4 – ConspiraZ Theory: Debunked


Prosecutor and author Vincent Bugliosi, Bruce Davis, and Charles Manson.

In an attempt to lend credence to his claimed Zodiac/Manson connection and his conspiracy stories, Howard Davis repeatedly cited the alleged endorsements by Vincent Bugliosi and the insider information allegedly shared by his “pristine” source. In 2006, both men responded to accusations by Howard Davis and exposed the Zodiac/Manson conspiracy as a hoax.

When interviewed, Vincent Bugliosi admitted he had “heard allegations” regarding the Zodiac/Manson theory, but said, “I’ve never heard of anything to support that allegation.” Bugliosi went further, and stated, “I doubt it very much. I think it would have come out by now.” Bugliosi was unable to remember how he had first learned of the Zodiac/Manson theory, but he did remember meeting “Manson buff” Bill Nelson at “two book signings” and speaking to him on the phone a “few times.” Bugliosi did not recall discussing the Zodiac/Manson theory with him, and he was surprised to learn Nelson had been associated with the theory. Bugliosi did not recognize the name “Howard Davis” and said, “I don’t even remember talking to the guy … I’m sure if he spoke to me I’d have wished him the best,” as was customary when contacted by any writer working on a book.

The subject of the alleged conspiracy was of great interest to Bugliosi. Informed of the details of the conspiracy, as described by Howard Davis, Bugliosi proceeded to characterize the tale as “pure, unadulterated insanity,” and said that the scenario described was “preposterous on its face and obviously 100% wrong.” Bugliosi echoed the skepticism of many before him and asked, “If Manson committed more murders than the Manson murders, why would anyone want to protect him on that? … It makes no sense … what you’re talking about is a crime, obstruction of justice … a massive conspiracy of many, many people being involved, for no believable reason.” Bugliosi listened to the list of reasons given by Davis to justify the conspiracy, and he summarily dismissed each as implausible, illogical and without merit. “It would serve no end that would help the perpetrators (of the conspiracy).” Amused by the claims of a “secret” and “sealed file” on Bruce Davis or the conspiracy itself, Bugliosi exclaimed, “Oh my God, that’s preposterous.” The story of the Zodiac/Manson cover-up did not impress the former prosecutor, who said, “I just find the allegation absolutely inconceivable.” Deeply disturbed by the story, Vincent Bugliosi unequivocally stated, “I reject it completely out of hand.”

Howard Davis claimed that he had repeatedly shared compelling evidence with Bugliosi which “changed his mind” and convinced the prosecutor that the Zodiac/Manson connection was possible. Vincent Bugliosi completely refuted Davis and his claims. The facts and Bugliosi’s statements indicated that Howard Davis had invented the Bugliosi consultations and endorsements, perhaps in order to lend credence to his tenuous theories and claims, and, to sell copies of his book. Howard Davis and his claims were debunked by the man he had cited as his number one endorsement, thereby casting further doubt on his cover-up story. Davis famously bragged, “My ex-brother-in-law DA has lots of stories about how honest the authorities are,” but even his “pristine” source told a version of events which raised more disturbing questions about Howard Davis, his claims and his credibility.

This author spent several weeks in communication with Howard Davis by email and telephone in an attempt to track down the source of his conspiracy tale. Davis claimed that he had “nothing to hide,” yet he consistently stalled, dodged questions, and even provided incomplete information regarding his source which caused further delays. Informed that a simple search of public records could produce the name his source, the former brother-in-law, Davis reluctantly provided the full name of his source. Further research included basic information about the individual and his background, and, discussions with Bugliosi and Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Media Relations Division. This author then contacted the former brother-in-law. He did not ask to remain anonymous but is referred to here as BIL LAW.

When surprised by an unannounced phone call and a request for a general interview regarding his employment at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, BIL LAW was friendly and cooperative. He confirmed that he had worked for the office in early 1974 but left to pursue other opportunities after approximately six months. He explained that he had previously worked for the office as an investigator while he had attended law school, but had taken a job as a deputy district attorney after passing the bar exam and earning a license to practice law. He later became a prominent prosecutor and worked for the United States Department of Justice for many years until he recently retired. When asked if he had ever been involved in the investigation or prosecution of any of the members of the Manson family, BIL LAW confirmed that he had been involved in the early investigations of several killings, including the 1969 murders of victims Rosemary and Leno LaBianca as well as the murders of Gary Hinman and Shorty Shea. He stated that this was the extent of his involvement in the cases and accurately reminded this author that the trials had been long over by the time he became a deputy district attorney.

