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Parole granted to former Manson Family member Bruce Davis

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former member of the notorious Manson Family cult and a two-time convicted killer came a step closer to freedom on Thursday when he was granted parole, but the decision was subject to a mandatory review and could still be reversed, California prison officials said.

Bruce Davis, 69, has been in state prison serving a life sentence since his 1972 conviction for the murders of music teacher Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea. He was previously granted parole in 2010 but remained in prison after that decision was reversed by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

The so-called Manson Family cult, a collection of runaways and outcasts whose spree of killings horrified the nation, was brought together by a charismatic ex-convict, Charles Manson, in the 1960s.

In the summer of 1969, Manson became one of the 20th century's most infamous criminals when he directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people in what prosecutors said was part of a twisted plan to incite a race war between whites and blacks.

Among the victims was actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was stabbed 16 times by members of the cult in the early morning hours of August 9, 1969. Davis was not present at Tate's murder.

Manson is serving a life sentence for those seven slayings and the murder of Hinman, who was stabbed to death in July 1969.

Davis is not the first member of the Manson Family to be granted parole. Steve Grogan, who was convicted of murdering Shea at Manson's direction, was released in the mid-1980s.

In a statement, California prison officials did not give the board's reason for granting Davis parole. In its 2010 decision, the panel had cited Davis' "positive adjustment" and "record of no recent disciplinary problems."

The decision is subject to a 120-day review period by the Board of Parole Hearings, and after that could be either reversed or affirmed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker)

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