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Charles Manson

Charles Manson, 1969
Born November 12, 1934 (1934-11-12) (age 75)
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Charge(s) Murder and conspiracy
Penalty Death, reduced by abolition of death penalty to life in prison
Status Incarcerated. Next parole hearing scheduled for 2012.
Spouse Rosalie Jean Willis
Leona (last name unknown) aka Candy Stevens
Parents Kathleen Maddox (mother)
Colonel Scott (father)
William Manson (stepfather)
Children Charles Milles Manson, Jr. (mother Rosalie Jean Willis)
Charles Luther Manson (mother Leona)
Valentine Michael "Pooh Bear" Manson (mother Mary Brunner)

Charles Milles Manson (born November 12, 1934) is an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family (the "Family"), a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s.[1][2][3] He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders, carried out by members of the group at his instruction. He was convicted of the murders themselves through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes his fellow conspirators commit in furtherance of the conspiracy's object.[4][5]

Manson is closely associated with the term "Helter Skelter", from the Beatles’ song of that name. At Manson’s trial and in a subsequent book, also called Helter Skelter, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi presented the theory that Manson considered this and other Beatle recordings prophetic messages about an apocalyptic race war, which the Family would not only survive but precipitate, by recording prophetic music of its own.[6][7] Ultimately, Bugliosi argued, Manson ordered the murders, to trigger the war directly.[8] The trial became America's most highly publicized murder trial up to its time.[9] Eventually, Manson attained "near mythological proportions", his "very name ... a metaphor for evil".[10]

At the time the Family began to form, Manson was a recently released and unemployed ex-convict who had spent more than half his life in correctional institutions. Before the murders, he was on the distant fringe of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly through a chance association with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. After his arrest, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially. The Beach Boys themselves had already recorded one of Manson's songs, as Never Learn Not To Love, although without credit to Manson. More recently, artists including Guns N' Roses and Marilyn Manson have covered songs by Manson.

Manson was sentenced to death, but that sentence was automatically commuted to life imprisonment when a 1972 court decision briefly eliminated the death penalty in California and canceled all death sentences pending in the state.[11] California's eventual reinstatement of capital punishment was not retroactive; Manson is currently an inmate at Corcoran State Prison.


Early life


Charles Manson was born to an unmarried 16-year-old named Kathleen Maddox in Cincinnati General Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Initially, he was "no name Maddox."[12][13][14] On the Certificate of Live Birth recorded three weeks after he was born, his name was listed as Charles Milles Maddox.[12][15][16]

For a brief time after her son's birth, Maddox was married to a laborer named William Manson.[16] The elder Manson is named as Charles Manson's father on his Certificate of Live Birth, but eventually, Maddox filed a paternity suit against a "Colonel Scott" which resulted in an agreed judgment in 1937.[17] In the quasi-autobiographical Manson in His Own Words, Colonel Scott is described as "a young drugstore cowboy ... a transient laborer working on a nearby dam project."[18] It is not clear if Charles Manson ever knew Scott.[12][14][19] Several statements in Manson's 1951 case file from the seven months he would later spend at the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C., allude to the possibility that Scott was African American.[20] Statements found in the family background section of the file read, "Father: unknown. He is alleged to have been a colored cook by the name of Scott, with whom the boy's mother had been promiscuous at the time of pregnancy."[21] When asked in 1971 about these records discovered by attorney Vincent Bugliosi, Manson emphatically denied his biological father was African American.[22]

Manson's mother was alleged to have been an alcoholic.[12][23] According to one of Manson's relatives, Maddox once sold her son for a pitcher of beer to a childless waitress. His uncle retrieved him some days later.[24] When Maddox and her brother were sentenced to five years imprisonment for robbing a Charleston, West Virginia service station in 1939, Manson was placed in the home of an aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia. After being paroled in 1942, Maddox retrieved her son and the two lived in run-down hotel rooms.[12] Manson later recalled her physical embrace of him on the day she returned from prison as his sole happy childhood memory.[24]

In 1947, Maddox attempted to have her son placed in a foster home, but no placement was available.[12] The court then sent Manson to the Gibault School for Boys, in Terre Haute, Indiana. Fleeing Gibault after 10 months, Manson went straight to his mother, but she rejected him.[12][25] More than two-decades later, during the Tate/LaBianca murder trial, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times tracked down Manson's mother, remarried and living in the Pacific Northwest. Maddox told the reporter that in childhood her son had suffered no neglect, rather, that he had been "pampered by all the women who surrounded him."[14]

First offenses

Rejected by his mother, and on his own, Manson went to Indianapolis.[26] Burglarizing a grocery store for food and cash, he rented a room, and continued his burglaries, breaking and entering several other stores in Indianapolis.[27][28] His theft of a bicycle from one store led to his apprehension,[29] and he was sent to an Indianapolis juvenile center — from which he escaped after one day.[30]

When he was recaptured, a Catholic priest he had met at the juvenile center wrote the court, persuading them to send him to the well-regarded Boys Town, in Omaha, Nebraska.[31] His arrival at Boys Town resulted in a "page-one [newspaper] story" in an Indianapolis paper.[32] However, four days later, Manson and another boy escaped, committing two armed robberies on their way to the home of the other boy's uncle.[33]

During the second of two grocery-store break-ins, Manson was again apprehended. At age 13, he was sent to the Indiana School for Boys — "a bona fide reform school."[34] He later claimed that he was brutalized there, by harsh discipline, gratuitous mistreatment by a staff member, and sexual abuse.[35] After a number of failed attempts, Manson succeeded in escaping, with two other boys, in 1951.[33]

En route to California in stolen vehicles, the trio was caught in Utah, after having burglarized several gas stations. For the federal crime of transporting a stolen vehicle across a state line, Manson was remanded to the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C.. Despite four years of schooling, he was still illiterate; he had an I.Q. of 109 (later measured as 121).[33] His first caseworker at the school labeled him "aggressively antisocial".[33]

First imprisonment

On a psychiatrist's recommendation, Manson was transferred in October 1951 to Natural Bridge Honor Camp, a minimum security detention center. Less than a month before his scheduled parole hearing in February, 1952, Manson "took a razor blade and held it against another boy's throat while he sodomized him."[24][33] Now considered dangerous, he was transferred to the Federal Reformatory, Petersburg, Virginia.[33] In September 1952, a number of other serious disciplinary offenses resulted in his transfer to the higher security Federal Reformatory at Chillicothe, Ohio[33]

Approximately one month after the transfer, Manson transformed into a model resident. Good work habits and a rise in his educational level from the lower fourth to the upper seventh grade earned him parole in May 1954.[33] As a condition of his parole, Manson was ordered to live with his aunt and uncle in West Virginia. After only briefly honoring that condition, he moved in with his mother, also in West Virginia. Then, in January 1955, he married a hospital cafeteria waitress named Rosalie Jean Willis. He later stated that he felt he had found real happiness with her.[24] Manson supported the two of them via small jobs and auto theft.[33]

After stealing a car in Ohio, Manson drove the vehicle to Los Angeles, in the summer of 1955 with his pregnant wife. Three months later, he was once again federally charged with taking a stolen vehicle interstate. Following a psychiatric evaluation, Manson was given five years probation. His subsequent failure to appear at a Los Angeles hearing on an identical charge filed in Florida resulted in his March 1956 arrest in Indianapolis. Manson's probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at the Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island, San Pedro, California.[33]

While Manson was in prison, Willis gave birth to their only child, Charles Manson Jr. During his first year at Terminal Island, Manson would receive visits from his wife and his mother, who were now living together in Los Angeles. In March 1957, after the visits from his wife ceased, Maddox informed Manson his wife was living with another man. Less than two weeks before a scheduled parole hearing, Manson tried to escape by stealing a car. He was then given five years probation, and his parole was denied.[33]

