Barbara Hoyt joined the family in April 1969. While not involved in any of the murders, she overheard several family members discuss the murders. Hoyt became a witness for the prosecution.
Barbara Hoyt was born on December 27, 1951. She ran away from home after an argument with her father and traveled to L.A. Hoyt was sitting by the side of the road eating her lunch, when a couple of girls approached her. They introduced her to Manson, who took her on a motorcycle ride and brought her into the fold. “I met Charlie the next morning,” Hoyt said. “He took me for a motorcycle ride and we went for doughnuts. He was very nice. I thought he was pretty neat.”
On the evening of August 8, 1969, Susan Atkins made a request of Hoyt – to get three sets of dark clothing from the group’s wardrobe. After Hoyt had returned with the clothing, Manson informed her that Atkins and the others had already departed.
On the evening of August 9, 1969, Hoyt was watching television in a trailer at Spahn Ranch when Susan Atkins entered the room. She told Hoyt to switch on the news, and when the Tate murders were reported, Atkins began to laugh maniacally. At that moment, Hoyt knew something was amiss, but it would take her some time to realize that she was in the presence of the perpetrators of the gruesome Tate murders.
Donald ‘Shorty’ Shea Murder
Approximately one week after the August 16 raid on Spahn Ranch, Hoyt was horrified to hear agonizing screams coming from a nearby creek. The screams lasted for five to ten minutes. The following day, she overheard Manson tell Danny DeCarlo that Shorty, a ranch hand, had committed suicide, “with a little help from us”.
In September 1969, while at Myers Ranch, Hoyt was privy to a conversation between Manson and another family member. It was then that she heard Manson confess that it had been a great struggle to kill Shorty – they had beaten him mercilessly with a pipe before each member of the family took turns in stabbing him.
Escape from the Family
Hoyt had the misfortune of overhearing Susan Atkins confessing the Tate murders to Ruth Ann Moorehouse. In the confession, Atkins chillingly revealed that Sharon Tate had been the last to die because “she had to watch the others die”. This was the last straw for Hoyt and Sherry Cooper, and the two women decided to flee the family.
When Manson discovered that Hoyt and Cooper had deserted the family, he set off to find them. Eventually, he managed to locate them at a diner in Ballarat. He attempted to persuade them to stay with the family, but, with other people present, he had no choice but to let them go. As a sign of “good will”, Manson offered them $20 for their bus fare back to Los Angeles.
Honolulu Hamburger Case
During the Tate/LaBianca trial, fellow ‘family member’ Ruth Ann Moorehouse poisoned Barbara Hoyt in an attempt to prevent her from testifying against the family.
Moorehouse and Hoyt embarked on a trip to Hawaii, with Moorehouse having purchased two tickets with a stolen credit card and the two traveling under assumed names (Moorehouse as Amy Riley, and Hoyt as Jill Morgan). In Honolulu, the two rented the penthouse suite at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel, where Moorehouse made a last-ditch attempt to dissuade Hoyt from testifying. Moorehouse told Hoyt that she was aware of ten other people the family had killed besides Sharon Tate, though ultimately this information failed to sway Hoyt and Moorehouse resolved to poison her instead.
On September 9, 1970, Moorehouse informed Hoyt that she had to return to California; Hoyt, however, decided to stay in Hawaii for a while longer. The two visited an airport diner, where they purchased a hamburger; while Hoyt was preoccupied with the payment, Moorehouse took the opportunity to lace the burger with acid. Hoyt ate the burger while they waited for Moorehouse’s flight, and at the very moment of her departure Moorehouse chillingly remarked, “Just imagine what it would be like if that hamburger had ten tabs of acid in it.”
Hoyt went to the beach. On the way to the shore, the LSD kicked in. Hoyt freaked out, ran around in panic, and then collapsed to the ground. Hoyt was taken to the hospital where she recovered. Her father picked her up the next day and took her home. The strategy to persuade Hoyt had failed. The plan to poison Hoyt had also failed. But Moorehouse did accomplish one thing, she had made Hoyt furious. By now, Hoyt was determined to testify against the family.
In 1971, the family members involved in poisoning Hoyt were given a 90-day jail sentence, except for Moorehouse, who failed to appear at the sentencing hearing.
Following the trial, Hoyt decided to return to high school and pursue a nursing career. Later, Hoyt married and became a mother. Hoyt befriended Debra Tate, Sharon Tate’s sister, and together they fought to keep the family members responsible for the murders behind bars. Hoyt passed away in 2017.