ZODIAC/MANSON : ConspiraZ Theory
Bill Nelson and Howard Davis were not the first to suspect a connection between the notorious Zodiac crimes and the brutal, bizarre slayings attributed to the so-called “Manson family.” Official documents reveal that investigators assigned to the Zodiac case had entertained the notion of a possible connection immediately after the arrest of career criminal Charles Manson and his murderous minions in late 1969. Manson’s followers had used the blood of their victims to leave frightening messages at the crime scenes, including the now-famous words, Healter Skelter. The Zodiac had used a black marker to write a message on a car door after stabbing two college-coeds. This behavior and the seemingly inexplicable nature of both crime sprees led investigators to wonder if the mesmerizing Manson had also masterminded the Zodiac murders. Members of the family were the subject of inquiries conducted by Special Agent Mel Nicolai of the California State Department of Justice, Homicide Inspector William Armstrong of the San Francisco Police Department, and others. However, these investigators were unable to find any link between the cult-like family and the Zodiac attacks, and the available evidence appeared to rule out any connection.
Confessed killer and Manson devotee Susan “Sadie” Atkins sold her confession while behind bars, and her statements appeared in a sensational paperback book. Atkins even agreed to testify against the other members of the family, including Manson, in exchange for a lighter sentence, but prosecutors later withdrew the deal. Tried alongside accomplices Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, Atkins joined Manson for the “trial of the century.” Family member Linda Kasabian turned witness for the prosecution and helped Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi to win convictions and death sentences for all four defendants. Another jury convicted and sentenced co-conspirator and cold-blooded killer Charles “Tex” Watson in a separate trial. Watson’s confession and claims of Christian rebirth appeared in the book, WILL YOU DIE FOR ME?
Fellow family members Bruce Davis and Steve “Clem” Grogan stood trial together for two other killings. Davis confessed that he, Grogan and others had participated in the murders of music teacher Gary Hinman, and ranch hand Shorty Shea, although the location of the Shea’s body remained unknown.
The sensational media coverage of the gruesome slayings and subsequent trials turned the menacing Manson family into the pop culture villains of the decade, rumored to be behind every strange or deadly occurrence, blamed for the death of the peace movement, and linked to depravity and decadence everywhere. Reports connected the infamous clan to black magic rituals, snuff films, and even The Process Church, Scientology and more. In his book THE FAMILY, author Ed Sanders wrote that authorities had investigated a possible connection between Manson and the Zodiac and discovered black, hooded ceremonial robes during a search of property used by the Manson family. Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi refuted the story of hidden hoods and many other unsubstantiated claims in his best-selling account of the case titled HELTER SKELTER. One member of the family even tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in an attempt to force Manson’s release from prison. Soon the case served as a magnet for morbid fans who admired Manson and his philosophy, crime buffs fascinated by celebrity murders, writers in search of a scoop, and crackpots seeking their fifteen minutes of fame.
As their reputations as vicious evildoers grew, most of Manson’s followers desperately tried to disassociate themselves from the maniac and the murders. In public interviews and parole hearings, Atkins, Krenwinkel, Van Houten, Watson, Davis and others claimed to be remorseful and rehabilitated. Steve Grogan eventually agreed to lead authorities to the missing body of Shorty Shea in exchange for his freedom.
By the late 1980’s, theories surrounding the mythical Manson family and the unsolved “Zodiac” crimes began to align amid rumors that one Zodiac victim, Darlene Ferrin, was involved in occult activity shortly before her death. According to witnesses who proved less than credible, Ferrin fell into a web of sinister intrigue and witnessed a murder. Despite a lack of evidence to support this claim and its dubious sources, reporter Dave Peterson often repeated the stories of an occult connection, and author Robert Graysmith included these tales in his 1987 book, ZODIAC. The 1988 edition of THE FAMILY featured an update in which former Inyo County District Attorney Frank Fowles revealed his suspicion that the Manson and Zodiac crimes were somehow connected. On page 406 (paperback edition), author Ed Sanders wrote:
I was surprised at the possible link between Zodiac and M (Manson). Fowles said he was very interested because the string of Zodiac killings first came to light in Vallejo, California. “I was deputy district attorney in Solano, County. The sheriff’s investigator in the first Zodiac-Vallejo killings was a good friend of mine.” Zodiac made of his taunting phone calls within line of sight of Frank Fowles office window. Manson, said Fowles, “came from the Bay Area around the time of Zodiac. There were unsolved murders up in the coastal region up around Mendocino County.” And then there was the connection with the English satanic society, which was active in the Bay Area at the time Manson was there, and other connections that, in the words of Mr. Fowles, “made it worth looking into.”