Second imprisonment

Manson received five years parole in September 1958, the same year in which Willis received a divorce decree. By November, he was pimping out a 16-year-old girl and was receiving additional support from a girl with wealthy parents. In September 1959, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to cash a forged U.S. Treasury check. Manson then received a 10-year suspended sentence and probation after a young prostitute named Leona made a "tearful plea" before the court the she and Manson were "deeply in love". She further stated that they "...would marry if Charlie were freed."[33] Before the year's end, Manson and Leona did marry, possibly so testimony against him would not be required of her.[33] Although Manson's new wife's given name was "Leona", as a prostitute, she had used the alias Candy Stevens. After Manson took Stevens and another woman from California to New Mexico for purposes of prostitution, he was held and questioned for violating the Mann Act. Though he was released, he suspected the investigation had not ended. Indeed, the investigation into his activities had not ended and when he disappeared, in violation of his probation, a bench warrant was issued for Manson's arrest. In April 1960, he was indicted for violating the Mann Act.[33] When one of the women he was pimping was arrested in Laredo, Texas in June 1960, Manson was also arrested and returned to Los Angeles. For the probation violation in relation to the check-cashing charge, he was ordered to serve out his 10-year sentence.[33]

In July 1961, after a year spent unsuccessfully appealing the revocation of his probation, Manson was transferred from the Los Angeles County Jail to the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island in Washington State. Although the Mann Act charge had been dropped, the federal charge of attempt to cash the Treasury check remained. In Manson's September 1961 annual review at the penitentiary, it was noted that he had a "tremendous drive to call attention to himself". That observation was echoed in a September, 1964 review.[33] In 1963, Stevens was granted a divorce from Manson. In the divorce documents, Stevens alleged that she and Manson's marriage had produced a son, Charles Luther Manson.[33]

Manson has claimed that while at McNeil Island he became interested in "understanding and knowing [his] own mind"[36] and "began paying attention to individuals as well as beliefs."[37] One of the beliefs he became interested in there was Scientology and learned about the group's philosophies from a cellmate.[38] In an evaluation conducted by the penitentiary staff, Manson stated his religion as "Scientologist".[39] According to a progress report of September 1961, however, "he never remain[ed] long enough with any given teachings to reap meaningful benefits."[40] Bruce Davis, one of Manson's principal collaborators in the Hinman and Shea slayings, was involved in Scientology in London from November or December 1968 to April 1969 but was expelled from Scientology, allegedly for using illegal drugs.[41]

Manson was sent again to Terminal Island in 1966 for preparation of his early release. By his March 21, 1967 release day, Charles Manson had spent more than half of his 32 years of life in prisons and other institutions.[33] Telling authorities that prison had become a home for him he requested permission to stay. His request was denied.[33]

The Manson Family

In anticipation for when he would be released from prison, Manson requested to relocate to San Francisco, California. His request was granted. With the help of a former prison acquaintance, Manson moved into an apartment in Berkeley, on the other side of the bay from San Francisco.

As quoted in the book, Manson in His Own Words, Manson claimed he had once been taught the basics of playing the guitar by "a Mexican friend."[42][43] While at McNeil Island, bank robber and former member of the Ma Barker gang, Alvin Karpis, had taught Manson "a few chords."[44][33][45] Combining his guitar-playing skills with panhandling around the streets of Berkeley. It was there that Manson soon became acquainted with Mary Brunner, a 23-year-old graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Brunner was working as an assistant librarian at UC Berkeley. Moving from being acquaintances to friends, Manson and Brunner moved in together. According to a second-hand account, Manson would bring other women in to live with them, in spite of Brunner's resistance.[46] Before long, Brunner and Manson were sharing their residence with 18 other women.[46]

Manson established himself as a guru in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district;[citation needed] the emerging signature hippie locale during 1967's "Summer of Love". Expounding a philosophy that included some of the Scientology he had studied while in prison,[47] Manson soon had his first group of young followers, most of them female.[33]

Before the end of the Summer of Love, Manson and eight to nine of his enthusiasts piled into an old school bus they had refashioned in appearance to a hippie style with colored rugs and pillows in place of the seat that had been removed. Roaming as far north as Washington State, the group then travelled southward through Los Angeles, California, Mexico, and parts of the Southwestern United States. Returning to the Los Angeles area, they lived in Topanga Canyon, Malibu and Venice, California.[46]

In an alternative account of his life shortly after his release from prison, Manson acquired Family members during months of travels undertaken, in part, in a Volkswagen van. He was apparently accompanied by Brunner. It was November when the school bus set out from San Francisco with the enlarged group.[48]

Involvement with Wilson, Melcher, et al.

The events that would culminate in the murders were set in motion in late spring of 1968. These events began when, by some accounts, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys' picked up two hitchhiking Manson women and brought them to his Pacific Palisades house for a few hours. Returning home in the early hours the next morning from a recording session, Wilson was greeted in the driveway of his own residence by Manson after he emerged from Wilson's house. Uncomfortable, Wilson asked the stranger whether he intended to hurt him. Assuring him he had no such intent, Manson began kissing Wilson's feet.[49][50] Inside the house, Wilson discovered 12 strangers, mostly women.[49][50]

Over a period of the next few months the number of visitors to Wilson's home doubled. During this time, the Family members who had made themselves part of Wilson's Sunset Boulevard household and Wilson would sing and talk with Manson, while Manson's women were treated as servants to them both.[49] In the book, Manson in His Own Words, Manson's recollection is that he first met Wilson at a friend's house in San Francisco where Manson had gone to obtain marijuana. There, Wilson allegedly gave Manson his Sunset Boulevard address and invited him to stop by when in Los Angeles.[24]

Regardless of how Wilson and Manson met, Wilson's "visitors" eventually cost him around $100,000.[citation needed] Among the expenses Wilson became responsible for was a large medical bill for treatment of the gonorrhea that had been communally contracted and $21,000 for the destruction of one of his vehicles. The car, which had been borrowed by Manson Family members, was uninsured.[51]

Wilson also paid for studio time to record songs written by Manson and performed by Manson and his family members. Wilson also introduced Manson to his entertainment business acquaintances, including Gregg Jakobson, Rudi Altobelli, and Terry Melcher. Jakobson, who was impressed by "the whole Charlie Manson package" of artist/lifestylist/philosopher, also paid to record Manson's music.[52][53][54][55] During this time period, Altobelli was also a landlord who owned a house in Benedict Canyon that he was renting to Melcher. After Melcher moved out of the home on Cielo Drive, Altobelli rented it to film director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate.[49]

Giving the reason that Wilson's lease was due to expire, Wilson's manager ordered the Family to vacate the now-communal residence in August, 1968.[56] Charles Manson and his "family" were now forced to find another place to live.

Spahn Ranch

Almost in anticipation of himself and his followers being kicked out of Dennis Wilson's home, Manson established a base for the group at Spahn's Movie Ranch, above Topanga Canyon by August 1968.[56] After leaving Wilson's home, the Family was then consolidated at Spahn.[49]

Formerly a much-used set for Western movies and television shows, the ranch had fallen on hard times by 1968. The buildings were in a state of deterioration and as a business, the ranch was used only for providing horseback rides.[57] While Family members did helpful work around the grounds, Manson instructed some of the women to have sex with the owner, a near-blind octogenarian named George Spahn. The women also acted as seeing-eye guides for Spahn, who allowed Manson and the group to stay at the ranch for free.[58][59] One of the women was Lynette Fromme, an early Family member who had joined the group in San Francisco. Because of her habit of emitting a squeaking sound when Spahn pinched her thigh, she was given the nickname "Squeaky."[46][51]

The Family was soon joined at the ranch by Charles Watson,[56] a small-town-Texas college drop-out who had recently come to California.[60] Watson had met Manson after he had picked up a hitchhiking Dennis Wilson who was on foot because of his cars being wrecked by Manson Family members. After being picked up by Watson, Wilson invited him to his home and it was then that Watson first met Manson.[56] It was after the Family's move to Spahn Ranch that Watson received his nickname, "Tex" - a name given him by ranch owner George Spahn because of Watson's recognizable Texas-drawl[57]

