Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Devil’s in the Slide: Another Hypothesis

Hypothesis #4: Charles Watson, with the help of Suzan Struthers and Joseph Dorgan, attempted to take over the lucrative Hollywood drug franchise by murdering their chief rivals in that market: Gary Hinman, Wojiciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Struthers’ own mom, Rosemary LaBianca.

Argument for: The lives of Tex Watson and Rosemary LaBianca intersected at two very critical points. Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi mentions both in Helter Skelter, but glosses over them.

First of all, Watson and Rosemary (along with Jay Sebring) at one time or another earned money in wig-making businesses that catered to clientele in the same general geographic area. You would have expected them to have at least known of each other. Rumors abounded with respect to LaBianca’s drug dealing. More substantial sources indicate that Sebring and Frykowski trafficked drugs as well. Watson’s burn of Bernard Crowe, a well-known drug dealer in the Hollywood area, is substantially documented, and indicates that Tex had a desire to take over at least Crowe’s interests in that part of LA.

Watson’s incident with Crowe aptly illustrates the nature of Watson’s relationship to Manson. In this instance, Watson clearly used Manson to get out of trouble, hopefully by talking his way of it; if not, by killing Crowe. As part of his spiel, Manson often told his “followers” that he would die for them and kill for them, and he expected they be willing to do the same for him. Watson, apparently, took Manson up on the offer, perhaps not realizing that although Manson talked a big game, little Charlie couldn’t bring himself to kill anyone. Manson, perhaps to his own surprise, managed to get off a shot, wounding Crowe (not all that seriously) and felling him. But instead of finishing him off with another shot to the head—as any competent killer would have done—Manson leaned over Crowe and apologized.

Simply put, Watson had the initiative, drive and ruthlessness to attempt a takeover of LA’s most profitable narco route. Still, the former All-American boy needed a lieutenant; someone who knew how the criminal underground worked; and, preferably, someone who could help him control his criminal henchmen. Manson’s ability to mesmerize a bevy of good-looking, nubile women--some of them (e.g. Mary Brunner) highly intelligent and well educated—and his experience with a wide assortment of petty crime (from forgery to pimping) made him a perfect sidekick for Watson.

In addition to the wig industry, Watson and Rosemary LaBianca had another point of contact. Bugliosi gave a rather detailed account of how Joe Dorgan found the bodies of Leno and Rosemary, and rightfully mentioned that he was the boyfriend of Rosemary’s daughter, Suzan Struthers. Bugliosi failed to mention, however, Dorgan’s membership in the Straight Satans motorcycle gang—the same Straight Satans with whom Manson attempted to curry favor; the same Straight Satans who frequented Spahn Ranch.

Many sources say that the Straight Satans drug concerns also played a role in the Gary Hinman murder. According to some, they demanded that the slippies pressure the music teacher into refunding money the gang had given him for what turned out to be a bad batch of designer dope. The Straight Satans could have sold at least some quantities of drugs.

Watson should have known Dorgan. Quite likely he knew Struthers simply because of their mutual association with the biker. Her support of Watson and his parole attempts over the decades has augmented this perception over the years.

Adding more fuel to the fire, Alice LaBianca, Leno’s first wife, received a number of threatening phone calls immediately after the murders. The calls told her not to look into any family business, despite the fact that Alice charitably cleaned up the murder scene after the police investigation. According to reporter Bill Nelson, Alice believed that the calls came from Suzan Struthers.

Believe it or not, Lt. Paul LePage, who headed the LaBianca investigative team, considered the idea that Dorgan and Struthers played a role in the LaBianca’s death back in 1969. Bugliosi writes:

The Tate report listed five suspects—[caretaker William] Garretson, [Herb] Wilson, [Larry] Madigan, [Jeffery] Pickett [aka Pic], and [Gerald] Jones—all of whom had been eliminated.