Sanders and Fowles did not provide details regarding these so-called “connections.”
Stories of satanic conspiracies and crime sprees also appeared in Maury Terry’s 1987 book, THE ULTIMATE EVIL. The highly speculative book linked Manson and his followers to the “Son of Sam” killings in New York via a worldwide network of bikers, drug dealers, child pornographers, snuff film producers and devil worshippers. Terry claimed that postal worker David Berkowitz, convicted for the series of shootings, was working with other satanists to create fear and terror as part of an elaborate plan to destabilize society.
In the early 1990’s, Maury Terry’s occult conspiracy came to the Zodiac story in segments produced for Geraldo Rivera’s tabloid television program, NOW IT CAN BE TOLD. Once again, victim Darlene Ferrin was the center of a plot designed by satanists behind the Zodiac murders. Citing the same questionable sources for the original rumors regarding Ferrin, Rivera and Terry told viewers that the occult connections held the key to solving the cold case.
The 1997 book MANSON: BEHIND THE SCENES by former Secret Service agent turned Manson expert Bill Nelson, presented the “missing Zodiac letter,” a document allegedly discovered among the possessions of murder victim Doreen Gaul. A young resident of the Church of Scientology house in Los Angeles, Gaul reportedly dated Manson follower Bruce Davis. Gaul and friend James Sharp were abducted, murdered and dumped in a downtown alley on November 21, 1969. The killer or killers had savagely stabbed and beaten both victims. Nelson claimed he had obtained the “missing” letter during a meeting with former Los Angeles Police Department Lieutenant Earl Deemer. Typed on white paper, the letter read:
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN FOOL THE OLD KILLER HA HA
L KNOW ALL YOUR MOVEMENTS AND THE TIME THEY ARE MADE
L TIME IS SHORT, ENJOY LIFE WHILE YOU CAN
YOU ARE TO BEAUTIFUL TO LIVE AND I MUST KILL YOU
THE ZODIAC KILLER
The author had added what appeared to be drawings of drops, perhaps blood or tears. This letter was signed “The Zodiac Killer,” although the Zodiac had never used this name and only referred to himself as “The Zodiac.”
While Nelson claimed that the Zodiac had sent the letter to Gaul, others were skeptical and believed the letter was a forgery meant to echo the typed and handwritten letters attributed to the Zodiac in another murder in Riverside, California.
Nelson’s claim of a connection between the Manson and Zodiac crimes seemed all the more plausible once he provided a shocking revelation on page 339 of his book.
Allow me to reveal something very important. I have a well respected, reliable source, who told me about an event in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, at the highest level. It was after the Manson family had been convicted, at a cost of more than a million dollars, that quite by accident, authorities found items used by ZODIAC in his crimes. There was a secret meeting held and it was decided that since the individual was being convicted for murder on unrelated murders, there would be no trial. Told to me in confidence, “He will not be getting out anyway, we have him on two, we will make sure he never sees the light of day again.”
Nelson’s source was fellow conspiracy theorist Howard Davis, author of the book, THE ZODIAC/MANSON CONNECTION. Published by Nelson’s Pen Power Publications in 1997, Davis’ book failed to provide any credible evidence to establish such a connection or the author’s conclusions. Rather, Davis offered vague allusions to the songs of The Beatles, unconfirmed accounts placing Manson family members in Northern California at the time of the Zodiac killings and other crimes, tenuous links to Manson and Zodiac related dates, unfounded speculation and more to convince readers. Davis used the same methods to connect Bruce Davis and others to many other murders.
Howard Davis often uses the title “Doctor” although he does not cite the source or subject of his education and doctorate. Co-founder of Dreamous Corp., Davis claims to use his knowledge of “homeopathy, nutrition, herbs, chiropractic and holistic therapiesm as well as psychology and the functions of the subconscious mind” to develop “nutriceutical” hair and skin products. Davis is also “a member of a number of prominent societies and associations,” and he has researched serial killers “since the early 1980’s.”
