THE DEATH OF JOHN PHILIP "ZERO" HAUGHT
On Wednesday November 5th, 1969 Venice police responded to a call at 28 Clubhouse Avenue. There they found a young man called "Zero" (His true name was John Philip Haught, but that was unknown at the time) who was dead. He was lying on a mattress in the bedroom of the home. He had an entrance wound to the right temple. There was a leather gun case and a revolver lying beside the body.
Alive in the home were Bruce Davis, Madaline Joan Cottage, Sue Bartell and Catherine Gillies. They told the police that Haught had shot himself playing Russian roulette.
Cottage said that she had been lying in bed next to Haught when he noticed the gun in the leather case on a stand next to the bed. She said he remarked "Oh, here's a gun." picked it up and removed the gun from the case and said it only has "one bullet in it." Holding the gun in his right hand Cottage said that Haught had spun the cylinder and placed the gun muzzle to his right temple and fired.
The others said they heard the gun fire and raced into the bedroom whereupon Cottage exclaimed that "Zero" had shot himself, "just like in the movies." They indicated they then called the police, and indeed the body was warm to the touch when the police officers arrived. Davis told the officers that he had picked up the gun. When the gun was dusted later for prints neither Haught or Davis' prints were found. The leather case was also devoid of prints. (Later a Manson case researcher would state that he was told that Davis' prints were found on the gun. I have seen no proof of that statement to date.)
The gun was found to have been fully loaded. The officers were not aware that Davis and the girls were members of the Manson family. They questioned Davis, Cottage, Bartell and Gillies separately and they all told basically the same story. The police department then ruled the death a suicide.
November 26th, 1969 Sgt. Mike McGann was interviewing Leslie Van Houten at Sybil Brand and advised her of the death of Haught. Van Houten was upset upon learning of her friend's death. When told that Haught had been playing Russian roulette and that Bruce Davis had been present she asked McGann:
"Was Bruce playing it too?"
McGann advised her that he wasn't.
Leslie Van Houten: "Zero was playing Russian roulette all by himself?"
Mike McGann: "Kind of odd isn't it?"
Leslie Van Houten: "Yeah, it's odd."
It seems obvious that neither McGann or Van Houten believed the Russian roulette story. As of the date of this writing no charges have ever been brought in the death of John Philip Haught and his death is officially listed as a suicide.
THE MURDER OF JAMES SHARP AND DOREEN GAUL
On November 21st, 1969 the bodies of James Sharp, 15 and Doreen Gaul, 19 were found in an alley between Arapahoe Street and Magnolia Avenue in Los Angeles. Both had been stabbed over 50 times and beaten about the face and head.
They had been killed elsewhere and dumped in the alley.
Both were Scientologists. In a newspaper interview Gaul's father said that she had recently become disenchanted with Scientology.
In a report from April 24th, 1973 by the Department of Corrections Special Service Unit, requested by the Los Angeles Police Department, it was stated that investigators believed Davis knew Gaul and was either involved in her murder or knew the identity of the murderer/murderers.
The SSU was to interview Davis and solicit his cooperation with a promise of immunity.
According to the report Davis denied knowing Gaul, and said he did not know anything about the crime. It was believed that Gaul had been a girlfriend of Bruce Davis. Davis denied this but did admit to having dated several women that lived at the same rooming house as Gaul.
Davis also indicated that a promise of immunity meant little to him as he was already serving two life sentences for two counts of murder.
THE DEATH OF JOEL DEAN PUGH
On December 2nd, 1969 Family member Sandra Good's husband Joel Dean Pugh 29, was found dead in a hotel room at the Talgarth Hotel in West Kensington. He was lying on the floor, nude except for a sheet wrapped around the lower part of his body. His throat was slit twice. His forehead was bruised. There were slash marks on both wrists. Two bloody razor blades were lying near the body.
It was reported that on the mirror were some writings in reverse and drawings. No notes or photographs were taken to document the writing and drawings. The hotel manager, Joseph Falk, would later say that he recalled the words "Jack and Jill".
Pugh had checked into the hotel on October 27th, 1969 with a woman described as a "hippie". The woman left after three weeks. Falk would say that after the woman left Pugh became more withdrawn and stopped eating, eventually only drinking coffee.
Falk said he found it unusual on the morning of December 2nd, when the maid found Pugh's door locked. Falk's seven year old son would often visit Pugh and they would read comics together. Pugh never locked his door.
