This English paperback edition of Ed Sanders’ early account of the Manson case is what set in motion my obsessive interest in Manson and the group of young people – many of them women – who revered him as a kind of godlike figure. I read this book in 1973, while I was hitchhiking around England’s bucolic Lake District. The murders that led to Manson’s infamy had occurred just four years prior.

The famous June 1970 Rolling Stone cover, branding Charles Manson “the most dangerous man alive.”

This is one of several postcards that Manson sent me, along with a series of letters, during the summer of 1975, when I was residing with my parents at their home in western New York. I was working at the post office and getting ready to begin graduate school in the fall. At one point that summer, Manson became so enraged that he sent me the only airmail letter I’ve ever received from someone doing time in prison.

Manson sent me this doctored photograph in 1975. His message? “I’m like this mule – except that I’m being forced to carry the weight of your entire world on my shoulders.”

I took this picture during the summer of 1976. It’s a view over the gate at the top of the driveway leading to 10050 Cielo Drive in LA, where Sharon Tate and four others were massacred by members of the Manson Family in 1969. Yes, I was well beyond the sign that read NO TRESPASSING.

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (right) and her roommate and close friend Sandra Good (left) were two of Manson’s most zealous disciples and fervent advocates. I began corresponding with them in the spring of 1975, about six months before Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford.

Sandy Good sent me this photograph of herself…gardening. Or, as she put it, “planting seeds for peace.” Not long after she sent such a benign-seeming picture, she sounded me out on whether I had any friends who might be willing to kill hunters and then post signs in the woods saying “There are hunters hunting hunters.”

During the months in 1975 when I was exchanging letters with Squeaky Fromme and Sandy Good, they were living in this attic apartment on P Street in Sacramento. Later, after Squeaky’s attempt on the president’s life, the federal authorities discovered a cache of my letters in the apartment — and contacted the FBI field office in Buffalo, where my dad was assigned at the time.

This envelope – with its distinctive floral accents – contained the first letter I received from Squeaky Fromme, in March 1975. In her letter, Fromme pleaded for my understanding: “Charlie didn’t do it, Jeff. He IS it!”

In 1975, Fromme and Good had begun wearing long robes and referring to themselves by the nicknames Manson had given them. Squeaky was “Red,” Sandy was “Blue.”

Squeaky Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in September 1975, just two months after I’d concocted an elaborate ruse that I used as a means of cutting off contact with her and Sandy – because their rhetoric had become so apocalyptic and so violent.

Susan “Sadie” Atkins may have been the second most notorious member of the Manson Family, after Manson himself. We began corresponding in 1976. She sent me this photograph of herself, taken in prison. I found it a little unsettling when she disclosed that she’d had three recent dreams about me.

An aerial photograph of Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, circa 1983. Employees Patricia Matix and Joyce McFadden were murdered at Riverside in December of that year, in a small research lab that was located just off the hospital’s main corridor. For weeks, months, and then years, there were no arrests. At the time of the murders, I was an assistant vice president at the hospital, with administrative responsibility for the department where the women were killed. They were both stabbed close to twenty times.

Patricia Matix (left) and Joyce McFadden (right), the victims of the murders at Riverside. At the time of their deaths, Patty Matix was the mother of an infant daughter named Melissa. Less than an hour before she was killed, she phoned her husband Bill to ask whether she needed to stop at the store for anything on her way home from the hospital.

William Matix, Patty Matix’s husband, pictured with the couple’s infant daughter not long after Patty’s murder. 

Serial killer Ted Bundy, who sent me an ominous-sounding message from death row in Florida not long after I’d begun my graduate studies in psychology at Ohio State.

Photograph of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, taken at the time of his arrest in December 1978.

The former site of Nissan’s Pharmacy in Des Plaines, Illinois. Gacy kidnapped his last victim, 15-year-old Rob Piest, from this location while Piest’s mother moved back and forth between the pharmacy and the parking lot. Ironically, the site is now home to a preschool and daycare center.

This house now occupies the site where Gacy’s house once stood at 8213 W. Summerdale Ave. in unincorporated Norwood Park, near Chicago. The police discovered 26 corpses in Gacy’s crawlspace and 3 others buried elsewhere on the property. Gacy threw four other victims’ bodies in the Des Plaines River.

This photograph of Gacy and me was taken in 1986, during one of the four days that I spent with Gacy on death row in Illinois. Gacy was less than pleased because the prison photographer had just made a snarky comment about his weight.

With me in mind, Gacy painted this knock-off of Picasso’s famous depiction of Don Quixote. He decided to call the painting Quest, and he placed my initials on the shield. He explained, “I see you as someone who’s a seeker after the truth.”

Gacy sent me this handpainted Christmas card in 1987. Inside the card he wrote, “May the glow of the Christmas candles brighten up your holiday and all the year long. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Serial killer Thomas Lee Dillon shared this house in Magnolia, Ohio with his wife and young son during his killing years, 1989-1992.

Serial sniper/killer Thomas Lee Dillon.

In 1987, nurses’ aide Donald Harvey pled guilty to 37 murders and claimed responsibility for many more.

Harvey’s attorney, William Whalen, published a memoir in 2005 about his representation of Harvey almost two decades prior. Whalen died by suicide seven years after the book’s publication.

Rosie Tate-Polanski claimed to be the daughter of the late actress Sharon Tate and film director Roman Polanski. She alleged that as the result of a massive cover-up involving any number of Hollywood A-listers, the public was denied knowledge of her existence for decades after Tate’s murder by members of the Manson Family. She caught me off guard by asking if I didn’t think she was the spitting image of her mother – who many people had considered one of the world’s most beautiful women.

Bill Garretson was on site at 10050 Cielo Drive on the night in August 1969 when Sharon Tate and four others were murdered by members of the Manson Family. At first, the police thought he was the murderer. For a brief period, some thirty years after the murders, he was engaged to Rosie Tate-Polanski. I spent a memorable evening with Bill and Rosie at a restaurant near Garretson’s home in Carroll, Ohio, about twenty-two miles south of Columbus.

State of Ohio vs. Eddie Vaughn was the first death penalty case I ever worked on, during the early-1990s. When Vaughn murdered prison teacher Beverly Taylor, he was already serving a life sentence for murder at the maximum security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (aka Lucasville).

In 1995, Jerry Hessler killed four people – including an infant – and injured two others during a shooting spree that took place across four separate locations. Not long before the shooting spree, Hessler told an acquaintance that he’d been contemplating a campaign of vengeance for the better part of a year.

Hessler’s shooting spree began at this house in a residential neighborhood in Columbus. After forcing his way in the front door, he murdered three people, including an infant, and injured another.

Hessler’s rampage came to an abrupt end 70 miles north of Columbus, in Ashland, when the husband of a former girlfriend – who’d been notified by police that Hessler might be on his way there – greeted Hessler with gunfire at the back door of the house shown in this photograph.

Mass murderer Jeffrey Lundgren once led tours of the historic Kirtland Temple in northeast Ohio. The temple was designed by Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith, and it was the first temple constructed by Smith’s followers. Lundgren claimed to be a prophet, sent by God to prepare his people for the End Times.

Jeffrey Lundgren executed a family of five, including three children, in April 1989.

Alva Campbell, a career criminal who had already served time in prison for murder, escaped from police custody by faking “hysterical paralysis” and then killed a young man whose car he hijacked outside the county courthouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Alva Campbell in court, with his familiar smirk.

The Newsletter

Site photography by Hailey Gonya at

The Newsletter

Site photography by Hailey Gonya at