An expert on both the Manson and Zodiac cases, Davis presents testimonials from reporter Dave Peterson, publisher Bill Nelson, former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and others to support his theories and claims. When questioned by one Internet skeptic, Howard Davis responded with a terse and typical message board reply.
“Mr. Z newbe, flying off the handle … You don’t know the first thing about Bugliosi or his research, yet you make such brash statements – amazing. At first VB did not believe Davis was or could be the Zodiac, but this was BEFORE he was slowly given evidence over a long period of time (he is very busy and you have to speak to him by ‘appointment’) and he began looking at him with a different perspective.”
While Howard Davis was always eager to refer to Bugliosi when in need of an endorsement he apparently never bothered to tell the famous prosecutor that his fellow members of the District Attorney’s office had discovered evidence to prove a Zodiac/Manson connection but had conspired to conceal this discovery from Bugliosi and the rest of the world.
Prior to the publication of his book, Davis appeared as a guest on the radio program, THE PARANET CONTINUUM. Broadcast on a network devoted to UFO conspiracy theories, the program often featured guests making sensational and incredulous claims. Howard Davis proved to be an appropriate guest when he told listeners of the shocking conspiracy in the DA’s office while discussing the famous hooded costume used by the Zodiac.
“That (the hood) was one of the clues, or one of the pieces of information that was given to me, uh, that some evidence was uncovered accidentally investigating the Manson case, and this was later covered up. It was based on a lot of different factors I can’t go into. I can’t reveal my source but I can tell you that it’s genuine and that’s what really struck me, really got my interest, and years later it took root and I decided to investigate the Zodiac case.”
Davis also mentioned the Zodiac’s hood on page 51 of his book.
(Information was received several years ago that the hood and knife used in this attack were inadvertently recovered. The implications in the Manson trial, costs, etc… were such that this discovery had to be suppressed. The hood, knife and “other things” belonged to a male member of the Family.)
Stories regarding the discovery of the hood and the Manson/Zodiac conspiracy spread. In the years after the publication of Davis’ book, tabloid newspaper publisher Harry Martin ran a series of sensational and speculative articles about the Zodiac mystery and included a version of the Davis’ cover-up story.
The murder in Riverside of Cheri Jo Bates on October 30, 1966 and the murder of Cecilia Shepherd on September 27, 1969 at Lake Berryessa show that the victims were stabbed savagely and repeatedly – the act of a butcher. These murders were similar to the slaying of Charles Manson’s uncle in London and in the Sharon Tate murders – a knife was the weapon of choice by the murderer. Now consider that when Bruce Davis, a member of the Charles Manson Family, was arrested in Southern California law enforcement found the hood, weapons and other evidence linking Davis to those two murders. He has always remained the top suspect in the London murder, as well. Because the District Attorney in Southern California had an open and shut case on Davis for two unrelated “Zodiac” murders, the DA decided not to raise the issue of the other murders or the Zodiac issue for fear of complicating the case. After two San Francisco detectives went to Southern California and were confronted with the “Zodiac” evidence, they returned to the Bay Area and announced that they were no longer investigating the “Zodiac” case.
Davis frequently mentioned the cover-up in his many writings on Internet public message boards while alluding to the source of the conspiracy revelations. Davis provided more shocking revelations in one posting on Zodiackiller.com.
[Writer Ed] Sanders wrote a MS on Zodiac and Manson-you heard it first here! Also, Peter Folger (Folger coffee heir) whose sister was killed by the Family hired two top detectives to investigate a link between M and Zodiac. Actually, they came across the connection. I got my tip from a pristine source some time later-'74. It's a long story, but it's the first time I decided to bring it out. More on this in the future.
Repeated references to cover-up and the “tip” that launched Davis’ career as a Zodiac/Manson theorist led some skeptics and critics to question the veracity of his claims. Filmmaker, writer, and caustic message board regular Scott Bullock began to question Davis’ story in several message board posts. Bullock’s persistence led Davis to respond in an email in which he finally identified the source of his “tip” as his former brother-in-law. This email and a second message provided the details concerning the inner workings of the alleged conspiracy in the District Attorney’s Office.