Helter Skelter

During the first days of November 1968, Manson established the Family away from Spahn at two alternative headquarters in Death Valley - Myers Ranch and Barker Ranch; each little or unused at the time.[55][61] Myers Ranch, to which the group had initially headed, was owned by the grandmother of a Cathy Gillies, a new Family member. Barker Ranch was owned by an elderly, local woman to whom Manson presented himself and a male Family member as musicians in need of a suitable place for their "work". The owner agreed to let them stay on the condition that they would help in fixing up the place. Manson then gave her a Beach Boys' gold record,[61] one of several he had received from Dennis Wilson.[62]

By the end of December 1968, Manson and Watson visited an acquaintance in Topanga Canyon who introduced them to The Beatles newly-released White Album.[55][63][64] Despite being 29 years old and imprisoned when the Beatles first came to America in 1964, Manson was obsessed with the group.[65] While at McNeil Island, Manson had told his fellow inmates he could surpass the Beatles in fame.[66][67] In statements to the Family, he spoke of the Beatles as "the soul" and "part of 'the hole in the infinite.'"[64]

For some time, Manson had been claiming that racial tension between blacks and whites was growing and that blacks would soon rise up in rebellion in America's cities.[68][69] He had emphasized Martin Luther King, Jr.'s April 1968 assassination as an affront to blacks.[61] On a bitterly cold New Year's Eve[citation needed] at Myers Ranch, Manson's Family members gathered outside around a large fire and listened as he explained the social turmoil he had been predicting had also been predicted by the Beatles.[64] The songs on the White Album, he declared, told it all, albeit in code. He felt the album carried messages to the Family itself, an elect group that was being instructed to preserve the worthy from the impending disaster.[68][69]

Early in January 1969, the Family escaped the desert's cold and positioned themselves to monitor the tension in Los Angeles caused by Manson's predicted race war by moving to a canary-yellow home in Canoga Park, not far from Spahn Ranch.[64][70][71] According to Manson, their new locale would allow the group to remain "submerged beneath the awareness of the outside world,"[70][72] and the home was then dubbed the Yellow Submarine, after the Beatles 1966 single of the same name. At the Canoga Park house, Family members prepared for the impending, predicted apocalypse[73][74] that Manson had earlier termed "Helter Skelter," also after the Beatles song of the same title.

By February 1969, Manson's apocalyptic vision was complete. Under his direction, the Family would create an album whose songs would trigger the predicted chaos. Ghastly murders of whites by blacks would be met with retaliation, and a split between racist and non-racist whites would yield whites' self-annihilation. The triumph of blacks would merely precede their rule by the Family, who would ride out the conflict in "the bottomless pit" — a secret city beneath Death Valley.[7]

At the Canoga Park house, Family members worked on vehicles and pored over maps to prepare for their desert escape as well as working on songs for their world-changing record album. After being told that producer Terry Melcher was to come to the house to hear the material, the women prepared a meal and cleaned the place. Melcher never arrived.[68][73]

Encounter with Tate

On March 23, 1969,[75] Manson entered, uninvited, the Benedict Canyon property located at 10050 Cielo Drive. Manson only knew the location to be the residence of producer Terry Melcher;[52] however, Melcher had moved out several months prior. As of February 1969,[76] property owner Rudy Altobelli had leased the property to Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate. Manson was spotted and then confronted by Shahrokh Hatami, a photographer and friend of Tate. There to photograph Tate prior to her departure for Rome the next day, Hatami saw Manson on the grounds through a window of the main house as Manson approached. Hatami then went to the front porch and asked Manson what he wanted.[75] When Manson told Hatami he was looking for Melcher, Hatami informed him the place was the Polanski residence. Hatami told him to try "the back alley," a reference to a path leading to the guest house.[75] Appearing behind him in the house's doorway, Tate asked Hatami who was calling. Hatami replied that a man was looking for "someone". At this point, Manson, without saying a word, went back to the guesthouse. He then returned a minute or two later, and left.[75]

Later that evening, Manson once again returned to the property and the guesthouse. After entering the house's enclosed porch, Manson spoke with the property owner, Rudi Altobelli, as he was emerging from the shower. Although Manson asked for Melcher, Altobelli felt Manson had actually come looking for him.[77] Altobelli's hunch was later confirmed as it was consistent with prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's discovery that Manson had apparently been to the place on earlier occasions following Melcher's departure.[75][78] Speaking through the inner screen door, Altobelli told Manson that Melcher had moved to Malibu and then lied by telling Manson he did not know Melcher's new address. After Altobelli informed Manson he was going out of the country the next day, Manson said he wanted to talk to him when Altobelli returned. Altobelli lied to Manson and stated he would be gone for more than a year. Altobelli also told Manson that he did not want Manson further disturbing the property's tenants.[75] Manson then left. Referring to Manson as "that creepy looking guy", Sharon Tate asked Altobelli the following day on their flight to Rome whether Manson had gone back to the guest house.[75]

Family crimes

Crowe shooting

After previously failing to show to hear Manson and the Family sing in late 1968, Terry Melcher finally heard what they had to offer musically at Spahn Ranch on May 18, 1969. Arranging a later visit not long after, Melcher subsequently brought a friend and a mobile recording unit, although the group did not get their music recorded at that time.[79][80]

By June 1968, Manson was telling the Family they might have to show blacks how to start "Helter Skelter" because "blackie" was too "stupid" to do so without their help.[70][74][81] Manson then tasked Watson with obtaining money with the intention of helping the Family prepare for the conflict. Watson proceeded to defraud an African American LA-area drug dealer named Bernard "Lotsapoppa" Crowe. Crowe responded to Watson's action with a threat to kill everyone at Spahn Ranch. Manson countered on July 1, 1969, by shooting Crowe at his Hollywood apartment.[58][82][83][84] Manson believed he had killed Crowe, a belief reinforced by the discovery in Los Angeles of a body belonging to a Black Panther. Although Crowe was not a member of the Black Panthers, Manson, concluding he had been, believed the body was actually that of Crowe. Manson, now expecting retaliation from the Black Panthers, turned Spahn Ranch into a defensive camp, with armed guards and night patrols.[82][85] "If we'd needed any more proof that Helter Skelter was coming down very soon, this was it," Tex Watson would later write, "[B]lackie was trying to get at the chosen ones."[82]

Hinman murder

On July 25, 1969, Manson sent on-and-off Family member Bobby Beausoleil, along with Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins, to the Topanga Canyon home of acquaintance Gary Hinman. Manson wanted the trio to persuade Hinman to turn over money Manson believed Hinman had inherited.[82][86][87] Beausoleil, Brunner, and Atkins held Hinman hostage for two days, during which time Manson showed up with a sword used to slash Hinman's ear. Following Manson' sword attack, Beausoleil proceeded to stab Hinman to death. It was later claimed in court that Beausoleil's stabbing of Hinman was in response to an instruction given by Manson.[citation needed] Before leaving the residence, at least one of the trio used Hinman’s blood to write "Political piggy" and to draw a panther paw (a known Black Panther symbol) on a wall in the house.[58][83][88][89]

In more than one of the magazine interviews he gave between 1981 and 1999,[90][91] Beausoleil stated he went to Hinman’s house to recover money paid to Hinman for "bad" drugs. Beausoleil also added that Brunner and Atkins, unaware of his intent, went along idly and just to visit Hinman. Contradicting Beausoleil's account, however, Atkins, wrote in her 1977 autobiography that Manson directly told her, Beausoleil, and Brunner to go to Hinman’s and get the supposed inheritance of $21,000. She said Manson had privately told her two days earlier, that, if she wanted to "do something important," she could kill Hinman and get his money.[87]

