Summer of ’69: August 12th — Rosemary & Leno LaBianca

The big story in Los Angeles on August 12, 1969 was the release of nineteen-year-old William Garretson, the caretaker at the Cielo Drive estate where five people and the unborn son of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski murdered a few days before.

William Garretson (center)

 

William was the only survivor of the slaughter which made him suspect number one. Police arrested William at the point of a shotgun and grilled him for hours. He agreed to take a polygraph test and passed.  Inspector Harold Yarnell said: “There is not sufficient evidence to hold Garretson.  There is no reason to suspect him.”

Wearing a deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face, William’s attorney, Barry Tarlow, escorted him through the lobby of LAPD’s administration building. The nineteen-year-old, who appeared on the verge of tears, declined to answer any of the barrage of questions called out to him by eager news reporters.  He let his lawyer do the talking.

Tarlow told reporters his client said goodnight to Steven Parent at 11:30 p.m. Friday, then went back inside the guesthouse to listen to his stereo.  He wasn’t aware of anything until LAPD officers kicked in his door and took him away on Saturday morning.

William shared an address with Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, but they lived on different planets.  Sharon and Roman were in the movie industry; they were among the “beautiful people.” Roman’s big break came in June 1968 with the release of “Rosemary’s Baby.”  His career as an A-list director was underway.

Still a teenager, William wasn’t sure what he wanted out of life. He spoke to his mother of an interest in acting, but his aspiration was as common as a cold and easier to catch when live in L.A. Thousands of young people flock to the city seeking stardom – they have been coming here since the 1910s.  Far from hanging out with the beautiful people, William had more in common with “Hollywood Blvd drifters, hitchhikers, and drugstore cowboys,” many of whom he brought home with him when they needed a place to crash.

Police wanted to speak to members of both groups – killers defy social strata. William offered names of people he knew, but he didn’t believe any of them capable of the murders on Cielo Drive.

William’s release featured prominently on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, but there was another intriguing and disturbing story on page 3.  The double murder in Los Feliz of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Leno, 44, and Rosemary, 37, were stabbed to death Sunday in their home at 3301 Waverly Drive. The killing of the couple was similar in many to ways to the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends on Saturday.  Police Sergeant Bryce Houchin said, “There is a similarity in the slayings. But whether it’s the same suspect or a copycat, we just don’t know.”

Sgt. Houchin appeared open to the idea that the murders could be connected, but in their official statements LAPD wouldn’t go that far.

On August 12, 1969, reporter Bruce Russell wrote:

Whispers that a psychotic killer was after wealthy resident of isolated homes in the Hollywood hills continued after the murder of Miss Tate and the four others was followed a day later by that of a rich supermarket owner and his wife in a plush home 12 miles away.

IN BOTH SETS of slayings the word “Pig” was smeared in blood at the murder scene, hoods covered the heads of males slain and women had cords around their throats.

Police have showed that the two bloodbaths were unconnected. They said the more recent murders of a grocery chain owner Leno La Bianca, 44, and his wife Rosemary, 37, were those of a psychotic cashing in on the publicity of the so-called Tate murders.

But fear-stricken Hollywood residents rushed to buy guns yesterday for self-protection.

Hollywood glitterati panicked.  They ripped the names and numbers of their drug dealers out of their little black books and waited for the killer’s arrest so life could return to normal.

No one, except some Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigators, gave a thought to the gruesome killing that pre-dated the August rampage, the murder of Gary Hinman.

 

 

The Summer of ’69: The Murder of Gary Hinman

 

TOPANGA
July 31, 1969

None of Gary Hinman’s friends or colleagues had seen him for a week. Worried, his friends  Mike Irwin, John Nicks, and Glenn Giardinelli stopped by his house at 964 Old Topanga Canyon Road to check up on him.  They knew he was looking forward to a trip to Japan but he wouldn’t have gone without saying goodbye.

When they arrived, they noticed Gary’s Fiat was missing.  They climbed the stairs to the porch where they detected a foul odor. They were alarmed enough to go to a neighbor’s home and call the L.A. County Sheriff’s Malibu Station.

Deputies Paul Piet and Donald Lang rolled out to the location. When they arrived Piet climbed a ladder to look in the main window. He saw decomposing body, covered with maggots around the head. The man was partly covered with a blanket and a pillow covered the left side of his face.  There was blood on the floor and the blanket.

The deputies contacted Detective Sergeant Paul J.  Whiteley in the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.  Whiteley advised them to secure the location. He would be there as soon as possible.

At 9:45 p.m. Detective Whitely and Sergeant Gunther arrived. Deputy Coroner Green arrived at 11:30 p.m. and removed the body for autopsy and assigned it a case number, 69-8448.

Hinman’s death was classified as a routine “dead person” until the autopsy proved he was murdered.

SAN LUIS OBISPO
AUGUST 6, 1969

On August 6, 1969 at 10:50 a.m., a CHP officer on routine patrol observed a Fiat, license number OYX833, parked northbound on the east side of the 101 on the Cuesta grade. The officer ran the license plate for outstanding warrants – the car was reported stolen out of Los Angeles.

La Cuesta Grade

The officer asked for ID, but the man didn’t have a driver’s license. He said he was Jason Lee Daniels, born November 11, 1946. The officer  transported Daniels to the Highway Patrol Office in San Luis Obispo and booked him for 10851 V.C. Auto Theft.  Once at the station, Jason admitted that his true name was Robert Beausoleil.

As the officer was writing up the stolen car report he saw an APB [All-Points Bulletin] dated 8-3-69  which stated that the owner of the car was murdered. He advised Beausoleil that he was under arrest for 187 P.C. murder and read him his rights.

NEXT TIME: A murder spree in Los Angeles.

Death of a Co-ed, Conclusion

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.