The LaBianca report listed fifteen—but included Frank and Suzan Struthers, Joe Dorgan, and numerous others who were never serious suspects.
Earlier in Helter Skelter, Bugliosi explained the names Wilson, Madigan and Pickett were pseudonyms of suspected drug dealers who frequently “crashed” the lavish parties given by Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Subsequent authors, however, weren’t nearly so shy in identifying them. Bugliosi gives a clue with respect to one of the dealers’ identity by giving him the nickname “Pic.” His real name was Harrison “Pic” Dawson, a friend of Billy Doyle (undoubtedly one of the other pseudonyms). Doyle knew Frykowski through their mutual association with Cass Elliot. Like Doyle, Dawson was another drug runner operating out of Canada, a fellow criminal whose sour mood could seriously kill a party buzz. As an example of Dawson’s thuggish behavior, Adam Gorightly wrote:

One noteworthy incident that occurred at this [housewarming] party [for 10050 Cielo Dr.] was a minor brawl involving univited friends of Voityck Frykowski and Abigail ‘Gibby’ Folger.Evidently, a twenty year old man named Harrison ‘Pic’ Dawson—the son of a prominent State Department Official—stepped on the foot of Sharon’s agent, William Tennant, which precipitated a shoving match. Others soon joined the skirmish, including two men also in their twenties, both siding with the aforementioned Mr. Dawson. Polanski got pissed-off and threw Dawson and his friends out of the party.
Gorightly further asserted that this Canadian connection planned to use Frykowski as a front man to introduce into LA a drug called Methylenedioxyamphetamine, or MDA, a crude and archaic poison that mimics some of the effects of present-day ecstacy (hence its street name, “the love drug”). Thus, if Watson and Manson took out Sebring and Frykowski (and perhaps other potential competitors such as LaBianca and Hinman), they could horn in on the MDA action, having thus an exclusive product for a clientele who could afford any price. That’s a powerful motive for murder.

Argument against: The most fundamental flaw in this hypothesis is that it requires a validation of the rumors against Rosemary LaBianca. Gossip is often malicious and defamatory. And threatening behavior by Suzan Struthers, as attested to by journalist Bill Nelson and Leno’s first wife, Alice LaBianca, doesn’t necessarily indicate that Struthers had any involvement. For all we know, Alice could have misunderstood Suzan’s grief-stricken actions, and then reinterpreted them in hindsight.

Without evidence of Rosemary LaBianca’s complicity in drugs sales, this entire thesis falls apart. According to this story, Suzan Struthers participated in the murder of her mom and stepfather in order to help her boyfriend and his friends, Watson and Manson, expand their business, while eliminating the competition from Rosemary. But if Rosemary didn’t traffic drugs, then Sturthers would have had no reason at all to help anyone murder her mom, and thus no motive to murder her dad.

Without the drug angle, there’s really nothing much to link the LaBiancas to Sharon Tate and her friends, other than Rosemary’s and Sebring’s mutual interest in wigs. Because of the similarities in their modus operandi, one would expect that the motive for one round of murders was at least close to that of the second round. If you can’t prove drug sales as a motive for one, then it’s difficult to prove this as an underlying motive.

A minor point, but one to bring up: if there were an obscenely lucrative drug turf fought over solely by a hairdresser, a wannabe filmmaker, a waitress-turned businesswoman and an incompetent wigmaker, wouldn’t the Mafia have already had that market sewn up? Wouldn’t it be just that easy for them to control with no middlepersons?

What X. Dell really thinks of this hypothesis: I don’t put much faith in this explanation, but I do find it intriguing for a couple of reasons. First of all, it addresses issues concerning who the victims possibly were, which can go a long way in helping to determine motive. The official story looks solely at the killers, and subsequently projects a motive. There’s no discussion of connections between the killers and their victims, and in this case there were many—the mutual social associations to Cass Elliot, Charlene Cafritz and Joseph Dorgan; the proximity of Harold True’s house to the LaBiancas’; the use of the properties at 10050 Cielo Drive by Dean Morehouse, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and others; the business associations Manson had with Rudy Altobelli and Terry Melcher, respectively the owner and previous tenant of the murder site. Although less probable and far more speculative, purported connections via such quasi-satanic groups as The Process Church of the Final Judgment, declared sexual dalliances between the killers and victims (some rumored to be on the videotapes mentioned by Hal Lipset, Paul Krassner, and other unnamed police sources), and highly dubious reports of fraternization at such venues as the Spiral Staircase might someday provide further evidence if proven valid.

