Charles Manson and the Manson Family murders
Huddled in Charles (Charlie) Manson’s commune in an abandoned movie set in the California desert, the Manson Family lived under the belief that an apocalyptic race war called “Helter Skelter” was destined to reap impending doom on the world while bequeathing an enormous power base to the Manson Family. In order to precipitate the war, the Manson Family committed nine murders over four locations during a five-week period in the summer of 69. The events ended the Decade of Love and introduced the world to a real-life monstrosity that prior to, Americans thought only existed in their worst dreams.
Who was Charles Manson?
Charles Manson’s childhood is difficult to discern because, as with much of Manson’s narratives, the story changed often. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 12, 1934 as Charles Milles Maddox to a 16-year-old, hard-drinking, promiscuous single mother, Ada Kathleen Maddox. Manson’s biological father is believed to be Colonel Walker Scott of Ashland Kentucky who curiously, was alluded to in case papers as being “black”. The report read:
“Father: unknown. He is alleged to have been a colored cook by the name of Scott, with whom Charles’s mother had been promiscuous at the time of pregnancy.”
At five years old, Charlie lived with an aunt (Nancy or Glenna Maddox) in McMechen, West Virginia for a few years while his mother was in prison for armed robbery. Kathleen had tried to place little Charlie in a foster home but there was no space available. A few years later, a court placed Manson in the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana. He escaped and fled back to his mother who promptly rejected him.
Throughout his teen years, Manson was in and out of boy’s homes each time escaping what he felt was abuse from administrators and ridicule from the other children. On his own, he procured money for food and rent by committing burglaries.
Fortunately, Manson’s extensive time in custodial care revealed much about his personality and demeanor. Doctors say he had an IQ of about 109 (he scored a 121 several years later) and could barely read or write. Caseworkers classified him as antisocial, extremely sensitive, “unable to control his impulses”, with an inclination toward “homosexual and assaultive tendencies”.
Manson’s first prison term, first parole, first marriage, first son
In October 1971, at the age of 17, a psychiatrist committed Manson to a minimum security prison, Natural Bridge Honor Camp in nearby Virginia. Charlie was only a few days from release when “one of the boys took a razor blade and held it against another boy’s throat while Manson sodomized him”. As a result, Manson was classified as “dangerous” and transferred to the Federal Reformatory in Petersburg, Virginia where additional serious offenses occurred resulting in another transfer to an even more secure facility in Ohio. Once in Ohio, Manson miraculously transformed into a model prisoner and was granted parole three years later (May 1954).
While on parole, Manson moved to West Virginia where he met and married a waitress named Rosalie Jean Willis. They had a son together, Charles Manson Junior, and Charlie supported his new family by stealing cars. Multiple arrests and probation violations followed before eventually, Manson found himself in the Terminal Island prison in San Pedro, California. While in prison, Rosalie met another man (reportedly a truck driver) and filed for divorce.
Manson was paroled from prison in September 1958, the same year his divorce from Rosalie became final. He immediately began acting as a pimp for 16-year-old Leona Rae “Candy” Stevens. Manson was soon caught transporting an underage prostitute across state lines and attempting to cash a forged Treasury check (a federal offense) in the amount of $37.50.
Facing hefty federal charges, he took Leona as his wife in order to suppress her testimony. His ploy didn’t work. Manson was sentence to 10 years in prison and in 1961, was placed in the United States penitentiary at McNeil Island. While Manson was locked away in prison, Leona had a child, Charles Luther Manson. Like Rosalie, she asked Manson for a divorce.
On March, 21, 1967, Manson was paroled. Now 32 years old, he had spent more than half his life locked behind bars. Using the later years in prison to learn how to play the guitar, he hoped to become a professional musician and was perfectly content with daily walks around the prison yard and playing the guitar in his cell. When informed of his parole, he requested permission to stay in prison saying “prison had become his home”. His request was denied – a decision the system would soon come to regret.
Manson moves to San Francisco
On the day of his release from the penitentiary, Manson moved into an apartment in San Francisco near the Haight-Ashbury section of town. The “Summer of Love” was blossoming and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district had become the mecca center for the burgeoning hippy movement. Amidst masses of people arriving in San Francisco from all over the country, Manson supported himself by panhandling.
Soon Manson met his next mark, 23-year-old Mary Brunner, a library assistant at the University of California in Berkeley. Before long, Manson, who had a penchant for reading a person’s weaknesses, began manipulating Brunner, bending her to his will. Soon, he moved in with her and convinced her that other women should be allowed to stay in the home with them. Within months, Manson lived in Brunner’s apartment with 18 other women.
Manson the Scientologist starts his own cult – the Manson Family
In prison, Manson claims to have studied Scientology (he listed Scientology as his religious preference on entrance paperwork). He began employing cult-like methods on the women in Brunner’s home. He taught them that they were reincarnations of early Christians and that the “establishment” were reincarnated from the Romans. He told stories in which he was nailed to a cross and implying he was Christ, would ask them, “Don’t you know who I am?” Playing off his name, he emphasized that “Charles Milles is Man’s Son”. The group expanded as new arrivals seeking respite found their savior in Charlie.
By the summer of 1967, Manson, Brunner, and the Manson Family piled into an old school bus outfitted with colored rugs and beanbag chairs and spent the next 18 months roaming the American West travelling as far north as Washington and southward to Mexico. They periodically stopped in LA, spending time in Topanga Canyon, Malibu, and Venice. During their travels, Brunner gave birth to Manson’s third son, Valentine Michael Manson, whom they nicknamed Pooh Bear. Valentine was born on April 15, 1968 in a condemned house in Topanga Canyon. The Family assisted with the birth.
Manson’s proclivity for manipulating people ensured the Family grew while his dynamic personality made sure they stayed. On one occasion, Manson preached against a materialistic outlook only to be questioned by a listener about his well-furnished bus. Nonchalant, he tossed the bus keys to the doubter who promptly drove the bus away while Manson watched, appearing unconcerned. In another instance, an enraged father of a young girl who had joined the Family pointed a shotgun at Manson and told him flatly, he was about to die. Manson calmly invited the man to shoot him while lecturing the man about the nuances of love. After a few minutes, the man quietly laid down his gun.
Prelude to apocalypse – the Manson Family meet Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson
In late spring 1968, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys picked up two attractive hitchhiking women – Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey. He took them to his Pacific Palisades mansion.
The next night, Wilson returned home after a late night recording session. As he pulled into the driveway, he noticed a man emerging from his home. Thinking he was about to be accosted, Wilson asked the man who he was and what he intended to do. The man, Charles Manson, dropped to his knees and began kissing Wilson’s feet.
Wilson entered his home to find twelve other strangers, mostly women in various states of undress, milling about his house. Manson befriended Wilson and soon, Charlie began treating Wilson’s abode as a second camp for the Manson Family.
Witnesses recall Wilson and Manson would often play the guitar together, the women acting as their servants, bringing them food and drinks and showering them with “love”. Wilson’s financing of the Manson family was astounding. Wilson once said that during their stay, he spent over $100,000 on the Family, including treatment of their gonorrhea. Wilson even gave Manson several of his Beach Boy’s gold records.
Manson’s time with Wilson played on his desire to become a professional musician. Wilson introduced Manson to several of his entertainment business contacts and paid for studio time for Manson which Manson used to record several songs he had written. It is said that his work was not bad but not great either.
The Manson Family moves to Spahn Ranch
In August 1968, Dennis Wilson’s manager recognized the Manson Family were taking advantage of him. He kicked the Family out of Wilson’s home. Never missing a beat, Manson took the family to Spahn’s Movie Ranch, not from Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
Spahn’s Ranch had been a set for Western movie productions. Bonanza, The Lone Ranger, and Zorro television shows were filmed there as well as the movies Duel in the Sun and The Creeping Terror. Owned by dairy farmer George Spahn, it was located at 12000 Santa Susana Pass Road near Chatsworth, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles (the street number has since changed and the ranch is now part of the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park).
When Manson and the Family arrived in 1968, the ranch was in bad shape, little more than a ramshackle collection of old, broken down movie-set buildings. George Spahn allowed the family to live there in exchange for labor and sex with the Manson Family women (Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was his favorite). The family complied, helping George with daily chores and working Spahn’s horse rental business.
Remembering the Dennis Wilson debacle, and recognizing that the Family could lose their home on George Spahn’s whim, Charlie setup alternative camps. One at Myers Ranch, which was owned by the grandmother of a new Manson Family recruit, and another at Barker Ranch, located in the Goler Wash on the edges of Death Valley. Barker Ranch was owned by an elderly woman who agreed to let the Family stay if they helped fix things up. Manson gave her a Beach Boy’s gold record to seal the deal.
