The Bakersfield Terrors

The picture below shows a proud Bobby Brimage after he won a boxing match:

Brimage is flanked on the left by Wayne “Bulldog” Ladd, and on the right by Wayne Odom. Both were known members of the Aryan Brotherhood, and the picture is presumebly from San Quentin in the late nineteen-seventies. It’s not known if Bobby Brimage was an associate or a made member of the Brand, but there are a few other pictures floating around with him and Aryan brothers, so there’s no doubt that he at one point in time was close to them.

Robert Lee Brimage was rounded off a violent clan of Oklahomans, that had settled in Bakersfield, Kern County, California. He first rose to prominence in 1962, when he at the age of seventeen was arrested with his older brother Joe and two other young men for a 70.000 dollar robbery, to that date the biggest heist in the history of Bakersfield. Bobby Brimage was described as a parolee from the California Youth Authority, so his trouble with the law had started earlier.

Below: Arrest photos of Joe and kid brother Bobby, 1962.

In 1970 Bobby Brimage was 24 and a married man. His brother-in-law was at the same age, and the two young men seem to go along fine. At least they went fishing together in June of 1970. When Bobby Brimage decided to burglarize a Snack Bar, his brother-in-law tried to stop him. Brimage smahed a beer bottle over his head and stabbed him with a knife. A year later he was himself stabbed to within inches of his life by a group of inmates in Kern County Jail, where he was in for theft and other minor charges.

In April 1972 Bobby Brimage was sent to California state prison Chino, convicted of one count of assualt with a deadly weapon on Benny Brimage, one of his older brothers, and two counts of assault on a peace officer. The charges were on appeal reduced to one count of assault.

In 1975 Bobby Brimage’s nephew Glenn was arrested for robbery. While housed in county jail he stabbed a fellow inmate. When Glenn was sent to Chino, there were no less than three Brimages in the institution. Glenn, uncle Bobby and uncle Charlie, older brother of Bobby and in prison for killing a bartender who had refused to serve him

Yet another of Bobby’s older brothers, Danny, was imprisoned in Nevada for a crime spree that culminated in the murder of a taxi cab driver. And another of Bobby’s nephews, Benny, was in jail for stabbing a man over a radio. At 17 Benny was almost killed by uncle Danny in a drunken car chrash

In May 1976 Bobby Brimage was back on the streets of Bakerfield. He tried to steal a car, but was arrested after a gunbattle with the car owner and sent back to Chino. He died in Kern County in 1980, but how or why is not known. He apparntly never did time in San Quentin, så he may have hooked up with the Aryan Brotherhood in Chino. But Bobby Brimage was a violent man, so he might have been shipped off to San Quentin for disciplinary reasons during one of his stints in state prison.

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The Brand and Satan’s Maidens

In 1972 the local press in Southern California gave exstensive coverage to the trial against Fred Mendrin, member of the Aryan Brotherhood, and Donald Hale, member of the American Nazi Party, for the murder of fellow inmate Fred Castillo in Chino’s security wing Palm Hall. But it was a murder case in Northern California that brought the Aryan Brotherhood to national attention.

On Monday November 13th, 1972, Palm Hall’s program manager Paul S. Dobreff testified in the Mendrin-Hale trail about the Aryan Brotherhood and the inner workings of the prison underworld. Asked by the prosecutor about how murder contracts were circulated between the Aryan Brotherhood, the Mexican Mafia and the American Nazi Party, a local newspaper reproduced his explanation as follows:

Dobreff said that they were circulated through coded and un-coded letters and movement of inmates. He said another way was through the Manson girls. He said the Manson girls have been carrying messages and have been involved in escape plots.

As if to confirm Dobreff’s claim about a connection between the Manson Family and the Aryan Brotherhood, that very same Monday the police up in Stockton, coincidently the hometown of Fred Castillo, arrested three Manson girls and two Aryan brothers for double murder.

Former convict Charles Millet Manson. The Man Son to his hippie disciples.

Though handsome Michael Monfort and stocky James Craig both wore “AB” tattoos on their chests, they were not in the big league, former inmates at the minimum security prison Susanville as they were. Both men were wanted by the law, Monfort for escape and Craig for parole violation. For six months the two desperados had led a gang of eight on a crime spree all over California that culminated in the murder of two gang members.

