The Ballad of Little Patty, Conclusion

In parts One and Two of this series, I documented how I learned that ‘Madeline Joan Cottage’ of the Manson Family aka Little Patty had been known for 50+ years to law enforcement and the public by a false name.

Her true name is Patricia Joan Baldwin. Madeline was one of several aliases that she used in 1969. Aliases were nom de guerre for the Family, allowing them to both adopt alternate personas at whim and elude the police.

Patricia Joan Baldwin may have had good reason to evade the law.

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Patricia Joan Baldwin, arrested October 1969 at Barker Ranch in Death Valley.

I began this series after spending several months trying to track down who ‘Madeline Joan Cottage’ was and where she may be now. My reasons included:

  • Natural curiosity about surviving members of the Family, particularly the women
  • Interest in her connection with William Rex Cole aka Bill Vance
  • Concern about her role in the ‘suicide’ of John Phillip Haught aka Zero

To recount: Miss Baldwin was introduced to the Family in the spring of 1969, possibly by Vance/Cole. We know that Cole (who already had a connection to Spahn Ranch prior to his involvement with the Family) had known Charlie some years earlier, when both were serving time together. Charlie later claimed that Cole had spent nine years at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Tennessee, where he won the title of Heavyweight Boxing Champion behind bars. Vance — or whatever the fuck his name is — is a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an enigma and I could write hundreds of blogs about him (and maybe still will). No searches under his many names and aliases have ever yielded pay dirt — although I know where to find the woman who may be his biological daughter, so will let you know if I ever chase that lead.

As it pertains to this story, the ballad of Little Patty, this author suspects that Vance/Cole (like Manson) was doing some pimping and in the late 60s met a number of starry-eyed young women in Hollywood who were looking for something to feed their souls. He brought some of those women — including Patricia Baldwin, Diane Von Ahn and perhaps Claudia Leigh Smith, to Charlie.

In her high school senior yearbook, Patricia Baldwin stated that her near-future goals included “California” and becoming a hat-check girl. We know that she made it to California but her fortunes were not to be found in a nightclub on the Sunset Strip. No, she wound up at Spahn Ranch along with dozens of other dreamers and derelicts and dirtbags and delinquents.

It was Little Patty who sold a VW bug on April 9, 1969 to Dale Butler of Butler’s Buggy Shop in Chatsworth, using the name Madeline Joan Cottage (hence why law enforcement believed that was her true name, and that myth persisted until this year when yours truly solved the mystery of who she really was). A few days after Butler purchased the VW, he realized that it actually had been stolen from his own storage yard and he called the police. Miss Baldwin listed the Gresham Street (Yellow Submarine) address on her paperwork with the Buggy Shop and police verified her connection to parolee Charles Manson. But they did not arrest him although this was the complaint that eventually led to a major raid at Spahn Ranch that summer.

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Charles Manson, arrested with other members of his Family during the August 1969 raid at Spahn Ranch. The raid took place one week after the Tate/LaBianca murders, although arresting officers were unaware of anything more than auto theft charges.

In her memoir, Lynette Fromme described Baldwin as:

a tough east coast girl… with cropped dark hair and what someone described as a cookie-dough complexion.

Reflexion by Lynette Fromme, published June 2019 by The Peasenhall Press

Lynette also remembered the following encounter with ‘Little Patty’:

as we were about to pass in the hallway, she approached me with that smile, and spoke to me with that voice, and before I understood her intention, she pressed herself into me, tenderly kissing my mouth.

Reflexion by Lynette Fromme, published June 2019 by The Peasenhall Press

‘Madeline Joan Cottage’ was then arrested in August 1969 at Spahn Ranch, related to the charges of auto theft stemming from her sale of a stolen VW to Butler’s Buggy Shop. During her August arrest she gave the name Shirley Amanda McCoy. During her October 1969 arrest at Barker Ranch, she told police her name was ‘Linda Baldwin’.

A month after her arrest in Death Valley, it was Patricia Joan Baldwin who lay by the side of John Phillip Haught in a small house in Venice Beach, where the young man allegedly picked up a nearby gun, spun the cylinder as if to play Russian Roulette and then shot himself dead. Allegedly, because it turns out the gun was fully loaded (there’s no roulette if the odds are stacked, right?) and the gun was later found by police, wiped clean of all prints.

I will admit that I really didn’t pursue the matter of Little Patty thinking that she was guilty of murder. There are lots of reasons why ex-Family members don’t step forward and announce themselves to the world.