Charles Manson becomes obsessed with The Beatles – introduces Helter Skelter
In November 1968, a friend of the Family played them the Beatle’s newly released White Album. Manson was blown away by the record and became obsessed with the band, bragging to the Family he would someday surpass them in fame.
During this time, Manson began increasingly talking about the racial tension between blacks and whites (partly prompted by Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination which had taken place six months earlier). On New Year’s Eve, the family gathered around a large fire and Manson explained that a racial war between whites and blacks was imminent. In fact, he said, the racial Armageddon he predicted was cited in several of the Beatle’s songs.
According to Manson, The Beatles’ White Album told the entire story – in code. He revealed to the group that the album was directed at the Family itself and contained instructions on how to preserve the worthy from the impending disaster. He called his plan, Helter Skelter.
The Manson Family prepares for Helter Skelter
In January 1969, the Family moved into a quant yellow home in Canoga Park, not far from Spahn Ranch. Manson called the home the Yellow Submarine, a reference to the Beatles’ song of the same name. According to Manson, living in Los Angeles would let the family monitor the establishment while remaining “submerged beneath the awareness of the outside world.”
One month later, in February 1969, Manson revealed his plans to the Family. As instructed by the Beatles’ I Will song (“And when at last I find you/your song will fill the air/sing it loud so I can hear you”), the Family would create an album of encoded songs that would trigger a race war between whites and blacks (which Manson said was inevitable anyway). As a result of Helter Skelter, blacks would kill whites and ultimately prevail – but their triumph would be short-lived. The Family would soon rule over all from “the bottomless pit”, a hidden underground city somewhere beneath the floor of Death Valley.
In the Canoga Park home, the Family began writing songs, preparing maps, and planning escape routes for the upcoming attack from “blackie”. They were told that Terry Melcher, a record producer out of LA, was coming to the house to hear their new material. Melcher, the son of actress Doris Day, was a popular music producer who helped shape the California Sound. He produced the Byrd’s first two albums and many of the hit singles from Paul Revere and the Raiders. Manson assumed Melcher would be overwhelmed by their music and choose to publish it. The Family waited for Melcher’s arrival. He never showed up.
The Manson family visits Terry Melcher
After Melcher’s failure to show up and listen to their new material, Manson decided to pay him a personal visit. He and a few Family members drove to 10050 Cielo Drive on March 23, 1969. Unknown to Manson, Melcher was no longer the tenant at the residence. As of February, the new owners were Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate.
A photographer, Shahrokh Hatami, was at the Polanski residence shooting Tate before her departure to Rome the next day. She saw Manson approaching and went outside to greet him. Manson asked for Melcher and Hatami explained that she did not know anyone by that name. She told him this was Roman Polanski’s house. Standing in the doorway, calmly watching the exchange, was Sharon Tate.
Manson decides to trigger Helter Skelter himself – the Crowe shooting
On May 18, 1969, Terry Melcher did indeed visit the Family at Spahn Ranch to hear Manson’s songs, just as Charlie had said he would. However, Melcher was not impressed. One month later, there still was no offer to record the Manson Family’s music album. As a result, Manson derived another scheme to launch the race war. Since the blacks could not figure out how to start the race war, Manson would start it for them by committing a series of crimes and planting evidence at the crime scenes implicating the blacks.
The Family discussed various means to obtain money they would need to finance their Armageddon. Charles “Tex” Watson, arguably the most intelligent member of the group, suggested scamming money from a Hollywood drug dealer, Bernard “Lotsapoppa” Crowe. They tried – and failed.
Crowe responded to the attempt, threatening to kill everyone at Spahn Ranch. Manson countered on June 1, 1969, shooting Crowe in his Hollywood apartment. Afterward, Charlie couldn’t stop talking about how he “plugged the blackie” in Hollywood. However, unbeknownst to Manson, Crowe survived the shooting.
The day after the shooting, newspapers reported the discovery of a body of a Black Panther member in Los Angeles near UCLA. Manson mistakenly believed this to be the body of Bernard Crowe. Fearing retaliation from the Black Panthers, continuous guards were posted around Spahn Ranch in preparation for the attack.
The Hinman murder
Two months later, there was no retaliatory response from the Black Panthers and Manson still needed money to finance their race war. On July 25, Manson sent Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner, and Susan Atkins (aka Sexy Sadie) to the Topanga Canyon home of Gary Hinman, a local musician, business owner, and drug dealer. Hinman lead a burgeoning hippy lifestyle and the Family often crashed at his home.
The events that took place at Hinman’s are murky. We know that the Family demanded money from Hinman. It has been said the money was an expected refund for a bad drug deal but possibly the money was “requested” as payment in order for Hinman to become part of the Family. Regardless of the reason, Hinman refused.
The Family held Hinman hostage for two days. At one point, Manson showed up to threaten him and slashed his ear with a sword (one of the women later sewed it back on with dental floss). Eventually their patience wore thin and Beausoleil stabbed Hinman to death. At Manson’s suggestion, the Family tried to frame the “blacks” for the murder by writing “political piggy” on the wall using Hinman’s blood.
One week later, Beausoleil was caught driving Hinman’s car and arrested. The murder weapon was found in the car’s tire well. Two days later, Manson announced to the family, “Now is the time for Helter Skelter.”
The Sharon Tate murders
“Now is the time for Helter Skelter”
The Hinman murder coarsened Manson’s aplomb. On the night of August 8, 1969, just two weeks after telling his followers to prepare for Helter Skelter, Manson told Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to grab a change of clothes, a fake driver’s license, and a knife. He told them they were to go back to 10050 Cielo Drive (the home of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate) and kill everyone there. He told Watson:
“Totally destroy everyone in it – as gruesome as you can.”
Before they left, Charlie stuck his head in the window of the car and told the women to “leave a sign”. He grinned,
“You girls know what I mean – something witchy.”
Polanski was in London working on a film project, The Day of the Dolphin. Inside Polanski’s home were Sharon Tate (Polanski’s wife), her former lover Jay Sebring, Polanski’s friend Wojciech Frykowski, and Frykowski’s lover Abigail Folger, heir to the Folger coffee fortune. Tate was 8-months pregnant which made the events to follow that much more horrendous.
The Manson Family arrives at the Tate residence
The Manson Family arrived at the Tate home shortly after midnight. They backed their old Ford pickup truck to the bottom of a hill that led to the estate, parked, and walked up the hill to the home. Watson climbed a utility pole just outside the gate and cut the phone lines. They scrambled up an embankment and dropped over the fence onto the grounds.
As they stood, a car’s headlights hit them. Inside the car was 18-year-old Steven Parent who had been visiting the Polanski’s caretaker, William Garretson. Watson ordered the others to stay down and stood, motioning the car to stop. Parent pulled next to Watson who leaned into the car window and pointed a .22-caliber revolver at his head. Parent begged Watson to put the gun down. Watson pulled out a knife and slashed Parent across the face. He then shot him four times in the chest, killing him. To ensure nobody saw the vehicle, the Family pushed the car up the driveway, away from the road.
The Manson Family enters the Tate home
The intruders ran across the front lawn and searched for an entrance to the home. Watson found an open window, cut the screen, and climbed through. He crept to the front door and let Atkins and Krenwinkel in. Kasabian stayed outside acting as a lookout.
As Watson whispered instructions to Atkins, Frykowski, who was sleeping on the living room couch, awoke. Barely making out two figures in the dark, Frykowski asked Watson who he was and what he was doing inside the home. Watson replied, “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s business.” He then kicked Frykowski in the head.
Meanwhile, Atkins searched through the home, rounded up the other occupants, and led them into the living room where Watson was slinging a rope over the living room’s ceiling beams. Atkins tied Frykowski’s hands with a towel and guarded him while Watson took the rope and tied Tate and Sebring together by their necks. Sebring protested and Watson shot him, then stabbed him seven times.
During the melee, Frykowski attempted to flee. Chaos erupted. Watson later described the victims as “running around the place like chickens with their heads cut off”. Atkins followed Frykowski. They struggled and Atkins stabbed him in the leg with a knife. Frykowski continued toward the front door but Watson easily caught up with him, struck him in the head with the butt of his pistol, stabbed him repeatedly, then shot him twice. He completed the task by stabbing him 51 more times.
Kasabian, who had remained outside as a guard, heard “horrifying sounds” coming from inside the home and ran into the house. Seeing the pandemonium underway, she attempted to stop the madness, telling Atkins falsely that someone was coming.
At the same time, Folger saw that Atkins and Watson were distracted and fled to the pool area. Krenwinkel chased her to the front lawn. She tackled her to the ground, then stabbed her 28 times. Police later said there was so much blood, they thought Folger’s white nightgown was red.
Neighbors’ reports of a commotion go unheard
The closest house to the Tate residence belonged to the Kotts. They say they heard gunshots coming from the direction of the Polanski’s around 12:30 AM but since all grew quiet, they went to bed.
