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.

Death of a Co-ed, Part 3

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?

Charles Manson

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.

Death of a Latin Lover, Part 3

Ramon Novarro’s funeral. [Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library]

LAPD Detective Lauritzen played it cagey with the press when they asked for details regarding the arrests of Paul and Thomas Ferguson. He said only that they had “physical evidence” of the brothers’ involvement in Ramon’s murder. The reporters interpreted Lauritzen’s comments to mean they found fingerprints at the crime scene. The County Grand Jury indicted the Fergusons and they arraigned the brothers in a Van Nuys courtroom.

Attorney Cletus Hanifin (second from left) confers with murder suspect Paul Ferguson (left) while another attorney talks with Ferguson’s brother and fellow suspect Thomas (second from right). [Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library]

Busted in early November, the brothers awaited trail in county lockup. Early in December new drama in the case erupted with a report that Paul attempted to gouge out his own eyes.  At first he told jailers other inmates attacked him, but they proved he injured himself. If he hoped to eradicate the vision Ramon’s murder from his memory, he should have plunged a knife into his heart. The general feeling was that Paul’s self-inflicted injuries were an attempt to garner sympathy.

The police found more than fingerprints at Ramon’s home. While Paul beat Ramon in another room, Thomas was on the telephone with his girlfriend of six months, Brenda Lee Metcalf. Brenda flew out to Los Angeles on the county’s dime to testify before the Grand Jury. She was a wealth of information about the night of the murder.

She testified that Thomas told her he and Paul were at Ramon’s house because the actor was going to get him into the movies—then he said no, it was Paul who Ramon was going to get into pictures. While he chain-smoked cigarettes and drank beer, Thomas told Brenda, “… he knew there was $5,000 somewhere in the house behind a picture.” Thomas and Paul had plans for Ramon’s money. Brenda said, “They would tie him up to find out where the money was.”  Brenda told Thomas not to get into trouble.  Brenda said, “He said no matter what happened, he wasn’t going to have nothing to do with it because he didn’t want to get in any trouble.”  The screams she heard in the background sound like trouble to her.  “He (Thomas) said he (Paul) was just probably trying to scare him or hit him with something.”

As the phone called neared an end, Thomas said, “Well, I better go now because I’m going to see what’s happening. . . I don’t want Paul to hurt Ramon.”

Another woman surfaced in the case, Paul’s estranged wife, Mary.  Mary identified the mysterious “Larry” – the name scrawled several places at the murder scene.  Larry was Paul’s brother-in-law, the person Paul blamed for his problems with Mary. Paul’s attempt to frame his brother-in-law was amateur hour, but then nothing about the crime was a stroke of genius.

Brenda received one last telephone call from Tom during his stay in Los Angeles. He telephoned her on November 2.  He said, “Well you know about Novarro.  He is dead.  When I bent down over him I saw he was dead and that if we have enough money, we’ll fly back.  Otherwise, we will have to hitchhike back.  Before they could leave Los Angeles County, they were in police custody.

On August 5, 1969, four days before the murders of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowski and Steven Parent at Tate’s rented home on Cielo Drive, Paul and Thomas were on trial for Ramon’s murder.

The jury of seven men and five women heard Deputy District Attorney James Ideman outline the State’s case in his opening statement. He said he would prove that the brothers tortured Ramon to death on October 30 while trying to discover a hidden cache of money.

Paul and Thomas did not differ from any of the other idiot criminals who murdered people they believed kept large amounts of cash at home.

Defendants Jack Santo (left), Emmett Perkins (center) and Barbara Graham (right) in court for the murder of Mabel Monohan.  [Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library]

On March 9, 1953, in Burbank, California, Barbara Graham, Emmett Perkins, Jack Santo, John True and Baxter Shorter invaded the home of Mabel Monohan, a widow. The gang believed she kept a large amount of cash in a safe for her former son-in-law, a professional gambler and local mob affiliate,  Tutor Scherer. The gang walked away with nothing but a ticket to the “green room” (San Quentin’s gas chamber).

Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, two ex-cons, made the same mistake in 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas.  They believed a cellmate when he told them one of his former employers, a farmer named Herb Clutter, was rich and kept his money in a home safe.  It was a tall tale, told by an idiot, to two other morons who believed it. Hickock and Smith executed Herb, his wife Bonnie Mae, and the couple’s two teenage children, Kenyon and Nancy. The killers walked away with fifty dollars in cash, a pair of binoculars and a transistor radio.  Hickock and Smith went to the gallows on April 14, 1965 on the grounds of Leavenworth prison.

Truman Capote with his bestseller, In Cold Blood. [Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library]

Truman Capote turned the sordid murders into a brilliant narrative in the mostly true account of the case, In Cold Blood.

Paul and Thomas made the same mistake as their predecessors, but would they pay the same price?

NEXT TIME: Paul and Thomas Ferguson pay for Ramon’s murder.

Peace. Love. Murder.

The argument has been made that 1968 was the most tumultuous years in modern U.S. history. It is tough to disagree. The year marked seismic shift in American life and nothing would ever be the same

The changes didn’t occur overnight, although it seemed that way. It was no accident that the changes coincided with the first wave of Baby Boomers hitting their teen years. The music of the late 1960s was as eclectic and schizophrenic as the time. A pseudo-group called the Archies had a smash hit with Sugar, Sugar, but the music that would come to define the era was flying under the radar of the Billboard Top 100. Woodstock changed that. A couple of notes into Jimi Hendrix’s version of the Star Spangled Banner and you knew the Earth had shifted on its axis.

The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968 lit the fuse of the bomb that would blow society apart in what remained of the decade. The smoke and ash rained down throughout the 1970s and ripples from the initial explosion are felt today.

January 1969 gave subtle hints of things to come. Richard M. Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President of the United States on January 20, 1969. His election meant more young men would die in the jungles of Southeast Asia.  Elvis Presley recorded “Long Black Limousine” in Memphis, Tennessee which kicked off his comeback. Jimi Hendrix appeared on a BBC1 show, “Happening for Lulu” and Led Zeppelin released their debut album.  The BEATLES performed for the last time in public on the roof of the Apple building at 3 Saville Row in London.

Reflecting on 1969 is mind bending. Consider a year in which the U.S. put a man on the moon, and the era later dubbed the “Golden Age of Porn” (1969-1984)  began.  Sexuality explicit films shown in public on the big screen instead of on a bedsheet in someone’s dingy basement became reality with Andy Warhol’s 1969 film “Blue Movie.”  The only X-rated film to win an Oscar®, “Midnight Cowboy” was released. At the time the X-rating didn’t mean the film was hardcore porn, all it meant was that the subject matter was unsuitable for underage people.

No retrospective of the 1960s is complete without addressing the Hippie aka Flower Power movement which reached a zenith during the summer of 1967 in San Francisco. The Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967  paved the way for the Summer of Love. The local underground newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle, offered the following description of the Be-In:  “A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.”  A beautiful sentiment. It was an illusion.

The people who wandered the streets of San Francisco during the summer of 1967 smoking dope, dropping acid, tucking flowers into their hair and anointing themselves with Patchouli oil didn’t know that the Hippie movement was already on life support and about to flatline.

The cancer of drug dealers, pimps and others preying on the naivete of lost children looking for love and acceptance in Haight/Ashbury grew into an inoperable tumor. One cell of the malignancy had a name which, in two years’ time would become infamous, Charles Manson.

Charles Manson in court. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

The summer of 1969 had a few of the trappings of the Summer of Love, and it turned into a nightmare of violence and terror when word of  murders of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Parent, Rosemary and Leno LaBianca hit newsstands in mid-August.

For the next few months, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the brutal Tate/LaBianca murders, Deranged L.A. Crimes will intermittently look at some of the crimes that made news during 1969.

So, put on your love beads, memorize the lyrics to “Fixin’ to Die Rag,” and don’t bogart that joint.   See you in the ’60s.

The Devil in Orange County, Part 2

BLOOD TRAIL

A trail of blood led from the late 1960s into the new decade of the 1970s: the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy; the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter at a December 1969 rock concert in Altamont, California; the August 1969 bizarre and brutal slayings of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, Steven Parent, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca; the November 1969 revelation of the My Lai Massacre by American troops of hundreds of civilians in a Vietnamese village; and the killing of 4 unarmed students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard during a protest of the U.S. government incursion into Cambodia.

