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Brown weighs parole for Manson family member

Parole board urges release of Bruce Davis, who was convicted in the deaths of Gary Hinman and Donald 'Shorty' Shea.

February 04, 2013|By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times
  • Bruce Davis, a onetime member of the Manson family, has been recommended for parole.
Bruce Davis, a onetime member of the Manson family, has been recommended… (California Department…)

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has about a month to decide whether to release a former follower of notorious killer Charles Manson from prison.

Bruce Davis, 70, has been behind bars since 1970, convicted with Manson of the murder of a musician and a stuntman. He was not involved in the Manson family's infamous 1969 slayings of Sharon Tate and four others in a Benedict Canyon home.

For the second time, a state parole panel has determined that Davis should be freed. The parole board forwarded the decision to Brown on Friday, starting a 30-day period for the governor to agree, request a full board hearing or reverse the decision.

PHOTOS: The Manson family murders

Davis is incarcerated at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, where he has a clean record and is active in prison ministries, his lawyer told the parole officials. A prisons panel first granted him parole in 2010, citing his record and his completion of rehabilitation programs.

Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed the decision. Davis won a legal challenge to the reversal but lost last year on appeal.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey has urged Brown not to release Davis. In a three-page letter to the governor Jan. 24, she described Davis as Manson's "right-hand man" and said he poses an "unreasonable risk of danger to society."

"Davis has been diagnosed with narcissistic and antisocial personality traits," Lacey wrote. "He consistently blames everyone but himself for his criminal and antisocial behavior."

Davis was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and robbery for the deaths of Gary Hinman and Donald "Shorty" Shea.

Though Davis said he had a peripheral role in the murders, prosecutor Steven Kay and former Manson family member Barbara Hoyt described Davis as a prominent member of the Manson family who "wanted to be second in command."

Hinman, an aspiring musician whom Manson believed had a substantial inheritance, was held captive in his home for several days, tortured and ultimately stabbed to death. In her letter, Lacey contended that Davis held a gun on Hinman while Manson attempted to slice off the captive's ear.

A Black Panther symbol and the words "political piggy" were written on the walls of the home with what was later identified as Hinman's blood.

Shea, a ranch hand who lived with the Manson family, was killed in August 1969 because Manson believed him to be a police informant. Lacey cited witnesses who testified that Davis bragged of his part in Shea's stabbing death.

Shea's widow, Phyllis Murphy, sent her own plea to the governor.

"The details of this [heinous] murder are like a story with description of something only a very evil person would take part in," she wrote. "If Bruce Davis is set free, how safe will the neighbors be, will he be allowed to take yet another life?"

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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