Quiet and secluded is just what the young movie star wanted. The canyons above Beverly
Hills were far enough away from the noisy glitz of Hollywood to afford some privacy and
space. Sharon Tate loved this place on Cielo Drive. To her it meant romance romance
with the man of her dreams and the father of her child, director Roman Polanski.
It was cooler up there too, which was especially refreshing on that hot muggy Saturday
night, the 9th of August 1969. The beautiful young woman kept herself company with her
attractive and sophisticated friends: Abigail Folger, the coffee heiress and her boyfriend
Voytek Frykowski, and an internationally known hair stylist Jay Sebring.
Sharon was eight months pregnant and very lonely for her husband who was away in
Europe working on a film. Impromptu gatherings like this one on a weekend night were
not at all unusual.
The house was deliberately secluded but not completely insecure. Approximately 100 feet
from the house was a locked gate and on the property was a guesthouse inhabited by an
able-bodied young caretaker.
That night the Kotts, Sharons nearest neighbors who lived about 100 yards away, thought
they heard a few gunshots coming from the direction of Sharons property sometime
between 12:30 and 1 A.M. But since they heard nothing else, they went to bed.
Around the same time, Tim Ireland who was supervising a camp-out less than a mile away
heard a chilling scream: "Oh, God, no, please dont! Oh, God, no, dont, dont"
He drove around the area, but found nothing unusual.
Nearby Emmett Steeles dogs went into a barking frenzy somewhere between 2 and 3
A.M. He got out of bed and looked around, but found nothing amiss and went back to
Robert Bullington, a member of a private security patrol hired by some of the wealthy
property owners, thought he heard several gunshots a little after 4 A.M. and called his
headquarters. Headquarters, in turn, called Los Angeles Police Department, known as
LAPD, to report the disturbance. The LAPD officer said: "I hope we dont have a murder;
we just had a woman-screaming call in that area."
charles manson and the manson family
Winifred Chapman, Sharon Tates housekeeper, got to the main gate of the house a little
after 8 A.M. She noticed what looked like a fallen telephone wire hanging over the gate.
She pushed the gate control mechanism and it swung open. As she walked up to the
house, she saw an unfamiliar white Rambler parked in the driveway.
When she got to the house, she took the housekey from its hiding place and unlocked the
back door. Once inside the kitchen, she picked up the telephone and confirmed that it was
a telephone wire that had fallen, completely knocking out all phone service. As she made
her way toward the living room, she noticed that the front door was open and that there
were splashes of red everywhere. Looking out the front door, she saw a couple of pools of
blood and what appeared to be a body on the lawn.
She shrieked and ran back through the house and down the driveway, passing close
enough to the Rambler to see that there was yet another body inside the car. She ran over
to the Kotts and banged on the door, but they were not home, so she ran to the next house
and did the same thing, screaming hysterically.
LAPD Officer Jerry DeRosa arrived first. He walked up to the Rambler and found a young
man slumped toward the passenger side, drenched in blood. At this point, Officer William
Whisenhunt joined DeRosa. The two officers, with guns drawn searched the other
automobiles and the garage, while a third officer Robert Burbridge caught up with them.
There on the beautifully manicured lawn with its magnificent panorama of Los Angeles lay
two bodies. One was a white man that appeared to be in his thirties. Someone had battered
in his head and face, while savagely puncturing the rest of his body with dozens of
The other body was that of a young woman with long brown hair lying in a full-length
nightgown with multiple stab wounds.
The three officers cautiously approached the house. No telling what or who may be
waiting in there for them. It would have been foolhardy for all of them to enter through
the front door. However, as they went near the front door, they saw that one of the front
window screens had been removed. Whisenhunt found an open window on the side of the
house where he and Burbridge made their entry.
Once the other two officers were inside, DeRosa approached the front door. On the lower
half of the door, he saw scrawled in blood the word "PIG." In the hallway they found two
large steamer trunks, a pair of horned rimmed glasses and pieces of a broken gun grip.
Then when they reached the couch, they were in for a real shock. A young blond woman,
very pregnant, was lying on the floor, smeared all over with blood, a rope around her neck
that extended over a rafter in the ceiling. The other end of the rope was around the neck
of a man lying nearby, also drenched in blood.
As they looked through the rest of the house they heard a mans voice and the sound of a
dog. It was William Garretson the caretaker. The officers handcuffed him and put him
Later that Saturday night, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and Susan Struthers, Rosemary's
21-year-old daughter, drove back from vacation trailering their boat. They dropped off
Susan at her apartment and drove home to 3301 Waverly Drive in the Los Feliz area of
L.A. They stopped to pick up a newspaper between 1 and 2 A.M.
It wasn't until the next day that anybody came to the house to see them. Frank Struthers,
Rosemary's son by a previous marriage, got a ride home. Around 8:30 P.M., as he
carried his camping equipment up the driveway, he noticed things that worried him. First
the speedboat was still in the driveway. It was very unlike his stepfather not to put the
boat in the garage. Then Frank noticed that all the window shades were down --
something his parents never did.
He knocked on the door, but got no answer, so he went to a pay phone and called, but
again with no response. He finally got in touch with his sister, who came with her
boyfriend to their parents house.
Frank and the boyfriend found the back door open. They left Susan in the kitchen until
they had a chance to look around. When the two young men walked into the living room,
they saw Leno in his pajamas, lying with a pillow over his head and a cord around his
neck. Something was sticking out from his stomach
They rushed out of the house, dragging Susan with them and called the police at the
Soon an ambulance and police cars arrived. Leno was found with a blood-drenched
pillowcase over his head and the cord of a large lamp tied tightly around his neck. His
hands had been tied behind him with a leather thong. A carving fork protruded from his
stomach and the word "WAR" had been carved in his flesh.
In the master bedroom, they found his wife Rosemary lying on the floor, her nightgown up
over her head. She too had a pillowcase over her head and a lamp cord tied tightly around
In three places in the house, there was writing which appeared to be in the victims blood:
on the living room wall, "DEATH TO PIGS;" on another wall in the living room, the
single word "RISE;" and in the refrigerator door, "HEALTHER SKELTER," misspelled.
Eventually, all of the victims of the massacre at Sharon Tates home were identified. The
young man in the car was a teenager named Steve Parent who had come to visit
Garretson, the caretaker. The two victims found outside the house were Abigail Folger
and her lover, Voytek Frykowski. In the living room joined by rope were Sharon Tate and
A .22 caliber gun had shot Steve Parent, Jay Sebring and Voytek Frykowski. Of the five
victims, all but Steve Parent had been stabbed repeatedly. Sebring had been hit in the face
and Frykowski had been repeatedly hit on the head with a blunt object.
The stab wounds suggested that only one knife had been used for the wounds. The nature
of the wounds indicated that something like a bayonet was the weapon. A strange knife, a
Buck brand clasp-type pocketknife that the housekeeper could not identify was found very
close to Sharon Tates body.