Beausoleil was arrested on August 6, 1969, after he was stopped by police while driving Hinman's car; police found the murder weapon in the tire well.[76] Two days later, Manson told Family members at Spahn Ranch, "Now is the time for Helter Skelter."[82][92][93]

Tate murders

On the night of August 8, Manson directed Watson to take Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to "that house where Melcher used to live" and "totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can."[94][95] He further instructed the women to do what Watson told them to do.[92][96] When the four arrived at the entrance to the Cielo Drive property, Watson, who had been to the house previously, climbed a telephone pole near the gate to cut the phone line.[55]

Around midnight, August 9, 1969, the group backed the car they arrived in down to the bottom of the hill leading up to the property. After parking there, the group walked back up to the house. Thinking the gate might be electrified or rigged with an alarm,[96] they climbed a brushy embankment to the right of the gate, each dropping to the ground on the other side. Noticing headlights coming in their direction down the driveway from within the property,[76] Watson told the women to lie down in the bushes. Watson then stepped out, gave a command for the vehicle to halt, then shot and killed the vehicle's only occupant, 18-year-old Steven Parent.[94][97]

The group then moved down to the main house. Watson cut the screen of an open window and told Kasabian to keep watch by the gate.[92][94][96] Watson removed the screen, entered through the window, and let Atkins and Krenwinkel in through the front door.[96]


As Watson whispered to Atkins, Polanski's friend and houseguest Wojciech Frykowski awoke from sleeping on the living-room couch. Watson kicked him in the head.[94] When Frykowski asked him who he was and what he was doing there, Watson replied, "I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s business."[94][96] On Watson’s direction, Atkins checked the rest of the house and found three other people. [96][98] Those brought to the living room by Atkins were the eight and a half month pregnant Tate; Tate's friend and former lover, noted hairstylist Jay Sebring; and Frykowski’s girlfriend Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folgers Coffee fortune.[76] Tate's husband, Roman Polanski, was in London, working on a film project.[99]

Watson began to tie Tate and Sebring together by their necks with rope he had brought and slung up over a beam. Sebring's protest—his second—of the rough treatment that Tate was receiving prompted Watson to shoot him. Folger was taken momentarily back to her bedroom for her purse, out of which she gave the intruders $70. After that, Watson stabbed the groaning Sebring seven times.[76][94] Frykowski's hands had been bound with a towel. After freeing himself, Frykowski began struggling with Atkins, who stabbed at his legs with the knife she had been using to keep guard over him.[94] As Frykowski fought his way toward the front door and out onto the porch, Watson joined in against him. Watson struck him over the head with the gun multiple times, stabbed him repeatedly, and shot him twice.[94] While Watson was hitting him over the head with the pistol, the gun's right-side grip broke in the process. Frykowski continued to flee and struggled across the lawn. Watson then killed him with more stabbing to a total of fifty-one stab wounds.[76][92][94]

During this time, Kasabian was drawn up from the driveway by the "horrifying sounds" she heard coming from the house. Arriving outside the door, Kasabian made a vain effort to halt the massacre by lying and telling Atkins that someone was coming.[92][94]

From inside the house, Folger had escaped from Krenwinkel and fled out a bedroom door to the pool area.[100][101] Krenwinkel ran after Folger to the front lawn while stabbing at her with a knife and then tackling her to the ground. Watson had told Krenwinkel to go after Folger after also stabbing her. Between the two of them, Folger was stabbed twenty-eight times.[76][94]

Back in the house, Atkins, Watson or both killed Tate, who was stabbed a total of sixteen times.[76] While being assaulted, Tate pleaded to live long enough to have her baby; she cried, "Mother... mother..." until she was dead.[94]

Before the four Family members had headed out from Spahn Ranch, Manson had instructed the women to "leave a sign… something witchy".[94] Using the towel that had bound Frykowski’s hands, Atkins wrote "Pig" in Tate's blood on the Polanski’s front door. On their way back to Spahn, the killers changed out of their blood-soaked clothes and disposed of them, as well as their weapons, in the surrounding hills.[94][96][102]

After being arrested on unrelated charges, Atkins bragged to cellmates at Sybil Brand Institute in East Los Angeles that she had killed Tate.[102] In later statements to her attorney, to prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, and before a grand jury, Atkins stated that Tate had been stabbed by Watson.[46][96] In his 1978 autobiography, Watson said he had stabbed Tate, not Atkins.[94] Because he was aware that prosecutor Bugliosi and the jury that had tried the other Tate-LaBianca defendants were convinced Atkins had stabbed Tate, he falsified his testimony by stating he did not stab her.[103]

LaBianca murders

Following the Tate murders, six Family members—Leslie Van Houten, Steve "Clem" Grogan, and the four from the previous night—left Spahn at Manson’s instruction. Displeased by reports of the panic at Cielo Drive, Manson accompanied the six, "to show [them] how to do it."[92][96][104] While riding around for a few hours,[92][104] Manson gave Kasabian directions that brought them to 3301 Waverly Drive in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles; the address being the home of grocery-store chain owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, a dress shop co-owner and businesswoman.[97][105] Next door to the LaBianca home was a house at which Manson and Family members had attended a party the previous year.[96][106] According to Atkins and Kasabian, Manson disappeared walking up the driveway and then returned to report he had tied up the house's occupants. Manson then sent Watson up to the house with Krenwinkel and Van Houten.[92][96] (Watson's autobiography states that Manson returned to their car and took him up to the house.)

Looking through a window, Manson pointed out a sleeping man and the two of them entered through an unlocked back door.[104] Watson added that, at trial, he "went along with" the account of the women, because he thought it would make him "look that much less responsible."[103] According to Watson, Manson roused the sleeping Leno LaBianca from the couch at gunpoint and had Watson bind the man's hands with a leather thong. After Rosemary LaBianca was brought from the bedroom briefly into the living room, Watson covered the couple’s heads with pillowcases on Manson's orders. He then tied the pillowcases in place with lamp cords. Manson left, sending Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten into the house with instructions that the couple be killed.[92][96][104]


Prior to leaving Spahn Ranch that night, Watson complained to Manson about the inadequacy of the weapons from previous night's murders.[92] Sending the women from the kitchen to the bedroom to which Rosemary LaBianca had been returned, Watson went to the living room and began stabbing Leno LaBianca with a chrome-plated bayonet; the first thrust entered LaBianca's throat.[104]

Sounds of a scuffle in the bedroom drew Watson there to discover Mrs. LaBianca keeping the women at bay by swinging the lamp tied to her neck. After subduing her with several stabs of the bayonet, he returned to the living room and resumed attacking Mr. LaBianca, stabbed with the bayonet a total of twelve times. As stated in his autobiography, when Watson finished stabbing LaBianca, he then carved the word "WAR" on LaBianca's abdomen.[104] In an unclear portion of her eventual grand jury testimony, Atkins, who did not enter the LaBianca house, possibly stated she believed it was Krenwinkel who had carved the word.[96][107] In a ghost-written newspaper account based on a statement she had made earlier to her attorney,[108] Atkins stated it was Watson who left the word on LaBianca's body.[109]

Returning to the bedroom, Watson found Krenwinkel stabbing Rosemary LaBianca with a knife taken from the kitchen. Heeding Manson’s instruction to make sure each of the women played a part, Watson also told Van Houten to stab Mrs. LaBianca.[104] Van Houten obeyed, stabbing her approximately 16 times in her back and exposed buttocks.[98][100][106] At trial, Van Houten would claim uncertainly,[110] that Rosemary LaBianca was dead when she stabbed her. Autopsy evidence showed that many of Mrs. LaBianca's forty-one stab wounds were inflicted post-mortem.[111]