At the same time, Tim Ireland, who was on a camping trip less than a mile away, heard shouts of “Oh, God, no please don’t! Oh, God, no! Don’t! Don’t!” He drove to the area but found nothing out of the ordinary.
Robert Bullington heard several gunshots and reported them to the LAPD. The LAPD officer responded, “I hope we don’t have a murder – we had an earlier woman-screaming call in that same area.”
The murder of Sharon Tate
Inside the home, Tate plead to be allowed to live long enough to birth her baby, even offering herself as a hostage. Atkins ignored her pleas telling her “Woman, I have no mercy for you.” She and Watson then stabbed her 16 times. Atkins would later reveal that she tasted Tate’s blood.
“It was slick and I brought my hand to my face and I could smell the blood. I opened my mouth and licked it off my fingers.”
Atkins considered carving out Tate’s unborn child to take to Charlie but figured it would take too long.
Before leaving, the Family took the towel that had been used to bind Frykowski’s hands and wrote the word “pig” on the front door using Tate’s blood. On the way home, the Family changed out of their bloody clothes, throwing them and the weapons out the car window.
The LaBianca murders
When Manson heard about the disarray during the Tate murders, he was displeased. It was too disorganized and messy. He vowed to “show them how to do it”.
The next night, August 9, 1969, Leslie Van Houten, Steve “Clem” Grogan, Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Charlie rode through LA looking for victims. After a couple of hours, Manson gave directions to 3301 Waverly Drive in the Los Feliz area of LA, the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary LaBianca. The home was next to a house where the Manson Family had attended a party the previous year. They parked near the end of the driveway and Manson disappeared up the drive alone. He returned after a short time and asked Watson to accompany him.
Through a window, Manson pointed out a man sleeping on the couch. The two entered through an unlocked back door. Manson woke the sleeping Leno and held him at gunpoint while Watson bound his hands with a leather thong. Watson then fetched Rosemary from the bedroom. They covered the heads of both with pillow cases and secured them in place with lamp cords. Manson then left and sent Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten into the home with instructions to kill the couple.Watson stabbed Leno with a chrome-plated bayonet. He heard a scuffle in the bedroom and entered to find Rosemary keeping the women at bay with a wildly swinging lamp. Watson pushed the lamp aside and stabbed her several times with the bayonet. He then returned to the living room and resumed stabbing Leno. Before leaving, Watson carved “WAR” into the man’s stomach.
Watson returned to the bedroom where Krenwinkel was stabbing Rosemary with a kitchen knife. Watson directed Van Houten to stab Rosemary too. She complied, stabbing her 16 times. In total, Rosemary was stabbed more than 40 times.
Watson carefully cleaned the bayonet, then climbed into the LaBianca’s shower. While Watson bathed, Krenwinkel used the victims’ blood to write “Rise” and “Death to pigs” on the walls and “Healter Skelter” on the refrigerator door. She then grabbed a fork from the kitchen, went back to Leno, and stabbed him 14 more times leaving the fork protruding from his stomach. She completed her mayhem by planting a steak knife in his neck.
Kasabian foils another murder attempt
While the LaBianca’s were being murdered, Manson directed Kasabian to drive with two other family members to the Venice home of another acquaintance. With instructions to kill the occupant, Manson then left and drove back to Spahn Ranch, leaving the family members to hitchhike home.
Kasabian thwarted the murder by deliberately knocking on the wrong apartment door. The group abandoned their plans. As they left, Susan Atkins defecated in the stairwell.
Discovery of the Tate victims
On the same day the LaBianca’s were murdered, Polanski’s housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, went to the Tate residence early that morning. When she arrived, she noticed a dangling wire draped over the gate and a white Rambler parked awkwardly in the driveway. She entered the home and saw “splashes of red” all over the walls. She checked the phones and found they were dead. She looked through the window into the backyard and saw the first body. Chapman ran from the home, briefly catching a glimpse of another body in the Rambler in the driveway.
Officers arrived at the scene and approached the home with guns drawn. They found Tate laying in the living room, pregnant, bare body smeared with blood, and a rope around her neck that extended over a rafter in the ceiling. The other end of the rope was tied around the neck of a male laying nearby. As they searched the home, they heard the voice of a man. It was the caretaker, William Garretson. He was promptly taken into custody and for several days, was considered the primary suspect. He was released after passing a polygraph test.
Discovery of the LaBianca bodies
At 10:30 PM on August 10, the bodies of the LaBianca’s were discovered by Rosemary Bianca’s son from a prior marriage, 15-year-old Frank Struthers. Frank arrived at the home to find the shades pulled down and the boat still attached to the family car, neither of which were characteristic of his parents. He knocked on the door but received no answer. He drove to a nearby pay phone and called the home. Still no answer. Alarmed, he called his sister and her boyfriend. Together they entered the home and found Leno with a bloody pillowcase over his head and something protruding from his body. They fled the home and called the police from a neighbor’s house.
On August 12, two days after the bodies of the LaBianca’s had been discovered, despite the savagery and similarity of bloody writings on the walls, LAPD told reporters that there was no connection between the Tate and LaBianca murders.
Manson Family arrested – for auto theft
It appeared as if the only way LAPD was going to catch the culprits was if they fell right into their laps. That happened on August 16 when the sheriff’s office raided Spahn Ranch and arrested Manson and 25 others as “suspects in a major auto theft ring”. However, because the warrant had been misdated, the group was released just a few days later.
By the end of August, with virtually all leads exhausted, the LAPD finally recognized that the writing on the walls of both the Tate and LaBianca murder scenes could be references to “the singing group The Beatles’ most recent album”.
Meanwhile, sheriffs were not content with the first failed raid and still suspected the Family of auto theft. In October 1969, nearly two months after the murders, they raided the Myers and Barker Ranches where they found the Family searching for the entrance to the fabled Bottomless Pit. Manson, dressed entirely in buckskin clothing, was found hiding in a cabinet beneath Barker’s bathroom sink.
A break in the case – Tate murder evidence found
On September 1, 1969, a distinctive .22-caliber Hi Standard “Buntline Special” revolver was wound in Sherman Oaks by 10-year-old Steven Weiss. He found the pistol under a bush by the road near his house. It was the gun that had been used to kill Parent, Sebring, and Frykowski.
Police took possession of the gun but despite it being found near the Tate residence, failed to tie it to the murders. However, when news of the find broke, a local ABC television crew quickly located and recovered the Manson Family’s bloody clothing that had been discarded nearby.
Authorities work together
About a week later, investigators from the LaBianca team asked the sheriff’s office about possible similar crimes. Sheriffs recalled the Hinman case where “political piggy” had been written on the wall in blood, similar to the writings on the walls of the Tate and LaBianca residences. They told LAPD that during their investigation, they had interviewed a lady named Kitty Lutesinger.
Kitty had been arrested during the first August 16 raid at Spahn Ranch. While interrogating Kitty, the LAPD developed additional leads to a motorcycle gang, Straight Satans, that Manson had tried to enlist as bodyguards. One of their members, Danny Cecarlo, had lived with the Family for a brief time, working on trucks and dune buggies, mostly in exchange for sex with all the girls. At one point in his stay, the Straight Satans rode into the ranch and threatened to rape and murder everyone if Decarlo did not return with them to Venice. Charlie stepped forward and offered his life instead. The bikers were so freaked out by Manson’s gesture, they jumped on their bikes and left.
As a result, the Straight Satans were no friend of Manson’s. Police contacted members of the gang who gladly hinted there may be a link between Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Susan Atkins brags to jail mates
Meanwhile, Susan Atkins was in Dormitory 8000 in LA, serving time for the auto theft charges. During her stay, she befriended two inmates, Virginia Graham and Veronica “Ronnie” Howard. Atkins freely shared tales of her crimes with her newfound buddies. She told them of a “beautiful cat” named Charles Manson and bragged about the Tate and LaBianca murders, boasting that she stabbed Tate multiple times and tasted her blood. She claimed more killings were planned including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Tom Jones, Steve McQueen, and Frank Sinatra. Atkins’ stories worked their way through the jailhouse and soon her bravado reached the warden.
Warrants issued Manson Family members
The information Atkins leaked to jailmates lead to the issuance of warrants for Watson, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian. Manson and Atkins were already in custody (from the Barker Ranch raid) and Van Houten’s involvement had not yet been discovered. On December 1, 1969, the remaining Family members were arrested. Krenwinkel surrendered to authorities in Concord, New Hampshire.
Atkins agreed to testify in exchange for dropping the death penalty. Later, she retracted her testimony saying,
“Manson sent his followers to suggest that it might be better for me and my son if I decided not to testify against him.”
Years later she retracted her retraction declaring her original statement was true.
