Robert Kovacik, David Gregory
Recommended for parole on Thrusday, Bruce Davis, 69, was convicted in 1972 in the slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea. His attorney says Davis is a changed man and will likely field requests to become a minister if released from prison after nearly four decades behind bars. But victims of the Manson Family's heinous murders say they don't buy it. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2012.
After 27 attempts to sway the California parole board to grant him freedom, a convicted murderer described as Charles Manson's "right-hand man" may have finally achieved his goal on Thursday when a panel recommended parole for 69-year-old Bruce Davis.
Davis, convicted with Manson and another man in two murders unrelated to the infamous Sharon Tate murders in 1969, has been imprisoned for 40 years.
"Bruce Davis was Charles Manson's chief lieutenant," said Stephen Kay, Manson Family prosecutor. "Somebody is going to wake up and find Bruce Davis is their neighbor. I wouldn’t want to be that person.”
Davis appeared before the parole board on Thursday at the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo, where Davis is imprisoned. The board’s decision came on the eve of Davis’ 70th birthday.
A parole board determined in 2010 that Davis was ready for release, but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed the decision citing the heinous nature of the crimes. Gov. Jerry Brown has the final say on decisions by the current parole board.
Davis' attorney says his client discovered God in prison and is a changed man, describing him as a "good, solid citizen."
"I think he would want you to know how very sorry he is for the role in the Manson family crime spree," said Michael Beckman, Davis' attorney.
"I think he is going to be a minister. He's had offers in the past to be a minister at various churches, and that's what I think he wants to do."
Still, family members of Manson Family victims are not buying it.
Manson and his followers shot to infamy in 1969 after the murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others at a Benedict Canyon home in the hills above Los Angeles. That rampage was followed the next night by the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their Los Feliz home.
Though not involved in the Tate/LaBianca murders, Davis was convicted along with another man in 1972 slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea at Chatsworth ranch where Manson and his followers lived.
The Hinman family asked Sharon Tate's sister, Debra, to speak on their behalf in light of Thursday's decision.
"Gary Hinman was tortured for three days. This was especially heinous for the Manson Family," Tate said. "In speaking with the (Hinman) family members, they are absolutely devastated."
Former Manson follower Barbara Hoyt described Davis as looking to move up in the Family.
"Charlie was definitely the leader, but Bruce was wanting to be up there too, and knowing the family business was murder, he wanted to lead, not just follow," Hoyt said. "So I think he's very dangerous."