While Watson cleaned the bayonet and showered in the home, Krenwinkel wrote "Rise" and "Death to pigs" on the walls and "Healter [sic] Skelter" on the refrigerator door in the LaBiancas' blood. Krenwinkel further inflicted fourteen puncture wounds in Leno LaBianca with an ivory-handled, two-tined carving fork. Leaving the carving fork protruding from his stomach, Krenwinkel also left a steak knife she had planted in LaBianca's throat.[92][96][104]

Hoping for a double event, Manson had gone on to direct Kasabian to drive to the Venice home of an actor-acquaintance of hers; another "piggy." Manson left this trio of Family members at the actor's apartment building and drove back to Spahn Ranch, leaving them and the LaBianca's killers to hitchhike home.[92][96] To thwart Manson's plan Kasabian deliberately knocked on the wrong apartment door, waking a stranger. As the group abandoned the murder plan and left, Susan Atkins defecated in the stairwell.[112]

Justice system


Tate residence

The Tate murders became news after the Polanski’s housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, had arrived for work on the morning of August 9, 1969, discovering the murder scene.[113] On August 10, detectives of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which had jurisdiction in the Hinman case, informed Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detectives assigned to the Tate case of the bloody writing at the Hinman house. Originally thinking the Tate murders to be a result of a drug transaction gone bad, the Tate murder-team ignored the information from the sheriff's office and the similarities in both crimes.[76][114] While the Tate autopsies were underway, the bodies of the LaBianca's were yet to be discovered.

Steven Parent, the shooting victim in the Polanski driveway, was determined by detectives to have been an acquaintance of William Garretson, the property caretaker living in the guesthouse. Garretson had been hired by Rudi Altobelli to take care of the property while Altobelli was away.[76] Held briefly as a suspect, Garretson told police he had neither seen nor heard anything on the murder night. He was released on August 11, 1969, after undergoing a polygraph examination; the results indicated he had not been involved in the crimes.[76][105] Interviewed decades later Garretson stated he had, in fact, witnessed a portion of the murders, as the polygraph suggested. (See "Later events," below.)[115]

LaBianca residence

The LaBianca crime scene was discovered on August 10th at about 10:30 p.m., approximately 19 hours after the murders were committed. Fifteen-year-old Frank Struthers — Rosemary's son from a prior marriage and Leno's stepson — returned from a camping trip and was initially disturbed by the exterior condition of the home. He called his older sister and her boyfriend, Joe Dorgan. Dorgan accompanied the younger Struthers into the home, discovering Leno LaBianca's body. Rosemary LaBianca's body was subsequently found by investigating police officers called to the scene.[116]

The LaBianca detectives were generally younger than the Tate team. In a report at the end of August, when virtually all leads had gone nowhere, they noted a possible connection between the bloody writings at the LaBianca house and "the singing group the Beatles’ most recent album."[117]

On August 12, 1969, the LAPD told the press it had ruled out any connection between the Tate and LaBianca homicides.[105] On August 16th, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department raided Spahn Ranch, arresting Manson, along with 25 others, as "suspects in a major auto theft ring" that had been stealing Volkswagens. For some time, the group had been stealing the vehicles and converting them into dune buggies to be used in Manson's version of "the apocalypse". During the raid, weapons were seized, but because the warrant had been misdated, the group was released just a few days later.[118]


Still working separately from the Tate team, the LaBianca team checked with the sheriff’s office in mid-October, about the possibility of similar crimes. It was then they learned of the Hinman case. They also learned that the Hinman detectives had spoken with Beausoleil’s girlfriend, Kitty Lutesinger who had been arrested a few days earlier with members of "the Manson Family."[86]

The arrests had taken place at the desert ranches—Barker and Myers—where the Family had moved after the Spahn Ranch raid. It was from these locations that the Family had been searching Death Valley for a hole in the ground and access to the "Bottomless Pit".[75][119][120] Law-enforcement officers had followed clues unwittingly left when Family members vandalized an earthmover owned by Death Valley National Monument.[121][122][123] Both Myers and Barker ranches had been raided by a joint force of National Park rangers, officers from the California Highway Patrol and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office — federal, state, and county personnel. During the course of the raids, law enforcement found stolen dune buggies and other vehicles and arrested two- dozen people, including Manson. Manson was apprehended only after a CHP officer found him hiding in a bathroom cabinet beneath the sink.[86][121]

A month after they spoke with Lutesinger, the LaBianca detectives made contact with members of the Straight Satans—a motorcycle club Lutesinger had informed the detectives Manson tried to enlist as his bodyguards while the Family was at Spahn Ranch.[86] While the Straight Satans were providing information that suggested a link between Manson and the murders,[58][102] a cellmate of Susan Atkins succeeded in informing LAPD of the Family’s involvement in the crimes.[58] As one of the Family members arrested at Barker, Atkins had been booked for the Hinman murder after she’d confirmed to the sheriff’s detectives that she’d been involved in the crime.[86][124] Transferred to Sybil Brand, Atkins had bragged to fellow prisoners, Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham, about the events in which she had been involved.[83] Howard and Graham reported Atkins' statements to Sybil Brand authorities.


On December 1, 1969, acting on the information given by Howard and Graham, warrants were issued in the Tate case for the arrest of Watson, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian. The suspects' involvement in the LaBianca murders was noted. Manson and Atkins, already in custody, were not mentioned in the warrants. Though Van Houten was also among those who had been arrested near Death Valley, the connection between her and the LaBianca case had not yet come to light.[52][96][121] Watson and Krenwinkel, were soon arrested, as authorities in McKinney, Texas and Mobile, Alabama had picked them up, respectively, upon notice from the LAPD.[52] Informed that there was a warrant out for her arrest, Kasabian voluntarily surrendered to authorities in Concord, New Hampshire on December 2, 1969.[52]

Before long, physical evidence such as Krenwinkel's and Watson's fingerprints that had been collected by LAPD at Cielo Drive,[125] was augmented by evidence recovered in other locations. On September 1, 1969, the distinctive .22-caliber Hi Standard "Buntline Special" revolver Watson used in the murders of Parent, Sebring, and Frykowski had been found and given to the police. Steven Weiss, a ten-year-old boy who lived not far from the Tate residence, had discovered the weapon on his lawn in Sherman Oaks.[126] In mid-December, when the Los Angeles Times published a crime account based on information Susan Atkins had given her attorney,[108] Weiss's father made several phone calls that finally prompted the LAPD to locate the gun and then connect it with the murders through the use of ballistics testing.[127] Acting on that same newspaper account, a local ABC television crew quickly located and recovered the bloody clothing discarded by the Tate killers.[128] The knives discarded by the killers after leaving the Tate residence were never recovered, despite a search by some of the same TV crew and then the LAPD at a later date.[129] A knife found by detectives behind a chair cushion in the Tate living room during the initial investigation belonged to Susan Atkins, who had lost her knife in the course of the attack.[130]


Manson's trial began on June 15, 1970.[98] Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten were tried along with him. The main witness for the prosecution was Linda Kasabian, who, like the defendants, had been charged with seven counts of murder and one of conspiracy.[53] Because she did not participate in the killings, Kasabian was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony.[49][54][131] Originally, a deal had been made with Atkins that excluded the death penalty against her in exchange for her testimony before the grand jury on which the indictments were secured. Atkins, however, recanted her testimony and the deal was withdrawn.[132] Because Van Houten had only participated in the LaBianca killings, she was charged with only two counts of murder along with conspiracy to murder for the deaths of the LaBiancas.

Judge William Keene granted Manson permission to act as his own attorney. Manson's violations of a gag order and submission of "outlandish" and "nonsensical" pretrial motions led to the revocation of permission for him to act pro se prior to the start of the trial.[66] In response, Manson filed an affidavit of prejudice against Judge Keene, who was then replaced by Judge Charles H. Older.[133] On Friday, July 24, the first day of testimony, Manson appeared in court with an X carved into his forehead. He further issued a statement that he was "considered inadequate and incompetent to speak or defend [him]self" — and had "X'd [him]self from [the establishment's] world."[134][135] Over the next two days, the female defendants duplicated the mark on their own foreheads, as did most Family members over the next several days.[136] (Manson's X was eventually replaced by a swastika. See "Remaining in view," below.)

