Catherine, aka Cappy, a long-time member of the Manson Family, first met Manson and his family at Spahn Ranch, where she often went horseback riding. Sometime in 1968 Catherine joined the family and moved to the ranch.
Catherine Gillies was born in Santa Cruz, California, but grew up in the Capistrano area. She was an honors student in high school, and she was a member of the school swim team. Catherine was a creative person, she enjoyed writing, drawing and singing. She was also known as a rebellious teenager and a tomboy. Before joining the Manson family, she was a Buffalo Springfield groupie, she followed the music group around during one of their tours.
After joining Manson and his family on the Spahn Ranch, Catherine became one of Manson’s most ardent followers. According to her own testimony, she wanted to join the Tate/LaBianca killers on both nights of the murders, but Manson told her it was best to stay at the ranch those two nights.
During the summer of ’69, Manson and his family lived at the Spahn ranch. They began to attract the attention of the police, the ranch was littered with stolen cars and car parts, and Manson was looking for a new place for the family. It was Catherine who told the family about a small ranch called Myers ranch located in Death Valley. The ranch was built in 1932 by Catherine’s grandparents. The Myers lived on the ranch until 1960, when the family moved to Fresno.
Catherine convinced her grandmother to let her and her friends stay at the ranch. Manson gave Catherine’s grandmother a Beach Boys gold record, and in exchange, Catherine’s grandmother gave the group permission to live on the ranch. Manson had taken the gold record with him when the family spent the summer with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson.
There’s a rumor that Manson wanted Catherine’s grandmother dead, so he could get his hands on the ranch. As the story goes, Manson sent some of his family members to Grandma, but the killers got a flat tire and called off the mission. However, there is no evidence for this story.
There are two theories as to how Catherine got the nickname Cappy. The first theory is that George Spahn, the owner of Spahn Ranch, gave her the nickname because Catherine often wore a cap. The second theory is that George nicknamed her because she grew up near Capistrano, Orange County. Later, Catherine received a new nickname from Manson; Silver, which became her prefered name.
Catherine was one of the Manson family members present when Manson associate John “Zero” Haught killed himself playing Russian roulette. The police ruled Haught’s death a suicide. However, there are indications that Haught may have been murdered. An anonymous source reportedly told the L.A Times that he was there when Haught died. He claimed Haught didn’t kill himself but was shot by one of the Manson girls.
Catherine became a regular at the Hall Of Justice on the corner of Temple and Broadway. She carved an X on her forehead and held vigil at the courthouse with the other family members. During the Tate/LaBianca trial she testified that Manson had nothing to do with the murders and that the murders were copycat murders, committed to get their brother Robert Beausoleil out of prison. She also testified that she wanted to join the killers on the nights of the murders, but that Manson told her to stay at the ranch those nights.
After the trial, Catherine joined a motorcycle gang, got married and had children. She lived near Death Valley for some time, near the place where Manson had been arrested and spent his last moments in freedom, before moving on.
She never denounced Manson. She stayed in touch with him until his death and wrote him letters on a regular basis. In the letters she expressed her love and continued support for him.
Today Catherine is divorced, she has 4 children and
lives somewhere in Oregon. Catherine “Silver” Gillies died on June 29, 2018.