The gang consisted of four couples: Michael Munfort and Nancy Pitman AKA Red Eye and Brenda. James Craig and Priscilla Cooper AKA Spider and Tuffy. Fellow ex-con William Goucher and Maria Alonzo AKA Iceman and Chrystal. And lastly James and Lauren Willett and their infant daughter Heidi. They all had met about a year before the arrests in Stockton in some kind of halfway house in Los Angeles, run by Charles Manson’s most devoted follower, Lynette “Squaky” Fromme.

Nancy Pitman and Lynette Fromme were both original members of Satan’s Maidens, a group of devoted female followers of Charles Manson, who had sworn death and destruction if anything happend to the Man Son. Former stripper Maria Alonzo had been recruited in jail by murderess Susan Atkins, but never rose to prominence in The Family. Priscilla Cooper was also a former stripper and wore the same “X” carved on the forehead as the Satan’s Maidens, but had never been a member of The Family. She was a follower of Spider Craig, not Charles Manson

Members of Satan’s Maidens. Pitman to the left and Fromme in the middle.
Vests confiscated after a firefight in 1971 with the police, after which Satan’s Maidens dissolved.

26-year old James Willett was an unhinged veteran of the Vietnam War. A former marine he came from a wealthy family on the East Coast, but in California had driftet into the hippie counterculture. Along the way he met Lauren Olmstead, seven years his junior and a runaway at 17. After their marriage the couple somehow hooked up with Fromme’s little operation and then joined the Monfort-Craig gang.

In October 1972 the gang settled in Guerneville, a rural center for hippies and outlaw bikers in Northern Californian. One night Red Eye, Spider and Iceman lured James Willett out into the woods where they executed him with pistol shots and shotgun blasts. The former corporal seems to have grown tired of the outlaw life and told his wife that he contemplated going to the police. The three killers buried his body in a shallow grave. Wild animals ran off with his head.

James Willett.

Young Mrs. Willett, who called herself “Reni”, phoned her mother and asked for money, claiming her husband had left her. When the gang moved to Stockton shortly thereafter, Reni happily went along. They drove in her husband’s car and Michael Monfort used fake ID in his name. On the night they settled in Stockton “Red Eye” Monfort and “Iceman” Goucher were caugth robbing a liquor store. Red Eye as “James Willett” got out on bail, paid for by the mother of Iceman, and promptly went to Florida to buy a gun, skipping bail.

Lauren “Reni” Willett with baby Heidi. Nancy Pitman to the right.

An old man hiking the woods found the halfeaten body of James Willett on November 6th. When it was clear to the police that they had a murder case on their hands, they tentatively first assumed the dead man was a victim of the Hells Angels. The famed and feared outlaw club was known to hang out in Guerneville and three dead bodies had just been discoverede in a neighboring county, buried on the rural property of a former vicepresident of the mighty Oakland chapter.

However, it only took a couple of days before the local police knew that the victim was former marine James Willett and that the “James Willett” who’d been arrested down in Stockton and since skipped bail, was identical to escaped convict Michael Monfort. The police began to put pressure on William Goucher, still in jail on robbery charges in Stockton. Iceman had already given self preservation some thought. Prison rumors had it that the Aryan Brotherhood planned to kill him. When girlfriend Maria “Crystal” Alonzo was booked for carrying an illegal switchblade during a visit, the police pressured her too. With information gained from Iceman and Crystal the cops quickly found the gang’s hideout in Stockton.

Iceman and Crystal in a tender moment.

That very same day Lynette Fromme was in Stockton, visiting Iceman in the jail. During the police raid she called the hideout and asked to be picked up. The police obliged and arrested her, Nancy Pitman, Priscilla Cooper and two men who identified themselves – papers and all – as Gordon Foot and Earl Blake. It didn’t take the cops long to blow the cover of Michael Monfort and James Craig. When the police found the fresh body of Reni buried in the cellar of the gang’s rented house, all five were charged with the murder of James and Lauren Willett.

Chained together by foot suspects Michael Monfort (left) and James Craig on parade for the press.