Sharon Tate had been a beauty all of her life. Even as a child she had won beauty contests.
But her ambition was not to be a model but a movie actress. Finally in 1963 at the age of
22 she found a sponsor in Producer Martin Ransohoff. With Ransohoffs help, she landed
parts in the series Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction, and the movies The
Americanization of Emily and The Sandpiper.
In 1965, she got her chance at her first feature role in the Eye of the Devil with David
Niven and Deborah Kerr. In this movie she played the part of a country girl with special
magical powers. While in London in the summer of 1966 for the filming of the movie, she
met Roman Polanski, who had just made his mark as a director of the movie Repulsion
with Catherine Deneuve and Cul de Sac, which had won many European film awards.
Polanski put Sharon as the lead in his campy film The Fearless Vampire Killers. During
this period she became Polanski's lover. This relationship lasted quite a long time and
shortly after the filming of Rosemarys Baby, he and Sharon married. In 1969, they rented
the house on Cielo Drive from Terry Melcher, Doris Days son and moved in
Sharons career never skyrocketed the way Polanskis did even with her role of Jennifer in
Valley of the Dolls. A good part of the reason her career was going nowhere is that she
never had an opportunity to show off whatever acting skills she had. All the roles she had
were ones in which all she had to do was look pretty. Her career took a backseat when she
became pregnant. The baby and her husband became the center of her life.
She was a unique lady according to most everyone who knew her. In spite of her beauty
and remarkable figure, she was a very down-to-earth woman with none of the phoniness
normally associated with starlets. She was very sweet and a bit on the naïve side.
Everyone seemed to like Sharon even in a jealous, bitchy town like Hollywood.
Sharons life was ended by five stab wounds in her chest and back, which penetrated her
heart, lungs and liver and caused massive internal hemorrhaging. The remaining eleven
wounds simply added insult to her savaged body.
Her little boy, Paul Richard Polanski, died with her.
Abigail Folger, Sharons friend was twenty-five years old when she died. As heiress to the
Folger coffee fortune, she had led a very comfortable life. She made her debut in San
Francisco in 1961. She graduated from Radcliffe. Like many wealthy girls, she looked for
something meaningful to do with her time and became very involved in social work.
In 1968, she met her lover Voytek Frykowski who introduced her to Sharon and Roman
Polanski. She became an investor in Jay Sebrings mens toiletries and hair styling
Her social work in the ghettos of Los Angeles was beginning to get to her.
She started to feel that her contribution was futile in combatting the enormous problems of
ignorance and poverty. She told her friends that she couldnt get away from her work at
the end of the day. "The suffering gets under your skin," she said.
Her relationship with Frykowski was also a source of concern to her. The two of them had
become much too dependent upon drugs. Both the frustrations of her social work and her
problems with Voytek were the subject of her almost daily conversations with a
psychiatrist. She had just about built up enough strength to break off her love affair and
try to get her life back on track when twenty-eight stab wounds intervened.
Voytek Frykowski was thirty-two when he died. He had been a long-time friend of
Romans from Poland. He was, according to Polanski, "a man of little talent but immense
charm." Always a playboy, he had no visible means of support, essentially living off
Abigails money. While he told people he was a writer, there was no evidence that he was
anything but a very charming, extroverted and entertaining "druggie."
However dissipated his life was or charming his personality, it came to an abrupt end with
two gunshot wounds, thirteen blows to the head and fifty-one stab wounds.
Jay Sebring was quite the opposite career-wise from Frykowski. He was the top mens
hairstylist in the U.S. and was a major force in the development of a market for mens hair
products and toiletries. His customers included Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, George
Peppard, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. His new company, Sebring International
would franchise mens hair styling shops and his line of hair products.
He was known as a ladies man and dated many different women. One of those women had
at one time been Sharon Tate, who broke off her relationship with Sebring when she
became involved with Polanski.
There was another, darker side to Sebrings exuberant sex life. He would tie up his
girlfriends and occasionally whip them before they had sex. In spite of his flashy,
successful outward life, there was reason to suspect that the real Jay Sebring was lonley
A gunshot wound and seven stab wounds liberated him from his insecurities.
Aside from Sharon Tates baby, the youngest victim was 18-year-old Steven Earl Parent
who lived with his father, mother and siblings in El Monte. At around 11:45 P.M.
Parent had come onto the estate to visit William Garretson, the caretaker who was living
in the guesthouse. Parents hobby was hi-fi equipment and he wanted to show Garretson a
radio he brought with him. Garretson wasnt interested and Parent left the guesthouse
around 12:15 A.M.
The young man had just graduated from high school in June and worked several jobs so
that he could go to college in the fall.
Instead he got four bullets from a .22 caliber revolver.
Leno LaBianca was a respectable businessman. His father was the founder of State
Wholesale Grocery Company and Leno went into the family business right out of college.
He was a man who was well liked and did not appear to have any enemies. People
described him as a quiet, conservative person
He died from the multiple stab wounds, twenty-six in all.
Rosemary LaBianca was an attractive 38-year-old woman of Mexican origin. She had
been orphaned as a child and later adopted when she was twelve. She had worked as a
carhop and a waitress. She met her first husband in the 1940s and had two children. After
they were divorced in 1958,she met Leno when she was a waitress at the Los Feliz Inn.
Rosemary had become a very successful businesswoman. Not only did she run the
profitable Boutique Carriage, but also her prudent investments in securities and
commodities left her with an estate of $2.6 million. Not bad for someone who started life
with no advantages and spent most of her career as a waitress and carhop.
She had been stabbed forty-one times, six of which were enough to have caused her death.
On two consecutive nights, seven innocent adults and one unborn child lost their lives in
what seemed to be a senseless, motiveless crime.
However one feels about the lifestyles of the wealthy and glamorous, it is hard to imagine
any social good coming from these vicious murders. Yet over the years, the perpetrators
of these crimes and their persistent followers have tried to suggest that these killings were
necessary and desirable.
This author hopes that nobody finishing this story will agree.
In his very thorough book on the case, Helter Skelter, Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi heaps
a great deal of fault upon the homicide detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department.
One of the examples he provides is LAPDs slowness to connect the Tate murders with
the LaBianca murders the following night and with the murder of Gary Hinman a few days
earlier. Some of this fault on the part of LAPD apparently stemmed from its lack of
cooperation with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Office.
LAPD was approached shortly after the Tate-LaBianca murders by 2 LA Sheriffs Office
detectives who told them of the July 31 murder of music teacher Gary Hinman. On the
wall of the dead mans living room was written in his own blood "POLITICAL PIGGY,"
which seemed very similar to the words written at the both the Tate and the LaBianca
crimes scenes. Also, Hinman had been stabbed to death as had victims at the Tate and
Amazingly enough, the LAPD detectives refused to examine any connection between the
deaths of Hinman and the people at the Tate house. Furthermore, the LaBianca murders
were squarely in the territory of the LA Sheriffs Office and LAPD had no interest.