Secondly, this hypothesis recasts the internal decision-making apparatus within the “family” into something more plausible. Watson seems to act solely on his will. And as Struthers’ defense of him suggests, he has the necessary charisma to entice others—especially women attracted to the good-looking All-American type—to do his bidding. Far from following Manson’s “orders,” Watson, a poster boy for alpha maleness, seemed like he always followed his own criminal muse, and relied on Manson to smooth things over when his plans went awry.

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25 Comments:

  • At 2:27 AM, Blogger Ricardo said…

    You think they were that sophisticated to run a drug trade or kill just to get their hands on some good stuff and get a fix?

     
  • At 2:52 AM, Blogger Devin said…

    Really just incredible stuff Xdell! This series could never end and I would be happy-what is odd about my fascination with it-well not really odd-but that I was so very young when the events took place and heard the first-actually the ONLY hypothesis I heard for years was those 'dirty,crazy hippies did it' which as we know had nothing whatsoever to do with hippies in the least! I tend to agree with what you think X I will also have to see this one many times before making up my mind-but this case has so many twists and turns it may be hard to ever KNOW what happened-but I really do like the Watson,Dorgan Struthers against Sebring,Frykowski,LaBianca-but like you say a lot of caution must be taken with rumors-I really get a bad case of the 'jim-jams' when I view the Struthers/Watson video and others you have provided-I almost think 'those evil SOBs-they know damn good and well what they are doing-Tex and Struthers-I am sorry but just going by appearance -body lingo etc seem to be 'faking it' to me. I have to find a way to get ahold of that Gorightly book-you really have my interest going -of course it has been since the series started-but really this series has everthing-and I think-this is just a pre-theory/hypothesis that it may very well have much deeper ties to the deep state-of course as you have stated Brussels and others have thought of this-it was just that as I began reading your post-out of nowhere the memory of 'Squeaky' Fromme taking a pot-shot at Ford came blazing through my mind. Really incredible series Xdell-this should win some kind of award I think-and I am not saying it half-jokingly-As always I wish you and all who comment here all the best and thanks again for this-actually am going to read it again!

     
  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Ricardo, no. I don't think that Watson alone, even with Manson's help, would have been that sophisticated. OF course, what I think would have no bearing on what their own opinion of their capabilities at that time.

    As for the wanting of just a fix, the fact was that between the Straight Satans, the slippies, and the money that Manson et al had on them at all times, Watson would have no need to kill anyone for a fix.

    Devin, I'm not one to usually read body language beyond a certain degree. What did you see in the Susan Strothers video that gave you pause to think? That might be a good thing to point out here in case others missed it like I did.

    Because of the nature, tenor, plausibility (determined by inductive reasoning), persistance and consistency of a rumor, I might consider it more or less seriously. At most, I will think it's a possibility to be looked into later. But negative rumors, like those against Rosemary LaBianca, I would have an easier time dismissing, because they most often fall prey to what my old psych professors called "explanatory fiction." In other words,it's easy to concoct a rumor after the fact to fit the story you have, which usually means that someone has to be the fall guy--or in Rosemary's case, the fall gal. That's the chief reason I don't believe this hypothesis.

    If Rosemary LaBianca had done something like drug sales, then there would be more evidentiary tributaries than this (e.g., former buyers, former sellers, connections within networks, large cash movements, illegal drugs in her system, etc.). Compare her to, say, Frykowski who has known drug associates (Doyle, Dawson, Sebring), had ingested MDA shortly before his death, had been known to do drugs, etc., and you can see that the rumor of Rosemary LaBianca's involvemnt with the drug trade seems less likely.

     
  • At 12:09 PM, Blogger Charles Gramlich said…

    I always try to remember for situations such as this, that pretty much everyone considers themselves the hero of their own personal show.

     
  • At 3:41 PM, Blogger Aggie said…

    Another interesting slant on things X-Dell. I wonder if any normally developed human being can get inside the heads of this kind of group madness?

     
  • At 8:34 PM, Blogger foam said…

    i don't care how how good looking somebody might b e or what kind of enticing charisma they might have ...
    i ain't killing nobody ..
    these people are all warped ..