Young Mrs. Willett had been killed by one shot through the head. Nancy Pitman first claimed that Reni had shot herself in a game of Russian roulette. Red Eye later admitted that he had been the player. He had done it in a fit of anger because the girls had played around with his brand new saturday night special, a .38 Röhm RG-40 revolver.

William “Iceman” Goucher testified for the grand jury and pleaded guilty to second degree murder of James Willett.

James “Spider” Craig pleaded guilty to second degree murder of James Willett and guilty of being an accessory after the facts in the murder of Lauren Willett.

Michael “Red Eye” Monfort pleaded guilty to second degree murder of Lauren Willett and guilty of being an accessory after the fact in the murder of James Willett.

Former stripper Priscilla Cooper and original Satan’s Maiden Nancy Pitman pleaded guilty of being an accessory after the facts in the murder of Lauren Willett.

Priscilla Cooper at her arrest.

All charges against Satan’s Maiden Lynette Fromme were dropped. In 1974 she showed up for the trial of Fred Mendrin’s old gang boss in Chino, Michael “Tank” Noah, and Richard “Bear” Clemence, charged in the stabbing of fellow Aryan brother Thomas Horn in Vacaville. Gun inexpert Fromme became real famous when she in 1975 tried to shoot the president of the United States.

Wannabe assassin Lynette Fromme caught in the act by Secret Service agents.

Low level Satan’s Maiden Maria “Crystal” Alonzo married snitch William Goucher. Iceman feared he would be laid on ice. His lawyer demanded that his client served his time in protective costudy because of death threats against him, presumebly from the Aryan Brotherhood. His wife drew headlines in 1974 when she was arrested in a harebrained kidnapping plot to free two convicts. Crystal now claimed her name was Karen Forbes and that she was the wife of Bobby Forbes, one of the convics she wanted to free. His real name was Bobby Hedberg.

In 1975 Mexican Mafia member Ramon “Mundo” Mendoza met Crystal in the home of Joe “Pegleg” Morgan, the American-Croatian godfather of La eMe. According to Mendoza, Bobby Hedberg was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and had from Folsom basically given Crystal to Morgan as a kind of parole present. Egged on by Morgan the former stripper stripped for the gathering of canales in his apartment. She divorced William Goucher in 1979 and died a few years later.

Crystal as the trophy wife of Joe Morgan.

While in prison low level Aryan brother Michael “Red Eye” Monfort married former Satan’s Maiden Nancy Pitman. He was paroled in 1984 and moved in with his wife and their three sons. It worked out well until it didn’t: in 1996 Red Eye was sentenced to 878 years in prison for 32 armed robberies. He died in 2005. By that time his old Aryan brother Spider had been long dead.

39-year old James “Spider” Craig was paroled from Folsom in March 1978. He immediately hooked up with convicted robber Edward Barabas, another freshly paroled convict from Folsom. Barabas was not a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, but known as tough, young race warrior he probably was an associate. Spider moved in with with Priscilla Cooper, long since paroled for her part in the killing of Lauren “Reni” Willett. The ex-cons’ great money making scheme was to rob drug dealers and for the next months they committed several succesful robberies in the Sacramento area. At one point they discussed robbing cocaine dealers with Luis Rodriguez and Margaret Klaees, a wannabe Bonnie & Clyde pair that later gained fame for the execution style murders of two California Highway Patrol officers.

The arrest of cop killers Rodriguez & Klaess.

Another crime partner, Robert Chrisman, began to suspect that Craig and Barabas planned to rob him. He allied himself with Chester Lee Hunt, who came armed and dangerous. He wounded Edward Barabas in the neck in a short firefight and what followed became a hellish night of kidnappings, robberies, torture, beatings, rapes and murders involving twelve adults and five children. Hours later firefighters were alerted to a car in flames. In the trunk they found the charred bodies of Craig and Barabas, hands tied behind their backs and both shot.

Spider Craig was still alive and according to the first press report, he kept groaning “She’s dangerous”. However, it was later established that his jaw had been shot off with a 12 gauge shotgun. He died a few days later in hospital. During the night Ches Hunt had shot Edward Barabas through the head and then forced a terrified Robert Chrisman to helped load both Craig and Barabas into the trunk of the car and later forced Chrisman to shoot Spider Craig.

Edward Barabas.

