The First Manson Family Murder

to protect their alliance with an outlaw biker gang, a friend was savagely killed 51 years old this week

On July 26th, 1969, three members of the Manson Family were driven from Spahn Ranch (in Chatsworth, Simi Valley) to Topanga Canyon. Those three members included Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner (the first member of Charles Manson’s so-called Family) and Susan Atkins, aka Sadie Mae Glutz.

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Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins

They were driven to Topanga by another Family member, Bruce Davis, and Danny DeCarlo, treasurer of the outlaw motorcycle club, the Straight Satans. Beausoleil was sent to the home of Gary Hinman, a friend of the Family, to collect on money that had been paid to him on a drug deal.

It did not go well.

First, after Charles Manson was released from federal prison in March 1967 and moved to San Francisco, he began meeting young people who were impressionable and seeking answers. Charlie, with years of tutoring by pimps and a solid education in coercion thanks to the reading material he gained access to while serving time on auto theft, check forgery and pimping charges. Those studies included Scientology, as well as self-improvement books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Charlie quickly made a name for himself in the counterculture movement in San Francisco as ‘the Gardener’ — a wise and whimsical figure trip-trip-tripping down the Haight with his guitar and some tabs of acid. Young people — runaways, students, the forgotten souls of the era — gravitated to him. People like Mary Brunner, an assistant librarian at UC Berkeley who was passionate about the environment and lonely, after moving to California two years before from Wisconsin. Or Lynette Fromme, a cheeky redhead who got thrown out of her family home by her volatile father. Or Patricia Krenwinkel, a file clerk at an insurance company who was living with her drug-addict older sister, and a nephew, feeling lost and unloved. Or Susan Atkins, who lost a mother at 14 to cancer and spent the next five years submerging herself in a steady stream of drugs, crime, stripping and volatile relationships with married men.

These young women found in Charlie a kind and supportive soul, a father figure, a guru. They joined him in the fall of ’67 on board an old school bus painted black, making their way up and down California’s highways and biways, and throughout the southwest.

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Charles Manson

By early ’68 they were ensconced at a house in Topanga Beach just months away from being condemned, its’ first floor utterly unlivable after a series of floods eroded the foundation and blanked the first level in sand. Known as the Spiral Staircase, the Manson Family got permission from the owner to squat at the property until it was condemned, and they were living there when they met both Bobby Beausoleil and Gary Hinman.

“Robert ‘Bobby’ Beausoleil, 23, was raised in Santa Barbara, the youngest of five children. Bobby was a self-taught musician who moved to Los Angeles as a teen. He and Arthur Lee (of the later band Love) formed a music act (‘The Grass Roots’) and it is rumored that Love was named for Bobby, aka ‘Cupid’.

In ’67, Bobby moved to San Francisco and got involved with filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Their cinematic collaboration fell apart during filming of Lucifer Rising (Bobby played the lead role and took over soundtrack duties from Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy Page who stepped down to focus on other responsibilities). Beausoleil was alleged to have absconded with the score. He fled back to Southern California and began a series of musical and personal meanderings. He met Manson at the Spiral Staircase, while attempting to break into Hollywood’s film industry.

‘The first time I met the Manson people was at the Spiral Staircase…’ Bobby recalled. ‘There was… a party going on — people smoking pot and playing music… I sat down, I listened for a while and I picked up this thing called a melodica. I picked it up and started improvising some counterpart melodies, which kind of blew everyone’s mind — maybe they were all loaded on acid.’[1]

Bobby was mercurial, mischievous and gorgeous. He had many admirers, women and men alike. Bobby Beausoleil was never an official Manson Family member until perhaps summer of 1969. And his friendship with Charlie didn’t begin as competition but maybe it ended as such.

Bobby later acknowledged that he was molested at age 13 by an older man. Bruce Davis was also the victim of a sexual predator as a boy. It made both of them susceptible to the manipulations of a more experienced, more forceful man like Manson. Davis told a parole board why he was drawn to someone like Charlie: ‘Attraction to what I saw as a powerful, talented person, a man.’[2]

Bobby was known as an eccentric dude, sometimes walking around Los Angeles with a falcon on his shoulder. The night they met, Bobby began bragging to Charlie about his music connections, including Frank Zappa. Beausoleil wasn’t into tethering himself to a guru but he did want to play music with Manson.

A few days later, Charlie dropped in on Bobby, who was staying in Topanga with a fellow musician and chemist named Gary Hinman, at a comfy two-story hillside house. Gary was welcoming, mild-mannered and warm-hearted. According to members of the Family, Hinman was gay and may have been attracted to Bobby. But because he was shy, he was reticent to act on his feelings so he simply became a dutiful friend, welcoming Bobby anytime he needed a place to stay. Later, his generosity extended to others in the Family.