We know that after the incident in Venice Beach, Little Patty soon left the scene. She was found nearly a year and a half later in western Missouri at a farm rented by Vance/Cole, Family member Claudia Leigh Smith and a young California college student named John Weaver. At the time, Claudia Smith was using the alias ‘Linda Baldwin’ and Patty was actually using her true name, although the authorities did not realize it. Miss Baldwin apparently had some kind of mental break in the summer of 1971, set a building on the property on fire, and was later escorted to a mental health facility in Memphis Tennessee by her parents, who lived in or near Pittsburgh.

Those are the facts that sent me on my pursuit for the truth. I discovered that Madeline Joan Cottage was the alias, and Patricia Joan Baldwin was her true name (Linda Baldwin — the alias she gave in Death Valley — was actually the name of her younger sister). I was able to successfully find Miss Baldwin — a graduate of a Pittsburgh-area high school. I was able to discover photographs of Miss Baldwin throughout her high school years and yes, I successfully found Patricia Baldwin today.

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Remember this photograph of the High School play that Patricia Baldwin appeared in (top left, nurse costume)? Well, take a closer look at the bottom row — there is an L. Baldwin also appearing in the same play. L. Baldwin is none other than ‘Linda Baldwin’ — Patty’s younger sister, dressed as an older man for her role in the school play.

First though, the tools that I used in locating her were genealogical. I’m part of a crack-team of DNA hounds known as ‘Resistance Genealogists’ — meaning, we research genealogy as a political tool (mostly to demonstrate the folly of current politicians and pundits who are doggedly determine to limit immigration into the US, by showing their own ancestors’ journeys to this country). I applied journalistic research to these genealogical methods — never trusting just one source, finding verification in official documents, and triple-checking family trees and other anecdotal resources.

When I shared my information with the team at MansonBlog, another Family-based blog site, I will admit that I felt pleased to have revealed something that nobody else (apparently) had figured out before. But I also received criticism about revealing this information about a private citizen to the public. I responded back that I didn’t plan to ‘out’ Miss Baldwin to her family or friends, nor did I plan to reveal her whereabouts to anyone else.

The issue was raised about whether it was appropriate to share photographs of this woman, considering that she has family who may not know about her role in these historic and sometimes macabre events from the past. I wavered, over the past two weeks, about what was the most responsible thing to do. Do I satisfy the curiosity of the true crime community and reveal one photo, a few bits of information? Or do I protect her, Patricia Joan Baldwin, a woman that we know has had mental health issues in her past? Plus, I obtained the most recent picture of her from a family member’s social media feed. Is that ethical? Is that fair?

Ultimately, I kept going back to the issue of Zero’s death. From the investigation files:

A slight young man who held Christopher Jesus’ head as he lay dying, said he is convinced the death was not a suicide. He said when he heard the gunshot, he entered the bedroom and found a young woman, another Manson follower, holding the gun lightly by the trigger guard.

’She told me: ‘Jesus shot himself,’” the young man said. ‘But she had this strange faraway smile on her face, as if she were saying to me: ‘his time had come, time for me to shoot him.’ You have to understand what those people believe: ‘That you are me, and I am you’ — to realize how their minds interlock, how she could have killed him and then said he did it’

He said that two nights after Jesus’ death the young woman stared glassily at him for several hours, while running her thumb across the blade of a long knife.

— Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1969

I altered some of the content I previously posted in this series, to remove information about the school where Patricia Baldwin attended and other details that would likely connect her past deeds to those who know her now. I have no interest in outing her to anyone she may potentially know — her family or even those she knew in the past. They don’t need to know that Patricia Joan Baldwin is the Madeline Joan Cottage who associated with the Manson Family.

But for those of us in the true crime community,, I also feel responsible. I started this journey to find out whether Miss ‘Madeline Joan Cottage’ had actually met with foul play, and I discovered that she did not. She is alive — a 73-year old woman, still living in the greater Pittsburgh area. She was married once, has a 44-year old daughter and grandchildren. Trish, as she is known today, lives a fairly quiet life. She rents an apartment in the town where she has lived for at least two decades. She continues to use her married surname, although she’s been divorced for many, many years. She came from a rather large family — some of her siblings have died, but several are still alive and also live in Pennsylvania (including her sister Linda).

If she is an innocent woman just trying to live her life, so many years removed from her time in California with the Family, then she deserves anonymity. But if she killed Zero, she deserves justice and for that reason, I am sharing her photo. I’m not in law enforcement and that isn’t my role to play. I remain curious about her, and the other women who fell into the trap set by Charles Manson and William Cole and other predators and someday, perhaps, there will be an opportunity to speak with some of those women and learn more.

Ultimately, I decided that as a member of the true crime community, that’s where my responsibility lay: to tell the truth as best I can and solve any remaining mysteries that linger.

This article originally appeared here — and if you really want to see the current photo, that’s where you’ll find it)

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