By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Former Manson Family member Bruce Davis, who was sentenced to life in prison for two 1969 murders carried out with other members of the cult, was granted parole on Wednesday by a California parole board, although it was not certain he would be freed.
Davis’ parole must still be affirmed by California Governor Jerry Brown, who reversed a similar decision by the same board last year, saying that the 71-year-old convicted killer remained a danger to the public.
A spokesman for Brown declined to say if the governor was expected to block Davis’ release again.
Davis has been serving a life sentence in a California state prison since his 1972 conviction for the murders of music teacher Gary Hinman, who was stabbed to death in July 1969, and stunt man Donald “Shorty” Shea, who was killed the following month.
Davis, who was arrested in 1970 after nearly a year on the run, was previously granted parole in 2010 but remained incarcerated after that decision was reversed by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Manson became one of the 20th century’s most infamous criminals in the summer of 1969, when he directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people in what prosecutors said was part of a plan to incite a race war between whites and blacks.
Among the victims was actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski. She was stabbed 16 times by members of the cult in the early morning hours of August 9, 1969.
Four other people were also stabbed or shot to death at Tate’s home that night by the Manson followers, who scrawled the word “Pig” in blood on the front door before leaving.
The following night, Manson’s group stabbed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca to death, using their blood to write “Rise,” “Death to Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” – a misspelled reference to the Beatles song “Helter Skelter” – on the walls and refrigerator door.
Davis did not take part in those murders.
Manson was originally sentenced to death for the murder spree that horrified the nation in the late 1960s but was spared execution after the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972.
Now 79, he is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison for the seven Tate-LaBianca killings and the murder of Hinman. He has been repeatedly denied parole.
Steve Grogan, a Manson Family member who was convicted of murdering Shea at Manson’s direction, was released in the mid-1980s.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
[Image: Bruce Davis is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Via Reuters.]