Catherine Gillies

Catherine, aka Cappy and Capistrano, a long-time member of the Manson Family, first met Manson and his group at Spahn Ranch, where she often went horseback riding. Sometime in 1968, Catherine joined the Manson Clan and permanently 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 [image], 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 reportedly followed the music group around during one of their tours.


Catherine's relation with her mother was tense. According to Lynette Fromme, Catherine's mom had tried to kill her spirit, and it was a miracle she could trust any other woman. After joining Manson and his group, 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 on those two nights.

“I would have gone with them, but didn’t only because they didn’t need me.”


Catherine was very popular among the men at Spahn Ranch. She had fine golden blond hair and bright blue eyes [image] and [image]. Catherine didn't think she was pretty, and she didn't like to wear skirts because she thought her legs were ugly.

Myers Ranch

During the summer of ’69, Manson and his people lived at the Spahn ranch. They attracted the attention of the police. The ranch was littered with stolen cars and car parts, and Manson was searching for a new place for the group after Manson and his Clan were arrested during the August 16th Spahn Ranch raid. Catherine's Mugshot [image]. It was Catherine who told Manson about a small ranch called Myers ranch in Death Valley. Catherine’s grandparents built the ranch in 1932. Her grandparents lived on the ranch until 1960, when the Myers moved to Fresno. As a child, Catherine regularly vacationed at Myers ranch.

Beach Boys Gold Record

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 people 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 [image], 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 preferred name.

Russian roulette

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 [image]. 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.

Murder Trial

Catherine became a regular at the Hall Of Justice on the corner of Temple and Broadway. She shaved her head and carved an X on her forehead [image] 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 on those nights.

Later Life

After the trial, Catherine joined a motorcycle gang, got married to a man named David "Coyote" Barton, and had children [image]. Catherine 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 regularly. In the letters, she expressed her love and continued support for him.

Catherine Gillies Today

Today Catherine is divorced, she has 4 children, and lives somewhere in Oregon in the Cave Junction area. Catherine has a good relationship with her children and she has many grandchildren.

Catherine “Silver” Gillies died of cancer on June 29, 2018.