John Filo's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

It seemed as though the world was on fire and everyone and everything was about to be consumed in a massive conflagration.

Columnist Art Seidenbaum wrote an editorial, The Wind of Fear, for the L.A. Times in which he described the summer of 1970:

“It (fear) swirls and grows around multiple murders. It whistles in the wake of terrorist bombings. It gusts along the roads for hitchhikers and drivers alike.”

In his annual report for the year 1969 J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, stated that while the population of the U.S. had increased only 13% during the previous nine years, the crime rate had increased by 148%. It was a terrifying statistic.

Despite the crime and chaos all around, life appeared to be quiet and safe in Garden Grove, California during the first half of 1970 — but appearances can be deceiving.

JERRY CARLIN

carlin beating deathAt approximately 2 a.m. on June 2, 1970, the body of Jerry W. Carlin was found beaten to death in the restroom of the Richfield Service Station at 3724 Westminster Avenue. The murder was discovered by David Miller, a driver for Southland Ambulance Service. Miller had made a routine stop at the gas station when he found Carlin face down on the blood smeared floor of the restroom. It was the third time Jerry Carlin had been robbed that month. Carlin was only 20 years old, a newly-wed, and he died not knowing that he was going to become a father.

A reward in the amount of $2,000 (approximately $12,000 in current dollars) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who murdered Carlin was offered by someone who asked to remain anonymous.

FLORENCE NANCY BROWN

Two weeks after she’d gone missing, the body of thirty-one year old El Toro School teacher, Mrs. Florence Nancy Brown, was discovered by a hiker in a shallow grave 50 feet off Ortega Highway near El Cariso, about 19 miles southwest of Elsinore.body found

Mrs. Brown had been reported missing on June 4th by her husband, Ralph, after she had failed to return home following a routine errand. It was clear to investigators that Mrs. Brown had been killed elsewhere before being buried off of the Ortega Highway. The Riverside County coroner’s report disclosed Mrs. Brown had died of multiple stab wounds in the chest. The weapon used by her killer was believed to have been a large hunting knife or bayonet, and the victim’s right arm had been severed and her heart and lungs removed. Her wedding and engagement rings, a wristwatch and a number of oil company credit cards had been taken.

Cops didn’t yet know that the two killings were connected, but they would soon get a tip that would reveal the names of the possible killers.

THE KILLERS

craig_photoBy the 1st of July 1970 arrests had been made in connection with the murders of Jerry Carlin and Florence Brown. One of the alleged perpetrators was a 20 year-old transient, Steven Hurd — the other person who was arrested was an old acquaintance of my brother’s, 16 year-old Arthur Craig Hulse, the boy who had my brother’s back in junior high school, and the same the guy that my brother’s best friend and I had picked up hitchhiking shortly before we heard about the murders!

I had never thought of Craig as anything but a kid with an unhappy home life. He wasn’t the brightest of the assorted misfits and oddballs who hung out at our home while my brother and I were growing up, but that had never mattered to any of us. All you had to do to be accepted in our circle of friends was simply be yourself, contribute to the conversations if you wished, be able to take a joke at your expense and respect our home.

In our short lives my brother and I had known people who went had gone down a bad road. Some of the people we had known had died of drug ODs and suicide, others had survived minor brushes with the law, but no one and nothing had prepared us for the summer of 1970.

At first it was impossible to conceive of Craig as someone capable of killing, but then the tale of the two slayings started to unfold; and it was grotesque.

NEXT TIME:  Jerry Carlin, Florence Brown and their killers.

The Devil in Orange County

 

flower_power

Groovy, baby.

Beginning with the Summer of Love in 1967 the Baby Boomers felt that they were on to something profound — all you had to do was wear a garland of flowers around your head, smoke a few joints, flash the Peace Sign, and major changes in society would follow. If only it had been that simple.

bombing for peace If you were in your teens or twenties during that time, life was a contact high; everywhere you went it seemed like there was great music and free dope, but no high lasts forever. Eventually a decent buzz becomes harder to sustain.  At first you chase the high in the bright sunlight with energy and enthusiasm because it feels so damned good; but there comes a time when the high proves elusive — you catch glimpses of it as it disappears down deeper and darker alleyways.

