Charles Manson and the Manson Family
The horrific crimes committed by Manson and the Manson family are described below.
Names to Know
- Charles Manson – Leader of the Manson family, and the manipulative mastermind behind a series of murders
- Charles “Tex” Watson – Member of the Manson family
- Bobby Beausoleil – Member of the Manson family
- Mary Brunner – Member of the Manson family
- Susan Atkins – Member of the Manson family
- Linda Kasabian – Member of the Manson family
- Patricia Krenwinkel – Member of the Manson family
- Bernard Crowe – Fraud victim of Manson and Watson
- Leslie Van Houten – Member of the Manson family
- Steve Grogan – Member of the Manson family
- Barbara Hoyt – Prosecution witness, victim of Manson family
- Gary Hinman – Friend of the Manson family and murder victim
- Sharon Tate – Actress, murder victim of the Manson family
- Abigail Folger – Heiress to Folger coffee fortune, murder victim of the Manson family
- Wojciech Frykowski – Writer, Folger’s lover, murder victim of the Manson family
- Jason Sebring – Hair stylist, murder victim of the Manson family
- Roman Polanski – Sharon Tate’s husband
- Leno LaBianca – Founder of State Wholesale Grocery Company, murder victim of the Manson family.
- Rosemary LaBianca – Co-founder of Boutique Carriage, wife of Leno LaBianca, murder victim of the Manson family
- Vincent Bugliosi – Lead prosecutor of the Manson family trial
- Irving Kanarek – Lead defense attorney of the Manson family trial
Gary Hinman, a friend of the Manson family, would often allow members to stay at his home rather than staying on the Spahn ranch (the Manson family residence). Watson scammed Bernard Crowe to obtain money for Manson. Crowe threatened Manson and the Manson family. Soonafter, Manson shot Crowe under the false pretense that Crowe was part of the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers were an African-American leftist organization. However, Crowe did not die from Manson’s efforts to kill him and he feared retaliation from Crowe. To escape and move into a new territory away from the Spahn Ranch, Manson needed money. In the midst of Manson’s escape plan, he was told that Hinman was coming into some money via an inheritance.
In an effort to retrieve money from Hinman, Manson ordered Beausoleil, along with Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins, to go to Hinman’s residence and persuade him to turn over the money. Hinman was uncooperative and had been held hostage for days when Manson came with a sword and slashed Hinman’s left ear. Ultimately, Beausoleil murdered Hinman by stabbing him twice in the chest. Hinman’s blood was used to smear “political piggy” on the wall along with the Black Panther’s paw to implicate the Black Panther party.
Although there is much speculation regarding the circumstances surrounding Hinman’s murder, Beausoleil was arrested when he was found sleeping in Hinman’s vehicle, wearing the bloody clothes worn during the stabbing, and with the murder weapon concealed in the trunk tire.
In a semi-isolated location in the canyons of Beverly Hills on Cielo Drive, actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski were leasing a home together. On August 9, 1969, a pregnant Tate was enjoying the company of her friends in the absence of her lover and father of her unborn child, Polanski. Those who were staying that night with Tate were Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Jay Sebring.
Into the late hours of that night, Tate’s neighbors claimed to have heard suspected gunshots but did not proceed further by alerting the authorities. There were also reports of a man screaming coming from the Tate residence. Later in the night, a private security guard hired by property owners also heard gunshots coming from the Tate residence and proceeded to notify the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
The following morning at 8:00 am, the housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, came into the residence and discovered the brutally murdered bodies.
According to the book Helter Skelter – The True Story Of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi (lead prosecutor of the case) and Curt Gentry, Charles Manson directed Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to enter the Tate residence (formerly the Melcher residence, who rejected Mason’s music compilation) and to “destroy everyone in it – as gruesome as you can.” Watson, Atkins, Kasabian, and Krenwinkel all climbed up a brushy platform to gain entrance into the property. While they were trespassing, Steven Parent, a visitor of the residence’s caretaker, William Garretson, was leaving the property in his vehicle. Watson stopped Parent, swung a knife at him, and then shot him four times in the chest and abdomen.
Watson entered the residence by cutting the screen of a window and opened the front door for Atkins and Krenwinkel. Kasabian was at the end of the driveway to “keep watch.” Watson and the group entered the residence and found Tate, Folger, Frykowski, and Sebring. Tate and Sebring were tied together by their necks and Folger was taken into a nearby bedroom. Sebring was shot and stabbed seven times. Frykowski was bound by a towel but managed to free himself. After doing so, he became involved in a physical altercation with Atkins resulting in her stabbing him in the legs. Frykowski continued to flee but Watson struck him with the gun multiple times over the head, shot, and stabbed him multiple times. The gun grip broke off as a result of Watson striking Frykowski over the head.