As soon as the news of their evil deed broke, Robert Chrisman broke down crying and turned himself in. When Chester Hunt was approached by the police, he opened fire and was shot in face for his troubles. Hunt, his wife, Robert Chrisman and his girlfriend were all convicted on a string of charges, ranging from burning of personal property to first degree murder.

During the hellish night Ms. Domer, the girlfriend of Edward Barabas, was kidnapped, robbed and raped by Chester Lee Hunt. She was babysitting Priscilla Cooper’s one months old infant, who went with Domer into captivity. Hunt didn’t hurt the baby. Priscilla Cooper was by sheer luck out of town that night. In despair over the loss of her beloved Spider she later committed several armed robberies.

Little Heidi, the orphaned infant daughter of James and Lauren Willett, was adopted by her maternal grandparents.

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The Path of the Patch

Dick White’s story has in recent years been colported by Bo Bushnell, a Los Angeles collector of outlaw biker memorabilia and founder of Outlaw Archive. As descibed in the previous post, Dick White not only claimed to have founded the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC), but also that he was the creator of the original club logo, the so-called Bumblebee Patch:

According to Outlaw Archive the photo below is of Dick White in his heydays:

The photo seems to document that Dick White indeed was involved with the early HAMC. It does not, however, support White’s claim that he was the creator of the first deathhead patch. White is wearing no club colors at all, and though his back seat lady friend wear a top and bottom rocker, there’s no center patch to be seen. The picture does in fact seem to suggest what other pictures from the early fifties do; that the Hells Angels’ top and bottom rocker both were in place before the patch:

Cf. Outlaw Archive the earliest photos of patch carrying members of HAMC are from around 1953. They wear the Bumblebee Patch and there’s no real reason to doubt that this patch is the original patch of the Hells Angels. And it therefore seems reasonable to assume that it was this patch that Rocky Graves wore when he in 1954 moved to San Francisco and blew the mind of the Market Street Commandos to such a degree that they became the second chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.

Allegedly a photo of Rocky Graves (man with bottle) and early members of Hells Angels Frisco.

The story about Rocky Graves and the founding of HA Frisco was told in 1964 by Birney Jarvis, the vicious “Preetam Bobo” in Hunter S. Thompson’s famous 1966-book about the Hells Angels. According to Jarvis, Rocky wore “the leering winged deathhead that has become so well known to California lawmen.” So it seems safe to assume that Rocky’s deathhead patch was the same as the one HA Frisco wore ten years later, e.i. the Bumblebee Patch.

The legendary president of HA Frisco, Frank Sadilek, with the Bumblebee Patch in 1963.

Birney Jarvis rode with the Market Street Commandos and became a charter (founding) member of HA Frisco, leaving the club in 1958. He served as vicepresident under Frank Sadilek, who was president of the charter from 1955 and until he left in 1963. Sadilek is very often credited with being the creator of the Bumblebee (or original, as HAMC nowadays prefer it called) patch. Birney Jarvis and Frank Sadilek were good friends right up to Sadilek’s death by drowning in 1971, so Jarvis would undoubtedly have given Sadilek full credit for the patch if there had been credit to give.

Birney Jarvis as member of HA Frisco, 1955.
Frank Sadilek around 1956. Like Birney Jarvis he earned his living as a motorcycle messenger.

In 1956 Vic Bettencourt down in Gardena in Los Angeles County started a chapter of the Hells Angels, that he designated “So. Cal.” (Southern California). Bettencourt choose a different patch for his club, ostensibly designed by his wife Barbara.

Vic and Barbara Bettencourt the day after rheir marriage, Tijuana 1958.

Yet another patch emerged in 1959 when the Oakland chapter up north aired what later was to be called the Barger Larger Patch:

The broad back of Charles “Magoo” Tinsley displaying the “Barger Larger”, 1964.

The patches of both the So. Cal. and the Oakland chapters seems very much based on the deathhead that the tattoo artist Robert “Sundown” Kestner, who ran a shop in San Francisco’s Market Street, created for a membership card that HA Frisco paid him for in September 1954:

Around 1961 there was no less than five different patches around. HA Auckland down under in New Zealand used a deathhead clearly based on those membership cards that Frank Sadilek unceremoniously had send them after their American founder, Jim Carrico, had asked him for a charter. Auckland didn’t even use rockers and their colors were red and golden instead of red and white:

Early HA Auckland.