Had the LAPD detectives bothered to listen to the LA Sheriffs Office detectives, they
would have heard that the Sheriffs Office had arrested a Bobby Beausoleil for the Hinman
murder who was living with a bunch of hippies led by Charles Manson. But, LAPD had
already decided that the Tate murders were a result of a drug deal gone bad and didnt
want to hear about any hippies.
On the other hand, LAPD had in custody one William Garretson, the caretaker on the
Tate estate who claimed that he slept through the entire bloody ordeal. The case against
the frightened young man never materialized after he passed a polygraph test.
Officials essentially discounted robbery as a motive for the crimes, even though Rosemary
LaBianca's wallet and wristwatch were missing. In the two homes of these affluent
victims there were many items of value, which had not been touched by the killers. Small
amounts of cash lying around the Tate home were still in evidence and the purses and
wallets of the Tate victims were intact.
LAPD did investigate three alleged dope dealers that had once crashed a party at the
Polanskis, but one by one the men were cleared of any involvement.
Likewise, Roman Polanski was interviewed for hours by the police and agreed to a
polygraph examination. On August 15, he returned for the first time since the murders to
the house on Cielo Drive, accompanied by psychic Peter Hurkos.
Polanski had been devastated by the loss of his wife and son and was enraged at the media
circus that he walked into when he got back to the States. He lashed out at the
newspapers for suggesting that he and his wife were Satanists, indulging in sex and drug
orgies. "Sharon," he said, "was so sweet and so lovely that I didnt believe that people like
that existedShe was beautiful without phoniness. She was fantastic. She loved me and
the last few years I spent with her were the only time of true happiness in my life"
He worried to the police that perhaps he was the target not Sharon. "It could be some
kind of jealousy or plot or something. It couldnt be Sharon directly." Polanski did not
believe that drugs were a motive for the crimes. His wife, although she had experimented
with LSD before they met, was not a big drug user. "I can tell you without question," he
told the police. "She took no drugs at all, except for pot, and not too much of that. And
during her pregnancy there was no question, she was so in love with her pregnancy she
would do nothing. Id pour a glass of wine and she wouldnt touch it."
One month after the murders, Polanski, along with other contributors such as Peter
Sellers, Yul Brynner and Warren Beatty, put an ad in the LA area newspapers for a
Roman Polanski and friends of the Polanski family offer to pay a $25,000 reward to the
person or persons who furnish information leading to the arrest and conviction of the
murderer or murderers of Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and the other four victims.
It seemed like it was open season on theories. Everybody had a theory. The Mafia did it,
the Polish secret police, etc. Sharons father, Colonel Paul Tate, a former Army
intelligence officer, launched his own private investigation. Letting his hair grow long and
growing a beard, he started to frequent the hippie joints, the drug markets, hoping that he
would get some tidbit of information that would lead to the murderers of his beloved
daughter and grandson.
On September 1, 1969, 10-year-old Steven Weiss found a gun on his lawn in Sherman
Oaks. He carefully took the .22 caliber Hi Standard Longhorn revolver to his father, who
immediately called LAPD. The gun was dirty and rusty and had a broken gun grip.
A couple of weeks earlier, the LAPD forensics experts determined that the .22 caliber
revolver with the broken grip used on the Tate victims was none other than a Hi Standard
.22 caliber Longhorn revolver which was relatively unique and rare. Amazingly enough,
two weeks later, an identical gun with a broken grip is turned in to LAPD, tagged, filed
away and completely forgotten.
A couple of days later, LAPD sent out flyers to all personnel describing the murder gun
and attaching a photo of the revolver. The flyer was also sent out to other law
enforcement agencies around the country and Canada, while all the time, the gun sat in the
Property Section of the Van Nuys division.
Three months after the murders, which had been separately pursued by LAPD and the LA
Sheriffs Office, neither group had made any progress. However, the detectives working
for the Sheriffs Office were younger and more aggressive than their LAPD counterparts
and came to the conclusion that the Tate and LaBianca cases were definitely connected.
They had several suspects, one of which was Charles Manson.
Finally in mid-October, LAPD began to talk to the Sheriffs Office and decided to
investigate similarities between the murder of Gary Hinman and the Tate-LaBianca crimes.
The investigation lead to the Spahn Ranch, which was the home of a hippie group that
called itself the Manson Family.
The Spahn Ranch was in the mountains near Chatsworth. In the 1920s it had been the site
for old cowboy movies. Author John Gilmore in his book The Garbage People describes
the isolated old movie set:
The façade of the main street, a cluster of rundown movie buildings, had become a ghost
town with its Longhorn Saloon, the Rock City Café, some stables, weathered props and
old trailers. Millions of moviegoers once viewed this old "Wild West" setting, but the dust
had settled. Rusted car parts littered the grounds and few visitors passed by
Bobby Beausoleil, the man charged with the murder of Gary Hinman, had lived at the
Spahn Ranch with the Manson Family.
His girlfriend, 17-year-old Kitty Lutesinger, told police that Manson sent Bobby and a girl
named Susan Atkins to Hinmans house to get money from him. When Hinman wouldnt
give them the money, they killed him. Lutesinger also recalled that Susan Atkins
mentioned a fight with a man who she stabbed in the legs several times.
When police questioned Susan Atkins, who was still in jail, she admitted that she went
with Beausoleil to Hinmans home to get some money he had inherited. When he refused,
Beausoleil slashed his face. The two of them kept Hinman prisoner in his home until
Beausoleil murdered him a couple of days later.
At that point there did not seem to be any direct connection between Beausoleil and the
Tate-LaBianca murders, except for some hearsay that Susan Atkins had stabbed a man in
the leg. Gary Hinman had not been stabbed in the leg, but Voytek Frykowski had.
While she was awaiting trial for the murder of Gary Hinman, Susan Atkins was placed in
the Sybil Brand Institute, L.A.s womens house of detention. Her bed was next to that of
a thirty-one-year-old former call girl named Ronnie Howard. Another inmate, Virginia
Graham, was a close friend of Ronnies. Susan Atkins was a real talker. She had an almost
unbelievable story that Ronnie and Virginia listened to with absolute amazement.
Atkins acted like a nut case: dancing and singing at the oddest times, oblivious to the
seriousness of the charges against her and bubbling over with laughter and delight without
any apparent reason.
In the course of conversation, Susan told Virginia that she was in for first degree murder.
"Did you do it?" Virginia wanted to know.
"Sure," Susan answered as though it were the most natural response in the world. But, the
police thought that she only held Hinman while Bob Beausoleil stabbed him. In reality,
Susan said, it was she who stabbed Hinman while Beausoleil held him.