The prosecution charged that bringing about "Helter Skelter" was the main motive in the killings.[137] The bloody White Album references of pig, rise, healter (sic) skelter left at the crime scenes were correlated with testimony about Manson's predictions that the murders blacks would commit at the outset of Helter Skelter would involve the writing of "pigs" on walls in victims’ blood.[70][138] Manson's testimony, "now is the time for Helter Skelter", was supplemented with Kasabian’s testimony that on the night of the LaBianca murders, Manson considered discarding Rosemary LaBianca's wallet in the street of a African American neighborhood.[92] Taking the wallet from the LaBianca house, he "wanted a black person to pick it up and use the credit cards so that the people, the establishment, would think it was some sort of an organized group that killed these people."[139] Following Manson's direction, Kasabian had hidden the wallet in the women's rest room of a service station near an African American area of Los Angeles.[78][92][96][140] "I want to show blackie how to do it," Manson had said as the Family members had driven along after the departure from the LaBianca house.[139]

Ongoing disruptions

During the trial, Family members loitered near the entrances and in the corridors of the Los Angeles County Courthouse. In order to keep them out of the courtroom itself, the prosecution subpoenaed them as prospective witnesses who would not be able to enter while others were testifying.[141] When the group established itself on the sidewalks in front of the courthouse, each of the "hard-core" members wore a sheathed hunting knife. Since their knives were not concealed but in plain view, their possession of the knives was legal. Each of the Family members were also identifiable by the X's on their foreheads.[142]

Some Family members attempted to dissuade witnesses from testifying. Prosecution witnesses Paul Watkins and Juan Flynn were both threatened;[143][144] Watkins was later badly burned in his van from a fire of suspicious origin.[143] Former Family member Barbara Hoyt, who had overheard Susan Atkins describing the Tate murders to Family member Ruth Ann Moorehouse, agreed to accompany Moorehouse to Hawaii. There, Moorehouse allegedly gave her a hamburger laced with LSD. Found sprawled on a Honolulu curb in a drug-induced semi-stupor, Hoyt was taken to the hospital. While there, still under the influence of the LSD, she struggled to identify herself as a witness in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial. Before the incident, Hoyt had been a reluctant witness; after the attempt to silence her, her reluctance disappeared.[145]

Despite precautions taken by the court, Manson flashed the jury a Los Angeles Times front page whose headline was "Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares" on August 4th. The previous day, U.S. President Richard Nixon had spoke-out publicly about what he saw as the media's glamorization of Manson. Judge Older proceeded to invoke the process of voir dire, however, the jurors contended that seeing the headline had not influenced them. The following day, defendants Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten stood up and recited in unison that, in light of Nixon's remark, there was no point in going on with the trial.[146]

On October 5, Manson was denied the court's permission to question a prosecution witness whom the defense attorneys had declined to cross-examine. Suddenly leaping over the defense table, Manson attempted to attack the judge. Wrestled to the ground by bailiffs, he was removed from the courtroom with the three female defendants, who had subsequently risen and begun chanting in Latin.[78] Thereafter, Older allegedly began wearing a revolver under his robe.[78]

Defense rests

Twenty-two weeks after the trial began, the prosecution rested their case on November 16, 1970. After arguing standard dismissal motions and without calling a single witness, the defense rested their case three days later on November 19th. Shouting their disapproval, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten demanded their right to testify.[147] In the judge's chambers, the lawyers representing the women told Judge Older their clients wanted to testify that they had planned and committed the crimes without Manson's involvement.[147] By resting their case, the defense lawyers were working to put a stop to such testimony. Van Houten's attorney, Ronald Hughes, vehemently stated he would not "push a client out the window." It was Bugliosi's opinion that Manson was advising the women to implicate themselves as a means of saving himself.[147] Speaking about the trial in a 1987 documentary, Krenwinkel stated, "The entire proceedings were scripted — by Charlie."[148]

Manson finally testified on November 20, 1970. In accordance with the California Supreme Court's decision in People v. Aranda, the jury was removed from the courtroom so Manson was free to make statements where he might implicate his co-defendants.[149] Speaking for more than an hour, among the things Manson said was, "the music is telling the youth to rise up against the establishment." Manson continued by saying, "Why blame it on me? I didn’t write the music." "To be honest with you," Manson further stated, "I don’t recall ever saying 'Get a knife and a change of clothes and go do what Tex says.'"[150]

Conviction and penalty phase

On January 25, 1971, guilty verdicts were returned against Manson and the three women on each of the twenty-seven separate counts against them.[151] During deliberations, what jurors had to work with was considering Manson's presented defense and the testimony of Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten.[152] The three female defendants claimed on the stand that the murders had been conceived as "copycat" versions of the Hinman murder, for which Atkins took credit. The killings, they said, were intended to draw suspicion away from Bobby Beausoleil, by mimicking the crime he had been jailed for. On the basis that Linda Kasabian had been in love with Beausoleil, they further claimed that this plan had been orchestrated and carried out by her.[153] Among some of the weak points in their testimony was the inability of Atkins to explain why she had written "political piggy" at Hinman's residence.[138][153] The bizarre behavior and statements of the defendants continued into the penalty phase of the trial. Manson shaved his head and trimmed his beard to a fork, telling the press, "I am the Devil, and the Devil always has a bald head."[154] In what the prosecution regarded as belated recognition on their part that imitation of Manson only proved his domination, the female defendants waited to shave their heads until the jurors retired to weigh the state's request for the death penalty.[152][154]

The effort to exonerate Manson via the "copycat" scenario did not sway the jury. On March 29, 1971, verdicts for all four defendants returned in favor of death on all counts.[138] On the same day the verdicts and juror recommendation that the death penalty be instituted were announced, news came that Van Houten's missing attorney, Ronald Hughes, had been found in Ventura County. Hughes' badly-decomposed body was discovered wedged between two boulders near Sespe Hot Springs, where he had been vacationing.[155] It was rumored, although never proven, that Hughes was murdered by the Family, possibly because he had stood up to Manson and refused to allow Van Houten to take the stand and absolve Manson of the crimes.[156] Another, less ominous theory, suggested he had been the victim of a flash-flood while out hiking.[157][158] Family member Sandra Good stated that Hughes' death was "the first of the retaliation murders."[159][160] The actual cause of his death has never been determined.

As the trial began to conclude and closing arguments on both sides were approaching, Van Houten's attorney, Ronald Hughes, failed to return to court on November 30, 1970 after a court-mandated recess.[161] When Maxwell Keith was appointed to represent Van Houten in Hughes' absence, a delay of more than two weeks was required to permit Keith to familiarize himself with the voluminous trial transcripts.[161] When the trial resumed just before Christmas, disruptions of the prosecution's closing argument by the defendants ensued, leading Judge Older to ban all four of the defendants from the courtroom for the remainder of the guilt phase. Older felt the defendants were acting in collusion with each other and were simply putting on a "performance".[162]

On April 19, 1971, Judge Older sentenced the four to death.[163]

After Manson's trial

Because of the length of the proceedings to extradite him from Texas,[101][106][164][165] Tex Watson was tried separately from Manson and the others. Watson's trial began in August 1971. By October, he had been found guilty on seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy. Unlike the others, Watson's lawyers presented a psychiatric defense, however, during the trial prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi was able to paint a different picture for the jury. Following the guilty verdict, Watson was also sentenced to death.[95]

In February 1972, the death sentences of all five parties were automatically reduced to life in prison by California v. Anderson, 493 P.2d 880, 6 Cal. 3d 628 (Cal. 1972) as the Supreme Court of California abolished the death penalty in that state.[166] Upon his incarceration, Manson's rhetoric and hippie speeches were not accepted amongst the prison population at San Quentin. While there, he eventually found temporary acceptance from the Aryan Brotherhood with his role as a submissive to a sexually-aggressive member of the Brotherhood.[167]

In a 1971 trial that took place after his Tate/LaBianca convictions, Manson was found guilty of the murders of Gary Hinman and Donald "Shorty" Shea and was given a life sentence. Shea was a Spahn Ranch stuntman and horse wrangler who had been killed approximately ten days after the August 16, 1969, sheriff's raid on the ranch. Manson, who suspected that Shea helped set up the raid, had apparently believed Shea was trying to get Spahn to run the Family off the ranch. There is also a possibility that Shea knew of the Family's involvement in the Tate/LaBianca killings.[58][168] In separate trials, Family members Bruce Davis and Steve "Clem" Grogan were also found guilty of Shea's murder.[58][95][169]

Remaining in view

The Folsom State Prison, one of the facilities where Manson has been held.

