The Charlie Conspiracy

Nearly twenty years after the Manson Murders, a string of satanic killings brought fear of the Family back to L.A. In this 1988 feature, Michael Bendrix explores Charles Manson’s place in what seemed to be an expanding web of terror

As for Maury, he has promised to look into Marina’s murder. He’s in touch with people on both sides of the prison walls. Perhaps someone remembers an old story that always stuck in the mind.

Ironically, his efforts have rejuvenated my stepmother, brought her a miraculous energy and a new belief that even if Maury finds nothing, she may be nearing an end to this stage of her grief. She can now say that she has made an effort, even after all these years, and that for better or for worse, now may be the time to put the past away. Whether she can actually do that, particularly if Maury can’t provide any new details, is difficult to say.

As for myself, reading Maury’s book has opened a strange door. I’ve reread the two classic Manson books, Helter Skelter, and The Family. There are still parts of those books I can hardly manage, scenes that generate an extraordinary physical reaction, and overwhelming urge for revenge and the fantasy to be back at that time, warn people, to change history.

After Maury, the detective, my father and I had lunch to discuss Marina, my father and I drove up to Mulholland Drive to see the place where Marina’s body had been dumped. There was a real April shower that day. A good view had gone gray. The hillsides were a rusted-hull color. No people, no cars. No dog.

My father shivered in the cold as he pointed down the ravine. There was a shelf of ground with trash on it, and beyond the shelf a long, steep drop to the bottom. “Down there,” he said.

We stood and looked, and there was nothing to see. I tried to imagine the tumbling of her body and the  moment before that, the toss itself, and then back further into the hands that held her and then up into the mind that controlled the hands. I tried to fight my way through all the years since it had happened and through all that I didn’t know, struggling to penetrate the heart of someone I could only crudely imagine. I tried for an instant, but that seemed like a dead end.

Then this occurred to me: I don’t think Marina’s killer acted from an intellectual need to prove he could kill someone. Undoubtedly, he acted on impulse. Sometime during the 14 minutes police estimate it took Marina to drive home from her date’s house, someone saw her, followed her, grabbed her. But what was it about her that so caught him? Did she remind him of someone else? Was it her beauty? Or her manner? Whatever it was, the killer took a bold step—to follow her into her own driveway. The act suggests someone not thinking, just acting. A man, most likely, whose killer instinct was triggered by something in Marina, who, whatever her worst faults may have been, was not an evil person.

Maury believes that evil is simply an absence of good, but I think evil feeds on good, that you can never have one without the other, that something in the one ignites the other. It’s not much to go on, but if I have nothing else from Maury Terry, then at least now I have a theory about the forces that caused Marina Habe’s murder.

“C’mon,” my father said. “Let’s get out of here.” And we did.

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