In 1974 we had a very small family get together … My sharp as a tack brother in law was there. He was Assistant DA for the LA DA's Office and helped prosecute Manson and others … I clearly remember every detail of our conversation in 1974. He and I were at my dining table chatting and since I was from the N. Bay Area I asked him 'why he thought Zodiac stopped killing and writing letters, etc. or so it seemed to me as I knew very little about the case. He leaned slightly over towards me and in his usual still and very serious manner told me casually "because he is in prison!'" I said, "how can you know that as the authorities are all looking for him." He then told me that if I wouldn't "tell anyone"(while he was with the DA) he would tell me how he knew this 'secret' information. I assented. He said that as they 'were going through the personal effects' of a "male member of the Manson Family "they found the Zodiac hood, knife and other evidence. He would not go into the other evidence. In short, they had a meeting in which a legal expert on county law and in other legal matters (he was very experienced) told them in a report he had prepared that he estimated it cost "about two million" to send the suspect to N. CA to be tried as "Zodiac." They had spent just under one million which was a world record for a trial on CM and his group. The funds were not there. the Expert told them they could possibly lose him on the two 187's they already, but barely got him on, in '71/2 and he could possibly get off in such a liberal climate … as was found in the Bay Area. He mentioned jurisdictional disputes and many other reasons concerning the Z evidence at that time. After this and other discussions they decided to suppress what they had found and knew. They took the Expert's advice into conservation too. DA Younger knew of these matters. Bugliosi, Stovitz and others knew nothing of this, but in conversation B has come to believe that a CM/BD connection to Z is possible. He has written wishing me luck in uncovering the Z case. My brother in law then told me that "We have it set so that he can never get out." He also indicated that girlfriends and wives were very tired of the CM case in that their men were all working very long hours and they were all burned out and to think of going through an experience such as was given would be even more difficult. This was the last consideration. They felt they had this guy in for good now and that any penalty would be the same or life in prison so they did what they did. I did not and do not agree, but it was them not me that did it. I had the impression that they didn't really care for the N CA authorities either. That was MY impression based on the way he spoke of them. I am cutting out a lot to make this terse as possible, but this is the essence of the discussion we had. We were always able to get along … I have always been very willing to take a lie detector test as to what I have recounted. It is the truth. At my request my ex wife asked him just before he left the DOJ about Zodiac and our talk in '74. He denied he even knew who Z was or anything about the case. Of course, she knew that he was familiar with the Z case. As she was walking away he said in a fairly firm voice,' Kris, "I know" all the other suspects- except the one he gave me- are not Zodiac or "fake."
As the debate continued on the Internet, Davis then posted more information concerning the conspiracy. These statements, and the growing scrutiny surrounding the controversial claims, led this author to telephone Davis in an attempt to determine whether any evidence existed to support the tales of a cover-up at the LADA’s office. [Howard Davis and I met in person for the first time at the screening of Zodiac documentary titled HUNTING THE ZODIAC in March of 2007. The event was billed as a "task force meeting," promoted by notorious Zodiac con man Tom Voigt of the website Zodiackiller.com. Read more about my encounter with Howard Davis, and his twisted relationship with Voigt, in the ZodiackillerFACTS.com article AFTERMATH: The Rest of the Story.]
Davis was at first cooperative, and said, “Everything to tell, nothing to hide.” He offered the same information he had given Scott Bullock, and repeated the same details he had posted on the Internet. Davis explained that his brother-in-law trusted him, and had chosen to confide his cover-up secret to him. Davis admitted that he had never attempted to report the cover-up story to the proper authorities and had never attempted to verify the information provided to him during the conversation with his brother-in-law. He also stated that he had never attempted to contact his brother-in-law to discuss the 1974 conversation, or the ethical, moral and legal problems created by his continuing silence about the true solution to the still unsolved Zodiac crimes. He refused to provide the name of his brother-in-law, but did agree to consider revealing the name, and promised to call back soon with his decision.
Weeks passed without further word from Davis, and emails and telephone calls to the silent theorist went unanswered. At one point, a secretary called to explain that Mr. Davis was too busy to take any more phone calls. In an email to Davis, this author stated that a search of public records would produce the maiden name of his former wife and that this information would lead to the identity of her brother. Mr. Davis then responded with the name of his brother-in-law. However, he provided only the middle and last name, further complicating attempts to track own the individual in question and confirm his involvement in the Manson cases. Davis then provided the man’s first name and this author was able to confirm that an individual by that name had worked at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office as a deputy district attorney in early 1974, but that this employment had lasted only for a few months.
