Parole debated for Charles Manson follower Bruce DavisThe Associated Press
SACRAMENTO Charles Manson's followers should never be freed from prison for the string of brutal slayings they committed in 1969, the sister of murdered actress Sharon Tate said outside a California parole hearing. Bruce Davis, now a 63-year-old prison preacher with a doctorate in religion and philosophy, participated in the Manson family's first murder. Manson doctored the crime scene in a vain attempt to trigger a race war, a pattern he and his followers repeated in the slayings of the pregnant Tate, grocery store chain owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, and four others. "These people were all declared to be sociopaths. There is no recovery from this kind of mental illness," said Debra Tate, who lives in the Los Angeles area and is the last surviving member of her immediate family. "I'm concerned for the safety of the community." The horrific nature of the crimes is what keeps them fascinating for the public 37 years later, Tate said Tuesday: "It's very fresh in my mind." Davis is serving a double life sentence for two first-degree murder convictions and has been denied parole 22 times since he became eligible for release in 1977. A decision on his current appeal is expected next month. Davis was not involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders. He was convicted with Manson and others in the cult's first murder, that of musician Gary Hinman in his Topanga Canyon home, and in the later slaying of former stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea, who lived at the Spahn movie ranch in Chatsworth where Manson had his commune. "They tried to make it look as if a Black Panther did (the Hinman murder) to start a race war," Los Angeles County Assistant Head Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira said outside Tuesday's hearing. "That was the first time that they wrote 'political piggy' on the wall with the paw print of the Black Panthers, to try to blame it on blacks in general." Beth Davis said the man she married in prison is being unfairly punished for his relationship with Manson when he was a young man addled by drugs. "He was forced by Manson" to participate in the slayings, she said. "They all got involved, and there's no denying it." Yet Davis is a changed man who has served a prison sentence far longer than those convicted of similar crimes, several family members and prison counselors told the parole board. The entire Board of Prison Terms is hearing Davis' parole appeal because the commissioner and deputy commissioner assigned to his case split on their decision after an Aug. 31 hearing. That hearing was held at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, where Davis is imprisoned. He was not present during Tuesday's hearing. Manson and others convicted in the Tate-La Bianca killings have routinely been denied parole. But a Manson follower convicted with Davis in Shea's murder, Steve Grogan, was paroled after leading police to the victim's body.