Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brushes with Evil!

I’m going to be somewhat cryptic in this post, because I’m writing about the disreputable side of human nature.  I really don’t want this post showing up on internet searches for the subjects I’m discussing.  If you really want to know more, using some of the facts stated here in an internet search should provide some info.

In August 1969 a group of low-life hippies living at the Spahn Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, who called themselves a “family”, went on a violence rampage, murdering seven people in Los Angeles, including a well known actress.  The leader of the group, a guy named Charlie, became quite well known following these events.

In 1985 I visited LA, staying at the home of the parents of a friend and co-worker from Mammoth.  His sister, a nurse living in Idaho, was also visiting at this time, with her two-year old daughter.  I didn’t talk to Barbara a lot, as we didn’t spend that much time at my friend’s parents’ home.  And when we were there Barbara was usually chasing or scolding her daughter, who was quite unruly.

A few months later my friend was at my house and noticed a book on one of my bookshelves.  The book was written by an LA District Attorney and it documented the August 1969 crimes and the following investigations and trials.  My friend pulled the book off the shelf, opened it and pointed to a picture, “That’s my sister, Barbara.  You met her at my folks' house.”

Barbara in 1969
Yes, Barbara was one of Charlie’s family.  She is a minor figure in the book, but plays a key role in a couple of episodes.  She did not directly participate in any of the awful crimes, but she did play a supporting role.  For example, when the “murder team” was preparing to go out on the “mission” which resulted in the actress’s death, Barbara gathered clothes and weapons for them.  Also, the “Family” stayed at the Spahn Ranch rent-free because the female members of the family “entertained” Mr. Spahn whenever he liked.  Barbara was one of the girls who helped in this “entertainment.”

BTW - I have seen speculation on the internet that Barbara may have had a child with Charlie.  This isn't correct.  Barbara's oldest, and as far as I know, only, child was about two in 1985, so she couldn't have been conceived much before 1981.  Charlie has been incarcerated since 1969.

In the summer of 1999 I attended a fire management conference at Yosemite National Park.  We stayed at the Cedar Lodge, which was notorious.  In February a woman and two teenage girls had been abducted from one of its rooms and murdered.  Just a few weeks before our visit another woman who lived near had been murdered.

Cary's booking photo
Due to some prior commitments I was a bit late to the meeting.  I parked and walked towards the conference area.  I saw a couple of guys working in a room as I walked by so I opened the door and asked if they knew where my conference was.

One of the men, I later learned that his name was Cary, came out and pointing to the proper place, gave me directions.  He was very friendly and helpful.  I saw him several more times over the next couple of days and we said hello in passing.  I did not have any significant conversations with him, although some others of our group did.

A few weeks afterwards the police solved the cases. Cary was arrested and confessed to these murders.

The last “Brush with Evil” I’ll describe was actually the first I experienced.  I doubt if there is any information about this case on the internet. 

In the early 80’s I was working as a Fire Marshal, focusing on fire prevention, in Mammoth.  One of the prevention activities that we regularly performed was to visit various summer camps in the area for “Smokey Bear” presentations.  There are a number of organizations which run these summer camps – the Boy Scouts, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, various church organizations and others.

One camp was very enthusiastic about our programs.  They rotated kids every week, so there were always new kids to teach and entertain.  We went there often, two or three times each week through the summer.  This particular camp was run by a non-profit community organization associated with a small city in LA County. 

I was really impressed with the Head Counselor at this camp.  Gabe was about 40 and really easy to work with.  The kids seemed to love him.  From what I could observe the camp was a happy, well-run place.

As it happened, one of my assistants, Jaime, was from a town adjacent to the city which sponsored the camp.  Jaime and Gabe became good friends and Jaime often went out to the camp on his own time to hang out with Gabe and the kids.  During the winter, when Jaime was in college and would visit his home, he would go over to Gabe’s “club” and play basketball with him and others.  I think Jaime even did some coaching or teaching at the “club.”

The next summer when Jaime came back to firefighting, he came to me and said, “There’s something I need to tell you.  Remember Gabe, from [the camp]?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I remember him.  I’m looking forward to working with him this summer.”

“Well, he’s not going to be here.”  Jaime was despondent.  He went on to explain that Gabe was in jail, with no possibility of bail, for child molestation.  Apparently he had been molesting children, both at his “club” in LA County as well as in Mammoth.  The police suspected that he had molested hundreds of children over the years.

I was stunned.  I had grown genuinely fond of Gabe.  To this day, I cannot reconcile my image of Gabe with the deeds he committed.  He completely fooled me and many, many others.

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