     
  • At 5:44 AM, Blogger Ray said…

    Any hypotheses out there involving Robert A. Heinlein and his novel, “Stranger In A Strange Land?” Manson used to call his parole officer “Robert Smith Jubal” after the character, Jubal Henshaw, mentor to Valentine Michael Smith. And one of the babies in The Family was named by Charlie as Valentine Michael Manson. Life imitating art – or art creating life?

    One could really run with this: Heinlein’s military background, his change from liberal to conservative views after he remarried (Virginia Heinlein), “Stranger In A Strange Land” becoming “the bible of the hippie movement” (while the CIA disseminated LSD to the kids and created hippies to defuse a strong anti-war movement) – but there’s enough noise in the channel already.

    Ray

     
  • At 10:43 AM, Blogger Middle Ditch said…

    I couldn't help but have hysterical fits of laughter when reading 'But instead of finishing him off with another shot to the head-as any competent killer would ...

    Great line. Worth remembering.

     
  • At 6:42 PM, Blogger Devin said…

    That was good wasnt it MD!? Xdell with regard to Struthers-I just sense something -when she really comes off as phony to me is when she does the 'Christian' act-i wish I could say more-to me it seems that that is all that it is -an act-but obviously I do not know the woman-thanks for thoughts also on Rosemary L-her place in this whole thing has intrigued me for weeks-I always get back to the way I heard the story when I was younger Cielo Dr and LaBiancas had nothing at all to do with each other-I had always heard the labiancas were a 'random' hit- I am very sorry I can't give more reasons for Struthers-of course if I were sitting on a jury I would have nothing to go on-and indeed in reality -unless evidence could be produced I would go by the letter of the law(beyond reasonable doubt) but personally-I have watched the vids tens of times and alarm bells go off-it is very interesting about human nature-i am sure to many who comment here she seems like a lovely young lady-best as always Xdell and thanks again for great series!

     
  • At 6:56 PM, Blogger Crushed said…

    I think I'm kind of leaning towards the idea that much of this hypthesis- the facts of it- may be true, but it's kind of a red herring. As in, it wasn't the reason FOR the murders, but part of the backdrop.

    As in, it may be the explanation for what Watson got out of it, but not for the rest of the picture.
    Because I think watson looks like the organiser.

    But not the ultimate planner.

     
  • At 6:58 PM, Blogger Devin said…

    Very tired but I am going to go back through and try to make a small list of connections in this case and throw away tangential ones-the only thing in the back of my mind with this case is that throwing away tangential connections might be the key! It must be that I have been awake for so long -but now the Folger/Mrs Olsen hit thing is striking me as funny-maybe its just because I can remember the very scandianavian looking Mrs O in those commercials:-)

     
  • At 7:08 PM, Blogger Devin said…

    Well that idea didn't last long-you really can't look at this case and throw out the 'minor' things-I just noticed again about Veronica Howards death-I do think that is very bizarre that she would be released-this whole thing is like a maze-i think crushed had a great thought!

     
  • At 9:45 PM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Charles, everyone casts their autobiography too.

    Aggie, oftentimes groupthink fosters madness. There are things taht individuals would never do if alone, but would do in groups. Think about the mania that surrounds football matches, for example, or any other type of mob scene.

    Foam, I would say damaged instead of warped. But I think you're right. Most people wouldn't hae fallen under the spell. They might have been enticed to take a look into the cult, but would have either stayed outside on the fringe, or simply come and gone. This is exactly what happened with Manson and his group. Most of the people involved with it--especially guys, such as Juan Flynn and Danny DeCarlo--were simply not that hardcore. And if you listen to Barbara Hoyt, you have people like Bruce Davis secretly trying to wrest control of the "family" away from Charlie, and other alph males such as Tex Watson and Bobby Beausoleil.

    Ray, Adam Gorightly does mention the very connections that you allude to, but sort in passing. Manson borrowed from everywhere and everyone. So his spiel included influences from The Process, the OTO, Scientology, Christian mythology (especially apocalyptic theology), the Beatles, and, of course, science fiction.

    Monique, I'm hip. There is sort of a bizareness to that scene, isn't there.

    Crushed, the more I looked into this, the more I began to see Watson as the mastermind of the killings, with Manson the controller of the girls, and the master of all of the other criminal enterprises the gang had going.

