Donald "Shorty" Shea

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

Donald 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 which, according to many friends, he never gave up.[citation needed] Donald Shea was a very tall man, standing at almost 6 feet 5 inches.[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 showed 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 or around August 26.[citation needed] Manson had decided to have Shea killed because they believed he had reported them to 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][2]

Cover-up and admission of murder[edit]

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[edit]

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 1977.[citation needed] Gleason had been the officer who obtained the Spahn Ranch Raid search warrant in August 1969.[citation needed] Shea was 35 years old when he was murdered.[3]


  1. ^ Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter, 1974, pp. 179–180
  2. ^ "SUBSEQUENT PAROLE CONSIDERATION HEARING STATE OF CALIFORNIA BOARD OF PAROLE HEARINGS In the matter of the Life Term Parole Consideration Hearing of: CHARLES WATSON CDC Number: B-37999". Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Sanders, Ed. The Family. pp. 272–276.

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