She also told Virginia that her lover Charlie was Jesus Christ and he was going to lead her
to a hole in the earth in Death Valley where there was a civilization down there. After
hearing that story, Virginia was convinced that Atkins was completely nuts.
Several days later on November 6, Susan was again in a talky mood and mentioned the
Sharon Tate murder. "You know who did it dont you?
Virginia said she didnt.
"Well, youre looking at her."
Virginia was horrified and asked why she did such a thing.
"Because we wanted to do a crime that would shock the world, that the world would have
to stand up and take notice."
Atkins went on to explain that they selected the Tate house because it was isolated. Susan
said they knew who the owner was but they didnt know or care who would be at the
house that night.
Susan explained that there were four of them, three girls and a man, all of whom had been
given their instructions by Charlie. When they got to the gate, the man cut the telephone
wires. Next they shot the teenager four times because he had seen them.
When they got in the house, Susan said that in the living room there was a man on the
couch and a woman on the chair reading. Then some of Susans group stayed in the living
room, while Susan went into the bedroom where Sharon was sitting on the bed talking to
Jay Sebring. They quickly put nooses over Sharon and Jays heads so that if they moved
they would choke.
Frykowski ran for the door. "He was full of blood," she said and claimed that she had
stabbed him three or four times. "He was bleeding and he ran to the front part, and would
you believe that he was there hollering Help, help, somebody please help me, and
nobody came? Then we finished him off."
"Sharon was the last to die," Susan said with a laugh as she described how Sharon was
begging her, " Please dont kill me. Please dont kill me. I dont want to die. I want to live.
I want to have my baby. I want to have my baby."
Susan said she just looked at Sharon straight in the eye and said, "Look, bitch, I dont care
about you. I dont care if youre going to have a baby. You had better be ready. Youre
going to die and I dont feel anything about itIn a few minutes I killed her."
Susan said she saw that there was Sharons blood on her hand and she tasted it. "Wow,
what a trip! To taste death, and yet give life."
Flabbergasted, Virginia asked Susan if it didnt bother her to kill a pregnant woman.
"I thought you understood. I loved her, and in order for me to kill her I was killing part of
myself when I killed her," Susan explained. She had wanted to cut out Sharons baby but
there wasnt enough time. She had also wanted to take out all the victims eyes and squash
them against the walls and cut off and mutilate all of their fingers, but they didnt have the
Susan told Virginia that after they left the Tate house she realized that she didnt have her
knife with her any more. Not only that, she had left her palm print on a desk, "but my
spirit was so strong that obviously it didnt even show up or they would have me by now."
The four of them drove to a place where they were able to wash their hands and change
Susan ended the story with admitting that they killed the LaBiancas the next night.
"Thats part of the plan," she explained. "And theres more."
This tale of murder had Virginias head spinning. She told Ronnie Howard, who didnt
believe the story. "Shes making it all up. She could have gotten it out of the papers,"
Ronnie reasoned. Virginia came up with a way to test Susan about whether she was telling
Some years earlier when the Tate house had been up for lease, Virginia had actually been
to see the exterior of the house on Cielo drive. When she saw Susan, she asked her if the
house was still decorated in gold and white. Susan said no.
Virginia also picked up some miscellaneous pieces of information that tied Charlie and
Susan to that house. It used to belong to Terry Melcher, Doris Days son. Charlie and
Susan were angry with Melcher for some reason that was not clear. She babbled
something about Melcher being too interested in money.
Later that day, Susan began to talk again and gave Virginia the list of celebrity targets that
were next on their list: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Steve
McQueen and Tom Jones. It was important to select victims that would shock the world.
She had planned to carve the words "helter skelter" on Elizabeth Taylors face with a
red-hot knife and then gouge her eyes out. Then she would castrate Richard Burton and
put his penis along with Elizabeth Taylors eyes in a bottle and mail it to Eddie Fisher.
Sinatra was to be skinned alive, while he listened to his own music. The Family would then
make purses out of his skin and sell them in hippie shops. Tom Jones would have his
throat slit, but only after being forced to have sex with Susan Atkins.
People who knew them but were not part of the group reported other confessions from
Manson and Family members about the same time. On November 12, the L.A. Sheriffs
detectives had a chance to interview Al Springer who was a member of the motorcycle
gang called the Straight Satans who had been involved with the Manson Family off and
The detectives were astonished when Springer told them that a few days after the Tate
murders that Manson had bragged to him about killing people: "We knocked off five of
them just the other night." Springer stayed clear of Manson after that, but mentioned that
Danny DeCarlo, another member of the motorcycle gang lived at the Spahn Ranch with
In the course of the interview Springer asked if anyone had their refrigerator wrote on?
"Charlie said they wrote something on the fucking refrigerator in bloodSomething about
pigs or niggers or something like that."
When the police finally got to Danny DeCarlo, they really got an earful about Charlie and
his Family. Not only did DeCarlo confirm their culpability in Gary Hinmans death, but he
implicated them in the death of a 36-year-old ranch hand named Shorty, a nickname for
Donald Shea. He was killed because hed tell the owner of the Spahn Ranch what was
really happening on his property. "Shorty was going to tell old man Spahnand Charlie
didnt like snitches," DeCarlo explained.
DeCarlo had been told what they did to his friend Shorty: "they stuck him like carving up
a Christmas turkeyBruce (Davis) said they cut him up in nine pieces. They cut his head
off. then they cut his arms off too, so there was no way they could possibly identify him.
They were laughing about that."
Another Family member named Clem told DeCarlo with a big grin that "we got five
piggies" the day after the Tate murders.
The two detectives shared this information with the detectives at LAPD, but the latter did
nothing with the information. The L.A. Sheriffs detectives, on the other hand, now
focused their investigation on the Manson family believing that the hippie cult was
somehow tied into both the Tate and LaBianca murder cases.
At some point in mid-November, Susan Atkins told her story to Ronnie Howard. Ronnie
Howard felt that she had to tell the police about what Susan had revealed, especially since
other people were future targets of the group. She asked for permission to contact LAPD,
but was repeatedly denied, even though the woman she asked permission was dating one
of the Tate case homicide detectives. Virginia Graham, who had been transferred to
another facility, was running into the same kind of difficulty when she tried to tell the
authorities about Susan.
Finally on November 17, 1969, two LAPD homicide detectives came to Sybil Brand to
interview Ronnie Howard. The message was finally beginning to penetrate the collective
intelligence of the LAPD that they had just found a gold mine. After they interviewed her,
they had her moved for her safety into an isolation unit.
Just who was this Charlie anyway? Both LAPD and the Los Angeles Sheriffs Office
started to dig through the rubble of his heavily documented 36 years. As information came
in about him, it was no surprise that he was in trouble. If ever a kid had a miserable start in
life Charles Manson was it.