Charlie met Hinman and dug him, quite a bit. Gary was a versatile musician — maybe he had industry contacts, Charlie surmised. Manson liked Hinman even more when he learned the chemist sometimes made speed in his basement. Plus, he had two cars and was willing to loan them to good friends. Charlie made sure that Gary knew that he considered him a very dear friend. He also encouraged Mary and Sadie to cozy up to Hinman as much as possible.” — From The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing, published June 2019 from Swann Publications (featuring the following citations: [1] Bobby Beausoleil interviewed by Michael Moynihan, printed in Apocalypse Culture as edited by Adam Parfrey ©2000 Feral House Publishing; [2] Bruce Davis, from his 2004 Parole Hearing)

Gary Hinman

During the spring of 1968, Manson and his women bounced back and forth between the Spiral Staircase and various homes in the Topanga area. That included Gary Hinman’s house. After an April ’68 arrest for public nudity (the school bus broke down in Oxnard, California and when police came upon the scene, everyone was naked), at least two members of the Family stayed with Gary, waiting for the fuzz to chill out.

During the summer of 1968, Mary Brunner, Pat Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and two other women were arrested in Mendocino, California on charges including drug dealing and solicitation. Mary was accused of being the ringleader, and threatened with losing her son (baby Valentine Michael was born in April, his father was Charles Manson) and during the aftermath of the arrest, Gary allowed Mary to use his address with Social Services, to help her get formula for the baby and prevent them from placing the child in foster care.

Susan Atkins also had a baby boy, Ze Zo Ze Ce Zadfrack, born in October ’68. She believed that Manson used her son and Mary’s to leverage them into joining Bobby at Hinman’s the following July.

But the events that led to Hinman’s death started in mid-July 1969, just after Charlie shot a black drug dealer. He mistakenly thought that the man died, and that he was a member of the militant Black Panther Party, and believed that he was in fear for his life by retaliation from the Panthers. He wanted to escape Spahn Ranch, where the Family was living that summer, and hide in Death Valley but didn’t have the money to get out of Dodge.

So, when he heard a rumor that Gary Hinman, that gentle Buddhist and friend, had come into money (also untrue, by the way), he decided to pressure Gary to join the Family. Gary declined, and denied that he had any money to give Charlie. In fact, he explained, what little money he had was being used to fund a trip to Japan later that summer, a religious excursion he was taking with his parents. So no thanks, he said, I’m not interested in ‘joining’ you.

But Manson had a temper, and by the summer of ’69 it was flaring. It’s the reason he shot Bernard ‘Lotsapoppa’ Crowe, a drug dealer that another member of the Family (Charles ‘Tex’ Watson) had robbed of $2500. It’s why he was using more and more hard narcotics, which contributed to his ‘revelation’ about Helter Skelter.

Helter Skelter, coined in homage to the Beatles song from their 1968 release The White Album, was Manson’s vision of a global race war. A black-on-white apocalypse that ultimately would kill most caucasions, and put himself into a position of leadership.

When he met the outlaw motorcycle group the Straight Satans in Spring of ’69, with their vast knowledge of weaponry and collective might and unity, he envisioned them helping him survive the coming war.

“He thought the Straight Satans would be an army for us. He used the girls to attract them.” — Catherine ‘Gypsy’ Share, from the documentary Manson ©2009 The History Channel

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The Straight Satans, an outlaw motorcycle club based in Venice, California. Club Treasurer Danny DeCarlo is in the back row, center, with the dark shirt and holding a can of beer.

So in the summer of ’69, with constant police presence around them (the Family were being surveilled on auto theft suspicion), money scarce, new Family members joining, derelict conditions at Spahn Ranch, increasing worries that some of his members were going to defect, and potentially lose his connection to the Straight Satans, Charlie was scrambling. That’s why he called Gary, and he continued to ask around to see if anyone knew anybody with money.

Meanwhile, Bobby Beausoleil had joined the Family at Spahn Ranch early that summer, along with his pregnant girlfriend, Kitty Lutesinger. Bobby began to become enamored of the Straight Satans, himself.

“I was a wanna-be. I wanted to be accepted. I was building a bike. I liked the lifestyle, the whole motorcycle culture. The bike lifestyle represented a kind of freedom that I longed for. I wanted to ingratiate myself with the club, and when I heard that they were looking to get some sort of party drug, I offered to score for them.” — Bobby Beausoleil, from the docuseries Helter Skelter: An American Myth, currently airing on EPIX, copyright 2020

So, Bobby borrowed either $1,000 or $2,000 from Straight Satans’ club treasurer Danny DeCarlo (there are conflicting reports about just how much the loan was for) to procure mescaline for their July 26th 10-year anniversary party. Bobby went to Gary, who had enough product made from his home-manufactured batch to provide. In fact, Bobby also got Gary to give him some extra mesc, for the Family, with a promise to pay him back later.