Around the same time – 1961 – two small, shortlived chapters – Oceanside and San Pedro – used a deathhead seen neither before nor after:

Around 1961 HA Vallejo up north seems to have used an enlarged and slightly altered version of the Bubmlebee Patch used by Frisco and Dago (San Diego):

By the middle of 1965 only two deathhead patches remained in California; the Bumblebee and the Barger Larger. When two Englishmen in 1969 each got a charter for HA England, one – Wimbledon – had to wear the Barger Larger and the other – London – the Bumblebee. Apparently HA Wimbledon never materialised, but HA London used the Bumblebee as late as 1973:

Sometime thereafter the Bumblebee patch was dropped for good and since 1983 the HAMC have used the “Fuki patch”, named after the designer John Fukushima, which is directly based on Sundown’s deathhead from 1954:

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Murky Waters: The Founding of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club

In the years after the Second World War the name “Hell’s Angels” was floating around quit a bit in California. Up north is was the name of a model flyer club in Napa County and of a car club in the Bay Area. Down south “Hell’s Angels” was known as a black street gang in Los Angeles. East of LA in San Bernardino County it was also the name of an obscure motorcycle club, that spelled the paradoxical name without apostrophe.

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) was founded on March 17, 1948, in the town of Fontana, San Bernardino County, California. The name “Hells Angels” was suggested by Arvid Olsen, a friend of some of the club’s founders and the former leader of the “Hells Angels” squadron of the famed “Flying Tigers” mercenary unit.

So goes the HAMC’s own – very short – narrative about the birth of the club.

The exact date “March 17, 1948” gives a certain credence to HAMC’s claim, and Arvid Olsen was indeed leader of the “Hell’s Angels” squadron in China. But that’s all. Neither written nor oral history has to this date confirmed or corroborated HAMC’s brief version about its founding. And to this date HAMC has never identified any actual founder of the club (Otto Friedli was certainly not one of them, regardless of Wikipedia’s claim).

Ian “Maz” Harris, Ph.D. and charter member of HA Kent.

Dr. Ian “Maz” Harris (1947-2000), founding member of Hells Angels Kent (UK) and Ph.D. in sociology, has a slightly different and slightly more detailed version of the founding of HAMC. He gives the same date, which is actually Saint Patrick’s Day 1948, but claims that the club’s name was taken from the 303rd Bombardment Group of the US Air Force, nicknamed “The Hell’s Angels”. Harris also claims that the POBOBs were “in 1948 to become the Berdoo founder chapter of the Hells Angels”

POBOB was a club out of Bloomington, a neighboring town in San Bernardino County to both Fontana and San Bernardino. The acronym POBOB stood for either Pissed Off Bastards Of Bloomington or Poor Okie Boys Of Bloomington (the latter which was apparently what the members told their mothers). POBOB was in existence as late as 1953, so it seems rather certain that this club wasn’t the direct forefather of HAMC.

There’s a third version of the founding of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Dick White was a member of the motorcycle club Redlands Road Runners. He wore a deathhead tattooed on his arm, based on drawings made by a friend. After waching the classic aviator film “Hell’s Angels”, White went to the seamstress Betty Supernaw with a drawing based on his tattoo. She then sewed both a patch and a “Hells Angels” rocker for him.

This all happened before Dick White was draftet in June 1951. After his discharge he one day showed up in the Merry Go Round Bar in the city of San Bernardino, San Bernardino County, in his Hells Angels jacket and announced he was starting a new club, and about thirty patrons joined more or less on the spot.

Dick White’s detailed story is not implausible. Contemporary clubs like the Boozefighters, the Galloping Goose and the McCook Outlaws were all founded in bars; in the 1950s there indeed were a club named Redlands Road Runners in San Bernardino County, and Betty Supernaw of the city of San Bernardino was for many-many years the supplier of patches to the Hells Angels.

Dick White served at least six month in the armed forces, so the founding of the HAMC would have happened at the earliest in January 1952. In accordance with the Military Training and Service Act of 1951, Dick White may have served for up to two years. This would push the birth date of HAMC forward to at least the latter half of 1953.