The trial of Manson, Krenwinkel, Van Houten, and Atkins
The trial begins with Kasabian as the prosecutor’s star witness
Amidst intense public interest, the trial of Charles Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, and Susan Atkins began on June 15, 1970. Vincent Bugliosi acted as chief prosecutor and charged each with seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy.
To keep Family members from disrupting the courtroom, they were subpoenaed as prospective witnesses so they could not be present while the others testified. As a result, they loitered near the entrances of the courthouse and throughout the corridors leading to the courtroom.
Since Kasabian had been present at all crimes but was not directly involved in the killings, she was offered immunity in exchange for her testimony. She became the prosecution’s primary witness. She explained to the jury, “We always wanted to do anything and everything for Charlie.” Bugliosi asked about her return to Spahn Ranch.
BUGLIOSI: “Was there anyone in the parking area at Spahn Ranch as you drove in the Spahn Ranch area?”
BUGLIOSI: “Who was there?”
BUGLIOSI: “Was there anyone there other than Charlie?”
KASABIAN: “Not that I know of”
BUGLIOSI: “Where was Charlie when you arrived at the premises?”
KASABIAN: “About the same spot he was in when he first drove away.”
BUGLIOSI: “What happened after you pulled the car onto the parking area and parked the car?”
KASABIAN: “Sadie said she saw a spot of blood on the outside of the car when we were at the gas station.”
BUGLIOSI: “Who was present at that time when she said that?”
KASABIAN: “The four of us and Charlie.”
BUGLIOSI: “What is the next thing that happened?”
KASABIAN: “Well, Charlie told us to go into the kitchen, get a sponge, wipe the blood off, and he also instructed Katie and I to go all through the car and wipe off the blood spots.”
BUGLIOSI: “What is the next thing that happened after Mr. Manson told you and Katie to check out the car and remove the blood?”
KASABIAN: “He told us to go into the bunk room and wait, which we did.”
Her testimony showed that Charles Manson controlled everything the Family did and whether directly involved in the murders or not, it was clear he was the leader of this murderous cult.
Manson attempts to represent himself
At first, Manson attempted to act as his own lawyer but after violating the gag order twice and submitting several nonsensical pretrial motions, permission to act as his own attorney was withdrawn. Manson attempted to argue with the judge:
MANSON: Your Honor, you mentioned… you mentioned “reconsider.” Then you could possibly reconsider, if you can ask me to reconsider. Let me ask you to reconsider. I have a position as well as your Honor has a position. My position is still as strong as it was the first day I was arrested. The position that I hold is as follows. The confusion that has been created around the situation can be eliminated if your Honor would allow me to have my own voice in court. I am not here to use dilatory tactics or cause confusion. I am not here to shout in your courtroom. I am not here to fight with your bailiffs, and I am not here to go against my brother. I am just here to try to explain what these two gentlemen, even though sincere as they may be, they have no idea of what is going on. They are still in the dark about the whole situation. They have a bunch of facts; they have a bunch of things…
JUDGE OLDER: What two gentlemen are you talking about?
MANSON: The district attorneys, they are very good at what they do, but they are way out, they are on the edge of town, you know, like it’s…
JUDGE OLDER: Are you making some kind of a motion, Mr. Manson?
MANSON: Yes, I’m making a motion, if I can finish. I listened to you.
JUDGE OLDER: Just tell me what the motion is.
MANSON: It is my opinion that the court is not supposed to think, but supposed to administer the laws that go into the book, Manson vs. the United States. You give me a case…
JUDGE OLDER: Mr. Manson I don’t want to hear a speech. If you have a motion or a request, state it to the court so I would know what you want.
MANSON: I would like to associate in with Mr. Kanarek as my own counsel.
JUDGE OLDER: I have already ruled on that several times. Your motion will be denied.
MANSON: Yeah, okay, then you leave me nothing, you know, there is nothing else I can do. You can kill me now.
JUDGE OLDER: All right.
MANSON: You understand what I am saying to you? Do you understand what I am saying to you?
JUDGE OLDER: Is there anything further, gentlemen, before we resume in the courtroom?
Watkins explains Helter Skelter to the court
The murder trial testimony was graphic and gruesome – and bizarre. Jurors, and the press, were fascinated. Paul Watkins, who served as a recruiter for the Family, explained Charlie’s teachings. Bugliosi asked Watkins how Helter Skelter would begin:
WATKINS: “There would be some atrocious murders; that some of the spades from Watts would come up into the Bel-Air and Beverly Hills district and just really wipe some people out, just cut bodies up and smear blood and write things on the wall in blood, and cut little boys up and make parents watch. So, in retaliation-this would scare; in other words, all the other white people would be afraid that this would happen to them, so out of their fear they would go into the ghetto and just start shooting black people like crazy. But all they would shoot would be the garbage man and Uncle Toms, and all the ones that were with Whitey in the first place. And underneath it all, the Black Muslims would-he would know that it was coming down.”
BUGILIOSI: “Helter Skelter was coming down?”
WATKINS: “Yes. So, after Whitey goes in the ghettoes and shoots all the Uncle Toms, then the Black Muslims come out and appeal to the people by saying, ‘Look what you have done to my people.’ And this would split Whitey down the middle, between all the hippies and the liberals and all the up-tight piggies. This would split them in the middle and a big civil war would start and really split them up in all these different factions, and they would just kill each other off in the meantime through their war. And after they killed each other off, then there would be a few of them left who supposedly won.”
BUGILIOSI: “A few of who left?”
WATKINS: “A few white people left who supposedly won. Then the Black Muslims would come out of hiding and wipe them all out.”
BUGILIOSI: “Wipe the white people out?”
WATKINS: “Yes. By sneaking around and slitting their throats.”
BUGILIOSI: “Did Charlie say anything about where he and the Family would be during this Helter Skelter?”
WATKINS: “Yes. When we was [sic] in the desert the first time, Charlie used to walk around in the desert and say-you see, there are places where water would come up to the top of the ground and then it would go down and there wouldn’t be no more water, and then it would come up again and go down again. He would look at that and say, ‘There has got to be a hole somewhere, somewhere here, a big old lake.’ And it just really got far out, that there was a hole underneath there somewhere where you could drive a speedboat across it, a big underground city. Then we started from the ‘Revolution 9’ song on the Beatles album which was interpreted by Charlie to mean the Revelation 9. So-“
BUGILIOSI: “The last book of the New Testament?”
WATKINS: “Just the book of Revelation and the song would be ‘Revelations 9: So, in this book it says, there is a part about, in Revelations 9, it talks of the bottomless pit. Then later on, I believe it is in 10.”
BUGILIOSI: “Revelation 10?”
WATKINS: “Yes. It talks about there will be a city where there will be no sun and there will be no moon.”
BUGILIOSI: “Manson spoke about this?”
WATKINS: “Yes, many times. That there would be a city of gold, but there would be no life, and there would be a tree there that bears twelve different kinds of fruit that changed every month. And this was interpreted to mean-this was the hole down under Death Valley.”
BUGILIOSI: “Did he talk about the twelve tribes of Israel?”
WATKINS: “Yes. That was in there, too. It was supposed to get back to the 144,000 people. The Family was to grow to this number.”
BUGILIOSI: “The twelve tribes of Israel being 144,000 people?”
BUGILIOSI: “And Manson said that the Family would eventually increase to 144,000 people?”
BUGILIOSI: “Did he say when this would take place?”
WATKINS: “Oh, yes. See, it was all happening simultaneously. In other words, as we are making the music and it is drawing all the young love to the desert, the Family increases in ranks, and at the same time this sets off Helter Skelter. So then the Family finds the hole in the meantime and gets down in the hole and lives there until the whole thing comes down.”
BUGILIOSI: “Until Helter Skelter comes down?”
BUGILIOSI: “Did he say who would win this Helter Skelter?”
WATKINS: “The karma would have completely reversed, meaning that the black men would be on top and the white race would be wiped out; there would be none except for the Family.”
BUGILIOSI: “Except for Manson and the Family?”
BUGILIOSI: “Did he say what the black man would do once he was all by himself?”
WATKINS: “Well, according to Charlie, he would clean up the mess, just like he always has done. He is supposed to be the servant, see. He will clean up the mess that he made, that the white man made, and build the world back up a little bit, build the cities back up, but then he wouldn’t know what to do with it, he couldn’t handle it.”
BUGILIOSI: “Blackie couldn’t handle it?”
WATKINS: “Yes, and this is when the Family would come out of the hole, and being that he would have completed the white man’s karma, then he would no longer have this vicious want to kill.”
BUGILIOSI: “When you say ‘he,’ you mean Blackie?”
WATKINS: “Blackie then would come to Charlie and say, you know, ‘I did my thing, I killed them all and, you know, I am tired of killing now. It is all over.’ And Charlie would scratch his fuzzy head and kick him in the butt and tell him to go pick the cotton and go be a good nigger, and he would live happily ever after.”