The trial of Davis’ suspect, Bruce Davis, took place in 1972. If Davis’ brother-in-law was not a member of the DA’s office until 1974, it seemed doubtful he could have participated in the prosecution of Manson, Davis and others. When informed of this apparent discrepancy, Davis said that his brother-in-law could have been an investigator for the sheriff’s office. Efforts to locate and contact the brother-in-law were unsuccessful.
In an attempt to determine whether Davis’ brother-in-law was actually involved in the Manson trials, this author sought the help of noted author and famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. This writer believed Bugliosi was entitled to know that his colleagues had engineered a massive conspiracy to obstruct justice. After all, if the story told by Howard Davis was true, in fact, true, then the Zodiac murders were solved more than 30 years ago by a handful of individuals who have perpetrated one of the most nefarious and inexcusable crimes in American history.
Mr. Bugliosi did not respond to the first message left with his answering service, a request to discuss the Zodiac/Manson “connection.” Several days later, a second message asked to discuss the possibility that members of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office had conspired to conceal a Manson solution to the Zodiac case. Bugliosi responded within one hour of the second message.
After the traditional introductions, Mr. Bugliosi admitted he had “heard allegations” regarding the Zodiac/Manson theory, but said, “I’ve never heard of anything to support that allegation.” Bugliosi went further, and stated, “I doubt it very much. I think it would have come out by now.”
Bugliosi’s assessment seemed logical given the fact that the Manson family members were originally identified, captured, prosecuted, and convicted when several members confessed to other prisoners, cooperated with the police and testified for the prosecution. The family that, according to Howard Davis, has concealed the Zodiac crimes for more than three decades was unable to keep a secret for more than three months in 1969.
In later conversation, Bugliosi stated that he was unable to remember how he had first learned of the Zodiac/Manson theory. While he did remember meeting “Manson buff” Bill Nelson at “two book signings” and speaking to him on the phone a “few times,” Bugliosi did not recall discussing the Zodiac/Manson theory with him, and was surprised to learn the Nelson had been associated with the theory.
Bugliosi inquired as to the source of the theory and this writer explained that many people had speculated regarding this connection for many years, but a man named Howard Davis was the chief purveyor of the theory and had written a book on the subject. The name did not ring a bell with Bugliosi.
Comments attributed to Bugliosi by Davis were read to the former prosecutor, and, upon learning that he reportedly believed a Zodiac/Manson connection was “possible,” Bugliosi, obviously surprised and amused, said, “Really?” He added that the word “possible” was “overused.”
Bugliosi was baffled by the statements and opinions attributed to him, and, although he did not deny that he may have spoken to Davis, he had no memory of doing so. Bugliosi explained, “I don’t even remember talking to the guy … I’m sure if he spoke to me I’d have wished him the best,” and said that it was customary for him to do so when contacted by “any young writer starting out writing a book.”
The subject of the alleged conspiracy was of great interest to Bugliosi, and he asked for the name of the source of the story. When told that Davis claimed his brother-in-law had “helped to prosecute Manson and others,” Bugliosi was incredulous. He explained that he routinely encounters strangers and fans who claimed a friend or relative had worked on the Manson case in some respect, but “ninety-nine times out of a hundred there’s nothing there,” and that those making such claims wished “to attach themselves so feverishly to case because it’s a big case.” Bugliosi stressed that if the name of the individual in question did not appear in the book HELTER SKELTER then the individual was most likely not involved in the prosecution of the Manson family members.
Citing the names of what he described as the “small” staff that assisted him in the prosecution of Manson and his followers (including those who handled the prosecution of Bruce Davis), Bugliosi dismissed the notion that any one of them would keep such a secret from him, let alone participate in such a conspiracy. Bugliosi burst into laughter when told that the then-District Attorney Evelle J. Younger and others allegedly orchestrated the conspiracy and withheld the information from him.
After obtaining the name of Davis’ brother-in-law, this author asked Bugliosi whether the man had been involved in the prosecution of the Manson clan, and although Bugliosi thought the name sounded familiar, he did not recall anyone by that name working in his office at the time of the trials.
