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California parole panel recommends release of former follower of Charles Manson

California parole panel recommends release of former follower of Charles Manson
At left, Bruce Davis in 2014 in a California Department of Corrections image, and in 1970 in a photo by Harold Filan. (Associated Press)

A state panel on Wednesday recommended parole for a former follower of cult leader Charles Manson whose release has been blocked by California governors on four previous occasions.

Bruce Davis, 74, had his 31st parole hearing at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, where he is serving a life sentence for the 1969 slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea.

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Davis was not involved in the more notorious killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others by the Manson "family" the same year.

During the nearly half-century since the slayings, parole panels have decided five times that Davis is no longer a public safety risk. Officials cited his age and good behavior behind bars, including his earning of a doctoral degree and ministering to other inmates.

Governors, however, have the final say on release. Gov. Jerry Brown will have about five months to consider the latest recommendation.

Brown rejected a previous parole recommendation for Davis last year. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also concluded that he remained too dangerous to be freed.

Davis testified at his 2014 hearing that he attacked Shea with a knife and held a gun on Hinman while Manson cut Hinman's face with a sword.

"I wanted to be Charlie's favorite guy," he said at the time.

Attorney Michael Beckman said Davis is the most rehabilitated among the 2,000 prisoners he currently represents. "There's no one even a close second," Beckman said.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey objected to Davis' possible release, calling the Manson-related slayings "some of the most horrific crimes in California history."

"We believe he continues to exhibit a lack of insight and remorse and remains a public safety risk," she said in a statement after the parole decision.

Hinman's cousin, Kay Martley, said Davis' crime was so heinous that he should die in prison.

Hinman was tortured for three days, Martley said in remarks prepared for the parole hearing. "This wasn't a crime of passion or impulse; this was slow, calculated and cold-blooded," she said.

Martley, who traveled from Hinman's native Colorado to attend the hearing, said she was angry about the recommendation for parole.

"Just because he's going to be 75, he's considered a low risk even though they said he has a personality disorder that he's going to have to work on — his narcissistic behavior, need for acceptance, his grandiosity," she said.

Tate's sister, Debra Tate, who also attended the hearing, said opponents of Davis' parole were gathering signatures online to present to Brown.

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Davis was convicted along with Manson and another follower, Steve Grogan, in the two slayings. Grogan was paroled in 1985 after he led police to Shea's body. Robert Beausoleil, who was convicted in Hinman's death, remains in prison.

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UPDATES:

5:50 p.m.: This story was updated with additional details from the parole board hearing.

This story was originally published at 3:50 p.m.

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