Charles Manson’s testimony fascinates
Manson’s testimony was poetic, thought-provoking, and weird. The courtroom was spellbound as the charismatic cult-maniac rambled.
“You made your children what they are…. These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up…. You can project it back at me, but I am only what lives inside each and every one of you. My father is your system…. I am only what you made me. I am a reflection of you. You made your children what they are…. These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up…. You can project it back at me, but I am only what lives inside each and every one of you. My father is your system…. I am only what you made me. I am a reflection of you.”
His testimony fascinated jurors and the press, who reported so much about Charlie, some began to fear he was being idolized. Charlie told the court:
I never went to school, so I never growed up to read and write too good, so I have stayed in jail and I have stayed stupid, and I have stayed a child while I have watched your world grow up, and then I look at the things that you do and I don’t understand.
You eat meat and you kill things that are better than you are, and then you say how bad, and even killers, your children are. You made your children what they are.
These children that come at you with knives. they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up.
Most of the people at the ranch that you call the Family were just people that you did not want, people that were alongside the road, that their parents had kicked out, that did not want to go to Juvenile Hall. So I did the best I could and I took them up on my garbage dump and I told them this: that in love there is no wrong.
I told them that anything they do for their brothers and sisters is good if they do it with a good thought.
I don’t understand you, but I don’t try. I don’t try to judge nobody. I know that the only person I can judge is me . . . But I know this: that in your hearts and your own souls, you are as much responsible for the Vietnam war as I am for killing these people.
I can’t judge any of you. I have no malice against you and no ribbons for you. But I think that it is high time that you all start looking at yourselves, and judging the lie that you live in.
I can’t dislike you, but I will say this to you: you haven’t got long before you are all going to kill yourselves, because you are all crazy. And you can project it back at me . . . but I am only what lives inside each and everyone of you.
My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system. . . I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.
I have ate out of your garbage cans to stay out of jail. I have wore your second-hand clothes. . . I have done my best to get along in your world and now you want to kill me, and I look at you, and then I say to myself, You want to kill me? Ha! I’m already dead, have been all my life. I’ve spent twenty-three years in tombs that you built.
Sometimes I think about giving it back to you; sometimes I think about just jumping on you and letting you shoot me . . . If I could, I would jerk this microphone off and beat your brains out with it, because that is what you deserve, that is what you deserve.
These children [indicating the female defendants] were finding themselves. What they did, if they did whatever they did, is up to them. They will have to explain that to you.
You expect to break me? Impossible! You broke me years ago. You killed me years ago.
Mr. Bugliosi is a hard-driving prosecutor, polished education, a master of words, semantics. He is a genius. He has got everything that every lawyer would want to have except one thing: a case. He doesn’t have a case. Were I allowed to defend myself, I could have proven this to you. . .The evidence in this case is a gun. There was a gun that laid around the ranch. It belonged to everybody. Anybody could have picked that gun up and done anything they wanted to do with it. I don’t deny having that gun. That gun has been in my possession many times. Like the rope was there because you need rope on a ranch. . . .It is really convenient that Mr. Baggot found those clothes. I imagine he got a little taste of money for that. . . .They put the hideous bodies on [photographic] display and they imply: If he gets out, see what will happen to you. . . .[Helter Skelter] means confusion, literally. It doesn’t mean any war with anyone. It doesn’t mean that some people are going to kill other people. . . Helter Skelter is confusion. Confusion is coming down around you fast. If you can’t see the confusion coming down around you fast, you can call it what you wish. . Is it a conspiracy that the music is telling the youth to rise up against the establishment because the establishment is rapidly destroying things? Is that a conspiracy? The music speaks to you every day, but you are too deaf, dumb, and blind to even listen to the music. . . It is not my conspiracy. It is not my music. I hear what it relates. It says “Rise,” it says “Kill.” Why blame it on me? I didn’t write the music.
I haven’t got any guilt about anything because I have never been able to see any wrong. . . I have always said: Do what your love tells you, and I do what my love tells me . . . Is it my fault that your children do what you do? What about your children? You say there are just a few? There are many, many more, coming in the same direction. They are running in the streets-and they are coming right at you!”
When Bugliosi concluded his cross-examination of Manson, Judge Older asked Charlie if he wished to testify before the jury. He replied:
“I have already relieved all the pressure I had.”
Manson left the stand and as he passed the counsel table, he looked to his three co-defendants and smiled, saying, “You don’t have to testify now.”
Manson tries to attack the judge
On October 5, Manson’s defense attorneys declined to cross-examine a prosecution witness. Manson stood and asked to cross examine the witness himself. The judge denied his request. Manson leapt over the defense table and lunged at the judge screaming, “Someone should cut your head off!”
Manson was wrestled to the ground by bailiffs and removed from the courtroom. In unison, the female defendants rose from their seats and began chanting in Latin. Year later, Judge Older admitted that the episode freaked him out so much, he began wearing a revolver under his robes while the trial continued.
Manson enters the courtroom with a shaved head
On November 16, the prosecution rested their case. Manson returned to the courtroom with a bald head and a forked beard telling the courtroom:
“I am the devil and the Devil always has a bald head.”
The next day the female defendants also shaved their heads. Days later, the courthouse was surrounded by Manson Family members with shaved heads.
The defense rests their case
The court was stunned when the Defense rested their case – they had not called a single witness to the stand. It was later found that Manson had instructed the female defendants to claim they had committed all the crimes and that Manson had no involvement in the murders. Knowing that the female defendants were going to “hang themselves”, the defense refused to call them to the stand and allow them to speak. Manson had been cornered.
The disappearance of defense attorney Ronald Hughes
With the body of the trial concluded, both sides began preparing their closing statements. A ten-day recess was called. Defense attorney Ronald Hughes announced he had plans for the time off – a camping trip near Sespe Hot Springs in Ventura County. He never returned to court.
Hughes’ body was found a year later but it was so badly decomposed, no cause of death could be determined. Years later, Manson Family members claimed that he had been murdered by the Family in retaliation for not allowing the female defendants to testify. They said he was merely the first of many they claimed to have “eliminated”.
The Family attempts to silence witnesses
The Family’s claim that they murdered Hughes must not be accepted as an idle boast. We know the Family made other attempts to ensure Manson was not prosecuted. For instance, in an attempt to absolve Manson of any involvement, Catherine Louise “Gypsy” Share falsely testified that Kasabian was the mastermind behind the murders.
A more sinister attempt to silence a witness took place in 1971. Catherine Share, along with Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Dennis Rice, Steve “Clem” Grogan, and Ruth Ann “Ouisch” Moorehouse were charged with attempted murder after a plot to kill fellow Manson member Barbara Hoyt failed. The group had planned to poison Hoyt to prevent her from testifying for the prosecution against Manson. Their plan backfired when they failed to deliver enough poison (planted in Hoyt’s Hamburger) to kill her.
The Manson Family also executed plans to break Manson out of jail. On August 21, 1971, Share, accompanied by her then-husband Kenneth Como and Family members Mary Brunner, Dennis Rice, Charles Lovett, and Larry Bailey drove a white van to the Western Surplus Store in Hawthorne, California. They entered the store brandishing guns and ordered the store patrons and clerks to lie on the ground. They then moved about the store snatching up 143 rifles. While the rifles were being loaded into their van, a clerk tripped the silent alarm.
Police arrived and a shootout erupted. Share opened fire on the squad car putting a bullet hole in the top corner of the windshield. Police returned fire, injuring Brunner, Share, and Bailey. When questioned, they told police they were attempting to build an arsenal with which they would use to fight their way into the jail and free Charlie.
When court opened for closing testimony, the Manson women stood and began shouting and chanting. They were removed from the courtroom for the remainder of the trial. On January 25, 1971, the defendants were allowed back to hear the judgment. The jury returned guilty verdicts against all four defendants. Particia Krenwinkel responded,
“You have just judged yourselves.”
Susan Atkins rose from her seat and screamed at the courtroom,
“Better lock your doors and watch your kids!”
On March 29, 1971, the jury returned verdicts of death against all four defendants. They were sentenced on April 19, 1971 by Judge Older.
Meanwhile, Watson is tried separately
Watson, who had fled to McKinney, Texas after the Tate-LaBianca murders, was arrested on November 30, 1969 and extradited to California. He was tried later than the other Manson Family members but was also found guilty on all seven counts and sentenced to death.
Death sentence reduced
In February 1972, only about six months after the imposition of the death sentence on the defendants, the sentence was reduced to life in prison by California vs. Anderson in which the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in the state.
More Manson Family murders
Many are unaware that the Manson Family murders did not end after the sentencing of Manson, Watson, and the four female defendants.
The Willett murders
On November 8, 1972, the body of 26-year-old James L.T. Willett was found by a hiker near Guerneville, California. Investigators found he had been forced to dig his own grave before being shot in the head. His body was found with one hand protruding from the grave and the head and other hand missing.