Folger fled the room she was taken to and then was chased by Krenwinkel. Folger was initially stabbed by Krenwinkel but soonafter was being stabbed by Watson as well. Folger was stabbed a total of 28 times by both Krenwinkel and Watson. While this was occurring, Frykowski was struggling across the lawn when Watson came to stab him again. Frykowski was stabbed a total of 51 times.
Tate, witnessing the horrific crimes, pleaded with Atkins for mercy but was rejected. Tate was stabbed a total of 16 times. Tate’s unborn child did not survive the incident.
On August 10, 1969, the night after the Tate murder, Manson and six of the Manson family members (Leslie Van Houten, Steve Grogan, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Charles Watson)joined in on another murder. Unlike the Tate murder, Manson joined in on the LaBianca murder beause he felt that there was not enough panic among the victims from the Tate murder. Manson and the family members drove around for prospective murder victims when they arrived in the neighborhood of a home in which they had attended a party a year prior. The neighboring home belonged to a successful Grocery company owner, Leno LaBianca, and his wife, Rosemary LaBianca.
Due to the several differing accounts of Manson and the six Manson family members, the exact happenings of the murder are not certain. Manson claims that he approached the home alone and returned later to bring Watson along. When Manson and Watson were in the residence, they tied up the LaBianca couple with a lampcord and with pillowcases covering their heads. Manson reassured the couple that they would not be hurt and that they were being robbed. All the cash was collected and the bounded Rosemary was returned to her room. Soonafter, Van Houten and Krenwinkel entered the premises with the instructions from Manson to kill the couple. Manson left the residence and instructed Van Houten and Krenwinkel to follow Watson’s orders.
Watson began stabbing Leno multiple times when Leno cried out to stop stabbing him. Afterwards in the bedroom, Rosemary began to swing the lamp still attached to cord wrapped around her neck. Van Houten and Krenwinkel yelled for Watson’s aid and stabbed Rosemary multiple times. Watson gave the knife to Van Houten and she continued to stab Rosemary. Rosemary was stabbed a total of 41 times by Watson, Van Houten, and Krenwinkel.
Watson returned to the living room and continued to stab and kill Leno. Krenwinkel carved the word “WAR” into Leno’s stomach, stabbed Leno multiple times, left a carving fork sticking out from his stomach, and left a knife in Leno’s throat. Leno was stabbed a total of 26 times.
On the walls of the living room, “Death to pigs” and “Rise” were written in Leno’s blood. On the refrigerator door, a misspelled “Healter [sic] Skelter” was smeared.
Frank Struthers, Rosemary’s son from a prior marriage, returned from a campign trip and found it suspicious that the shades were drawn. He also found it suspicious that Leno’s speedboat was still parked in the driveway which was out of Leno’s character. Struthers called his sister to alert her and she came with her boyfriend, Joe Dorgan. Dorgan and Struthers entered the home through the side door and found Leno’s body. LAPD was alerted.
As mentioned previously, Tate’s housekeeper found the bodies the morning after the murders and called in LAPD investigating officers. The Hinman murder was under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and Beausoleil was arrested. The LaBianca murder was under LAPD jurisdiction, but a formal announcement by LAPD incorrectly confirmed that the Tate murder and LaBianca murders were not connected.
Initially in the Tate murder investigation, Garretson, the home caretaker, was arrested because he was found at the scene. He was released after he passed a polygraph test.
Although LASD made contact with LAPD regarding the striking similarities of the Tate and Hinman murders, LAPD was insistent that the Tate murder was the result of a drug transaction.
In the beginning of each respective investigation, the inter-agency communication was lacking. Because of this, the murder investigations led to separate dead-ends. Luckily, the continuing criminal activity in the Manson family aided police authorities in apprehending more than a dozen individuals. While the Manson family was in Death Valley digging into the ground for the “Bottomless Pit,” they burned machinery belonging to the Death Valley National Monument. Burning the machinery led to the raiding of the Death Valley ranches by police authorities. During the raid, police found multiple stolen vehicles and made multiple arrests. Beausoleil’s girlfriend, Kitty Lutesinger, was arrested along with the Manson family at the ranches. Upon LaBianca detectives discovering Lutesinger’s relationship with Beausoleil, the LaBianca detectives spoke with her. She informed the LaBianca detectives that Manson was seeking a bodyguard from a motorcycle gang for the Spahn Ranch. Furthermore, she informed detectives that Atkins was involved with the Hinman murder, which Lutesinger’s boyfriend Beausoleil was arrested for. All the while, Atkins began sharing the details of the Tate murder to her bunkmates in jail and admitted to being involved in the Hinman murder. These details would jump-start the murder investigations of the Tate murder and then further connect the Manson family with the LaBianca murders.
