Catherine Gillies was a member of the Manson Family. In the summer of ’69 she volunteered to go with the Tate/LaBianca killers on both nights, but Manson told Gillies to stay at Spahn Ranch.
Catherine was born in Santa Cruz but grew up in the Capistrano area. She was a honors student in high school and she was a member of the school swim team. Catherine was a very creative person, she enjoyed writing, drawing and singing. She was also known as a rebellious teenager and a tomboy. Catherine first met the Manson Family at Spahn Ranch where Catherine often went to ride the horses.
Catherine, aka Cappy, became one of Manson’s most devoted followers. Cappy joined the family sometime in 1968 and lived with the Family at the ranch. When the Manson Family were in need of a new home Catherine told them about a ranch called Myers ranch in Death Valley, owned by Catherine’s grandmother.
Manson gave Catherine’s grandmother a Beach Boys golden record, which he took when the Family stayed at Dennis Wilson’s house, in exchange for permission for the family to stay at the ranch. At some point there was an attempt to kill Catherine’s grandmother in order to get control of the ranch. As the story goes, some Family members were on their way to kill her but the mission was aborted due to a flat tire.
Cappy was arrested in both the Spahn Ranch and Barker Ranch raids. George Spahn, owner of the Spahn Movie Ranch, gave Gillies the nickname “Cappy.” There are two theories about her nickname. One theory is that George gave her the nickname because she often wore a cap. The other theory is that he gave her the nickname Cappy because Gillies grew up near Capistrano, Orange County. Gillies later received the nickname “Silver” from Manson, which she preferred.
Catherine was one of the 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 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.
During the Tate/LaBianca murder trial Cappy became a regular fixture 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.
Catherine testified in Judge Older’s courtroom that the Tate/LaBianca murders were copycat murders committed in an attempt to get Bobby Beausoleil out of jail. She testified that Manson had nothing to do with the murders. She also testified that she wanted to go with the Tate/LaBianca killers on both nights, but Manson told her that she wasn’t needed.
After the murder trials Catherine joined a motorcycle gang. She got married, had children and later divorced. She lived near Death Valley for a couple of years with her children before moving on.
It is reported that to this day Catherine is still upset she was not chosen to go with the killers and she still supports her brothers and sisters in prison. She kept in touch with Manson until his death and often wrote him letters. In the letters, some of which I read, she expressed her love and her continuing support for him.
Today Catherine is divorced, she has 4 children and
lives somewhere in Oregon. Catherine “Silver” Gillies died on June 29, 2018.