Willett’s station wagon was found in Stockton, near where several Manson Family members were living including Priscilla Cooper, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, and Nancy Pitman. Police raided the home and found the body of Willet’s 19-year-old wife, Lauren “Reni” Chavelle Olmstead Willett, buried in the basement. She had been killed by a single gunshot to the head.
Michael Monfort, Priscilla Cooper, James Craig, Nancy Pitman, William Goucher, and James Craig were found to be involved and convicted.
The murder of Donald “Shorty” Shea
Donald “Shorty” Shea was a Spahn Ranch resident and notable Hollywood stuntman. He had gone missing on August 16, 1969, shortly after the sheriff’s raid on the ranch. In 1977, authorities discovered Shea’s body after Steve “Clem” Grogan produce a map that pinpointed the location. It was determined that Manson believed Shea, who was married to a black woman, was a mole who had helped coordinate the raid with “blackie” and the authorities. For his cooperation, Steve Grogan was the first convicted Manson Family member to ever be granted parole (he was released in 1985).
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme attempts to assassinate President Gerald Ford
On September 5, 1975, US President Gerald Ford was scheduled to speak in Sacramento at a breakfast event. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme gleaned details of his arrival from a news report. Ford would be staying at the Senator Hotel, about 15 minutes walking distance from Fromme’s apartment. She decided that an assassination of Ford would bring the world’s attention to the plight of the Redwood trees being killed by LA pollution. With a .45 caliber 1911 pistol she “borrowed” from a friend, she donned herself in red clothing and walked to the Senator Hotel at 1121 L Street.
Ford left the hotel and crossed the street to shake hands with people who had gathered in Capitol Park to see him. Ford recalls seeing a woman in a brightly colored red dress but figured she just wanted to shake hands. Fromme, standing slightly behind a row of people in line to greet the President, pulled the .45 from a leg holster under her flowing red dress and reached through the row of people toward the President. Ford remembers seeing a hand come through the crowd and noticing that in that hand was a gun.
She pointed the gun at President Ford and pulled the trigger. Witnesses recall hearing a “metallic click” sound. The pistol was fully loaded but Fromme was unaware that she needed to pull back the slide to insert a cartridge into the pistol’s chamber.
Secret Service agents whisked Ford away, gripping him underneath the arms, until he shouted, “Put me down! Put me down!” Ford continued his walk to the Capitol and met with the governor for about 30 minutes, never once mentioning the assassination attempt on his life.
Fromme was tried on November 4, 1975. Ford testified at the trial, the first time a US President testified in a criminal trial. During the trial, US Attorney Dwayne Keys argued that Fromme was “full of hate and violence”. In response, Fromme jumped from her seat and hurled an apple at him.
Fromme’s trial ended on November 9, 1975 with a guilty verdict and a life sentence. During her imprisonment, Fromme escaped, earning additional time on her sentence. Beyond all imagination, two years and eight months after Ford’s death, Fromme was released from prison on parole.
Where are they now?
After sentencing, Charles Manson was sent to San Quentin prison where he found acceptance from an Aryan Brotherhood group. It has long been rumored that Manson acted as a sexually submissive to the group’s members.
On September 25, 1984, a prisoner threw paint thinner on Manson and set him afire. Manson suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 20% of his body.
In 1997, Manson was found to have been trafficking drugs from behind prison walls. He was moved to Pelican Bay State Prison.
In 2009, Manson was caught in possession of a cellphone. Records show that a number of calls were placed to California, New Jersey, Florida, and British Columbia.
In 2014, Manson made plans to marry 26-year-old Afton Elaine “Star” Burton from behind prison walls. The marriage license was obtained on November 7, 2014 but the wedding was cancelled after it was discovered that Burton only wanted to marry Manson so she and a friend (Craig “Gray Wolf” Hammond) could use his corpse as a tourist attraction after he died.
Manson has been denied parole more than a dozen times. According to prison officials, he has a history of “controlling behavior” and “mental health issues” including schizophrenia and paranoid delusional disorder.
Charles Manson, the wild-eyed 1960s cult leader whose followers committed heinous murders that terrorized Los Angeles and shocked the nation, died in prison on Sunday, November 19, 2017 of natural causes. He was 83 years old.
In 1974, Susan Atkins, aka Sex Sadie, stated she became a Christian after seeing a vision of Jesus in her jail cell. She married Donald Lee Laisure while in prison. She was his 35th wife. She later divorced Laisure and married James W. Whitehouse, a Harvard Law School graduate. Whitehouse has represented Atkins in two of her parole hearings. In 2005, she received her 17th parole hearing. It was denied.
In 2008 it was learned that Atkins was dying from brain cancer. She had one leg amputated before becoming paralyzed. In her final days, she could not sit up in bed without assistance. She died on September 24, 2009. Her last whispered word was “Amen”.
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme
Fromme was released from prison in August 2009, despite her attempts to assassinate President Ford in 1975 and escaping from prison at least once. Upon release, Fromme moved to Marcy, New York in upstate New York in a house that “looks like an old metal Quonset hut from the World War II era”. She lives with a man named Robert Valdner who was released from prison in 1992 after killing his brother-in-law.
The television show Inside Edition caught up with Fromme in March and attempted to interview her. She took a wild swing at the cameraman.
Leslie Van Houten
Described by a psychiatrist as “a psychologically loaded gun”, Houten was convicted of helping to stab Rosemary LaBianca to death and chasing down Abigail Folger and stabbing her to death. Houten is serving a life sentence at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. She has been disciplinary-free for her entire sentence.
In 2002, 66-year-old Houten told a parole board she was “deeply ashamed” of her role in the killings. She said, “I take very seriously not just the murders but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson.”
Charles “Tex” Watson
Watson hailed from Collin County, Texas and was a straight “A” student and sports star in high school (he set the state record in hurdles). He is believed to have been the “brains” behind the Manson family’s operations.
Watson is housed in the Mule Creek Prison in Lone, California. He works as a janitor. In prison, Watson married, divorced, and fathered four children. He became an ordained minister and has had no disciplinary actions against him since 1973. According to his ministry website:
“Manson offered a utopia, but in reality he had a destructive worldview which Charles ended up believing in and acting upon. His participation in the 1969 Manson murders is a part of history that he deeply regrets.”
He has been denied parole at least 16 times.
Patricia gave up her Manhattan Beach apartment, car, and job to join the Manson Family during their jaunt around the country in the old school bus. Krenwinkel was the one that wrote “Death to Pigs” on the wall using victims’ blood. She later condemned Manson.
According to officials, Krenwinkel is a model inmate at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. She has been denied parole at least 13 times.
Davis was convicted for the murders of Gary Hinman and Donald “Shorty” Shea and imprisoned in California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo. He became a Christian behind bars and earned a doctoral degree in philosophy of religion.
Linda left her New Hampshire home at 16-years-old to head west “looking for God”. Although she drove the killers to the Tate and LaBianca murders and is believed by many to have had a larger role in the killings than admitted, in exchange for her testimony, she received immunity. She is now the mother of four and is believed to be living back in New Hampshire.
Nicknamed “Cupid” because of his looks, Beausoleil had been a major actor in Hollywood, playing the part of Lucifer in Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising film. He was convicted of Hinman’s murder and is serving a life sentence in a California medical facility in Vacaville, California.
Robert joined the Aryan Brotherhood gang while in prison and has suffered various injuries from fights (including a broken jaw). He has been denied parole at least 17 times.
Brunner is the mother of Michael Valentine Manson, Charlie’s third son. She played no role in the murders but was arrested for robbing a gun store in 1971 in a bizarre scheme to free Manson from jail. During the robbery, she was wounded by police in a shootout.
Mary was paroled from prison in 1977.
Steve “Clem” Grogan
Nicknamed “Scramblehead” by Manson because of his stupidity, he was sentenced to death for the Manson murders but had his sentence reduced to life after a judge deemed him “too stupid and too hopped up on drugs to have orchestrated a slaughter”.
Clem was paroled from prison in 1985.
Rosalie Jean Willis (Manson’s first wife)
During one of Manson’s prison terms, Rosalie (“Rosy”) gave birth to Charles Manson Jr. In March 1957, she cut all ties with Charlie and left him for another man (reportedly a truck driver) while he was in prison.
Rosalie remarried and became Rosalie Jean White. She moved to Cadiz, Ohio and had three more children with her new husband.
One child was killed in 1971 when he was 11-years-old by a “accidental gunshot blast”.
Another child died in 1986 in Houston of an “accidental overdose”.
Charles Manson Jr. committed suicide in 1993.
Rosalie died on August 21, 2009 of lung cancer in Tucson, Arizona.