Informed of the details of the conspiracy, as described by Davis, Bugliosi proceeded to characterize the tale as “pure, unadulterated insanity,” and said that the scenario described was “preposterous on its face and obviously 100% wrong.” Unquestionably disturbed by the story, Bugliosi unequivocally stated, “I reject it completely out of hand.”
Understandably perplexed, Bugliosi asked, “If Manson committed more murders than the Manson murders, why would anyone want to protect him on that? … It makes no sense … what you’re talking about is a crime, obstruction of justice … a massive conspiracy of many, many people being involved, for no believable reason.”
Read the list of reasons given by Davis to justify the conspiracy, Bugliosi summarily dismissed each as implausible, illogical and without merit. “It would serve no end that would help the perpetrators (of the conspiracy).”
Davis’ suspect, Bruce Davis, was convicted of murder in 1972. Evelle Younger was elected Attorney General for the state of California in November of 1970, and took office in 1971. If Younger “knew” of and condoned the conspiracy in 1972 he was acting as Attorney General, and not as District Attorney, when he did so. The District Attorney in 1972 was Younger’s former assistant and successor, Joseph P. Busch.
Claims that a lack of funds or concerns regarding the cost of a trial could convince Evelle Younger or Busch to commit such a crime were laughable to Bugliosi. “The notion that the LA DA’s office would be covering up a massive crime up in San Francisco, for financial reasons, I mean, my God. The DA could never run for office again - forget about that, he’d be behind bars if he participated in a felony like this.”
Bugliosi explained that any trial concerning the Zodiac crimes would take place in Northern California, and, therefore, authorities and agencies in Southern California would not carry any financial burden.
As one familiar with the workings of the criminal justice system and the difficulties in prosecuting criminals in tough cases, Bugliosi scoffed at the claim that authorities feared “they could possibly lose (Bruce Davis) on the two 187’s they already, but barely got him on…”
The “two 187’s” Howard Davis referred to were the two crimes for which his suspect, Bruce Davis (and family member Steve Grogan) were convicted in 1972; the murders of Shorty Shea and Gary Hinman. Common sense and the law prove that these convictions could be not be overturned by any attempt to prosecute Davis for the Zodiac crimes. Absent the discovery of exculpatory evidence or procedural error, only proof of prosecutorial misconduct – or other criminal acts such as the conspiracy described by Howard Davis – could cause legal action that might result in the courts overturning Davis’ convictions.
The last consideration regarding the stress to the “girlfriends and wives” of those involved in the Manson case caused Bugliosi to laugh aloud, but he apparently found this reason unworthy of further comment.
Amused by the claims of a “secret” and “sealed file” on Davis or the conspiracy, Bugliosi exclaimed, “Oh my God, that’s preposterous.” After explaining that only a judge could order a file to be sealed, Bugliosi stated that such an action would make the judge a co-conspirator and a criminal. Furthermore, the judge, by making his participation in the conspiracy a matter of record, would assume full responsibility and liability for the actions of the other conspirators.
Howard Davis’ illogical and implausible tale did not impress Bugliosi, who said, “I just find the allegation absolutely inconceivable.”
As a recognized authority on the controversial debate surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Bugliosi has been working on a new book that he hopes will refute the many conspiracy claims which haunt that case. The allegation of a cover up in his own office reminded Bugliosi of similar tales told by those who claim the government has concealed the solution to the President’s murder. “I’m accustomed to dealing with this type of stuff on the Kennedy assassination … all I am doing on a daily basis is dealing with unbelievable allegations by the conspiracy theorists, and putting them down, and now they’re starting to come into the Manson case.”
Davis claimed that the Zodiac “hood, knife and other evidence” were discovered as authorities “were going through the personal effects” of an unidentified “male member of the Manson family.” Authorities allegedly made this explosive discovery during a search of a ranch “in Death Valley.”
Manson and his minions stayed at three ranches in Death Valley – the old Spahn Movie Ranch, Barker Ranch and Myers Ranch.
Los Angeles Police Department Sergeants Michael Nielson, Philip Sartuchi, Michael McGann, and Gene Karmodi, along with S.I.D. forensic chemist Joe Granado participated in the searches of Barker Ranch, along with Inyo County District Attorney Frank Fowles, his deputy district attorney Buck Gibbens and investigator Jack Gardiner. The search was supervised by Vincent Bugliosi, who conducted a similar search of Spahn Ranch.
