Stephen Kay

Co-prosecutor, deputy district attorney in the Tate LaBianca murders

Stephen Kay was a Los Angeles County prosecutor, who worked alongside Manson prosecutor and Assistant District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi. Although Stephen Kay played a significant role in the prosecution and gathering of evidence for the trial, he is miraculously mentioned little in books and movies about the crimes

Stephen Kay was a Los Angeles County prosecutor, who worked alongside Charles Manson prosecutor and Assistant District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi. Kay also spent decades at more than sixty parole hearings to keep Manson and his followers from being released at their many opportunities, which none of them should have had to begin with since they were all given the death penalty for their crimes. However, in 1976 when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in California, their death sentences where all commuted to life in prison.

Although Stephen Kay played a significant role in the prosecution and gathering of evidence for the trial, he is miraculously mentioned little in books and movies about the crimes which rattled California in August of 1969. This is due to the odd relationship he had with Vincent Bugliosi, the author of Helter Skelter and the lead prosecutor in the case. Rumor has it that Bugliosi disliked Steven Kay and amid lots of frustration, didn’t want to share the limelight with Kay and often dismissed his efforts, despite him being an equally talented district attorney.

In addition to the Charles Manson trial, Kay prosecuted a total of four Tate LaBianca murder cases, some of which included the case against Bruce Davis, who Kay refers to as the true right hand man of Manson, not Tex Watson. Kay was also involved in the cases of Lesie Van Houten and Tex Watson.

“People hear Tex Watson was really Manson’s chief lieutenant and everything. That’s baloney. Bruce Davis was the chief lieutenant. Whenever Manson left Spahn Ranch, he would leave Bruce Davis in charge of the family. Davis was a very bright individual. He had completed two years at the University of Tennessee. He was the one that Manson called on to be his assistant, Watson was just somebody who could be counted on to murder a lot of innocent people.” – Steven Kay

After the trials and the majority of Tate-Labianca based work, which has followed him throughout his entire career, Kay later went on to become a Redondo Beach City prosecutor for two years, after which he joined two retired Redondo Beach detectives and worked cold case murders going back as far as 1962.

Most recently Kay was teaching law students on civil and criminal law issues and strategies such as jury selection, developing compelling opening statements and other matters involving case law and trial preparation.

Kay has had his life threatened at least four times from Charles Manson himself and other members of the family. In two examples, Sandra Goode and Lynette “Squeaky “ Fromme snuck up behind him and said they were going to do to his home what had been done at the Tate residence. On another, Charles Manson himself threatened him that someone was waiting outside of the parole hearing in the parking lot to kill him. In total, Manson has threatened him three times.

“I’m always careful,” he said. “I always look around when I go out in parking lots. I look and see who’s around when I’m walking. He still has family members outside and he received four fan letters a day in prison.” – Steven Kay


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