Joel Pugh

The suspicious death of Joel Dean Pugh

Joel Dean Pugh with young Sandra Good; Christmas 1967 at the Pugh household.

Joel Dean Pugh was born on June 7, 1940 in Minnesota to Marjorie and David Pugh. Joel has been described as an on off-beat character with a quirky sense of humor. He enjoyed playing the guitar and was a popular and likeable individual who similar to many young men of the time, enlisted in the Army. Sometime after he returned home he relocated to San Francisco, California where he began a career as a lab technician for a local University.

During his time in San Francisco, Joel, in his mid-twenties, met a young girl who was attending nearby San Francisco State College and the two began dating with things looking extremely good in a relatively short period of time. This was a significant turning point in Joel’s life as it was his first sexual relationship with a woman.  Things between the two lovers developed quickly and they began introducing their new partners to each other’s parents during back home visits; Boulder Creek for her, and Minnesota for Joel. The young girls name was Sandra Collins Good.

Sometime around March 1968, Joel’s girlfriend Sandy Good met Charles Manson, and was absolutely mesmerised by Manson and began hanging around with him and other hippy type characters, all of whom worshipped Manson; Sandra began following suit. Joel was extremely embarrassed about this infatuation with Manson and felt Manson was a fake, a fraud, and only cared about himself. Joel tried countless times to convince Sandy that Manson was nothing but bad news and she should steer clear of him, for her own good and his, however, despite all of these warnings, pleas and advice, Sandra was following Manson everywhere which led to the collapse of their relationship. Manson had a keen eye on Sandra as she was collecting $2,000 per month in trust fund payments her father had left her, which wound up being the majority of money the Manson Family lived off.

After Sandra was gone Joel spiralled into a deep depression believing he would never find true love again. He once remarked that “he wished there was a drug that would just make you happy”.  At one point Sandra briefly returned pregnant and requested to use Joel’s last name for the baby, but Joel refused. Sandra used the surname on the baby’s birth certificate anyway. The certificate clearly records Ivan S. Pugh born to Sandra Good on 16th September 1969; the period of havoc at Spahn Ranch which Sandy probably realised would label the baby offspring of the commune; it would be safer to name the baby after Joel, which she did.

By this point, Joel had checked out on life itself, stopped working for the laboratory and moved back home with his parents in Minnesota. Despite all of his depression, he never tried to follow Sandra to any of the communes or locations where she lived with the family, perhaps out of fear. After returning home Joel began travelling to various places around the world. His travels took him to South America, Morocco, Spain, Europe and West Kensington, London where he decided to stay a while at the Talgarth Hotel at 7 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith, London W14 9ES UK. The fact that Joel remained in a deep depression even there – was no secret to the Hotel workers who often had short chats with Joel and would see him rarely consume anything but coffee during the few times he would leave his room.

On December 1, 1969, Joel Dean Pugh’s body was found in his room at the Talgart Hotel, London England, by police after the hotel manager could not gain entry to the room after being notified by the cleaning crew that no one was answering the door and Joel had not been seen in or around his room. When police arrived they found Joel’s wrists cut and his throat slit twice. In the room, no suicide note was found, but there was writing on the mirror however police didn’t keep a record of the writing. They ruled the death a drug-induced suicide. Due to his declining mental state and the amount of time he was spending isolated in his room, in addition to him being known for smoking marijuana, the Coroner’s report included an opinion which agreed with the initial thoughts of Police; that it was indeed a suicide.

When word reached Los Angeles of Pugh’s death, Vincent Bugliosi and Steven Kay, who were currently building the prosecution’s case against the Manson Family for the Tate-Labianca murders, took special notice that Manson associate Bruce Davis was out of the country and was supposedly in the UK visiting a Church of Scientology, and perhaps even in London. Considering Pugh’s past relationship with Sandra Good, the two State attorneys’ were extremely suspicious of the timing of his death and believed Davis was involved in the death. This was never proven.

Scotland Yard’s reply (through Interpol check of visas) regarding Bruce Davis, by Inyo County DA Frank Fowles:

“It has been established that Davis is recorded as embarking at London airport for the United States on 25th April 1969 while holding U.S. Passport 612-2568. At this time he gave his address as Dormer Cottage, Felbridge, Surrey. This address is owned by the Scientology Movement and houses followers of this organization. The local police are unable to give any information concerning Davis but they understand that he has visited our country more recently than April, 1969. However, this is not borne out by official record.”


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