Bugliosi and others traveled five miles into the treacherous terrain of the Panamint mountain range to reach Barker Ranch. There they set about searching for guns, knives, blood stained clothing and other evidence.
Myers Ranch was located approximately one quarter of a mile away from Barker Ranch, and was more accessible. If Bugliosi and others went to such lengths to travel to Barker Ranch in search of evidence it would seem reasonable that Bugliosi, and/or others also traveled to Myers Ranch for the same purpose.
Frank Fowles had conducted previous raids and searches of Barker Ranch and had confiscated many items that were catalogued and transferred to Bugliosi along with Manson-related documents and files. Bugliosi then examined the items in search of evidence that could link Manson and others to murder.
Unless authorities conducted another secret search for some inexplicable reason, these are the only searches of the Manson ranches in Death Valley. (Spahn Ranch burned down in September of 1970.) Since authorities did not realize the significance of the Zodiac evidence they allegedly uncovered they would have no reason to conceal its discovery.
By all accounts, all of the evidence available at the ranches for use in the prosecution of Manson, BruceDavis or anyone else was searched, collected, confiscated, catalogued, transported and held by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Inyo County District Attorney’s office, Vincent Bugliosi, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office by the end of the year 1969.
Authorities seized hundreds of items during the searches of the ranches. Bruce Davis and more than two dozen other members of the family used these items. It is doubtful that Davis affixed his name to all of his possessions, let alone the “hood, knife and other evidence” related to the Zodiac crimes. Unless Davis and/or others somehow identified these items as belonging to Davis, authorities would have no way of knowing who owned or used the evidence in question. If police identified the items as belonging to Davis using fingerprint comparisons or other evidentiary techniques, it is unlikely they would choose not to prosecute Davis with such strong evidence.
Howard Davis claimed that this “evidence” was “analyzed and sealed,” yet “did not go into the Evidence Room.” Mysterious and qualified evidence and lab technicians would be necessary to “analyze” the “evidence,” and would therefore become co-conspirators.
If authorities discovered the evidence in question in late 1969 but not connect these items to the Zodiac crimes until after Bruce Davis’ conviction in 1972, and this evidence “did not go into the Evidence Room,” one is left to wonder where this evidence was stored in the two year interim.
One of the many mysteries surrounding Howard Davis’ story is the disturbing disappearance of this secret yet crucial evidence. Destruction of this evidence would be a serious crime and storing it away (along with sealed files detailing the conspiracy) would leave a direct link to the conspirators that could expose the conspiracy. If the hood, knife and “other evidence” actually was actually discovered and suppressed by officials working for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, one if left to wonder what happened to this important evidence and solution to the greatest unsolved serial murder investigation in American history.
As described by Howard, this conspiracy has continued for more than 30 years and has remained undetected to this day. This list of possible conspirators is as follows:
- Attorney General Evelle Younger
- District Attorney Joseph P. Busch
- Others in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office
- Brother-in-law of Howard Davis
- An unidentified yet experienced legal “expert”
- Members of the Los Angeles Police department
- Members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office
- Members of the Inyo County District Attorney’s office
- At least one judge
- One or more evidence technicians
- Bruce Davis and others in “the family”
- Howard Davis
Howard Davis once wrote, “Humans lie! And … professionals as well as Officers have proven to be liars, too! Lawyers lie as well! … My ex-brother-in-law DA has lots of stories about how honest the authorities are …”
This author was interested in the one story that mattered, and finally contacted Howard Davis’ brother-in-law to hear his side.
(The man in question did not ask to remain anonymous but is referred to here as BIL LAW.)
BIL LAW answered the phone and was friendly and cooperative. After learning that the caller was a writer in search of information regarding his employment at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, BIL LAW confirmed that he had worked for the office in early 1974, but left to pursue other opportunities after approximately six months. He explained that he had previously worked for the office as an investigator while he had attended law school, but had taken a job as a deputy district attorney after passing the bar exam and earning a license to practice law. He later became a prominent prosecutor and worked for the United States Department of Justice for many years until he recently retired.