Charles Manson Jr. (Manson’s first son)
Charles Manson Jr., Charlie’s first son, took the name Jay White when his mother (Rosalie) remarried. Friends of the family say he had eyes just like his father. One told reporters:
“His eyes scared the hell out of me! He was one of the spookiest people I have ever met.”
Charles Manson Jr. committed suicide in Colorado by gunshot on June 29, 1993.
Charles Luther Manson (Manson’s second son)
Born to Leona Rae “Candy” Stevens, he has since disappeared.
Michael Brunner (aka Valentine Michael Manson, Charles Manson’s third son)
Michael was born on April 1, 1968 by Mary Brunner. He was Charlie’s third son. He was sent to live with Mary’s parents in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in 1970, shortly after the Tate-LaBianca murders. He gives his grandparents credit for raising him in a normal, stable home with a deeply religious background that focused on morals.
Brunner says he feels no connection to his father and has made no attempts to communicate with him. In fact, Charlie once sent him a letter which he promptly tore up without reading.
When asked if he worries about genetics, that he could have possibly inherited some of Charlie’s tendencies, his answer is a firm “no”.
Little is known about his whereabouts – he keeps a low profile. It is believed he has at least one son (born around 1991).
The Tate House
The Polanski/Tate house at 10050 Cielo Drive was demolished in 1994. An Italian-style mansion was built in its place by the creator of the TV show, Full House. The street address was also changed.
The original home’s lot can be located however. Driving east on Sunet, in the middle of Beverly Hills, turn left on Canyon and head north into Benedict Canyon. Up in Benedict Canyon is Cielo Drive which dead ends on a hillside. The dead end is where the old Tate mansion was located.
The fascination with “piggies”
Many wonder why the Manson Family had such an obsession with the words “pig” and “piggies”. The phrased comes from the George Harrison song, Piggies.
“Everywhere there’s lot of piggies, living piggie lives. You can see them out for dinner with their piggy wives.”
Manson trial testimonies
Manson’s interpretation of Beatles Songs
LYRICS: You say you want a revolution/ Well you know/ We all want to change the world/ You tell me that it’s evolution/ Well you know/ We all want to change the world/ But when you talk about destruction/ Don’t you know that you can count me out (in).
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right/ All right, all right/ You say you got a real solution/ Well you know/ We’d all love to see the plan.
MANSON: Beatles commanding a revolution. Charles Manson has the solution.
LYRICS: Blackbird singing in the dead of night/ Take these broken wings and learn to fly/ All your life/ You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
MANSON: Beatles commanding black people to rise and revolt against the white establishment.
LYRICS: Have you seen the little piggies/ Crawling in the dirt/ And for all those little piggies/ Life is getting worse/ Always having dirt to play around in.
Have you seen the bigger piggies/ In their starched white shirts/ You will find the bigger piggies/ Stirring up the dirt/ Always have clean shirts to play around in.
In their styes with all their backing/ They don’t care what goes on around/ In their eyes there’s something lacking/ What they need’s a damn good whacking.
Everywhere there’s lots of piggies/ Living piggy lives/ You can see them out for dinner/ With their piggy wives/ Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.
MANSON: Piggies, the establishment, need a “damn good whacking”.
LYRICS: When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide/ Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride/ Till I get to the bottom and I see you again.
Do you, don’t you want me to love you/ I’m coming down fast but I’m miles above you/ Tell me tell me tell me come on tell me the answer/ You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer./ Helter skelter helter skelter/ Helter skelter.
Will you, won’t you want me to make you/ I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you/ Tell me tell me tell me the answer/ You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer./ Look out helter skelter helter skelter/ Helter skelter.
Look out, cause here she comes./ When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide/ And I stop and I turn and I go for a ride/ And I get to the bottom and I see you again./ Well do you, don’t you want me to make you/ I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you/ Tell me tell me tell me the answer/ You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer./ Look out helter skelter helter skelter/ Helter skelter/ Look out helter skelter/ She’s coming down fast/ Yes she is/ Yes she is.
MANSON: Helter Skelter is coming down. According to Manson, “The Beatles are telling it like it is.”
Song is a collection of odd sound bites.
MANSON: Felt this was a parallel of the Bible’s Revelation 9 and that it was a prophecy of the upcoming black revolution.
LYRICS: Who knows how long I’ve loved you/ You know I love you still/ Will I wait a lonely lifetime/ If you want me to–I will….
And when at last I find you/ Your song will fill the air/ Sing it loud so I can hear you/ Make it easy to be near you/ For the things you do endear you to me/ You know I will/ I will.
MANSON: Felt this was the Beatles command for the Manson Family to make an album so people could “find” him.
LYRICS: She was a working girl/ North of England way/ Now she’s hit the big time/ In the USA/ And if she could only hear me/ This is what I’d say./ Honey pie you are making me crazy/ I’m in love but I’m lazy/ So won’t you please come home.
Oh honey pie my position is tragic/ Come and show me the magic/ of your Hollywood song/…Oh honey pie you are driving me frantic/ Sail across the Atlantic/ To be where you belong./ Will the wind that blew her boat/ Across the sea/ Kindly send her sailing back to me./ Honey pie you are making me crazy/ I’m in love but I’m lazy/ So won’t you please come home.
MANSON: Felt the references to USA and Hollywood were directed at the Manson Family and that the song meant the Beatles would soon join the Family. He felt the Beatles line “I’m in love but I’m lazy so won’t you please come home” indicated the Beatles knew Manson was Jesus Christ but were too busy to come see him right now.
Manson’s interpretation of the Bible’s Revelation 9
Revelation 9 (NIV version)
The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. 2 When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. 3 And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. 6 During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
7 The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. 8 Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. 10 They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).
12 The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
13 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. 14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.
17 The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. 18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. 19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Manson’s interpretation of the Bible’s Revelation 9
Verse 1: Manson believed he was the fifth angel referenced in this verse, and that he would be given the key to the abyss (the underground lair somewhere beneath Death Valley).
Verse 3: Although this verse mentions locusts pouring from a fire, Manson believed this was a reference to The Beatles.
Verse 4: Manson noted that this verse commanded them to not harm any living thing with the exception of men who did not have the mark upon their foreheads. It was known that Manson often chastised Family members for killing insects or snakes.
Verse 7: The reference to the locusts wearing crowns of gold, long hair like women, but with faces like men confirmed to Manson that this was a reference to The Beatles. He felt the reference to “iron breastplates” was a reference to their guitars while the smoke pouring from their mouths were the powerful lyrics to their songs.
Verse 11: Manson noted that the fifth angel was a “king”, or leader of others
Verse 15: This verse was key to Manson who felt it referred to Helter Skelter, the revolt of blacks that would result in the murder of one-third of the world’s population. This is the command that he sought to turn loose via the Manson Family killings.
Verse 16: Manson believed the number of persons here were bikers.
Charles Manson Timeline
November 12, 1934 Charles Manson is born in Cincinnati, the illegitimate son of a sixteen-year-old girl named Kathleen Maddox. His father, who Manson never met, was a “Colonel Scott” from Ashland, Kentucky.
1939 Manson’s mother sentenced to prison for armed robbery.
1947 Manson’s mother tries to send Charles to a foster home. A court orders him sent to the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana.
1948 Manson commits his first known crime, the burglary of a grocery store. He is caught and sent to a juvenile detention center. He escapes and commits two armed robberies. Apprehended again, Manson is sent to the Indiana School for Boys in Plainfield, where he spends the next three years–except for brief periods of freedom during eighteen escapes.
1951 Manson escapes from the School for Boys and heads west in a stolen car, burglarizing 15 to 20 gas stations along the way. He is caught in Utah and sent to the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D. C. A psychiatrist calls Manson a “slick” but “extremely sensitive” boy.
1952 In his last act of criminal violence before the 1969 murders, Manson sodomizes a boy while holding a razor to his throat. He is transferred to Federal Reformatory at Petersburg, Virginia. Later in 1952, Manson is moved to a more secure reformatory at Chillicothe, Ohio.
1955 Manson marries Rosalie Willis, a waitress from Wheeling. The couple produces a child, Charles, Jr. Manson works as a parking-lot attendant and busboy–and steals cars. In October, he is arrested for auto theft and sentenced to five years probation
1956 Manson is sentenced to three years imprisonment at San Pedro, California for violating the terms of his 1955 probation.
1958 Manson is divorced. His ex-wife retains custody of their child. Manson is released on parole and becomes a pimp in southern California.
1959 Manson is arrested for forging a treasury check. He is given a ten-year suspended sentence.
1960 In January, Manson marries again–this time, a nineteen-year-old. In April, he is indicted on federal Mann Act charges. He is arrested in Laredo, and brought back to California where is ordered to prison to serve the ten-year sentence that had been suspended in 1959.
1961 Manson is transferred to a federal penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington. He claims to be a Scientologist. Prison psychiatrists say he has “deep-seated personality problems.”