    As for your thoughts that this could have been a backdrop independent of the actual motive, that deserves further consideration. In a sense, this could have been going on at the same time, even though another motive was in the works.

    Devin, it's not just Howard's death, but Cafritz's too. But it seems to lways be in such things that the devil's not in the slide, but in the details. Sometimes, it's hard to sort out what is in a very complex scene, and you don't know what's important until you get deeper into it.

    I was curious as to the vibe you got from Struthers because I sometimes miss unconsciou communication, and some people are very good at picking things up. If something struck you as phony about the woman that you could articulate, then it gives us something else to watch and consider--in order to weigh in certain factors (see my response to Crushed).

     
  • At 11:35 PM, Blogger Devin said…

    Hi Xdell-in many ways my intiutions are about as good as a rock-but one thing I have always been good at it picking out 'phonies'=I tend to be right 90percent of the time-but like I said if i was on a jury or something I would have to go by the law-and happily-because without certain evidence I would sure as hell want to look at me that way-were I ever to be tried for something -I will go back to the videos very soon-tonight if i can stay awake-tho I do not think i can and see if there is anything specific about Struther's body language that rang alarm bells-the first few times I saw the vids I told myself to give her a break-but the more I watched the more convinced I became-I am supposed to be over at 'rents house Sunday-my mom is even better than I am-will try to get her to look at vids also and see what she thinks-I am going to have to start this series from the very beginning-my first thing I need is a spiral notebook(one of the few things that is within my budget) and write down every name and connection-no matter how small-I am already trying to think of a way to do this-maybe with a 'large' player in this stories name encircled by the names and times of the arrival of the smaller players in their lives?-a light bulb is definitely coming on with the comments you and others-crushed being the latest have given about Tex Watson-I wonder if in this story there will ever be a smoking gun-or a hypothesis so good that it makes all the cogs and gears mesh together-including what I am thinking -although again this is very much theory-ties to the parapolitical and deep state scene-Again I can't thank you enough for making this period of time 'live' again-I find the way you present it as every bit as interesting as if it happened yesterday! all the best!

     
  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger JohnB said…

    Hey...sorry I have been absent lately. I just now was able to get caught up on the last six posts. A very good and intriguing read, and the amount of work and research you have put into this is rather extensive. This really does call into question the real motive and the real players from the official statement. -But as I am sure anyone with common sense would recognize, Bugliosi's motive is to put those people in jail...and he found a "plausible" story that he could use to do just that. Do you have any thoughts as to Bugliosi's ulterior motives (if in fact they exist)?

    What I found interesting a few posts back is a connection between Scientology/and or Process with that of Manson. I wonder if you will elaborate on this a little more. Way back when you started this series, I almost thought that this was the direction you were going in...anyway, glad to see that the insanity of the holidays (it was nuts here in the NW too) didn't distract too much!

     
  • At 2:30 AM, Blogger pjazzypar said…

    Hey X.Dell, I am around and keeping up with your series. I just don't know what to think about all of this. Wigs, drugs, and taking out the competition! I once heard many years ago that Manson was angry with Melcher over a promised recording career that never materialized, so he sent the family to kill everyone at the address. Too simple, I know, I know:-D Anyhow I am enjoying this.

     
  • At 9:54 PM, Blogger Libby said…

    hey, x...hope you;re doing okay, down there at "the new woodstock", as ric so eloquently put it!

     
  • At 7:45 AM, Blogger SJ said…

    I guess I am completely out of sync with this series now. Grrrr. I will try to catch up.

     
  • At 8:21 AM, Blogger Hapi said…

    Happy Wednesday! Bloghoppin' here... Hey, I have an interesting tutorial for you that I have written myself. It is about adding Adsense on your Single Post in XML template. I hope you'll like it! God Bless you!

     
  • At 3:31 PM, Blogger Candy Minx said…

    Again, powerful scary insight into this scene.

     
  • At 8:48 AM, Blogger benjibopper said…

    Hey X: sorry I haven't been by of late, and haven't been able to follow this series as closely as I'd like. life just keeps knockin. but i have enjoyed the segments i've read, including this one. you have an impressive capacity to wade through information and make sense of it.