That year the POBOBs ordered ten patches from Betty Supernaw, but the order may have been the last gasp of a faltering club and homeless POBOBs may have joined Dick White’s new club. That would at least allow Ian Harris to be not completely off the mark.

All in all: The only thing that can be said with any any certainty is that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club was founded in the county of San Bernardino sometime around 1950.

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The Russian Duke

Fred Steve Mendrin grew up in a strict Russian Orthodox home. He also grew up during the cultural revolution of the 1960s with it’s gospel of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll. Young Mendrin took to the streets and a life of drugs and fighting. He was convicted in 1970 of drug possession and sent to California’s low security state prison Sierra Conservation Center. Here Mendrin quickly found himself in the frontline of the bitter race war that in those years rocked California’s prison system. He established himself as a troublemaker and a ringleader, so Sierra gave up on Mendrin and shipped him to Chino’s security wing Palm Hall, where he hooked up with Tank Noah and Buzzard Harris, and in 1971 joined the Aryan Brotherhood.

After his conviction in 1972 of the murder of Fred Castillo Mendrin was sent to San Quentin’s Adjustment Center (AC), where program manager Edward George first met him. George later wrote:

I had never met a man like him. He was the avenger, who terrified the weak and strong. His reckless defiance made him the top Aryan Brother assigned to the AC. Over six foot, an imposing frame and with huge hands, he strolled down the tier, disdaining everyone except his brothers. Inmates dared not stare at him.

Among Fred Mendrin’s Aryan brothers in the AC were an admiring Robert Edward “New York” Crane and in the Mexican Mafia he became prison pal with Mundo Mendoza. He signed his kites “Snake Eyes AKA Russian Duke”, but was also known as “Fast Fred”. In late 1975 Mendrin sneaked out of his cell and stabbed a black convict named Preston. Preston barely survived and the district attorney refused to press charges because Mendrin was already serving a life sentence.

The famous photo of a defiant “Snake Eyes” in Chino, taken after his murder of Fred Castillo in 1972.

Right after the attempted murder of Preston a blood soaked Fred Mendrin gave his knife to a fellow white convict, who flushed the evidence down the toilet. Shortly thereafter this unnamed convict was paroled, only to be charged in Los Angeles with an unspecified crime (according to Edward George the white convict was a fellow Aryan brother and the crime was murder). From the AC up in San Quentin Mendrin sent word to him and asked the convict to subpoena him. Not because “Snake Eyes” knew anything about the case, but simply to get a break from the boring life in the AC.

In the Los Angeles County Jail Fred Mendrin met another freshly paroled San Quentin inmate involved in a murder case. James “Doc” Holiday was paroled in October 1975. Three months later he and Michael “Pygmy” Cowans were arrested and charged with the execution style shooting of four heroin addicts. Both were housed in LA County Jail where Mendrin met them in the law library. Doc Holiday was the darling of the terrorist group Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). He was also not stupid. After the white terrorists lost their black leader in a shoutout with the LAPD, they offered Holiday the post. He refused.

BGF-general James “Doc” Holiday cirka 1980

More important to Fred Mendrin was the fact that Doc Holiday was a general in the Black Guerilla Family. On May 14 1976 he armed himself with a knife, went to the library and stabbed Doc Holiday. Fast Fred had stabbed both Castillo and Preston about twenty times. He hit Doc once before Pygmy Cowans beat him to the floor with a typewriter. Holiday grabbed Mendrin’s knife and stabbed his attacker ten times, mostly in the face. Doc wanted to close those snake eyes for good.

While in hospital Fred Mendrin began to feel vague doubts about the life he lived. He returned in June 1976 to a white hero’s welcome in San Quentin’s AC and program manager Edward George spotted no change in the Russian Duke. On the contrary:

Wounded and resentful, wrapped in bandages with a patch over his eye, he repeated his vow to take revenge. He began preaching racial hate and renewed efforts to organize the entire ABs gang in the various prisons into a lethal fighting force, believing they had become too lax and undisciplined to be effective. He wanted nothing less than all out war on the militant blacks.

Edward George had Fred Mendrin transferred to Folsom. To Mendrin it was a relief because Folsom at that time was nowhere near as violent as San Quentin. However, in 1978 Mendrin was transferred back to Palm Hall in Chino, where he had murdered Fred Castillo. Though Chino was considered a stronghold for the Aryan Brotherhood, “Snake Eyes” Mendrin and AB veteran Ronald Harold “Spots” Berg were the only made members in Palm Hall. Spots was the shot caller and a die hard race warrior.