1963 After fathering a second child, Charles Luther Manson, Manson is again divorced.
1964 Manson becomes obsessed by the music of the Beatles. He learns to play a steel guitar.
1966 Manson aspires to be a song writer, and devotes most of his spare time in prison to the task.
March 21, 1967 Manson asks prison officials to let him remain in prison, but having completed a ten-year prison term, he is released. He heads for San Francisco.
Summer 1968 Manson and a number of his followers, now called “The Family,” move into Spahn ranch in southern California.
December 1968 The Beatles release their White Album, which proves to be a great influence Manson’s thinking.
March 23, 1969 Manson visits 10050 Cielo Drive (the Tate residence) looking for Terry Melcher, who he hoped might publish his music. Tate’s photographer curtly tells Manson to leave by “the back alley,” possibly supplying a motive for the later attack at the Tate home.
July 31, 1969 A music teacher named Gary Hinman is stabbed to death. On the wall near the body, in Hinman’s blood, was printed “political piggy.”
August 8, 1969 Manson tells Family members, “Now is the time for Helter Skelter.” That evening he tells Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Tex Watson, and Linda Kasabian to get knives and changes of clothes. As he sends them from the ranch on their mission, he tells them “to leave a sign –something witchy.” Watson drives to the Tate residence.
August 9, 1969 Shortly after midnight, the brutal attack on residents at the Tate residence begins. In all, 102 stab wounds are inflicted on four victims; a fifth victim is shot. Left dead are actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent. The murders are discovered by housekeeper Winifred Chapman the next morning. The four Family members return to Spahn ranch, where Manson criticizes them for doing a messy job. That night, Manson, along with Patricia Krenwinkel, Tex Watson, Leslie Van Houten, Linda Kasabian cruise around, looking for potential victims.
August 10, 1969 In the early morning hours, Family members stab to death Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. The words “Death to Pigs” and “Healter [sic] Skelter” are found printed on a wall and a refrigerator door.
September 1, 1969 Under a bush near his home, a ten-year-old boy finds the gun used in the Tate murders. The boy’s father turns the gun over to the LAPD. The LAPD fails to do a proper investigation.
October 12, 1969 Manson is arrested at Barker Ranch in Death Valley and charged with grand theft auto. He is put in jail in Independence.
November 6, 1969 While incarcerated in Los Angeles on other charges, Susan Atkins tells a fellow inmate, Virginia Castro (Graham), that she participated in the Tate murders. She tells Castro of a “death list” of celebrities targeted by the Family, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Tom Jones, Steve McQueen, and Frank Sinatra.
November 12, 1969 Al Springer, a visitor to the Spahn ranch, tells LAPD detectives that on August 11 or 12 Charles Manson had bragged about “knocking off five” pigs the other night.
November 17, 1969 Danny DeCarlo implicates Manson in the Spahn ranch murder of Shorty Shea, and also suggests that persons at the Spahn ranch might also have been responsible for the Tate murders–but, he tells detectives, he would be afraid to testify.
November 18, 1969 Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi is assigned the Tate-LaBianca case.
July 24, 1970 The Tate-LaBianca murder trial, with defendants Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten, opens in Los Angeles.
August 10, 1970 Judge Older grants Linda Kasabian immunity from prosecution for the Tate-LaBianca murders in return for agreeing to appear as the prosecution’s star witness at the Manson trial.
November 16, 1970 The state rests its case in the Manson trial.
November 19, 1970 The defense announces, without having presented any evidence, that it also rests.
November 20, 1970 Manson announces that he wishes to testify. He makes a strange statement, saying “The children that come at you with knives are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up….” On cross-examination, Bugliosi asks Manson if he thinks he is Jesus Christ.
November 30, 1970 Defense attorney Ronald Hughes fails to show up in court. He is never seen again, leading to speculation he was murdered by The Family.
January 15, 1971 Vincent Bugliosi presents the prosecution’s closing argument in the Manson trial.
January 25, 1971 The jury convicts all Tate-LaBianca defendants of first-degree murder.
March 29, 1971 Concluding the penalty phase of the trial, the jury fixes the penalty as death for all four Tate-LaBianca defendants.
April 19, 1971 Judge Older sentences Manson to death. Manson is ordered sent to San Quenton’s death row.
October 1971 Charles “Tex” Watson is convicted on seven counts of first-degree murder.
February 18, 1972 The California Supreme Court declares the death penalty unconstitutional and Manson’s sentence is automatically reduced to life in prison.
October 1972 Manson is transferred to Folsom Prison.
May 1976 Manson is sent to Vacaville prison, where he remains for the next nine years.
September 25, 1984 Another inmate, claiming “God told me to kill Manson,” sets Manson on fire, causing serious burns on large parts of his body.
July 1985 Manson is transferred to San Quentin Prison
1988 In a televised interview with Geraldo Rivera, Manson warns, “I’m going to chop up more of you m—–f—-ers. I’m going to kill as many of you as I can. I’m going to pile you up to the sky.”
March 1989 Manson is transferred to Corcoran Prison.
1994 The house at 10050 Cielo Drive, formerly rented by Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, is demolished.
March 1997 Manson is denied parole (for the ninth time) in a hearing broadcast live on Court TV. Manson responds by saying, “That’s cool….I’m not saying I wasn’t involved [in Helter Skelter]. I’m just saying that I did not break God’s law….Thank you.”
April 2002 Manson is refused parole for the tenth time at a hearing he refused to attend.
May 23, 2007 Manson is refused parole for the eleventh time. Manson, now 72, will next be up for parole in 2012.
July 15, 2008 The parole board denies Susan Atkin’s request, based on the fact that she has terminal brain cancer and only months to live, for a compassionate release. Atkins will now almost certainly die in prison.
September 24, 2009 Atkins dies. Her husband releases the following statement: “Susan passed away peacefully surrounded by friends and loved ones…Her last whispered word was ‘Amen.’ No one on the face of the Earth worked as hard as Susan did to right an unrightable wrong.”
November 19, 2017 Charles Manson dies in prison of natural causes. He was 83 years old.
In-Article Image CreditsMary Brunner mugshot 1968 via Wikipedia Commons by LAPD with usage type - Public Domain
Bobby Beausoleil mugshot 2016 via Wikipedia Commons with usage type - Public Domain
Leslie Van Houten 1999 via Wikipedia Commons by California Department of Corrections with usage type - Public Domain
Tex Watson via Wikipedia Commons by California Department of Corrections with usage type - Public Domain
Susan Atkins 2001 via Wikipedia Commons by California Department of Corrections with usage type - Public Domain
Ford rushed from assassination attempt in Sacramento via Altered Dimensions with usage type - Editorial use (Fair Use)
Manson Political Piggy in blood via Altered Dimensions with usage type - Public Domain
Manson murder - Sharon Tate body (black and white blurred) via Crime Online by Police Handout with usage type - Public Domain
Manson Celo Drive crime scene (color blurred) via Crime Online by Police Handout with usage type - Public Domain
Abigail Folger body (black and white) via Crime Online by Police Handout with usage type - Public Domain
Charles Manson Death to Pigs on wall via Altered Dimensions by Police Handout with usage type - Public Domain
Police cover body and Manson family Sharon Tate murder crime scene via Crime Online by Police Handout with usage type - Public Domain
Inside Manson murder home of Sharon Tate (crime scene photo) via Crime Online by Police Handout with usage type - Public Domain
Police remove body of Sharon Tate August 1969 via Crime Online by Police handout with usage type - Public Domain
Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten 1971 via NPR by AP with usage type - Editorial use (Fair Use)
Four members of the Charles Manson “family” (L-R Cathy Gillies, Kitty Lutesinger, Sandy Good, and Brenda McCann) via Timeline by AP with usage type - Editorial use (Fair Use)
Manson family Spahn's Movie Ranch via Wide Open Country by AP with usage type - Editorial use (Fair Use)
Charles Manson mugshot 1956 via Wikipedia Commons by FCI Terminal Island Federal Prison with usage type - Public Domain
Charles Manson on June 16, 2011 via Wikipedia Commons by California Department of Corrections with usage type - Public Domain
Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme as a junior in high school via Wikipedia Commons with usage type - Public Domain
Patricia Krenwinkel 1973 via Wikipedia Commons by Fitzgerald Whitney with usage type - Creative Commons License
Mug shot from the Barker Ranch raid, 1969 via Wikipedia Commons by Inyo County Sheriff with usage type - Public Domain. November 22, 2011
Sharon Tate 1967 via Wikipedia Commons with usage type - Public Domain
Charles Manson murder victims via Altered Dimensions
Charles Manson marriage via Altered Dimensions
Charles Manson crazy eyes via Altered Dimensions with usage type - Fair use with modification
Featured Image CreditCharles Manson crazy eyes via Altered Dimensions with usage type - Fair use with modification