Donald Shea… (Victim)

Donald Shea (aka Donald “Shorty” Shea)

Donald Shorty Shea was a Spahn Ranch stunt man and horse wrangler who had been killed approximately 10 days after the August 16, 1969 raid on the ranch.

Donald Jerome Shea was born on September 18, 1933 in Massachusetts. He later moved to California, like many others, with aspirations of becoming a movie star. What he found was that it was going to be more difficult than he expected and while he would catch some small acting gigs here and there, the most reliable work would be at Spahn Ranch where his skills as a horse wrangler were put to good use.

Shea was a tall man measuring six foot two and had a stocky build. For a short time he worked as a bouncer and was considered the foreman on the ranch who pretty much directed the other ranch workers, but not so much when it came to Manson and his crew; Shea could tell that Manson didn’t like him much, and the two didn’t get along.

One of the reasons Manson disliked Shorty was obvious – he didn’t like authority of any kind, however, even worse was that Donald had been in a relationship with a black woman named Magdalena, who for a short time also stayed at the ranch; Charlie despised Shea for the relationship.

The animosity grew between the two men and Shea began to comment to Ranch owner George Spahn that he didn’t care much for the Manson group and that they were up to no good on the ranch and should move on to another place, but old George Spahn was enjoying the company of the Manson girls, and looked the other way at these suggestions despite Shorty’s continual complaints.

On August 16, 1969, sheriff’s raided the ranch as they had discovered there were stolen vehicles on the property and about 100 officers arrived in the early morning hours catching everyone off guard. Manson suspected that Shea helped set up the raid, and believed Shea was trying to get Spahn to run the Family off the ranch. Shea was killed approximately 10 days later.

Manson family leader Charles Manson and family members Steve “Clem” Grogan and Bruce Davis were eventually convicted of the murder although Tex Watson and Bill Vance were also participants. After Shea’s murder, the Family burned and buried his belongings to keep the murder a secret.

The location of his body was not discovered until December 1977, nearly a decade after his death,when Steve Grogan agreed to aid authorities in the recovery by drawing a map to its location. Shea’s skeletal remains were discovered on a hillside near Santa Susana Road next to Spahn Ranch.

Bruce Davis claims that the decision to kill Shea came directly from Manson. In his parole hearings Davis described the murder of Shea and the events that led up to it. It has also been suspected that Shea may have learned details about the Tate/Labianca killings and leaked his knowledge to other Family members during the raid on Spahn Ranch that he was aware of it. The one thing that is clear is that Donald Shea was no fan of Charles Manson, and Manson did what needed to be done to get rid of him.


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