     
  • At 12:42 PM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Devin, thanks for trying. I can read people pretty well, but not in "real-time." I have to really delve into their motivation and psyches in order to get some kind of sense about where they're coming from. With regards to Struthers, I would have to say that I sense some kind of attraction to Watson that is either profound, or long-standing. The attraction need not be sexual, but given Watson's charm and looks I wouldn't rule that out.

    John, as you can see I've been a bit scarce in cyberspace lately, myself. Over the last few weeks I've been shuttling back and forth betweeen DC, New York and Cincinnati quite a bit. So my mind has been all over the place as I furiously try to get some work done.

    your view of the prosecutorial angle seems quite plausible to me. Since Bugliosi hung his hat on that particular peg for the very important and pragmatic reason of getting these people off the street, he'd probably feel comepelled to continue this line for as long as he could, whether or not it really made sense or had some bearing on the truth.

    I introduced this series with the occult angle because it was one of the least known explanations for the Helter Skelter murder scenarios. Moreover, it had within it it the genesis of the motive Bugliosi would introduce into the public record. Since this was the dominant view of the case, I thought it appropriate to begin with where this idea originated, hopefully arriving at the notion that while this belief did in fact exist, and moreover that Manson shared the belief, the motive for these crimes had little to do with it.


    Pjazzy, hope you're well and gearing up for the next semester. Manson could very well have had an animus towards Melcher, and that might indeed have some bearing on why Watson et al went to 10050 Cielo Drive. But that still doesn't explain why the group would carry on their murderous rampage the following night at the LaBiancas, or why they tortured and killed Gary Hinman. My feeling is that there was another connection between the killers and the victims that made them likely targets. no one disputes that there were at least superficial connections between Manson and the seven dead--everyone acknowledges that Manson had the brief conversation with Sharon Tate when looking for Melcher, and no one denies that Harold True lived next door to the LaBiancas. But I sense that the connection was somewhat deeper.

    Libby, I happened to miss the New Woodstock (actually, the inauguration had a much larger attendance than the 1969 concert) on purpose. I waited it out in Cincinnati, and watched it on TV with my father. The rest of my family had tickets, and saw the action up close and personal. But I prefer a warm house, the hum of a cathode ray tube, and an Internet connection nearby.

    Hi, Candy. Glad you dropped by. I'll be visiting again as soon as I can work out some time.

    Benjibopper, no sweat. I myself have had little time to go into cyberspace lately as I have been doing a fair bit of travelling over the last few months, and I have been busy trying to line my ducks up in a row. So I completely understand. I will be here as often as time permits, and will hopefully get some space where I can catch up with everyone.

    In the meantime, I have finished this series, and will be posting at a rapid rate until its end, for I need to revive the Golden Ganesh and other projects.

     
  • At 2:51 PM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Let's get the spam out.

     
  • At 2:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Suzan Laberge stood to inherit a substantial chunk of change when her mom and Leno died. Even IF the theory of Rosemary trafficking drugs doesn't hold up, the inheritance by itself could be a motivation for Suzan to set up her parents.
    Rosemary supposedly went from odd waitress-type jobs, to having a million + dollar estate as a relatively young woman. Supposedly she made her money with her dress shop (yeah right) and some luck in the stock market. Certainly Leno must have contributed something to her fortune. But for her to legally accumulate over a million before she's 40. Just 10 years after struggling as a waitress. In the 1960s. I have a hard time buying that.
    As far as drugs go, I think its totally feasible that she could have been a high level mover--and that her connections would keep quiet. Who would admit to trafficking drugs, especially considering the risk of getting wrapped up in the whole Manson fiasco? Realistically, she could have dealt with very, very few people who were also pretty high up the foodchain. I could see someone like her not wanting to dirty her hands with street-level interractions.
    Just speculation. All I know is that there has always been something fishy about the whole LaBianca situation.

     
  • At 12:48 AM, Blogger X. Dell said…

    Anonymous, I think much of what you write is certainly possible, perhaps even plausible--especially in regards to inheritance. Problem is, the evidence of that supposition is weak, at least at this moment.

    And yeah, this site tolerates a good deal of speculation. But there are a lot of things that are beyond guesswork here. In other words, you, or anyone else who knows a lot about this case should feel that there's something "fishy" about the story we were told to accept.

     

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