An illegitimate and unplanned child, he was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, November 12, 1934
to Kathleen Maddox, a promiscuous sixteen-year-old who drank too much and got into a
lot of trouble. Two years later, Kathleen filed suit against Colonel Scott of Ashland, KY,
for child support which she was awarded, but never received. Kathleen was briefly married
to William Manson who gave his name to the boy.
Charles Manson in Nuel Emmons book Manson in His Own Words describes the Maddox
Kathleen was the youngest of three children from the marriage of Nancy and Charles
Maddox. Her parents loved her and meant well by her, but they were fanatical in their
religious beliefs. Especially Grandma, who dominated the household. She was stern and
unwavering in her interpretation of Gods Will, and demanded that those within her home
abide by her view of Gods wishes.
My grandfather worked for the B&O Railroad. He worked long hard hours, a dedicated
slave to the company and his bossesHe was not the disciplinarian Grandma wasIf he
tried to comfort Mom with a display of affection, such as a pat on the knee or an arm
around her shoulder, Grandma was quick to insinuate he was vulgar.
For Mom, life was filled with a never-ending list of denials. From awakening in the
morning until going to bed at night it was, "No Kathleen, that dress is too short. Braid
your hair, dont comb it like some hussy. Come directly home from school, dont let me
catch you talking to any boys. No, you cant go to the school dance, we are going to
churchIn 1933, at age fifteen, my mother ran away from home.
Other writers have portrayed Mom as a teenage whore...In her search for acceptance she
may have fallen in love too easily and too often, but a whore at that time? No!In later
years, because of hard knocks and tough times, she may have sold her body some
Charlie never knew his father and never had a real father figure. His mother was the kind
that children are taken away from and placed in foster homes. Kathleen had a habit of
disappearing for day and weeks at a time, leaving Charlie with his grandmother or his
aunt. When Kathleen and her brother were both sentenced to the penitentiary for armed
robbery, Charlie got sent off to live with his aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia.
The aunt was very religious and strict in stark contrast to his mothers permissiveness.
When Kathleen was released from jail, she was not responsible enough to take care of
him, preferring her life of promiscuity and hard drinking to any kind of normal lifestyle.
There was no continuity in his life: he was always being foisted on someone new; he
moved from one dingy rooming house to another; there were only transitory friendships
that he made on the streets.
Manson tells the story which was circulated within his family: "Mom was in a café one
afternoon with me on her lap. The waitress, a would-be mother without a child of her
own, jokingly told my Mom shed buy me from her. Mom replied, A pitcher of beer and
hes yours. The waitress set up the beer, Mom stuck around long enough to finish it off
and left the place without me. Several days later my uncle had to search the town for the
waitress and take me home."
John Gilmore in his insightful book called The Garbage People describes how Charlie
adapted to this life of emptiness and violence:
He kept to himself. Though friendless, his young mind bypassed the loneliness of his
surroundings. He watched, listened, pretended his imaginative resources knew no limit.
And he began to steal, as if to hold onto something that continually flew away. There was
a consistency and permanency to the habit of stealing and it became easier. With
everything transient, the thefts and goods he carried with him offered a sense of stability, a
kind of reward. An object owned gave identity to an owner, an identity that had yet to be
When he was nine, he was caught stealing and sent to reform school and then later when
he was twelve, he was caught stealing again and sent to the Gibault School for Boys in
Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1947. He ran away less than a year later and tried to return to his
mother who didnt want him. Living entirely by stealing and burglary, he lived on his own
until he was caught. The court arranged for him to go to Father Flanagans Boys Town.
He didnt last long at Boys Town. A few days after his arrival, thirteen-year-old Charlie
and another kid committed two armed robberies. A few more episodes like that landed
Charlie in the Indiana School for Boys for three years. His teachers described him as
having trust in no one and "did good work only for those from whom he figured he could
In 1951, Charlie and two other boys escaped and headed for California living entirely by
burglary and auto theft. They got as far as Utah when they were caught. This time he was
sent to the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C. While he was there
they gave him various tests which established that his IQ was 109, that he was illiterate
and that his aptitude for everything but music was average.
His keepers said this about him: "Manson has become somewhat of an institution
politician. He does just enough work to get by onRestless and moody most of the time,
the boy would rather spend his class time entertaining his friendsIt appears that this boy
is a very emotionally upset youth who is definitely in need of some psychiatric
That same year, Dr. Block, a psychiatrist examined him, noting "the marked degree of
rejection, instability and psychic trauma." His illegitimacy, small physical size and lack of
parental love caused him to constantly strive for status with the other boys. "This could
add up to a fairly slick institutionalized youth," Dr. Block concluded, "but one is left with
the feeling that behind all this lies an extremely sensitive boy who has not yet given up in
terms of securing some kind of love and affection from the world."
For a short time, things started to look up for Charlie. His aunt had agreed to take care of
him and his chances for parole were good. Shortly before the parole hearing, Charlie held
a razor blade against another boys throat while he sodomized him. Charlie was
transferred to the Federal Reformatory at Petersburg, Virginia, where he was
characterized as definitely homosexual, dangerous and safe only under supervision.
In September of 1952, he was sent to a more secure institution in Chillicothe, Ohio. His
keepers there saw him as "criminally sophisticated despite his age and grossly unsuited for
retention in an open reformatory type institution." For some reason, Manson suddenly
changed his attitude. He was more cooperative and genuinely improved educationally so
that he was able to read and understand basic math. This improvement lead to his parole in
May of 1954 at the age of nineteen.
At first he lived with his aunt and uncle, then his mother for a short period of time. Early
in 1955, he married a waitress who bore him a son, Charles Manson, Jr. Charlie worked at
various low-paying jobs and augmented his income by stealing cars. One of them he took
to Los Angeles with his then pregnant wife. Inevitably, he was caught again eventually
found his way to the prison at Terminal Island in San Pedro, California.
His wife had the good sense to divorce him after he spent three years in jail. In 1958, he
was released on parole. This time Manson took up a new occupation pimping. He
supplemented this income by getting money from an unattractive wealthy girl in Pasadena.
In 1959, Manson was arrested on two federal charges: stealing a check from a mailbox
and attempting to cash a U.S. Treasury check for $37.50
.This time Manson was lucky, a young woman pretended she was pregnant and pleaded
with the judge to keep him out of jail. The judge believed the story and had pity on him.
While he sentenced Charlie to ten years, he then immediately placed him on probation. A
couple of months later, he was arrested by LAPD for stealing cars and using stolen credit
cards, but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.
Near the end of 1959, Manson conned a young woman out of $700 in savings to invest in
his nonexistent company. To make matters worse, he got her pregnant and then drugged
and raped her roommate. He fled to Texas but was arrested and put in prison to serve out
his ten-year sentence. "If there ever was a man who demonstrated himself completely
unfit for probation, he is it," the judge said. Eventually at the age of 26 he was sent to the
U.S. Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington.
