The Ballad of Little Patty, Part Two

In Part One of this series, I documented what little we knew about Madaline Cottage (or Madeline Joan Cottage) aka Patricia Baldwin aka Shirley Amanda McCoy aka Linda Lou Baldwin, known as Little Patty or Crazy Patty within the Manson Family.

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October 1969 mugshot of ‘Madeline Joan Cottage’ of the Manson Family

During the course of my three years researching and writing The Manson Family: More to the Story, I came to the conclusion that many of the women were ‘trafficked’ into their relationship with the Family — by Charlie or Bobby Beausoleil or Bill Vance (true name possibly William Rex Cole). As a woman myself, this gave me a particular empathy for these women — yes, even the ones who committed murder — because I know women personally who have been trafficked at similar ages. I know what terrible costs they have paid for decisions made when they were not fully in control of their lives.

I set off, during my research, to debunk that Helter Skelter was the primary motive for the Tate/LaBianca murders and feel confident that I proved that while HS was a motivating factor, it was not the reason why the killers were sent to Cielo and Waverly Drives, to kill their victims. I am satisfied that the primarily/secondary motives I wrote about (with four underlying motivations including Helter Skelter) are a reasonable explanation for the crimes committed by the notorious Manson Family. Some may disagree — there are still conspiracies abounding — but at this point, very few informed observers believe that Charlie told people to kill innocent men and women exclusively to start a race war.

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Charles Manson, November 1969 — the day he was formally charged with the Tate/LaBianca murders

So, the first imperative of my research and the book that followed, was to find a more reasonable explanation and motive beyond Helter Skelter. Again, I feel I was successful. Unbeknownst to me, however, a secondary purpose rose during the course of my writing:

It is imperative that survivors of cults speak out. When we understand the dynamics of why they joined their cults and even why they committed crimes on behalf of those cults and sects, we begin to have a richer and more defined understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses. As I argued in the book,

“We can rightly ask why people stay in such demeaning, dangerous situations, which is why it is imperative that survivors of cults speak out. Susan Atkins, Tex Watson, Paul Watkins, Dianne Lake and Lynette Fromme have written books on their experiences with Charles Manson and that is a good thing. Even those who committed murder on Charlie’s orders have something valuable to teach us today.”

— The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing, Published June 2019 from Swann Publications

Do I expect the surviving members of the Manson Family to all speak out about their time with Charlie? No, I think it’s safe to presume that if they haven’t spoken out before, they likely won’t now.

But do I think that these people — particularly the women — should? Yes, I do. I guess that’s been my underlying motivation — how can we present the story of the Manson Family in a way that doesn’t further isolate the survivors from the rest of society, that doesn’t exaggerate their reprehensible crimes, and doesn’t humiliate those who committed them? I’m not saying we shouldn’t PUNISH criminals — but how else can we really understand what led to the murders if we don’t listen — with compassion and respect — to those who do tell us their stories? I never intended to write a book that glorified the Family or their crimes and I would argue that I haven’t. But you aren’t wrong in assuming that I do empathize with many of these young people — particularly the girls and women — and hope that we can create a more encouraging environment for them to stand up and tell their truth, should they ever wish to do so.

But for some reason, this young lady — Madeline Joan Cottage / Little Patty — her potential story really got into my head. I don’t fully understand the reason. We knew so little of her, based upon the book Helter Skelter and other writings about the Family. But I’m a woman who operates based largely upon intuition and so when my gut told me to follow this trail, I obeyed.

The trail led from Canoga Park — where Madeline was living when she sold a VW bug to a shop in Chatsworth who later discovered the vehicle had been stolen off their own back lot — to Spahn Ranch, where Little Patty was relegated (along with Big Patty aka Katie, true name Patricia Krenwinkel) to watching the little kids, to Barker Ranch where Little Patty was again watching the kids and one of the first women to be arrested, to a small house in Venice Beach where she lay beside a young man who was (perhaps) about to take his own life.

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Spahn Ranch, a 500-acre former Western movie backdrop, became the home of the Manson Family cult from 1968–1969.

From there, we know that Little Patty went to Missouri with Vance/Cole, Claudia Leigh Smith (who was pregnant in 1970) and a young California college student named John Weaver, to a farm in Western Missouri. There, the four (plus Smith’s baby Dawn) set up shop as ‘Nubian Farms’ and attempted (miserably) to grow tomatoes. Sometime in the summer of 1971, Little Patty had a nervous breakdown, burned down a building on the farm property and her parents came out from Pittsburgh to retrieve her. Rumor had it that she went into a mental hospital in Memphis Tennessee.

But in all my searches, I found nothing about Madeline or Madaline Joan Cottage. We had her arrest information from Venice, which listed her name as Madaline Joan Cottage and her aliases. It also showed her date and location of birth, and her physical description. So why couldn’t I find any trace of anyone named Madeline Joan Cottage, born May 1946 in Sewickley Pennsylvania?

Then, about a month ago, I searched on genealogy sites for Madeline. I found nothing. But when I began searching under her aliases, I got a hit using the name “Patricia Baldwin”. I found a high school senior named Pat Baldwin, who attended high school in a northern suburb of Pittsburgh.

I had to look at that middle picture of a ‘Pat Baldwin’ several times, to determine — could this be her? Might this be the woman I was looking for? At first I figured I must be wrong, and went off on another hunt for her information. But I returned to this picture a few hours later, and determined — by looking at the set of the chin and the look in her eyes — that this might very well be her. Plus, a 1964 graduate would likely have been born in 1946, the year of Patty’s birth.

And then, I got really lucky. It turns out that the entire 1964 yearbook for this high school was at the site I was using. Patricia ‘Pat’ Baldwin didn’t just have one picture — oh no, she had several!

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Here’s Pat (top image, back row, in nurse’s costume) in the school play

In fact, Pat Baldwin was in a dozen or more clubs at her high school. She was, in fact, a cheerleader!

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Patricia Baldwin as a High School Senior Cheerleader

I especially loved the next two images. Here’s a classroom photo of Pat and on an adjoining page, a list of what each of the seniors was planning for their future:

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I mean, she said it right in her high school yearbook — she wanted to go to California and become a hat check girl? She was in the Drama Club after all — sounds like she had a flare for the dramatic! Maybe that’s how she met Bill Vance — working as a hat check girl in some nightclub in Hollywood.

So I had found our Little Patty and she wasn’t Madeline Joan Cottage after all. How did nobody else ever figure out before that we had the name wrong for 50+ years? I’m a decent little armchair detective, but I’m no serious investigator. I’m certainly not law enforcement. Why didn’t the police eventually figure out her true name?

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An August 1969 mugshot of Patricia Baldwin aka Madeline Joan Cottage, taken during an auto theft raid at Spahn Ranch

My search for who Little Patty was resulted in these efforts. But the question lingered of what had become of her. Did she really go to a mental hospital in Tennessee? Did she witness something in Missouri that caused her to panic and lose her mind? Could something terrible have happened to her? Might Bill Vance have murdered Miss Baldwin to keep her silent about his role in the death of Shorty Shea, or John Phillip Haught, or something else he had done?

Stay tuned as we continue to unwind this story. The good news is that Little Patty didn’t wind up six feet under, back in Missouri. She is alive and in the next installment, I’ll tell you how I found her.

Interested in learning more about the Manson Family? Download our book or join our Audio Book Club membership for just $9.99 and listen while you’re isolating at home.

(This blog originally appeared at https://www.mansonfamily.net/)

Read the conclusion of this series:

Written by

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series. https://www.mansonfamily.net/

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