On September 5, 1975, the Family rocketed back to national attention when Squeaky Fromme attempted to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford.[170] The attempt took place in Sacramento, to which she and Manson follower Sandra Good had moved to be near Manson while he was incarcerated at Folsom State Prison. A subsequent search of the apartment shared by Fromme, Good, and a Family recruit turned up evidence that, coupled with later actions on the part of Good, resulted in Good's conviction for conspiring to send threatening communications through the United States mail and transmitting death threats by way of interstate commerce. (The threats that were involved were against corporate executives and US government officials and had to do with supposed environmental dereliction on their part.)[170] Fromme was sentenced to 15 years to life, becoming the first person sentenced under United States Code Title 18, chapter 84 (1965),[171] which made it a Federal crime to attempt to assassinate the President of the United States.

In 1977, authorities learned the precise location of the remains of Shorty Shea and that, contrary to Family claims, Shea had not been dismembered and buried in several places. Contacting the prosecutor in his case, Steve Grogan told him Shea’s corpse had been buried in one piece; he drew a map that pinpointed the location of the body, which was recovered. Of those convicted of Manson-ordered murders, Grogan would become, in 1985, the first—and, as of 2009, the only—to be paroled.[172]

In the 1980s, Manson gave three notable interviews. The first, recorded at California Medical Facility and aired June 13, 1981, was by Tom Snyder for NBC's The Tomorrow Show. The second, recorded at San Quentin Prison and aired March 7, 1986, was by Charlie Rose for CBS News Nightwatch; it won the national news Emmy Award for "Best Interview" in 1987.[173] The last, with Geraldo Rivera in 1988, was part of that journalist's prime-time special on Satanism.[174] At least as early as the Snyder interview, Manson's forehead bore a swastika, in the spot where the X carved during his trial had been.[175]

On September 25, 1984, while imprisoned at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville, Manson was severely burned by a fellow inmate who poured paint thinner on him and set him alight. The other prisoner, Jan Holmstrom, explained that Manson had objected to his Hare Krishna chants and had verbally threatened him. Despite suffering second- and third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body, Manson recovered from his injuries.[176]

In December 1987, Fromme, serving a life sentence for the assassination attempt, escaped briefly from Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. She was trying to reach Manson, whom she had heard had testicular cancer; she was apprehended within days.[170] She was released on parole from Federal Medical Center, Carswell on August 14, 2009.[177]

Later events

In a 1994 conversation with Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, Catherine Share, a one-time Manson-follower, stated that her testimony in the penalty phase of Manson’s trial had been a fabrication intended to save Manson from the gas chamber and had been given on Manson’s explicit direction.[170] Share’s testimony had introduced the copycat-motive story, which the testimony of the three female defendants echoed and according to which the Tate-LaBianca murders had been Linda Kasabian's idea.[153] In a 1997 segment of the tabloid television program Hard Copy, Share implied that her testimony had been given under a Manson threat of physical harm.[178] In August 1971, after Manson's trial and sentencing, Share had participated in a violent California retail-store robbery, the object of which was the acquisition of weapons to help free Manson.[95]

In January 1996, a Manson web site was established by latter-day Manson follower George Stimson, who was helped by Sandra Good. Good had been released from prison in 1985, after serving 10 years of her 15-year sentence for the death threats.[170][179] The Manson website,, was discontinued in 2001.

In a 1998–99 interview in Seconds magazine, Bobby Beausoleil rejected the view that Manson ordered him to kill Gary Hinman.[91] He stated Manson did come to Hinman's house and slash Hinman with a sword. In a 1981 interview with Oui magazine, he denied this. Beausoleil stated that when he read about the Tate murders in the newspaper, "I wasn't even sure at that point — really, I had no idea who had done it until Manson's group were actually arrested for it. It had only crossed my mind and I had a premonition, perhaps. There was some little tickle in my mind that the killings might be connected with them...." In the Oui magazine interview, he had stated, "When [the Tate-LaBianca murders] happened, I knew who had done it. I was fairly certain."[90]

William Garretson, once the young caretaker at Cielo Drive, indicated in a program broadcast in July 1999 on E!, that he had, in fact, seen and heard a portion of the Tate murders from his location in the property’s guest house. This comported with the unofficial results of the polygraph examination that had been given to Garretson on August 10, 1969, and that had effectively eliminated him as a suspect.[180] The LAPD officer who conducted the examination had concluded Garretson was "clean" on participation in the crimes but "muddy" as to his having heard anything.[76] Garretson did not explain why he had withheld his knowledge of the events.[115]

Recent developments

On September 5, 2007, MSNBC aired The Mind of Manson, a complete version of a 1987 interview at California’s San Quentin State Prison. The footage of the "unshackled, unapologetic, and unruly" Manson had been considered "so unbelievable" that only seven minutes of it had originally been broadcast on The Today Show, for which it had been recorded.[181]

In a January 2008 segment of the Discovery Channel’s Most Evil, Barbara Hoyt said that the impression that she had accompanied Ruth Ann Moorehouse to Hawaii just to avoid testifying at Manson's trial was erroneous. Hoyt said she had cooperated with the Family because she was "trying to keep them from killing my family." She stated that, at the time of the trial, she was "constantly being threatened: 'Your family’s gonna die. [The murders] could be repeated at your house.'"[182]

On March 15, 2008, Associated Press reported that forensic investigators had conducted a search for human remains at Barker Ranch the previous month. Following up on longstanding rumors that the Family had killed hitchhikers and runaways who had come into its orbit during its time at Barker, the investigators identified "two likely clandestine grave sites... and one additional site that merits further investigation."[183] Though they recommended digging, CNN reported on March 28 that the Inyo County sheriff, who questioned the methods they employed with search dogs, had ordered additional tests before any excavation.[184] On May 9, after a delay caused by damage to test equipment,[185] the sheriff announced that test results had been inconclusive and that "exploratory excavation" would begin on May 20.[186] In the meantime, Tex Watson had commented publicly that "no one was killed" at the desert camp during the month-and-a-half he was there, after the Tate-LaBianca murders.[187][188] On May 21, after two days of work, the sheriff brought the search to an end; four potential gravesites had been dug up and had been found to hold no human remains.[189][190]

Manson at age 74: This photo was taken in March 2009.