Bobby hoped that this offering would get him an invite to that anniversary party. But that didn’t happen.

“The next day, several bikers showed up at Spahn Ranch to confront him. They knocked him around, threatened him with a knife and said that he’d given them a bad batch of drugs. The bikers insinuated that both Bobby and Gary had intentionally conspired to burn them.

As Manson explained… ‘The bikers said the latest batch of stuff he had sold them was bad, laced with poison. Some of their own group had gotten deathly ill and some of the people they sold to were also sick. They wanted their money back. Bobby told them to give him the unused mescaline and he would return it to his connection and then give their money back… The three guys fired up their bikes and pulled out of the yard, saying they wanted to hear from us the next day. Bobby and I discussed the validity of their complaint. None of our group had gotten sick, but we weren’t sure if we had used the same batch… I got Gary on the phone and told him what was going on. Gary said he didn’t see how the stuff could have been bad, he hadn’t had any complaints from anyone else. Bring the stuff back and he would take a look at it. When I told him there wasn’t anything to bring back, he said ‘Hell, Charlie, I can’t buy that, it’s not good business.’ He was right, I wouldn’t have gone for it myself, but Bobby and I were in a cross and neither of us had two thousand we wanted to hand over to the bikers. ‘Tell you what, Gary, give us enough stuff to turn two thousand, we’ll pay the guys their bread and then catch up with you later.’ ‘Can’t do that’ he said, ‘I’m getting things together so that I can go overseas for a few weeks, besides, you guys still owe me some on the last stuff you got.’ His refusal and reference to the money we owed made my blood surge to the top of my head. I was instantly mad and told him, ‘You cocksucker, you can’t leave me hanging like this, your shit was bad and I got people on my case because of it. Now make it right!’ I slammed the phone down and muttered something like, ‘I outta kill the motherfucker.’ I told Bobby we would go see him later. ‘He’s got enough money to take us off the hook, but the queer bastard’s going to let us hang for his bad shit’… I told Bobby, ‘It’s in your hands, handle it any way you see fit, but get those bikers off our backs.’ That evening, Bobby, Susan and Mary said they were going to Gary’s…[1]

Bobby was given a handgun by Danny DeCarlo and told to keep it concealed unless Hinman failed to return the money. Then, he should use the gun to intimidate Gary into returning the cash. Danny and Bruce drove Bobby and the women to Hinman’s house.” — From The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing, published June 2019 from Swann Publications. Featuring citation from Charles Manson quoted in Manson: In His Own Words as told to Nuel Emmons ©1986 Grove Press

When the three arrived at Gary’s, Bobby stepped aside and told the women to go knock on the door, smile and act like everything was nice, and gain entry. Then, if Gary was alone, they were to signal him at the window using a lighted match.

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964 Old Topanga Canyon Road in July 1969

Mary and Susan approached 964 Old Topanga Canyon Road and knocked at the door. Gary greeted them, although not as warmly as he would have in the past. He was upset about the phone call with Manson (both calls, including the call for money earlier in the month) plus the Family were making a bad name for themselves in his neighborhood by panhandling and petty theft. Gary was an honest and decent man. He was generous with people in need, but these people were becoming abusive and greedy.

They did find Hinman alone that day, so Susan walked into the kitchen and, standing before the window, lit a match to let Bobby know it was safe to enter.

Bobby and Gary immediately began arguing. Gary denied that the drugs could have been bad. Bobby told him it didn’t matter, they needed to return the money to the bikers. Gary argued that he had no money. Bobby told his friend to sign over the pink slips of his cars then, instead.

Things got more heated, and eventually there was a scuffle. Bobby and Gary fought, and Bobby handed Susan the gun, while he went to find the pink slips.

He returned to the kitchen to find Gary and Susan wrestling, and Gary in possession of the gun. Bobby intervened, and the gun went off.

Luckily for both Beausoleil and Hinman, neither were wounded. A bullet had struck one of the cabinets, but both men realized that things had gotten out of control, and began to calm down. Gary seemed to be considering signing those cars over, after all.

But Mary had called Spahn Ranch during the melee, and got Charlie on the phone. Now, he and Bruce Davis were on their way back to Topanga Canyon.

Charlie stomped up to the front door upon arrival, with a cutlass sword on loan from the Straight Satans in hand. As soon as he saw Gary, he angrily drew the sword down on Hinman’s ear, severing the top of the ear from his temple. Blood poured out, and Gary fell to his knees in anguish.