Less than a year after the Summer of Love, on April 4,1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. People barely had a chance to process the pain and horror of his death when, on June 6,1968, Robert Kennedy was gunned down in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The Age of Aquarius was on life support.

Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy

The ultimate perversion of the hippie ethos occurred on August 9, 1969, with the cruel and senseless torture and slaughter of Sharon Tate and her unborn son, Abigail Folger, Wojciejk Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent. The next night, Leno and Rosemary LaBiana were brutally murdered. The cryptic blood-scrawled words “Rise”, “Pig” and “Healter (sic) Skelter” at the crime scenes had terrified everyone. Had Satan had taken up residence in Los Angeles?  Maybe Hollywood was Sodom after all.

A raid on the Spahn Ranch in mid-August 1969 by L.A. County Sheriffs uncovered stolen car parts, teen-age runaways, drugs and weapons. While the raid was being conducted Woodstock (“Three days of Peace & Music”) was in full swing on Yasgur’s farm in New York.

By December 2, 1969 the Manson Family was being exposed for what they really were, remorseless killers. The month of December had started out bad and it wasn’t going to get any better.

Hell's Angels attacking a concert goer at Altamont.

Hell’s Angels attacking a concert goer at Altamont.

The final fuck you to the hippie dreams of Flower Power came at a free concert at Altamont in Northern California on December 6, 1969. The concert was meant to be Woodstock West, but instead it became an ugly confrontation between the Hell’s Angels, who had been hired as security for the event, and the musicians and concert goers. The night ended with three accidental deaths and the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter.

Despite its early promise of peace & love, the ’60s had died a terrible death — bathed in blood, choking on shattered dreams and littered with acid casualties.

Maybe the ’70s would be better.

BEHIND THE ORANGE CURTAIN

Orange County, California, a collection of quiet suburbs, has long had a reputation for political and social conservatism. The inhabitants of Orange County are described as living behind “The Orange Curtain” a play on the infamous Iron Curtain which once separated communist and capitalist Europe.

orange_groveI grew up behind the Orange Curtain in Garden Grove, a middle-class suburb close enough to Disneyland for my family to be able to watch the summer fireworks from our living room window. There were orange groves and strawberry fields near our home and the smell of orange blossoms, not easy to find anymore, brings back memories. The city’s claim to fame was as the home of the Garden Grove Community Church (the “drive-in” church) designed by the visionary architect Richard Neutra.

Garden Grove Community Church.

Garden Grove Community Church.

The first summer of the 70s was just beginning, and my brother’s best friend and I were driving around in my 1964 VW Beetle. We were headed home when we noticed Craig Hulse, whom we hadn’t seen in ages, hitch-hiking at the side of the road. I pulled over and Craig got into the car.

Craig was sixteen years old, a big kid, at least six feet tall and well over 200 lbs. We’d known him for years, he and my brother had gone to junior high school together. My brother is cursed with the Renner mouth — it’s an affliction I share — we seem to lack a necessary filter between the brain and mouth so we often say exactly what we’re thinking — and that isn’t always wise. A sense of humor and the ability to take a wicked joke at your expense was de rigueur in my family, but my brother’s quick wit and missing filter caused him a few problems in school.  However Craig, who had earned the nickname “Moose”, occasionally came to his rescue.

It was no surprise to find Craig hitch-hiking, everyone did in those days. We heard that he’d dropped out of school, run away from home and was heavy into Seconal and booze. Once he was in the car we asked him how he was doing and if he was okay. He said that things weren’t going well and that he was thinking about enlisting in the military to try to get his life in order. Enlisting would have had him on a plane to Vietnam before the year was over, but we figured maybe his life was bad enough to warrant drastic action. We dropped him off a few miles down the road and wished him well.

Days later, as the Manson jury was being selected, we heard that Craig had been arrested in connection with two brutal murders. One of slayings was rumored to have been part of a Satanic ritual.

The 70s were off to a scary start.

NEXT: Two murders and the dark side of an old friend.