His record there described Charlie as having "a tremendous drive to call attention to
himself. Generally he is unable to succeed in positive acts, therefore he often resorts to
negative behavior to satisfy this drive. In his efforts to "find" himself, Manson peruses
different religious philosophies, e.g. Scientology and Buddhism; however, he never
remains long enough with any given teachings to reap meaningful benefits."
By 1964, he hadnt changed much, as least as viewed by prison officials: "His past pattern
of employment instability continuesseems to have an intense need to call attention to
himselfremains emotionally insecure and tends to involve himself in various fanatical
Whatever those "fanatical" interests were, they included an obsession with the Beatles.
Mansons guitar was another obsession. He felt that with the right opportunities he would
be much bigger than the Beatles. In prison, he became friends with the aging gangster,
Alvin Karpis. The former Public Enemy Number One and sole survivor of the Ma Barker
gang taught Charlie how to play the steel guitar. The prison record noted in May of 1966
that "he has been spending most of his free time writing songs, accumulating about 80 or
90 of them during the past yearHe also plays the guitar and drums, and is hopeful that
he can secure employment as a guitar player or as a drummer or singer."
Karpis had some interesting insights into Charlies true personality: "There was something
unmistakably unusual about Manson. He was a runt of sorts, but found his place as an
experienced manipulator of others...I did feel manipulated, and under circumstances where
it hadnt been necessary."
On March 21, 1967, Charlie was released from prison and given transportation to San
Francisco. He was 32 years old and more than half of his life had been spent in institutions.
He protested his freedom. "Oh, no, I cant go outside thereI knew that I couldnt adjust
to that world, not after all my life had been spent locked up and where my mind was free. I
was content to stay in the penitentiary, just to take my walks around the yard in the
sunshine and to play my guitar" The prison officials ignored his protest and unleashed
him on the world again.
As poorly prepared for life on the outside as he was, Charlie was able to blend in with his
guitar into the hippie scene in San Francisco. The high-point of the Haight Ashbury
culture was past and the only ones left were the diehards and the last ones to the party.
Charlie was never impressed by the hippie culture, but he lived off it and it didnt expect
much from him. He learned about drugs and how he could use them to influence people.
Charlie started to attract a group of followers, many of whom were very young women
with troubled emotional lives who were rebelling against their parents and society in
general. He battered down their inhibitions and questioned the validity of their notions of
good and evil. For the most part, Charlies followers were weak-willed people who were
naïve, gullible and easy to lead. LSD and amphetamines were additional tools by which
Charlie altered their personalities to his needs.
In spring of 1968, Manson and his followers left San Francisco in an old school bus and
traveled around. Eventually, he and a few of his group moved in with Gary Hinman, a
music teacher with a house on the Canyon Road. Through Hinman, Charlie met Dennis
Wilson of the Beach Boys. Manson and his girls starting hanging around Wilson every
chance they had. Manson tried to leverage the acquaintance with Dennis Wilson but it
didnt go anywhere. Eventually, Wilson became uncomfortable with Manson and his girls
and told them to split.
About that time, Manson found George Spahn and conned the old man into letting him
and his followers live on the Ranch. Squeaky Fromme, one of Charlies devotees, made
sure that the elderly mans sexual needs were fully satisfied. The Manson Family survived
by a combination of stealing and scavenging. Much of their food was taken from what the
supermarkets discard each day.
Charlie was still hell-bent to market his music to somebody. Through his contacts with
Dennis Wilson and another man in the music business, Charlie met Doris Days son Terry
Melcher. The plan was to interest Melcher in financing a film with Mansons music.
At that time, Melcher owned the house on Cielo Drive that was eventually leased to
Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. At various times, Manson had been by the property in a
car with Dennis Wilson.
Melcher was asked to listen to Charlie and decide whether or not he wanted to record
them. Melcher went out the first time and listened to Charlie sing his own compositions
and play the guitar. Some of the girls sang and played tambourines. Melcher went out a
second time a week later, but the music was nothing he was interested in recording. What
he didnt realize is that Manson had built this recording opportunity with Melcher into
something very real in his mind. When nothing came of it, Charlie was plenty angry and
blamed Melcher for his disappointment.
Another facet of Charlie, although not nearly as important to him as his music, was his
philosophy. To a large extent, this "philosophy" was a con, something he dreamed up to
impress his followers, but he probably believed some of it.
The core of this philosophy was a kind of Armageddon. Charlie preached that the black
man was going to rise up and start killing the whites and turn the cities in to an inferno of
racial revenge. The black man would win this war, but wouldnt be able to hang onto the
power he seized because of innate inferiority.
In 1968, Charlie was forecasting racial war when all of a sudden the Beatles released their
White Album, which had the song "Helter Skelter." The lyrics fit Charlies theory to a tee:
"Look out helter skelter helter skelter helter skelter/Shes coming down fast/ Yes she
is/Yes she is." Now, the racial Armageddon had a name. It was Helter Skelter.
Helter Skelter would begin, according to one of Charlies devotees, "with the black man
going into white peoples homes and ripping off the white people, physically destroying
them,. A couple of spades from Watts would come up into the Bel Air and Beverly Hills
districtand just really wipe some people out, just cutting bodies up and smearing blood
and writing things on the wall in bloodall kinds of super-atrocious crimes that would
really make the white man maduntil there was open revolution in the streets, until they
finally won and took over. Then the black man would assume the white mans karma. He
would then be the establishment"
Charlie and the Family would survive this racial holocaust because they would be hiding in
the desert safe from the turmoil of the cities. He pulled from the Book of Revelations, the
concept of a "bottomless pit," the entrance of which, according to Charlie, was a cave
underneath Death Valley that led down to a city of gold. This paradise was where Charlie
and his Family were going to wait out this war. Afterwards, when the black man failed at
keeping power, Charlies Family, which they estimated would have multiplied to 144,000
by that time, would then take over from the black man and rule the cities.
"It will be our world then," Charlie told his followers. "There would be no one else, except
for us and the black servants. He, Charles Willis Manson, the fifth angel, Jesus Christ,
would then rule the world. The other four angels were the Beatles.
How did this hokey philosophy result in the blood bath at the Tate and LaBianca houses?
Well, Charlie the Prophet had already forecast that the murders would start in the summer
of 1969, but as the summer went on, it looked as though the "prophet" was wrong. "The
only thing blackie knows is what whitey has told him," he said to one of his followers just
before the murders. "Im going to have to show him how to do it."