Charlie and Bruce then took back the gun that Bobby had, along with a set of bagpipes and one of Gary’s cars, and they split back to Spahn Ranch.

For the next day, Bobby and the women stood watch over Gary. In the early morning, Susan walked to a local market to buy dental floss and a needle, which she then used to sew Gary’s ear back. Bobby tried to reason with the injured man:

“Gary had shut down however and spoke little to Bobby and the women. He must have been very afraid.

Throughout the day on Sunday, one of the three remained awake while Gary rested. Bobby kept asking him for money and Gary remained steadfast that he had none to give. Once, someone called the house looking for Hinman. Sadie answered, using a phony British accent and told the caller he wasn’t home.

As she wrote, ‘After a couple days it became obvious that Gary certainly didn’t have any money. Bobby was on the phone several times in heated discussions with Manson, but I never knew what they were talking about.’[1]

Darkness fell over Topanga Canyon. Finally, Gary signed over the pink slips. Everything might have simmered over then — even if they didn’t get the money or more mescaline — if Gary had not asked the trio to drive him to the hospital. Bobby knew that if Hinman received medical attention, he would also potentially report this as a crime. Bobby had hit, punched and pistol-whipped Gary, and broke his tooth, but Manson had done worse damage, cutting Gary.

Panicked that:

· Gary would report Charlie to the police, and;

· Charlie would be arrested, and therefore;

· Charlie would unleash his vengeance on Bobby for getting him arrested and not taking care of Hinman as he should have, plus;

· Jeopardizing the Family by bringing down the Straight Satans after dealing them a bad batch of mescaline, thus;

· Sabotaging a very critical relationship when they needed it the most, and lastly;

· Knowing that Charlie was afraid of being arrested again (and would face a terrible sentence, believing that he was guilty of murdering a Black Panther that summer);

For these reasons, Bobby Beausoleil killed Gary Hinman, his friend. He killed Gary to protect himself from Charlie’s wrath.

He first stabbed Gary at least twice in the chest. Gary stumbled to the bathroom, then to the bedroom where he lay down, nearly unconscious. For the next several hours, Gary lay on the floor, barely alive. Someone brought him his Buddhist prayer beads and placed them in his hand. The women went around the house, cleaning up after themselves, wiping down fingerprints. At one point, Gary tried chanting, for peace and resolution. But after about four hours, he still had not perished. His breath turned raspy and anguished, but still he did not die. So, Mary and Sadie took turns holding a pillow over his face until finally, the gentle and nonviolent musician was still.

Mary took $20 out of Hinman’s wallet, while Sadie finished tidying up. As the women departed, Bobby daubed his hand in Gary’s blood, made a fist, imprinted a bloody paw mark on the wall and scrawled the words ‘Political Piggy’ beside it. Hinman was known as a leftist, who had read many books by Marx and Lenin and kept (what was considered) radical literature in his home. Charlie told Bobby to pin the murder on the Panthers, who were known to use words like ‘piggy’ to describe their adversaries.

Bobby and the women departed the house, only to hear a sound — a gurgling or perhaps a death rattle — through an open window. Bobby went back inside, discovered Hinman was still alive and stabbed him again. Finally, Gary was dead.

Bobby, Mary and Sadie then left in Gary’s VW, hotwiring the car to get it started. Mary brought the 9-millimeter gun used to beat Hinman with her. It was early dawn, Monday July 28th. The three drove to a nearby diner, where they ate coffee cake before returning to Spahn Ranch.” — From The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing, published June 2019 from Swann Publications (featuring citation from The Myth of Helter Skelter by Susan Atkins-Whitehouse ©2012 Menelorelin Dorenay)

Gary Hinman died on July 28, 1969. He was 34–years old.

Bobby was arrested for Gary’s murder on August 6th, just nine days later. He was found driving Gary’s car, the murder weapon still in the vehicle.

Two days later, Charlie found out about Bobby’s arrest and, in a panic that Beausoleil would place him at the scene of the crime, sent four members of his so-called Family to kill everyone at 10050 Cielo Drive, to start Helter Skelter — the ultimate distraction.

On August 9th and 10th, the Family killed five more people, plus the unborn infant that actress Sharon Tate was carrying.

They killed another man, a Spahn Ranch hand, two weeks later.

Bobby Beausoleil is 72-years old and serving a life sentence at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. In 2019 he was recommended for parole, but Governor Gavin Newsom overruled that recommendation. In 2020, he was denied for parole.

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Bobby Beausoleil today

You can read more about The Manson Family here:

Or more about Helter Skelter here:

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Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series.

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