In March 2009, a photograph taken of a 74-year old Manson, showing a receding hairline, grizzled gray beard and hair and the swastika tattoo still prominent on his forehead, was released to the public by California corrections officials.[191]

As the fortieth anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders approached, in July 2009, Los Angeles magazine published an "oral history", in which former Family members, law-enforcement officers, and others involved with Manson, the arrests, and the trials offered their recollections of — and observations on — the events that made Manson notorious. In the article, Juan Flynn, a Spahn Ranch worker who had become associated with Manson and the Family, said:

Charles Manson got away with everything. People will say, 'He's in jail.' But Charlie is exactly where he wants to be.[192]

In September 2009, The History Channel broadcast a docudrama covering the Family's activities and the murders as part of its coverage on the 40th anniversary of the killings.[193] The program included an in-depth interview with Linda Kasabian, who spoke publicly for the first time since a 1989 appearance on A Current Affair, an American television news magazine.[193] Also included in the History Channel program were interviews with Vincent Bugliosi, Catherine Share, and Debra Tate, sister of Sharon.[194]

It was announced in early 2008 that Susan Atkins was suffering from brain cancer.[195] An application for compassionate release, based on her health status, was denied in July 2008,[195] and she was denied parole for the 18th and final time on September 2, 2009.[196] Atkins died of natural causes 22 days later, on September 24, 2009, at the Central California Women's facility in Chowchilla.[197][198]

In November 2009, a Los Angeles DJ and songwriter named Matthew Roberts released correspondence and other evidence indicating he had been biologically fathered by Manson. Roberts' biological mother claims to have been a member of the Manson Family who left in the summer of 1967 after being raped by Manson; the mother returned to her parents' home to complete the pregnancy, give birth on March 22, 1968, and give up Roberts for adoption. Manson himself has stated that he "could" be the father, acknowledging the biological mother and a sexual relationship with her during 1967; this was nearly two years before the Family began its murderous phase.[199][200]

Parole hearings

A footnote to the conclusion of California v. Anderson, the 1972 decision that neutralized California's then-current death sentences, stated:

"[A]ny prisoner now under a sentence of death ... may file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the superior court inviting that court to modify its judgment to provide for the appropriate alternative punishment of life imprisonment or life imprisonment without possibility of parole specified by statute for the crime for which he was sentenced to death."[201]

This made Manson eligible to apply for parole after seven years’ incarceration.[202] His first parole hearing took place in 1978.[203] On May 23, 2007, he was denied parole for the eleventh time.[204]

Manson will be eligible to re-apply for parole in 2012. His inmate number at Corcoran State Prison is B33920.[205]

Manson and culture


On March 6, 1970, the day the court vacated Manson's status as his own attorney,[92] LIE, an album of Manson music, was released.[206][207][208] This included "Cease to Exist," a Manson composition the Beach Boys had recorded with modified lyrics and the title "Never Learn Not to Love."[209][210] Over the next couple of months, only about 300 of the album's two thousand copies sold.[211]

Since that time, there have been several releases of Manson recordings—both musical and spoken.[212] The Family Jams includes two compact discs of Manson's songs recorded by the Family in 1970, after Manson and the others had been arrested. Guitar and lead vocals are supplied by Steve Grogan;[121] additional vocals are supplied by Lynette Fromme, Sandra Good, Catherine Share, and others.[212][213] One Mind, an album of music, poetry, and spoken word, new at the time of its release, in April 2005,[212] was put out under a Creative Commons license.[214][215]

American rock band Guns N’ Roses recorded Manson's "Look at Your Game, Girl," included as an unlisted thirteenth track on their 1993 album "The Spaghetti Incident?"[166][216][217] "My Monkey," which appears on Portrait of an American Family by Marilyn Manson (no relation, as is explained below), includes the lyrics "I had a little monkey/I sent him to the country and I fed him on gingerbread/Along came a choo-choo/Knocked my monkey cuckoo/And now my monkey’s dead."[218] These lyrics are from Manson’s "Mechanical Man,"[219] which is heard on LIE.

Several of Manson's songs, including "I'm Scratching Peace Symbols on Your Tombstone" (a.k.a. "First They Made Me Sleep in the Closet"), "Garbage Dump", and "I Can't Remember When", are featured in the soundtrack of the 1976 TV-movie Helter Skelter, where they are performed by Steve Railsback, who portrays Manson.[220]

According to a popular urban legend, Manson unsuccessfully auditioned for the Monkees in late 1965; this is refuted by the fact that Manson was still incarcerated at McNeil Island at that time.[221]

Cultural reverberation

Within months of the Tate-LaBianca arrests, Manson was embraced by underground newspapers of the 1960s counterculture from which the Family had emerged.[211][222] When a Rolling Stone writer visited the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for a June 1970 cover story,[223] he was shocked by a photograph of the bloody "Healter [sic] Skelter" that would bind Manson to popular culture.[224]

Manson has been a presence in fashion,[225][226] graphics,[227][228] music,[229] and movies, as well as on television and the stage. In an afterword composed for the 1994 edition of the non-fiction Helter Skelter, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi quoted a BBC employee's assertion that a "neo-Manson cult" existing then in Europe was represented by, among other things, approximately 70 rock bands playing songs by Manson and "songs in support of him."[166]

Just one specimen of popular music with Manson references is Alkaline Trio’s "Sadie," whose lyrics include the phrases "Sadie G," "Ms. Susan A," and "Charlie’s broken .22."[230] "Sadie Mae Glutz" was the name by which Susan Atkins was known within the Family;[86][87] and as noted earlier, the revolver grip that shattered when Tex Watson used it to bludgeon Wojciech Frykowski was a twenty-two caliber.[94] "Sadie’s" lyrics are followed by a spoken passage derived from Atkins’s testimony in the penalty phase of the trial of Manson and the women.[231][232]

Manson has even influenced the names of musical performers such as Spahn Ranch, Kasabian, and Marilyn Manson, the last a stage name assembled from "Charles Manson" and "Marilyn Monroe."[233] The story of the Family's activities inspired John Moran’s opera The Manson Family and Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins, the latter of which has Lynette Fromme as a character.[234][235] The tale has been the subject of several movies, including two television dramatizations of Helter Skelter.[236][237] In the South Park episode Merry Christmas Charlie Manson, Manson is a comic character whose inmate number is 06660, an apparent reference to 666, the Biblical "number of the beast."[238][239]




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  241. ^ Charles Manson Superstar at the Internet Movie Database

Works cited

  • Atkins, Susan with Bob Slosser. Child of Satan, Child of God. Logos International; Plainfield, New Jersey; 1977. ISBN 0-88270-276-9.
  • Bugliosi, Vincent with Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. (Norton, 1974; Arrow books, 1992 edition, ISBN 0-09-997500-9; W. W. Norton & Company, 2001, ISBN 0-393-32223-8)
  • Emmons, Nuel, as told to. Manson in His Own Words. Grove Press, 1988. ISBN 0-8021-3024-0.
  • Sanders, Ed The Family. Thunder's Mouth Press. rev. update edition 2002. ISBN 1-56025-396-7.
  • Watkins, Paul with Guillermo Soledad. My Life with Charles Manson. Bantam, 1979. ISBN 0-553-12788-8.
  • Watson, Charles. Will you die for me?. F. H. Revell, 1978. ISBN 0-8007-0912-8.

Further reading

  • George, Edward and Dary Matera. Taming the Beast: Charles Manson's Life Behind Bars. St. Martin's Press, 1999. ISBN 0-312-20970-3.
  • Gilmore, John. Manson: The Unholy Trail of Charlie and the Family. Amok Books, 2000. ISBN 1-878923-13-7.
  • Gilmore, John. The Garbage People. Omega Press, 1971.
  • LeBlanc, Jerry and Ivor Davis. 5 to Die. Holloway House Publishing, 1971. ISBN 0-87067-306-8.
  • Pellowski, Michael J. The Charles Manson Murder Trial: A Headline Court Case. Enslow Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-7660-2167-X.
  • Rowlett, Curt. Labyrinth13: True Tales of the Occult, Crime & Conspiracy, Chapter 10, Charles Manson, Son of Sam and the Process Church of the Final Judgment: Exploring the Alleged Connections. Lulu Press, 2006. ISBN 1-4116-6083-8.
  • Schreck, Nikolas. The Manson File Amok Press. 1988. ISBN 0-941693-04-X.
  • Udo, Tommy. Charles Manson: Music, Mayhem, Murder. Sanctuary Records, 2002. ISBN 1-86074-388-9.

External links

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