It was late in the fall of 1953. I was eight-years old. My family and I were residing in a small one-bedroom cottage located in Glendale, California. Money was tight. My mother was working as a waitress, while my father a carpenter struggled to find full-time work. While both my parents worked, I would act as babysitter for my one-year-old sister Linea. Just when things were at their lowest financially, through a friend’s recommendation, my father found part-time work at a “cowboy ranch,” as he first described it.
One evening, my father returned home from work at the ranch and with a smile that went from ear to ear, announced that Crash Corrigan had hired him to be his full-time foreman at Corriganville Movie Ranch. As it turned out, the “cowboy ranch” my father first referred to was Corriganville, which at the time was the most famous Western movie ranch in America and was considered to be on par with Disneyland as the number one tourist stop in California.
I ended up living at Corriganville with my family for five years. During that time I met all the famous Western movie stars of the fifties. Stars like John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Randolph Scott, and many others. All were interesting to meet; however, the person I remember the most was a young stuntman hired by Crash Corrigan to participate in the weekend reenactments of bank robberies and shootouts. That stuntman’s name was Donald Jerome Shea. Most people knew him by his nickname Shorty Shea.
I first met Shorty Shea when my father wanting to get a horse for me purchased a chestnut colored mare named Blaze from George Spahn. The ranch hand who picked out that perfect steed for me was Shorty Shea. Through the connection of helping choose my horse for me, I became friends with Shorty. And during my years living at the ranch he became like the older brother I never had.
At the time I first met him, Shorty was a wannabe stuntman in his twenties, who was working for George Spahn as a wrangler and ranch hand. Shorty’s goal was to become a famous Western movie actor or stuntman. He would indeed become famous -- but not in the way he expected.
Corriganville in the early fifties was like the Western version of Disneyland. On the weekends there would be live reenactments for the public, featuring gunfights, bank holdups, and many other shows featuring some of Hollywood’s best Western stuntmen. The ranch also served as a backdrop to many Western movies and television shows.
It was in this atmosphere that Shorty first got his taste of life as a stuntman and was able to hone his skills under the tutelage of the likes of Bob Bickston and Lance Victor; men who would play a role in his brief and tumultuous life. It was a life that ultimately would lead him into direct confrontation with Charles Manson and his murderous Family.
Shorty’s dream was to become famous and have his name known by an adoring public. Little could he imagine the tragic events that would cause his name and face to be on the front pages of newspapers across the world.
Manson’s death left behind many unanswered questions as to the real reasons for the murder of Shorty Shea. There have been a myriad of theories as to why Manson ordered his murder. As our research unfolded, we have uncovered never-before-known facts about the lives of Shorty Shea and Charles Manson, facts that dispel some of what was commonly thought to be factual.
In bringing the true facts to light, we have pored over hundreds of hours of trial testimony and interviewed some of Shorty Shea’s closest friends in an attempt to shed light on his complicated life and tragic death. We will outline the true reasons for Manson ordering the murder of Shorty Shea and speculate on why Manson, a felon out on parole, was allowed to have numerous run-ins with the law and yet be allowed to remain free.
From Spahn Ranch, Manson unleashed Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian; to murder Sharon Tate and four others the fateful night of August 8th, 1969 accompanied by Leslie Van Houten the following night, they viciously murdered Leno and Rosemary La Bianca. A few weeks later, Manson would order the murder of my friend Shorty Shea.