Physical evidence against Watson and Krenwinkel was being collected, such as fingerprints. Furthermore, a unique .22-cailber Hi Standard revolver with a broken grip was found on a property near the Tate residence. The property owner, Bernard Weiss, turned the weapon into the LAPD months prior to the new breakthrough of the investigations. Upon reading the case and the detail of the broken grip in the Los Angeles Times, Weiss contacted LAPD about the weapon found in his backyard. LAPD found the weapon in evidence and connected the gun to the Tate murders.
LAPD issued an arrest warrant for Watson, Kasabian, and Krenwinkel for their involvement in the Tate murders and their involvement in the LaBianca murders as well. Watson and Krenwinkel were apprehended in different states and Kasabian voluntarily yielded when she discovered the warrant for her arrest. Warrants were not made for Manson or Atkins because they were already in custody for unrelated crimes occurring at the ranches in Death Valley.
It was discovered that Manson’s philosophy of the upcoming revelation was the true motive behind the killings. He claimed to his family that “Helter Skelter” was coming. According to Manson, Helter Skelter was the uprising of a racial war between “blackies” and “whiteys.” He would gain from the racial war by hiding himself and his family in a cave located in Death Valley until the “war” ended. He would facilitate this war by killing “whiteys” and implicating the African-American community with various acts such as disposing of the victims’ wallets in an area highly populated by African-American residents.
On June 15, 1970, the Tate-LaBianca trial against Manson, Watson, Atkins, and Krewinkel began for seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy. Van Houten was charged with two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy. Kasabian, in exchange for immunity, testified for the prosecution to explain the events that occurred during each vicious crime. Atkins had originally agreed to testify but retracted her statement. In the beginning of the trial, Manson was permitted by the court to act as his own attorney. However, after several violations of conduct, permission to represent himself was withdrawn. As a result, Manson carved an “X” on his forehead in objection to the withdrawn permission.
After a month of voir dire, the jury was selected. Linda Kasabian was called by Bugliosis to the stand following an objection by Kanarek that she was incompetent and insane. With the objection overruled, Kasabian was sworn in as a witness. She was on the stand for a total of eighteen days, seven of which were for cross-examination. Manson disrupted Kasabian’s testimony by revealing the newpaper’s headline “Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares.” The defense attempted to use this as prejudice to move for a mistrial. The request was denied as the jury had sworn to the judge that they would not be influenced by the President’s declaration.
Manson’s influence on the prosecution’s witenesses was becoming evident during the trial. For example, prosecution witness Barbara Hoyt was lured by a Manson family member to Hawaii and was given lethal doses of LSD. Luckily, Hoyt was able to reach the hospital before any fatal events could occur. Another witness that was threatened was Paul Watkins. Watkins was severely burned in a suspicious fire in his van.
Furthermore, Van Houten’s attorney, Ronald Hughes, failed to appear in court when he refused to allow his client to testify. He stated that he refused to “push a client out the window.” Hughes’ body was discovered after the trial ended and his death was rumored to be ordered by the Manson family.
Manson aggressively vocalized his views and opinions regarding the testimonies and statements made by the prosecution. A memorable moment occurred when Manson and the judge fell into a disagreement resulting in Manson physically throwing himself at the judge, exclaiming, “someone should cut your head off.” Soonafter, the Manson family women started to chant in Latin in support of Manson’s outburst.
The prosecution finished their case, turning the attention to the defense team. To everyone’s surprise, the defense declared that they rest their case. As a result, the women began protesting that they wanted to testify, all attorneys were called to chambers. The defense team strongly opposed the testimony of their clients because they felt that the women were still under the influence of Manson and would testify that they were the sole perpetrators involved in the crime. Judge Older declared that the right to testify took precedence over the attorneys’ objections. When Atkins took the stand for her testimony, her attorney refused to question her. Manson took the stand the next day and testified for over an hour in regards to the case. The jury was excused during this time to prevent evidence incriminating co-defendants to prejudice the jury.
Watson was tried in August of 1971 and found guilty of seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy.
The jury took a week to deliberate and came to a verdict of guilty for all charges of murder and conspiracy for all defendants. During the penalty phase of the trial, the jury declared the penalty of death. Pursuant to California Supreme Court ruling in 1972, the death penalties for all defendants were commuted to life in prison.
All defendants are currently in prison. Manson is imprisoned in California Corcoran’s State Prison waiting to apply for parole after being denied 11 times. Leslie Van Houten is in the California Institution for Women, Frontera. Charles Watson is serving a life sentence in Mule Creek State Prison. Susan Atkins was serving her life sentence at the California Institution for Women. Frontera died in 2009. Linda Krenwinkel is serving a life sentence in the California Institution for Women, Frontera. Linda Kasabian was granted immunity and left California after the trial. Bobby Beausoleil served 30-plus years in prison and continues to do so in Oregon.
The Tate residence has been demolished and a new mansion had been built on the property. The home remains vacant. The LaBianca residence is closed to the public.