Donald “Shorty” Shea was a stuntman and ranch worker who was murdered by members of the Manson Family. Shea moved to California to pursue a career in acting, but mostly worked as a horse wrangler at Spahn Ranch and as a bouncer at a topless bar. “Shorty” actually stood about six feet 4 inches tall and weighed more than 200 pounds.
When Charles Manson and the Family first moved to Spahn’s Movie Ranch, Shea initially co-existed with them peacefully but, in time, Charles Manson began to look down on Shea because Shea married a black woman.
Shea began to complain about Manson and the family to George Spahn. Eventually Shea planned to help George Spahn remove the Family from the Spahn Ranch when their brushes with the law grew out of control.
Somewhere between August 26 and 28, Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Steve Grogan, Bill Vance, Larry Bailey, and Bruce Davis asked Shea to come with them to get some auto parts.
After Watson gave a sign, Grogan hit Shea over the head with a pipe wrench and Watson stabbed Shea several times. Shea managed to get out of the car.
He then was surrounded by the gang and they brutally stabbed him to death. Grogan later said that Shea was so strong it took all of them to kill him.
According to Bruce Davis and Steve Grogan, both Bill Vance and Larry Bailey were participants in Shea’s murder. However Vance and Bailey were never prosecuted for Shea’s death.
Several motives are given for Shea’s murder. On August 16, 1969, the Sheriffs Department raided Spahn Ranch. They were looking for stolen cars not knowing they had the Tate/LaBianca killers in reach. Manson was convinced that Shea ratted on the Family and Manson blamed Shea for the raid.
Another suggested motive for Shea’s death was “bad blood” which existed between Shea and Manson. According to Windy Bucklee, Shea’s cousin , Manson never got over a beating he got from Shea.
“The fact that Shea beat the shit out of Manson was the reason, I’m quite sure, that Shea always remained on Manson’s bad side,” Bucklee said. “I know he never forgot that.” And Manson reportedly resented the fact that Shea was married to a black woman.
Barbara Hoyt testified that Manson told the Family that Shea was responsible for the sheriff’s raid and that Shea was trying to get the Manson family kicked off of the Spahn Ranch.
Hoyt also testified that one night in August 1969 she heard loud screams coming from the creek behind the ranch. She recognized the screams as coming from Shea and that she never saw Shea again after that night.
Shea’s Remains Discovered
Shea’s remains were discovered in December 1977 when Steve Grogan agreed to tell authorities the location of the body. Grogan was granted parole after the discovery of Shea’s remains in exchange for his cooperation.
Shea is buried in a community plot in Angeles Abbey Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.