Gillies was born in Santa Cruz, California, but was raised in the picturesque Capistrano area. She was an honors student in high school, and was also a part of the school swim team. Catherine was a creative person, with a passion for writing, drawing, and singing. She was also known to have a rebellious streak, and was quite the tomboy. Before joining Manson, Catherine was a die-hard Buffalo Springfield groupie. She reportedly followed the music group around during one of their tours.
Catherine’s relationship with her mother was strained, to say the least. According to Lynette Fromme, Catherine’s mother had tried her hardest to break her daughter’s spirit, making it quite a miracle that she could trust any other woman. It was no surprise that Catherine was looking for a new family. She sought a place where she belonged, and felt accepted. Catherine found exactly what she was searching for within ‘The Family’.
During the summer of 1969, Charles Manson and his group lived at the infamous Spahn Ranch, which was littered with stolen cars and car parts; inevitably attracting the attention of the police. After Manson and his group were arrested during the August 16th Spahn Ranch raid, a new place for the clan was desperately needed. It was Catherine who told Manson about a small ranch called Myers ranch in Death Valley. Catherine’s grandparents had built the ranch in 1932, and lived there until 1960, when they moved to Fresno. As a child, Catherine regularly vacationed at the Myers ranch.
Beach Boys Gold Record
Catherine was able to convince her grandmother to let her and her friends stay at the ranch. To sweeten the deal, Manson presented Catherine’s grandmother with a Beach Boys gold record, and in exchange, she granted the group permission to live on the ranch. Manson had taken the gold record with him when he spent the summer with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson.
There’s a persistent rumor circulating that Manson wanted Catherine’s grandmother dead, so he could get his hands on the ranch. Supposedly, Manson sent some of his friends to Grandma’s, but the killers got a flat tire and called off the mission. However, there is no concrete evidence for this story.
Catherine Gillies was one of the family members present when Manson associate John “Zero” Haught, aka Christopher Jesus, killed himself while playing Russian roulette. The police ruled Haught’s death a suicide; however, there are indications that he may have been murdered.
On Wednesday, November 5th, 1969, the Venice Police Department responded to a call at 28 Clubhouse Avenue. At the scene, law enforcement encountered a shocking discovery – the body of John Haught. Lying on a mattress in the bedroom, Haught had a gunshot wound to the right temple and a leather gun case and revolver were found lying beside him.
According to Patricia Baldwin, aka Little Patty, aka Madeline Joan Cottage, she and Haught were in bed when he picked up a .22 Caliber revolver. After Baldwin told Haught that there was only one bullet in the gun, he spun the cylinder, placed the muzzle against his head, and shot himself. Several ‘family’ members were present when Haught died, including Bruce Davis and Catherine Gillies. They told the police that Haught killed himself playing Russian roulette.
The police questioned everyone who was at the residence but did not know the people involved were members of the family. All told the same story, and the police ruled the death a suicide. They didn’t suspect foul play, not even when they found out the gun was fully loaded at the moment of the shooting, and that the gun had been wiped clean of fingerprints. Later, an anonymous source told L.A. Times reporter Jerry Cohen that he was there when Haught died. He claimed Haught didn’t kill himself but was shot by one of the Manson girls.
From the L.A. Times – Dec. 1969
Christopher Jesus, also known as “Zero,” was found dead on a bed in the beach community of Venice, Calif., a gun beside him and a bullet wound in his head. A young woman said he had been playing “Russian roulette” and the death formally was listed as a suicide. “But I’ve never been satisfied with that whole thing,” said Det. Sgt. Art Hansbrough, who revealed the death still is under investigation. Not a single fingerprint was found on the gun.
Other cultists who had been living at the residence scattered shortly afterward. One who did, a slight young man who held Christopher Jesus’ head as he lay dying, said he is convinced the death was not a suicide. He said when he heard the gunshot, he entered the bedroom and found a young woman, another Manson follower, holding the gun lightly by the trigger guard. “She told me: ‘Jesus shot himself,’” the young man said. “But she had this strange far-away smile on her face, as if she were saying to me: ‘His time had come, time for me to shoot him.’
It is believed that the young woman and other Manson cultists present that night fled to Death Valley, site of the clan’s last commune. The young man fears for his life because of his belief that Christopher Jesus’ death was not a suicide. He said two nights after Jesus’ death the young woman stared glassily at him for several hours, while running her thumb across the blade of a long knife. “That’s when I decided I had to get out,” he said.
Police report: Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3
Catherine became a familiar face at the Hall Of Justice on the corner of Temple and Broadway during the tate-LaBianca trial. She shaved her head and carved an X on her forehead, and held a vigil at the courthouse with the other family members. During the Tate/LaBianca trial, she testified that Manson had nothing to do with the murders, claiming they were copycat murders, committed to get their brother Bobby Beausoleil out of prison.
After the trial, Catherine joined a motorcycle gang, married a man named David “Coyote” Barton, and had children. She lived near Death Valley for some time, near the place where Manson had been arrested and spent his last moments of freedom, before moving on. She never denounced Manson, and stayed in touch with him until his death, writing him letters regularly. In the letters, she expressed her love and unwavering support for him.
Catherine Gillies Today
Today Catherine is divorced, and has 4 children of her own, living somewhere in Oregon in the Cave Junction area. She maintains a strong relationship with her children and has many grandchildren.
Catherine Gillies died of cancer on June 29, 2018.