When asked if he had ever been involved in the investigation or prosecution of any of the members of the Manson family, BIL LAW confirmed that he had been involved in the early investigations of several killings, including the 1969 murders of victims Rosemary and Leno LaBianca as well as the murders of Gary Hinman and Shorty Shea. He stated that this was the extent of his involvement in the cases and accurately reminded this author that the trials had been long over by the time he became a deputy district attorney.
This author then informed BIL LAW that a story had circulated for years that claimed members of the LADA’s office discovered evidence to link the Manson family to the Zodiac crimes, but that these individuals had conspired to conceal this important discovery. BIL LAW seemed genuinely surprised to hear such a sensational claim, and said, “I can’t believe that whoever suggested it has any credibility whatsoever.”
When he learned that his former brother-in-law, Howard Davis, had made this claim and cited a source within the DA’s office, BIL LAW sounded shocked and replied, “Is he claiming I said something like that?” When told that Howard had cited him as the source of the story, BIL LAW was not amused, and replied, “He’s a nutjob.”
BIL LAW stated that the conversation described by Davis had “never happened.” According to BIL LAW, those who had known Howard Davis did not consider him a credible person, and explained that Davis also “had some extraordinarily bizarre and fanciful so-called investigative insight into the Mormon church.”
In fact, Davis and other researchers had published such a book in 1977. Titled WHO REALLY WROTE THE BOOK OF MORMON BOOK?, the book claimed that Joseph Smith used a manuscript written by Congregational minister and writer Solomon Spalding as the basis for the Book of Mormon. A 1977 article in TIME magazine stated that Davis and his co-authors had relied “on the sometimes shaky science of handwriting analysis,” and had responded “somewhat lamely” to criticism of the book’s conclusions. The article ended with the note that the Mormon Church remained “unruffled” by the sensational claims of Howard Davis and his fellow conspiracy theorists.
During an appearance at a Sunday Bible Class at the Melodyland Fellowship Center in Anaheim, California, July 10, 1977, Howard Davis reportedly told the audience that he and his co-authors had received death threats. “I'm dead serious about this ... But our lives are definitely in danger ... Please don't think we're afraid … We are not afraid ... trying to fight a multi-billion dollar organization that is trying to take over the economy of the United States - they're right on time-and we are operating with very, very limited funds."
BIL LAW saw a similar pattern in Howard’s career as a Zodiac/Manson conspiracy theorist. “He has no credibility,” he said. “I think he’s kind of a harmless guy, [but] a responsible journalist would not use Howard [as a source].” He scoffed at the notion that he trusted Howard and would choose to confide in him. “Do you think I would confide anything to Howard Davis?”
When asked whether he had ever discussed the Zodiac case with Howard, BIL LAW said that he could not recall any such conversation. He stated that, if Howard had asked him to speculate as to the reasons for the disappearance of the Zodiac, he would have cited the usual explanation that the killer was most likely in prison, or dead.
BIL LAW denied any knowledge of a discovery of Zodiac evidence by the LADA’s office and denied that he had ever told Howard such a tale. He also said that Howard’s ex-wife, BIL LAW’s sister, had never confronted him about the cover-up story, and he encouraged this author to contact her to confirm his story. Disturbed by the allegations, BIL LAW said that Howard Davis had invented the fantastical story, and added, “He’s delusional.”
Davis had promised that he would submit to a polygraph examination if BIL LAW would do so as well. BIL LAW considered this challenge little more than empty grandstanding. He told this author that he had nothing to prove to Howard, and he would let the public decide who had more credibility.
This author then contacted Howard Davis to report that BIL LAW had refuted his story. Davis did not respond to the first email, but, after a second, he later wrote, “I am unable to discuss some matters about my information.” He stated that he would not stop his “work” on the so-called Zodiac/Manson connection and declared that his conspiracy “project is all that counts.”
Howard Davis continues his attempts to convince the world that Charles Manson and his murderous family were responsible for the Zodiac crimes, via Internet message boards and his website, www.zodiacmurders.com. He remains undeterred by the lack of evidence to support his theory and seems unaware that he has presented none.
During his appearance on a UFO conspiracy radio show, Howard Davis told listeners, “As a researcher, I want to look at black and whites. I don’t want to fool myself.”
If Howard Davis believes that he has fooled this author with his conspiracy claims, he is only fooling himself.
Read the rest of the story in the article AFTERMATH: The Howard Davis "Manson/Zodiac Conspiracy" Hoax