The Strange Death of Joel Pugh

His throat slit twice, slash marks on both wrists — was Joel really a suicide, or another murder by the Manson Family?

Joel Pugh (1940–1969)

If you follow stories about the Manson Family, you’ll notice that one of the (still) most ardent members is Sandra ‘Sandy’ Good aka ‘Blue’. Sandy not only supported Charles Manson during his trials, she has never wavered in her support that the Family was only doing exactly what they should have been doing: waging war against the establishment, including the military-industrial complex.

Sandra Good interviewed in 1985. The comment at the beginning of this news segment that Manson was the father of her child was inaccurate: her son Ivan was fathered by Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil.

Sandra joined the Family in late March 1968, when she was 23-years old.

Originally from San Diego, Sandra Collins Good was the eldest of four sisters, born to a wealthy stockbroker and his society wife. Sandy was an intelligent, sensitive girl who suffered from severe respiratory infections as a child. She had numerous scars on her throat from early surgeries. An exceptional high school student, Good then matriculated first to the University of Oregon and later, San Francisco State College.

When Sandra met Charles Manson and his Family, she was visiting the Los Angeles area with her boyfriend, Joel Pugh.

Joel and Sandra, photographed at Christmas 1967 in his parent’s home

Joel, almost four years older than his girlfriend (born June 7, 1940) was a lab technician at the University of San Francisco who also had served a stint in the U.S. Army. Originally from Minnesota, he also held a degree in zoology. Joel was offbeat and quirky and had a rather protective nature when it came to the high-strung Sandy. He defended her to his friends who did not understand the attraction. In fact, many of his peers disliked Sandra Good. But Joel loved her — she was also his first sexual relationship. Joel saw her gravitate toward Manson during this visit and was discomfited.

“When she started hanging around with Manson, Joel was extremely embarrassed about it. He regarded Manson as a phoney {sic}, who was very full of himself and a sort of embarrassing character. He didn’t want Sandy to have anything to do with a guy like that; sort of uncool by association… Manson was what Joel, in his own words, would have called ‘a Gnarl’.” — Joel’s brother Daniel Pugh, original source unknown

Sandy and Joel went back to San Francisco, but Sandy returned alone a few days later. She flew to L.A. in a private jet on April 1st, bringing her $2000 monthly trust fund. She became Charlie’s new favorite cutie. That very night, Sandy was initiated through group sex into Manson’s growing tribe.

Sandra Good

Joel tried, for many months, to plead with Sandra not to follow Manson. He was especially worried that Charlie and the Family were taking advantage of her trust fund. Sandra walked away from her former life, even leaving behind a roommate and valuable items in the apartment they’d shared, to join the Family.

Joel soon sank into a deep depression, following Sandra leaving him for Manson. He continued to reach out to his former girlfriend, begging her to reconsider. His depression continued, and he quit his job and moved back home with his folks in Minnesota.

A year later, Sandra contacted Joel and let him that she was pregnant. She asked him if he would permit her to use his surname for the child, once they were born. Joel said no, but that didn’t stop his ex-girlfriend.

Mugshot photo of Sandra Good dated August 8, 1969. She was arrested with Manson Family member Mary Brunner for use of stolen credit cards at a San Fernando Sears store. She was eight months pregnant at the time of her arrest.

On September 16th, Sandra Good gave birth to her son, Ivan (she called him Cho). The infant was delivered in a Los Angeles hospital after Sandy spent nearly three days in labor. She claimed Joel Pugh as the father of her infant son on his birth records, even though she knew that Bobby Beausoleil was actually the father and Joel had refused her request. She also listed her own name as Sandra Pugh on the birth certificate.

At the time, Joel was in London, studying at Scientology’s headquarters. He’d spent the past several months traveling around the world — Spain, Morocco and even South America. He was so depressed by this point that he was despondent. While in London, he checked into the Talgarth Hotel at 7 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith. While at the Talgarth, hotel staff noticed that he was pleasant but seemed sad, and consumed nothing but coffee and marijuana.

Joel playing guitar

On December 1, 1969, hotel staff found his body after the cleaning crew informed the manager that they were getting no response when knocking at the door.

“He was lying on his back, unclothed except for a sheet over his lower body, his throat slit twice, slash marks on both wrists, and two bloody razor blades nearby… Mr. Pugh had checked into the room on October 27, accompanied by an unknown young woman who had left after three weeks. His room was on the ground floor and could be entered and exited through a window. No fingerprints were taken, and the case was listed as a suicide and closed.” — The Family by Ed Sanders ©2002 Thunder’s Mouth Press

It does seem odd that a person committing suicide would slash their own throat. But perhaps he just wanted to make sure the blood drained out of him as quickly as possible, so he wouldn’t change his mind.

At the time Joel’s body was found, Los Angeles prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi had just been assigned the case and was preparing for the upcoming grand jury. He was suspicious of the finding of ‘suicide’ for one notable reason: Family member Bruce Davis had been in London, also studying at the Scientology headquarters, at the same time. Was there a connection?

Scotland Yard later responded to an inquiry by the Inyo County district attorney for more information about Bruce Davis’s departure from London:

“It has been established that Davis is recorded as embarking at London airport for the United States on 25th April 1969 while holding U.S. Passport 612–2568. At this time he gave his address as Dormer Cottage, Felbridge, Surrey. This address is owned by the Scientology Movement and houses followers of this organization. The local police are unable to give any information concerning Davis but they understand that he has visited our country more recently than April, 1969. However, this is not borne out by official record.” — Interpol statement

The full letter from Interpol about Davis’ departure from London

Joel was found dead on December 1st, and police believed he had committed suicide only the night before. His body was found in the afternoon. Bruce Davis flew back to Los Angeles in the early morning of that same day, and would have gone to Heathrow Airport at least an hour or two before his flight. The suspicion that Bruce might have killed Pugh seems unlikely (unless Joel had been dead a couple of days before the discovery of his body). Davis was already in the air, when Joel was found. And we know of no reasons why Bruce Davis or anyone else in the Manson Family would have wanted Joel dead. He was sad, depressed, but certainly no threat to them.

When an American citizen dies outside of the country, there is an official form that must be filled out by the U.S. consulate or embassy in the country where that citizen died.

Joel Pugh’s Death Report

Sandra Good has never spoken about her former boyfriend, the late Joel Pugh. Her son continues to use the surname of the man who became so depressed after Sandy dumped him, that he killed himself. Was Joel Pugh’s death really a suicide — or was he another victim of the Manson Family?

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

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