant, was an anathema to them.
The jailbirds were torn, to snitch, or not to snitch. It is an easy choice for anyone who hasn’t spent time behind bars but, for two regular guests of the County, it was a conundrum. They realized the new generation of female criminals, represented by Crazy Sadie, committed acts of extreme violence as callously as their male counterparts, and it scared them into talking to the authorities.
Sheriff’s deputies ran a “pipe” chase on Atkins’ cell. What is a pipe chase? If you are a plumber, you know. For everyone else, a pipe chase is a vertical space enclosed by a chase, or false wall, for the purpose of hiding pipes—which makes it perfect for hiding a tape recorder and a deputy wearing headphones.
Before you get in a twist about Atkin’s right to privacy, she gave that up as soon as she got to lock-up. If she insisted on running her mouth, every word she uttered was fair game and could later be used against her. Bad news for Sadie. Great news for the law.
With Family members in custody, the case against them for the Tate/LaBianca slayings, and the murder of Gary Hinman, came together. The viciousness of the murders caused cops to speculate. If the Family could commit those crimes, what about the 30 unsolved murders in California in 1968? Seven of the murders occurred in Los Angeles County.
Among the unsolved cases in Los Angeles was Marina Habe’s murder and the murder of Jane Doe #59, stabbed 157 times. Both crimes involved a knife. Family members were familiar with knives. Most carried one—and knew how to use it.
Prior to her bone-headed decision to pull back from being the key witness for the prosecution, Susan over shared with anyone who would lend her an ear to garner favor. She revealed to a TV news team the approximate location of bloody clothing discarded following the Tate murders. The crew found three black t-shirts, one white t-shirt and three pairs of black jeans worn by the killers. Also found was the long barreled .22 caliber gun used to kill three of the victims.
The Tate/La Bianca murders were getting close to a slam-dunk for the prosecution. Would it be an overreach to pin some unsolved on the Family? Vincent Bugliosi didn’t think so.
On November 5, 1969, police responded to a call at 28 Clubhouse Avenue where they found the body of John “Zero” Haught, a Navy veteran, lying on a mattress, gun and holster nearby, and a single gunshot wound to his right temple.
John “Zero” Haught
Madaline Joan Cottage
The people at the scene told police that Zero shot himself playing Russian roulette. Madaline Joan Cottage, said she was lying next to him in bed when he noticed the gun. It contained one round. He spun the cylinder, put the gun to his temple and fired. If you aren’t familiar with Madaline, the Family nicknamed her Little Patty, sometimes Crazy Patty. She was the only eyewitness. Strange, isn’t it, that when later dusted for prints the weapon came back clean.
Police interviewed others in the house. Among them Family members Bruce Davis, Sue Bartell and Catherine Gilles. Each told the same story.
During an interview of Leslie Van Houten at SBI later in the month, Sgt. Mike McGann told her about Zero’s death. He told her Bruce Davis was there, too. She asked if Bruce was playing the game.
McGann: “No, he wasn’t.”
Leslie Van Houten: “Zero was playing Russian roulette all by himself?”
McGann: “Kind of odd, isn’t it?”
Leslie Van Houten: “Yeah, it’s odd.”
Zero’s death occurred a month before Manson became front-page news. In the weeks prior to his final arrest, Manson was increasingly paranoid. He worried that someone, like Zero, would rat him out. Did Mason order Zero’s murder to tie up loose ends? We’ll never know. The case is still on the books as a suicide.
Vincent Bugliosi followed up rumors that Jane Doe #59 was a regular at Spahn Ranch and that she answered the phone at 28 Clubhouse on the day of Zero’s death. The rumors were never substantiated.
Jane Doe #59 was unidentified for 46 years until June 2015 when a friend of her family recognized her on a government run missing and unidentified persons site in the U.S. Jane Doe #59 had a name, it was Reet Jurvetson.
Jane Doe #59 morgue photo
Her identification answered some of her family’s questions. The biggest one remains to this day, who killed her, and why?
Was Reet ever connected to the Family. When asked about her, Charles Manson said no. But is that good enough?
Manson further denied knowing anything about murdered co-ed, Marina Habe.
Marina and Reet were found within yards of each other, months apart, off of Mulholland Drive—six miles from where Sharon Tate was slaughtered.
Coincidences occur. By some estimates thirty serial killers hunted human prey in Los Angeles during that time.
Could Marina and Reet have been victims of a serial killer?
Maybe someday we will learn the truth.
NOTE: Thanks to friend, Scott Michaels at Dearly Departed, for his interview of Virginia Graham. It’s quite remarkable.
Sheriff’s detectives couldn’t catch a break. Marina’s case went cold.
In August 1969, the news that five (*see NOTE below) victims were slaughtered at the Cielo Drive home of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski shook Angelenos worse than a 9-point earthquake. The brutal, some thought ritualistic, slayings of Tate, Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Stephen Parent terrified everyone. Rumors that the murders were drug-related caused a panic among Hollywood celebrities. It wasn’t only the glitterati who felt their lives were in danger, average citizen flocked to gun shops and dog kennels seeking to protect themselves against an unknown evil.
Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski
People over 40 saw every long hair as a potential mass killer, and even hippies were paranoid of one another. The murders drove a stake through the heart of the Summer of Love. Was it only two years ago that baby boomers believed they could change the course of the world with beads and flowers?
The level of fear in the city ratcheted up several notches when Los Feliz residents Rosemary and Leno LaBianca were murdered. Eerie similarities between the Tate and LaBianca slayings gave the cops cause to believe they could be linked.
Who committed the cruel murders? Charles Manson, an ex-con conversant with the basic tenets of Scientology and an avid student of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” had a gift for convincing rootless teenagers to follow him. He lured them into the desert. He painted mind pictures of free love and great dope. Had he convinced his followers to murder for him?
As investigators scrutinized the “Savage Mystic Cult” who lived in squalor in the desert, they considered the possibility that the Manson Family committed over seven murders.
What about Marina Habe? Someone stabbed the teenager to death. The killer, or killers, used a knife to butcher several of the victims at Cielo drive. Another link?
The unsolved homicide of a young woman, Jane Doe #59, whose body was found close to where Marina was found might the Family’s grisly handiwork.
On November 16, 1969, a teenager who was bird watching on Mulholland Drive discovered Jane Doe’s remains. The young man was gazing through binoculars, checking out the various species of birds that populated the area, when his eyes came to rest on the nude body of a woman.
Police arrived at the scene. The victim was young. She was pretty despite the 157 stab wounds to her neck and upper body. Defensive wounds on her hands and arms meant she fought hard for her life. She was dead about two days. Overkill suggested to detectives that the murder was personal. A spurned lover might be capable of such rage; or the killer could be a madman.
Los Angeles Police Department detectives investigated the murder of Jane Doe #59, with the same zeal as their counterparts in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had done in Marina’s case. Both agencies hit a wall.
NEXT TIME: Who killed Marina Habe and Jane Doe #59?
*NOTE: Thanks to Cheryl, a reader who reminded me of a very important fact. There were six victims on Cielo Drive. We should remember Sharon’s and Roman’s son, Paul Richard Polanski.