Fred Mendrin had long since realized that he had to get out of the gang life. He had reached the pinnacle with his attack on Doc Holiday. But the reward was emty. Inside he didn’t bask in his enhanched gang status and prison reputation. He knew that if Doc had killed him that day in the law library of Los Angeles County Jail, his brothers would have forgotten him in a few weeks. Fred Mendrin also knew that if he ever wanted to be a free man, he had to leave the gang life.

But to leave the Aryan Brotherhood was a dangerous move. Though there weren’t any “blood in blood out” rule in the Brand, several associates and members had been killed or hurt real badly for breaking with the Aryan Brotherhood. But defection was not in and of itself a death sentence. In 1973 Robert “Lucifer” Beausoleil and Jushua Hill confronted “Danny Dog” Rawlinson and his group of Aryan brothers in the yard of San Quentin. In the ensuing fight on knives and baseball bats alle three got hurt, but both Lucifer and Joshua stayed on the mainline. The politics seem to have been that you didn’t so much got hurt for leaving the Brand, as leaving showed you to be a snitch or a coward. Fred Mendrin was neither.

In October 1978 Fred Mendrin was locked up for yet other race battle. He then decided to quit. When Spots Berg told him to get ready for an assualt on blacks in the yard, Mendrin told Spots that he would only fight in selfdefense. Spots made a gesture of contempt but later accepted in good will Mendrin’s resignation from the Aryan Brotherhood. Fighting was in Fast Fred’s blood and though out of the Brand he afterwards did at least once come to the aid of white convicts fighting blacks. Since he also stayed in the yard with his former brothers, prison authorities had a hard time believing that Mendrin’s defection wasn’t part of some AB plot.

New York Crane on trial in 1981.

A few month after his defection form the Brand, Fred Mendrin was again subpoenaed to a trial in Southern California. His former brother from San Quentin’s Adjustment Center, Robert “New York” Crane, was on trial with fellow AB Edward Tyler Burnett for the robbery murder of jeweler Wayne Golin in Orange County. Mendrin knew nothing about the case and testified that he feared for his life because of his recent defection. Mendrins’ fear was not unfounded. Another witness for the defense, AB veteran Ronald “Harpo” Harper boasted “Myself personally I would kill anyone who tried to leave the Aryan Brotherhood.”

It was a difficult and dangerous time for Fred Mendrin. Both inside and outside of prison Aryan brothers were killed right and left for various transgressions. Even hard liner Harpo Harper sought refuge in Protective Costudy when the Brand learned he’d become a complete homosexual. But as a born again Christian Mendrin found the strength in Jesus Christ to renounce violence and a program manager in Chino became convinced that Mendrin’s change was sincere. He contacted Edward George, who now ran a program in Vacaville, and asked him to take Fred Mendrin into it.

Edward George refused at first. He thought that Mendrin was too dangerous. Both because of his violent history and because of his prison reputation. But in 1980 Fred Mendrin was transferred to Vacaville and went through George’s three month program, before being released to the mainline. True to his Russian roots Mendrin became the chess champion of Vacaville. He met a good woman through his Christian work and married her the day he left prison in 1985. They joined the Exodus Brethren Church and lived for many years a life out of the public eye. Today Fred Mendrin is a high profile member of Prison Fellowship and have told his story in several documentaries. He has also toured with former member of the Mongols MC, Alfonso “Big Al” Aceves, and former member of the Mexican Mafia, Ernest “Kilroy” Roybal; born again Christians like Fred Mendrin and also with a story of redemption to tell.

Former AB Fred Mendrin flanked by former eMe “Kilroy” Roybal (left) and former Mongol “Big Al” Aceves, 2010.

“New York” Crane and Tyler Burnett were found guilty of the murder of jeweler Wayne Golin. In January 1981 Ronald “Spots” Berg was shot to death. Eigth months later the “Sein Fein”-tattooed Crane pleaded guilty to the 1977 execution “IRA style” of fellow Aryan brother Kenneth Wayne “Hogjaw” Cochran.

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