Donald "Shorty" Shea

Donald "Shorty" Shea
Donald "Shorty" Shea
Born September 18, 1933(1933-09-18)
Died August 26, 1969(1969-08-26) (aged 35)
Chatsworth, California
Nationality American
Occupation Actor
Ranch hand

Donald "Shorty" Shea (September 18, 1933 – August 26, 1969) was a Hollywood stuntman, actor and victim of the Charles Manson murders. The location of his body was not discovered until 1977, nearly a decade after his death. Manson family leader Charles Manson and family members Tex Watson, Steve "Clem" Grogan and Bruce Davis were eventually convicted of murdering Shea.



Shea was a former stuntman whose dream was to pursue a film career in Hollywood, a dream, that according to many friends, on which he never gave up.[citation needed] Donald Shea was a very tall man, standing at almost 6'5".[citation needed] He worked as a bouncer, a ranch hand at Spahn Ranch, an old Hollywood movie set that had become a horse riding stables.[citation needed] Shea reportedly got along with the other ranch employees.[citation needed] When the Manson family moved into Spahn Ranch, Shea initially co-existed with them peacefully, but in time, Charles Manson began to look down on Shorty because he had married a black woman by the name of Magdalena.[citation needed] Manson had a well documented hatred and mistrust of black people and had been particularly disgusted when Magdalena's friends had shown up at the ranch.[citation needed] Eventually Shorty planned to help George Spahn remove the Family from the Spahn Ranch when their brushes with the law grew out of control.[1]


Shea was murdered in 1969 on around August 26.[citation needed] Manson had decided to have Shea killed because they believed he had turned them into the police resulting in a raid on the ranch on August 16 where the family were taken into custody on suspicion of car theft.[citation needed] Family member Bruce Davis, claimed that the decision to kill Shea came from Manson because he considered Shorty to be a "snitch".[citation needed] Manson told Davis, Tex Watson and Steve Grogan to ask for a ride to a nearby car parts yard on the ranch.[citation needed] According to Davis, he sat in the back seat with Grogan, who then hit Shea with a pipe wrench and Watson stabbed him.[citation needed] They brought Shea down a hill behind the ranch and stabbed and brutally tortured him to death.[citation needed] Bruce Davis recalled at his parole hearings:

"I was in the car when Steve Grogan hit Shorty with the pipe wrench. Charles Watson stabbed him. I was in the backseat with...with Grogan. They took Shorty out. They had to go down the hill to a place. I stayed in the car for quite a while but what...then I went down the hill later on and that's when I cut Shorty on the shoulder with the knife, after he was...well, I don't know...I...I don't know if he was dead or not. He didn't bleed when I cut him on the shoulder."

"When I showed up, you know, he was...he was incapacitated. I don't know asked if he was unconscious, I don't know. He may or may not have been. He didn't seem conscious. He wasn't moving or saying anything. And it started off Manson handed me a machete as if I was supposed to...I mean I know what he wanted. But you know I couldn't do that. And fact I did touch Shorty Shea with a machete on the back of his neck, didn't break the skin. I mean I just couldn't do it. And then I threw the knife..and he handed me a bayonet and it...I just reached over and...I don't know which side it was on but I cut him right about here on the shoulder just with the tip of the blade. Sort of like saying 'Are you satisfied, Charlie?'.

"And I turned around and walked away. And I...I was sick for about two or three days. I mean I couldn't even think about what I...what I had done."

[citation needed]

Cover-up and admission of murder

In grand jury testimony, Family member Barbara Hoyt recounted hearing the screams which terrified her so much that she left deciding to escape the family, frightened that she might be next.[citation needed] "It was about 10:00 pm when I heard a long, loud, blood curdling scream", she said, "Then it went quiet for a minute or so and the screams came again and again, it seemed to go on forever, I have no doubt that Shorty was being murdered at that time".[citation needed] When Shea was dead, Grogan buried him, and the rumor was that he had been "dismembered into nine pieces".[citation needed]

On December 9, 1969, Shea's 1962 Mercury was found with a footlocker of his possessions and a pair of bloodstained cowboy boots belonging to him.[citation needed] A palm print of Davis was found on the footlocker.[citation needed]

Remains located

Shea's remains were discovered in December 1977 when Steve Grogan, one of those convicted of the murder, agreed to tell authorities the location of the body.[citation needed] Sgt. Bill Gleason, LASO Homicide, Deputy Coroner John Mossberger and Deputy Sheriff Barry Jones, LASO Homicide, were on the site when Shea was exhumed in 1987.[citation needed] Gleason had been the officer who obtained the Spahn Ranch Raid search warrant in August 1969.[citation needed] Grogan was released shortly after the discovery of Shea's remains in exchange for his cooperation. Shea was 35 years old when he was murdered.[2]


  1. ^ Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter, 1974, pgs179-180
  2. ^ Sanders, Ed. The Family. pgs 272-276.

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