After the LaBianca murder, one of Mansons girls, Linda Kasabian, was told to take
Rosemary LaBiancas wallet and credit cards and leave them in the ladies room of a gas
station in an area heavily populated by blacks. That way, when, theoretically, the credit
cards would be used by some black woman, it would appear that blacks were responsible
for the LaBianca deaths. However, the credit cards were never used or turned in to the
On November 18, 1969, 35-year-old Deputy District Attorney Vincent T. Bugliosi was
assigned the Tate-LaBianca murder cases. Aaron Stovitz, head of the Trials Division of
the District Attorneys Office, was assigned as a co-prosecutor, but was later pulled off
for another case.
Bugliosi had an unbelievably difficult job ahead of him. Not only did he need to prove that
members of the Manson Family were responsible for the Tate and LaBianca murders, but
he had to prove the Charles Manson ordered them to do it. While Manson had sent four
Family members to the Cielo Drive massacre, he did not go himself. He did, however, tie
up Rosemary and Leno LaBianca and gave three others instructions to kill them.
The prosecutor had to establish Charlies dominance over the members of his Family and
convince a jury that Charlie had sufficient motive to want these seven people dead.
At the beginning, he didnt have much of a case. There was Susan Atkins story as related
to Virginia Graham and the stories that Al Springer and Danny DeCarlo told the police,
along with some comments from other people interviewed about Manson and his
followers. It wasnt until December 3 that Bugliosi knew for certain who of Mansons
Family had actually been involved with the murders. Manson had sent Charles "Tex"
Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian to the Tate residence.
Accompanying him to the LaBianca home was Watson, Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van
Houten. Atkins, Kasabian and Steve "Clem" Grogan waited in the car.
Atkins testimony was deemed vital to the prosecution, but she was not offered immunity.
However, if she cooperated with the prosecution, they would not seek the death penalty
against her in any of the three cases: Hinman, Tate and LaBianca. The extent to which she
cooperated would affect whether the prosecution would press for first-degree murder, life
Things started to look up for the prosecution when a fingerprint of Patricia Krenwinkels
was found on a door inside of Sharon Tates bedroom. This physical evidence was added
to the .22 caliber bullets found at the Spahn Ranch (the gun used at the Tate murders was
a .22 caliber revolver).
The first order of business for Bugliosi was to get grand jury indictments against Manson
and the individuals involved in the murders. When Susan Atkins testified to the grand jury,
she gave the same bloodcurdling story to them that she gave to Ronnie Howard and
Virginia Graham. She showed absolutely no sign of guilt or remorse for the ghastly things
she did. The jurors stared at her in disbelief.
Biker Danny DeCarlo testified that he, Manson, Watson and others had used a .22 caliber
Buntline revolver for target practice at the Spahn Ranch.
He also said that the three-strand nylon rope that was used in the Tate murders was
identical to the rope used at the ranch.
It only took the grand jury twenty minutes to hand down the indictments Bugliosi sought:
Charles Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Linda
Kasabian, seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder; Leslie
van Houten, two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
A few days later, the wallet belonging to Rosemary LaBianca was found in the ladies
restroom at the service station where Linda Kasabian left it. The wallet had gotten lodged
in the toilet tank. This piece of corroborating evidence was necessary to bolster Susan
Atkins story in case she decided to repudiate her testimony when Charlie started to
Another critical piece of evidence was finally "found:" the unusual .22 caliber Hi Standard
Longhorn revolver with the broken gun grip which had been found by Bernard Weiss son
and turned over to the police three and a half months earlier. Bernard Weiss after reading
about the indictments in the newspaper called LAPD Homicide to see if the revolver he
had turned in was the murder weapon.
After being passed around to several people, an officer told Weiss "We dont keep guns
that long. We throw them in the ocean after a while."
Weiss said, "I cant believe that youd throw away what could be the single most
important piece of evidence in the Tate case."
"Listen, mister," was the official answer. "We cant check out every citizen report on
every gun we find."
Weiss called a newscaster, who in turn, called LAPD. The gun was "found" where it had
been "lost" in the Van Nuys police station. After the tests had been run, there was no
doubt that it was the murder weapon. One thing remained to be done linking Manson to
that particular revolver. Eventually Randy Starr provided that link. He once owned the
revolver and had given it to Manson.
Another important development occurred when the police were contacted by the man who
owned the place that the Tate killers had used to clean up right after the murders. The man
had remembered the car and the license plate which was traced to a Spahn Ranch
employee who had let Manson and his girls borrow his car.
Even though it was not necessary for the prosecution to establish the motive for the
crimes, Bugliosi considered motive an important piece of evidence, especially since
Manson was not physically present at the Tate murders. Bugliosi set out to establish that
the primary motive was Helter Skelter: Mansons belief that he could start a race war and
personally gain from it. But certainly, there was the connection between Mansons anger
at Terry Melcher and the crimes committed on his former property. To further bolster
that motive, it was established that two different people had chased Manson off the
property a few months before the murders.
Rudi Altobelli, the man who bought the Cielo Drive property from Melcher, was an
important man in the entertainment industry. He represented stars like Katherine Hepburna
nd Henry Fonda. Because he traveled so much, he rented out the property to the
Polanskis and stayed in the guesthouse when he visited the area.
In March of 1969, Manson went to the house where four of the five murdered people
were staying. Charlie said he was looking for Melcher. Sharons houseguest sent him away
in not too friendly terms, but not before he saw Sharon, who wondered what the "creepy
looking guy" wanted.
Then Manson went to the guesthouse and told Rudi Altobelli that the people in the main
house told him to ask at the guesthouse. Altobelli admonished Manson for bothering his
tenants and told him he didnt know where Terry Melcher had moved.
Manson knew the layout of the house and he knew who was living in it. It was quite
possible that the "Helter Skelter" crimes were committed at that particular house because
Charlie wanted to pay back the residents for rejecting him and scare the daylights out of
Melcher for not backing his recording career.
Manson himself became a major player as he appeared frequently in the courtroom.
Bugliosi studied him and described the behavior he witnessed:
Though he had little formal schooling, he was fairly articulate, and definitely bright. He
picked up little nuances, seemed to consider all of the hidden sides of a question before
answering. His moods were mercurial, his facial expressions chameleon-like. Underneath,
however, there was a strange intensity. You felt it even when he was joking, which,
despite the seriousness of the charges, was often. He frequently played to the
always-packed courtroom, not only to the Family faithful but to the press and spectators
as well. Spotting a pretty girl, hed often smile or wink. Usually they appeared more
flattered than offended.
The trial officially began in mid-June of 1970. Judge Charles Older presided. He decided
that the jury, once selected, would be locked up until the end of the trial"to protect them
from harassment and to prevent their being exposed to trial publicity." Older was given a
bodyguard and his home was provided with protection.
The twelve jurors selected were five women and seven men with a range of ages
spanning25 to 73. While many occupations were represented, one was a retired deputy
In his opening statement, Bugliosi characterized Manson as "vagrant wanderer, a
frustrated singer-guitarist who would refer to himself as Jesus Christand was a killer
who cleverly masqueraded behind the common image of a hippie that of being peace
lovingbut was a megalomaniac who coupled his insatiable thirst for power with an
intense obsession for violent death."