BIL LAW was then informed that a story had circulated for years which claimed that members of the LADA’s office had discovered evidence to link the Manson family to the Zodiac crimes, but that these individuals then conspired to conceal this important discovery. BIL LAW seemed genuinely surprised to hear such a sensational accusation, and said, “I can’t believe that whoever suggested it has any credibility whatsoever.” When he learned that his former brother-in-law Howard Davis had made this claim while citing a source within the DA’s office, BIL LAW sounded shocked and asked in disbelief, “Is he claiming I said something like that?” When told that Howard Davis had cited him as the sole source of the entire cover-up story, BIL LAW was not amused, and replied, “He’s a nutjob.” BIL LAW stated that the conversation described by Davis had “never happened.” According to BIL LAW, those who had known Howard Davis did not consider him to be a credible person, and he explained that Davis also “had some extraordinarily bizarre and fanciful so-called investigative insight into the Mormon church.”


The book co-authored by Howard Davis. Zodiac./Manson conspiracy theorists Bill Nelson and Howard Davis during a television interview. Howard Davis appears at at gathering of Zodiac buffs to sell copies of his book The Zodiac/Manson Connection.

In 1977, Howard Davis and other researchers published a book titled Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? claimed that Joseph Smith used a manuscript written by Congregational minister and writer Solomon Spalding as the basis for the Book of Mormon. A 1977 article in TIME magazine stated that Davis and his co-authors had relied “on the sometimes shaky science of handwriting analysis,” and had responded “somewhat lamely” to criticism of the book’s conclusions. The article ended with the note that the Mormon Church remained “unruffled” by the sensational claims of Howard Davis and his fellow conspiracy theorists. During an appearance at a Sunday Bible Class at the Melodyland Fellowship Center in Anaheim, California, July 10, 1977, Howard Davis reportedly told the audience that he and his co-authors had received death threats. “I’m dead serious about this… But our lives are definitely in danger… Please don’t think we’re afraid… We are not afraid… trying to fight a multi-billion dollar organization that is trying to take over the economy of the United States– they’re right on time– and we are operating with very, very limited funds.” Davis was apparently trying to convince the audience that he and his co-authors might be murdered to cover-up a massive Mormon conspiracy to seize control of the American economy.

BIL LAW saw a similar pattern in Howard’s career as a Zodiac/Manson conspiracy theorist. “He has no credibility,” he said. “I think he’s kind of a harmless guy, [but] a responsible journalist would not use Howard [as a source].” He scoffed at the notion that he trusted Howard and would choose to confide in him. “Do you think I would confide anything to Howard Davis?” When asked whether he had ever discussed the Zodiac case with Howard, BIL LAW said that he could not recall any such conversation. He stated that, if Howard or anyone else had asked him to speculate as to the reasons for the disappearance of the Zodiac, he would have cited the usual explanation that the killer was most likely in prison or dead. Like Bugliosi, BIL LAW also noted the many legal and logical flaws in the Howard Davis conspiracy tale.

BIL LAW denied any knowledge of any discovery of Zodiac evidence by the LADA’s office and denied that he had ever told Davis such a story. He also said that Howard’s ex-wife, BIL LAW’s sister, had never confronted him about the cover-up story, and he encouraged this author to contact her to confirm his story. Disturbed by the allegations, BIL LAW said that Howard Davis had invented the fantastical story, and added, “He’s delusional.” Davis had promised that he would submit to a polygraph examination if BIL LAW would do so as well. BIL LAW viewed the challenge as empty grandstanding. He told this author that he had nothing to prove to Davis, and he would let the public decide who had more credibility. When informed that his “pristine source” had refuted his story, Howard Davis replied, “I am unable to discuss some matters about my information.” He stated that he would not stop his “work” on the so-called Zodiac/Manson connection and declared that his conspiracy “project is all that counts.” At his website, Davis later posted the alleged results of a claimed voice-stress analysis test which purportedly proved that he was telling the truth. The voice sample was allegedly submitted to an online company and was confined to his pre-selected subject matter. The Internet company which allegedly accepted and analyzed the voice sample did not respond to inquiries regarding their methods, the sample itself, or their conclusions.


NEXT – ConspiraZ Theory: Unadulterated Insanity