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Manson-like messages put on walls by vandals

Incident is near the slayings' anniversary, but Palm Springs owner calls it 'innocuous.'

August 22, 2007|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

Police are searching for vandals who broke into an unoccupied Palm Springs vacation home last week, unnerving neighbors by marking the walls with "Helter Skelter," "Pigz" and "Blood," reminiscent of the scenes found in the grisly Los Angeles slayings orchestrated by cult leader Charles Manson in August 1969.

On Friday, just more than a week after the 38th anniversary of the slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her guests by Manson's followers, a Palm Springs housekeeping crew arrived at the Caliente Drive home and found what police described as a pentagram laid out with bamboo sticks on a shaggy cream-colored rug in the living room.

The vandals had turned every chair upside down and hung every picture backward. They filled the toilet with decorative branches, which were taken from within the residence.

Owner Chris Fisher said the group used soap to write "Blood" across his television screen and what appeared to be "Pigz" on a glass door. "Helter Skelter" was scrawled on the tiled fireplace.

Fisher, who is from Costa Mesa and runs a sales and marketing business, said he was alarmed when police told him about what they described as a "satanic ritual burglary," especially because he thought the markings were written in blood.

But he concluded the event was "pretty innocuous" after seeing the police photographs.

"I think it was drunk kids," Fisher said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I don't think it was a ritual. They didn't even bring a candle or blood or an animal, so I don't think that's what it was."

"Who would use soap to write 'Helter Skelter'?" he said. "It's not even the right medium."

Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden said he was not aware of any similar incidents in recent years in Palm Springs. Sgt. Mitch Spike of the Palm Springs Police Department said the last incident he recalled was a poolside killing of a small animal more than 20 years ago.

Spike said investigators lifted fingerprints from the home and believe the vandals broke in through a sliding glass door.

"I don't know whether it has anything to do with" the Manson slaying anniversary "or if it's a bunch of kids who happened to read about it and did it on a dare," Spike said. "I don't think it was someone terribly destructive. They messed things up a bit, but they could have caused a whole lot more damage."

Oden said the vandals appeared to be having a twisted "retro moment." "If it was a hate crime or anything like that, we have zero tolerance for that," Oden said.

On Aug. 8, 1969, Manson and his followers embarked on a crime rampage that terrorized the city. They killed Tate and four guests in her Benedict Canyon estate in the middle of the night, smearing the word "Pig" on the front door in blood.

Two days later, police discovered the bodies of supermarket owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, who were killed in their Los Feliz home by Manson devotees after Manson tied them up. The killers wrote "Death to pigs" on a wall and "Healter Skelter," which was misspelled, on the refrigerator door.

The prosecutor, who proved Manson had ordered followers to carry out the killings, alleged that the use of the term Helter Skelter, from the title of a Beatles song, was evidence of Manson's desire to use the killings to incite a race war.

Fisher said nothing was taken from his home, which he left on Aug. 14, three days before the burglary.

He said even if police find the perpetrators, he's not inclined to press charges. But he said he planned to meet with security technicians in the next few days.

The next time he leaves, he said, he'll remember to activate the alarm.


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