Bugliosi stressed that Manson commanded his followers to commit the murders, but that
"the evidence will show that they were very willing participants in these mass murders"
Manson, who first appeared to the jury with a bloody X that he had carved into his
forehead, insisted on defending himself. He was assisted by an older lawyer named Irving
Kanarek who was a legendary for his attention to detail (much to the frustration of
witnesses, judges and juries) and Ronald Hughes, "the hippie lawyer" who was Leslie Van
Critical to Mansons defense was maintaining control of the Family.If his followers
testified against him, he was doomed. He had to set up and maintain an effective
communications network between himself and the other Family members, particularly
those under indictment. He needed the Family members who were not in jail to
communicate his wishes to those who were.
Just how sinister this communication would be was evidenced by what happened to
Barbara Hoyt. Hoyt was one of the prosecutions witnesses who was threatened that if she
testified at the trial, she and her family would be killed. She was then lured to Honolulu by
one of Mansons girls and given a lethal dose of LSD. Fortunately, she got to the hospital
in time to save her.
Manson was able to exert a lot of control over his girls in the courtroom. By then Susan
Atkins had repudiated her testimony to the grand jury. They came up with bizarre stories
that would implicate themselves but spare their beloved Charlie.
As the evidence was presented, things were looking bad for Charlie and the girls. A
pattern was developing, according to Bugliosi: "The more damaging the testimony, the
more chance that Manson would create a disturbance, thereby assuring that he and not
the evidence itself would get the days headlines. Often these disturbances would result
in Judge Older removing them from the courtroom.
The drama hit a high point when Manson got into an argument with Judge Older and
jumped towards the judge, yelling, "someone should cut your head off!" Atkins,
Krenwinkel and Van Houten stood up and started chanting in Latin.
When Manson and his girls were removed from the court, a shaken Judge Older instructed
the jury to disregard what they heard and saw, but the effect was indelible. The jury got a
first hand chance to see the real Charles Manson.
After 22 weeks of trial, the Prosecution rested. It was time for the defense attorneys to do
their part. Judge Older told the lawyers that were assisting Manson and defending the girls
to call their first witness. The defense responded: "Thank you, Your Honor. The
The court was stunned. Then the three girls shouted that they wanted to testify. The judge
and everyone else were bewildered. The girls had decided that they would testify that they
planned and committed the murders themselves and that Charlie had nothing to do with it.
Ronald Hughes, Leslie Van Houtens "hippie lawyer" objected and stood up against
Mansons transparent ploy: "I refuse to take part in any proceeding where I am forced to
push a client out the window." A few days later, Ronald Hughes had disappeared. After
the trial was over, his body was found wedged between two boulders in Ventura County.
One of Mansons followers later admitted that the Manson Family had murdered him.
A new lawyer had to be found immediately to take over the defense. Maxwell Keith was
appointed. When the court reconvened, Manson and the girls created a disturbance
suggesting that Judge Older "did away with Ronald Hughes," which resulted in them being
removed again from the courtroom.
For the most part, the lawyers for the defense put forth a disappointing presentation. Paul
Fitzgerald, Patricia Krenwinkels attorney, spent more time defending Manson than his
client. Daye Shinn, Susan Atkins lawyer made a brief defense for his client. Irving
Kanarek went on for days in his rambling style. Finally, Judge Older accused him of
filibustering. Manson, apparently also tired of Kanareks exhausting argument, shouted at
him: "Why dont you sit down? Youre just making things worse."
On January 15, 1971, seven months after the start of the trial, the jury began to deliberate.
Nine days later, it came to a verdict. Security was very tight around the Hall of Justice
since a Manson follower had stolen a case of hand grenades from a Marine Base and
reportedly had planned a special event on what they were calling "Judgement Day."
The jury had found Charles Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Leslie Van
Houten each guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Charles "Tex" Watson, because of extradition proceedings and other legal complications
did not stand trial until later in the year and was also found guilty of murder and
conspiracy to commit murder
On March 29, 1971, the jury completed deliberations on the penalty phase of the trial.
Manson and the three female defendants had shaved their heads for the reading of their
"We, the jury in the above-entitled action, having found the defendant Charles Manson
guilty of murder in the first degree...do now fix the penalty as death."
Patricia Krenwinkel responded: "You have just judged yourselves."
"Better lock your doors and watch your own kids," Susan Atkins said.
All four defendants received the death penalty.
On April 19, 1971, Superior Court Judge Charles H. Older pronounced the judgement: "It
is my considered judgment that not only is the death penalty appropriate, but it is almost
compelled by the circumstances. I must agree with the prosecutor that if this is not a
proper case for the death penalty, what should be?"
The judge shook the hands of each juror. "If it were within the power of a trial judge to
award a medal of honor to jurors, believe me, I would bestow an award on each of you."
At a later date, Robert Beausoleil, Charles Manson, Charles Watson, Bruce Davis and
Steve Grogan were tried and convicted for the murders of Gary Hinman and Donald
Bugliosi wrote," it had been the longest murder trial in American history, lasting nine and
a half months; the most expensive, costing approximately $1 million; and the most highly
publicized; while the jury had been sequestered 225 days, longer than any jury before it.
The trial transcript alone ran to 209 volumes, 31,716 pages, approximately eight million
In 1972, the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in the state and all of
the defendants are serving life sentences.
Right after the trial, there were a number of articles written that were favorable to Manson
and his followers. For a while, it appeared that he might become some sort of cult hero.
That never really materialized, however, and there is very little left of the Manson Family
today. However, Manson still receives a large amount of mail, much of it from young
people who want to join the Family.
There have been several plays about him, movies and documentaries and even an opera.
Charlies music has been played by the Guns NRoses rock band.
Why, when other murderers that were responsible for many more deaths than Manson are
forgotten by most people, does Manson remain so notorious?
Perhaps because the people they murdered and the ones they planned to murder were
celebrities. Also, perhaps because of Lynette "Squeaky" Frommes failed attempt to
assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, even though it is unlikely that Manson put her
up to it.
Bugliosi believes the notoriety continues because it is the most bizarre and strange, almost
unbelievable, murder case in history. He thinks that Manson has become a "metaphor" for
evil, catapulting him to near mythological proportionsPeople worry about this man the
way they worry about cancer and earthquakes."
Manson endures, even as a sixty-year old, comparatively passive prisoner, unlikely to ever
be paroled. Bugliosi sums up the continued fascination with the more fanatical elements of
society: "Today, almost every disaffected and morally twisted group in America, from
Satanists to neo-Nazi skinheads, has embraced Manson and the poisons of his virulent
philosophy. He has become their spiritual icon, the high priest of anti-establishment