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Mendoland’s Oldest Mystery

Fifty years ago, there were ongoing clashes between rebellious longhaired youth and law enforcement. In Mendocino County, it would play out in peculiar fashion, resulting in Mendocino County's oldest homicide cold case.

In May 1967, a scrawny jailbird hippie was arrested in Leggett while trying to seduce a 14 year old girl. After serving a short sentence, he left the county with the encouragement of law enforcement.

In early Summer 1968, five young hippie women and an infant arrived in the Anderson Valley area of Navarro in a repurposed school bus. As some of the first hippies in the neighborhood, they made quite a splash in the conservative community, being quickly dubbed the Witches of Mendocino. Although the bus and women were malodorous, they carved out their own social niche in the Philo community. As young women in their twenties with access to drugs, they held a certain allure for slightly younger male teens of the neighborhood while rejecting advances by older local men. On June 22nd, one of the women dosed a 17 year old boy with LSD-25. When he freaked out on his acid trip, his mother called for the cops. Deputies and CHP troopers responded, arrested all five women, and turned the baby over to Children's Protective Services.

The five women were convicted of drug charges and served 63 days in the County Jail, being released on August 16th. One of them violated parole, and may have been rearrested later. Also, one arrestee had confused matters by trying to pass her baby off as another one's child. They would have had to return to Mendocino County post-sentence to reclaim the child.

Clyda Dulaney

On October 14th, Clyda Dulaney's eight year old son awoke belatedly at about 7:30 AM in his home just off Highway 101 across from where Retech is today. He searched the family's trailer for his eight months pregnant mother. He didn't find her, but did discover her purse dumped out on her unsleptin bed. Then he exited the front door and discovered her body outside the trailer. The frightened lad then dashed into the trailer next door in search of his great-grandmother. She was lying in the living room, television on. She had been beaten about the face and garroted with a stretched 36 inch boot lace.

The eight year old dashed out the back door of that trailer, re-entered his home via its back door, and awakened and dressed his two younger brothers. He led them out the back door to a neighbor's house. The neighbors called the Sheriff at about eight o'clock.

Sheriff Reno Bartolomie and his investigators found little physical evidence at the scene. Clyda Dulaney was lying on a walkway between the two trailers. She still had a double-looped leather thong embedded in her neck, and she had been beaten about the face and head. A heavy rain during the night had washed her body clean of trace evidence. Inside her trailer, Nancy Warren offered little more in clues—just blood under her fingernails. She too had been throttled by a double-looped 36 inch boot lace.

A $300 wad of bills in open view was ignored by the killer(s). A missing antique jewel box valued at $5,000 was later accounted for as sold. The change from a cash box may have been pilfered. Nancy's Antiques, the business directly in front of the trailers, was undisturbed.

Investigation began by looking for those with motives to kill either victim. Sixty-four year old Nancy Warren's life was unexceptional and she seemed to have no enemies. The same could not be said of her 24 year old granddaughter Clyda. She had left her ex-husband and father of her three boys, Johnny Ussery, and taken up with 49 year old Donald Dulaney and was bearing his child. Ussery was suing for custody of his sons, calling Clyda an unfit mother.

Ussery quickly proved his alibi; he was in Eugene, Oregon on the night of the murders. On the other hand, California Highway Patrol Sergeant Donald Dulaney had some explaining to do.

He said he was living in a Ukiah apartment with his teen daughter while seeking a large enough home for a blended family of six. Meanwhile, Clyda and sons stayed in her family's trailer. On the evening of the 13th, the entire Dulaney family watched a Disney show on TV at the apartment before Dulaney chauffeured Clyda and her boys home. After dropping them off at 9:30 PM, he headed for Sacramento, where he was scheduled for two weeks training. As he reached Route 20, he realized he had forgotten his uniform. After returning to his apartment for the uniform, he drove to Sacramento, arriving at 1:45 AM.

The blood under Nancy's fingernails was the wrong type to be Dulaney's. A check of his financials didn't uncover a large withdrawal that might have been used to pay off a hitman. He seemed cleared.

With the insiders checked out, what of the outsiders? The Sheriff considered three transient purse-snatching suspects who fled Ukiah. They may or may not have been the same three men reported changing a flat tire in the roadside vicinity of Nancy's Antiques the morning of the 14th. Another three men, possibly one or both of the above trios, was overheard in Hopland having a suspicious discussion. Then there was the report of a pickup truck full of hippies seen in an orchard near Nancy's Antiques. A vague and distorted grapevine rumor insisted that the murders may have been retribution for the Philo raid. In any case, none of these leads panned out.

Charles Manson, booked into Mendo Jail, 1969

Nor did the next lead concerning hippies. In December 1969, television news was rife with the horrific tale of an eight-month pregnant actress and her companions being slaughtered in Los Angeles. Sheriff Bartolomie recognized some of the faces featured; he had housed them in his jail under bogus names. He contacted the authorities in southern California. It seems that Sadie Mae Glutz, Ella Beth Sinder, Suzanne Scott, Cathran Patricia Smith, and Mary Brunner were actually Susan Atkins, Ella Jo Bailey, Stephanie Rowe, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Mary Brunner. The earliest recruits to Charlie Manson's murderous Family. And the hippie that had been arrested in Leggett? Charlie Manson. Who visited Susan Atkins at the Mendo County Jail during her stay there.

An interesting factoid emerged: leather thongs were used to restrain a couple of Mansonite victims before they were killed. Yet however tantalizing the facts were, the Mansons couldn't be firmly linked to the double murders.

One final incident occurred years later, when Johnny Ussery served time in Vacaville with Charlie Manson. Ussery was one of a group of inmates who approached Manson from behind. Ussery asked, “Hey, who did that thing up in Ukiah?” Manson spun about, and not knowing who had spoke, looked Ussery in the eye and replied, “You'll never know, will ya?”

And to this day we don't know. Fifty years on, the only chance at unlocking the riddle of Mendocino's oldest murder mystery will be if someone finally has a fit of conscience and confesses, or somebody divulges the family secrets…


  1. L Light January 13, 2019

    I love your paper, always have , long live the AVA. The last honest printed news ublication in North America.

  2. Gray Hughes June 6, 2020

    well if there was blood under her fingernails, did they store it? ancestry DNA seems like an option.

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