Later that afternoon Falk unlocked Pugh's door with his passkey but could not fully open the door feeling a weight on the other side. (Later identified as Pugh's body.) Falk saw blood on the walls and immediately called the police.
Upon arriving the police found Pugh's body, a pipe with cannabis resin in it and several notes. Prior reports stated that the writing was in reverse on the mirror in the room. However, the notes the police found were apparently written on paper, many of them were written in reverse. They were not suicide notes and a Psychiatrist who saw them at the time said that little could be obtained from them except they were suggestive of "depressive withdrawal"
According to the Pathologist Dr. Richard Pearce, there were no wounds that could not have been self inflicted and no sign of struggle or violence. The Coroner John Burton therefore concluded that Pugh had taken his own life "while the balance of his mind was disturbed."
Pugh's room was on the first floor of the hotel and was accessible from the room's window. The constable did not try to find prints in the room or on the window.
A letter from an unknown Family member, found in Sandra Good's vacated motel room in Independence CA read: "I would not want what happened to Joel to happen to me."
Upon learning of the death of Pugh, Inyo County DA Frank Fowles made inquiries to Interpol to check visas to see if Bruce Davis had been in England at the time. Scotland Yard replied:
"It has been established that Davis is recorded as embarking at London airport for the United States of America on 25th April 1969 while holding United States 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 our official records."
THE DEATH OF RONALD HUGHES
Ronald Hughes, attorney for Leslie Van Houten during the 1970 Tate-Labianca trial, failed to appear when court resumed on November 30th, 1970. Court had resumed after a recess called by the Judge prior to final arguments. Defense and Prosecution attorneys were to confer with Judge Older on instructions to be given to the Jury. Hughes absence prohibited any final actions being taken in the
in-chambers sessions, however, Older and the attorneys, after waiting an hour for Hughes, did go ahead with informal discussions.
This was not the first delay in the trial caused by Hughes, who was trying his first jury case.
On October 18th, Hughes had been jailed on a traffic warrant. This resulted in a half day delay in the trial.
On October 30th, court was delayed for an hour when Hughes was stopped by CHP officer and advised he could not drive his car any further until the brakes, turn signal, stop lights and horn were repaired.
Hughes had gone on a camping trip near Sespe Hot Springs, CA during a recess called by the Judge prior to final arguments.
During the trip a Volkswagen Hughes and two friends had taken on the trip became stuck in mud. The two friends said they hitchhiked out but Hughes decided to remain behind.
Fellow defense attorney, Paul Fitzgerald, said that his answering service had received a call from someone identifying themselves as Hughes, who stated that until the police allowed them to go on the road he would have to stay where they were.
Deputies said that there was no telephone service to Sespe Hot Springs. They speculated that perhaps Hughes had someone who hiked out call Fitzgerald on his behalf.
On December 2nd, 1970 Bruce Davis, who had gone into hiding earlier in the year when the Grand Jury brought indictments against him for the Hinman murder, and Nancy Pittman, who had also been missing for several weeks and was wanted on a forgery charge, turned themselves in.
When after several days Hughes failed to appear a search for him was launched.
At Sespe Hot Springs the Volkswagen was found. It had some of Hughes' trial transcripts in it, but supposedly a psychiatric report on Leslie Van Houten was missing.
Eventually the Judge appointed Maxwell Keith Co-Council for Leslie Van Houten and decided that the trial would continue without Hughes.
On March 23rd, 1971 after an anonymous caller told Los Angeles County officers that Hughes' body was buried "behind the barn" at Barker Ranch, two Inyo County deputies, district attorney Frank Fowels and deputy district attorney L.H. Gibbons spent four hours searching the ranch to no avail.
On March 29th, 1971 a body, suspected to be Hughes, was found in Ventura County. Paul Fitzgerald viewed the body in the Ventura County Morgue and said that he was "firmly of the opinion it was Hughes." The Ventura Country coroner, Merle Peters, withheld making an official identification until he was able to match Hughes' dental records to that of the corpse.
The cause and nature of Ronald Hughes' death was ruled as 'Undetermined'.
Later members of the Manson Family were reported to have said that Hughes had been murdered the "first of the retaliation murders."
Years later Leslie Van Houten's conviction was reversed and she was given a new trial because her case had not been severed from that of her co-defendants when Hughes disappeared.