Former Charles Manson cult member denied parole for 1969 killings

Court TV with Associated Press/September 28, 2005
By Samantha Murphy

A former member of serial killer Charles Manson's cult family who was convicted in two of the nine 1969 brutal slayings was denied parole Tuesday before a state board panel.

Bruce Davis, 62, has gone before the panel at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo more than 20 times.

Although the Louisiana native did not commit the infamous slaying of pregnant actress Sharon Tate or any of the other eight murders, a jury in 1972 decided his presence during the deaths of musician Gary Hinman and stagehand Donald "Shorty" Shea warranted life in prison.

Despite being a key player in the Manson family crimes, Davis is less publicly known than other Manson family murderers, including Patricia Krenwinkel, Charles Watson, Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten — none of whom have received opportunities for parole.

Davis met Manson in the spring of 1968 and moved onto his commune at the Spahn Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif.

Davis, along with about 30 others, lived in tents and buildings used on old movie sets. In exchange for housing, the group took care of the ranch for owner George Spahn and became a close-knit cult led by Manson.

"I sort of adopted Manson as my father," Davis reportedly said.

After they killed nine people, Manson persuaded his followers to ignite a race war by attempting to pin the killings on African-Americans. He imagined that after the war began, he would make himself leader of the black community and take refuge in the desert.

Manson warned his followers of an approaching race war, which he named "Helter Skelter" after a Beatles song.

The killers spelled the phrase in blood on the refrigerator at the Tate crime scene.

Although Davis did not participate in the murders, his indifference and attendance was enough to convict him.

"I was never a vicious person, but I was indifferent," Davis reportedly said in 2004. "I wanted the immediate approval of the people I was with and I didn't care what they did."

After his first 10 years in prison, Davis met his wife Beth through the prison ministry. The couple married and conceived their only child behind bars.

According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Davis spends his days reading theology books, playing songs on guitar and working in the prison's Protestant chapel.

"I am very sorry," Davis reportedly told a parole judge in April 2004. "I'm without excuse; I have no defense for what I did. I feel terrible."

He has said, however, that sitting in front of the parole board feels pointless.

"Sometimes when I'm in there, I'm like, 'Why am I here?'" he reportedly said. "It's like they know that I know nothing's going to happen. But we sit there and make nice."

Davis likely will face the parole panel again next year.

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