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Roane County's Manson link seeks release

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

If high school yearbook quotes are supposed to tell something about a person, Bruce Davis’ was quite fitting.

“An angry young man,” reads the quote accompanying his senior picture.

That would prove true for Davis later in life.

The 1961 graduate of Roane County High School was a member of the murderous Charles Manson Family. The cult went on a violent killing spree in California in 1969. Their victims included actress Sharon Tate.

Davis, 67, was convicted of killing Gary Hinman and Donald “Shorty” Shea. He was sent to California state prison on April 21, 1972, with a life sentence.

He could be on the verge of getting released after 38 years.

Davis was approved for parole in January at his 26th parole hearing. He’s still in custody at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo while his case undergoes a state-mandated review.

Davis was editor-in-chief of the 1961 Roane County High School yearbook, “The Kingstonian.” In the editor’s note, he thanked his staff for their work and patience.

Davis found his way to California some time after high school. He said he took up with the Manson Family because he was seeking acceptance and a feeling of belonging.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, while in prison Davis has participated in all available education, vocation and self-help programs and has been disciplinary-free since 1980.

He also reportedly became a born-again Christian.

Davis still has hurdles to cross in order to get out of prison. According to the CDCR, California Gov. Arnold Schwar-zenegger has the power to reverse the parole board’s decision. Whether Schwarzenegger will choose to keep Davis behind bars is not yet known.  

“The governor has not made a decision yet,” Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Rachel Cameron said. “He has until June 25 of this year to make a decision.”

If Davis is released on parole, there’s a chance he could find his way back to Roane County. Both California and Tennessee participate in the Interstate Compact. The compact regulates the transfer of parolees between states.

CDCR spokeswoman Margot Bach said Davis could petition his parole officer if he wanted to move back to Tennessee. She said Tennessee would then have to decide if it wanted to accept Davis as a parolee.        

“The final call would be up to Tennessee, not California,” Bach said.

If Davis wanted to come back to Tennessee to visit while on parole, Bach said that would not have to go through the Interstate Compact. She said Davis would need to get permission from his parole officer. That could prove difficult for Davis.

Bach said parolees with murder convictions have more stringent limitations on where they can travel.

“They really can’t leave their own county without permission in California,” she said.