Are You Ready for the Real, Scary Story of the Manson Family Murders?
There was no method to Los Angeles’ sinister summer. It was all madness.
Of all the terrifying details of the spree murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others on August 9 and August 10, 1969, at the hands -- and knives -- of Charles Manson and his followers, there is none more unnerving than this: the randomness.
Conspiracy theorists may spin baseless tales of CIA involvement, and the Quentin Tarantino film "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" may put a fairytale spin on the bloody saga, but the historical record -- the police and forensics investigations, the courtroom testimony, the accounts of the people who crossed paths with the principles -- tells a plain, and plainly disturbing tale of chance.
The Lives They Led
The worst could’ve happened to anyone within driving distance of the northern outskirts of Los Angeles, where Charles Manson and his so-called family had set up a squalid encampment; it happened to them. This is who was mourned.
Steven Parent was a teenage, part-time stereo-shop employee from L.A.’s suburban San Gabriel Valley.
Leno LaBianca was a middle-aged owner of a Southern California grocery-store chain.
Abigail Folger, the daughter of the chairman of Folgers Coffee, was a volunteer social worker.
The Movie Star
Rosemary LaBianca, Leno's wife, was a dress-shop proprietor.
Jay Sebring was a celebrity hairstylist who gave shape to Jim Morrison’s iconic curls and waves.
Voytek Frykowski, Folger’s companion, was the childhood friend of fellow Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski.
Sharon Tate was a movie star. She was the eight-and-a-half-months-pregnant wife of Polanski. She was 26.
"A Deranged Practical Joker"
Each was murdered in brutal, up-close-and-personal fashion by people who didn’t know them, on the orders and the whim of a man who didn’t know them, either.
“The circumstances were so bizarre as to constitute irrefutable proof that God is a deranged practical joker,” the author and Star Trek writer David Gerrold, a friend of Steven Parent’s, once wrote.
What follows is the story of the improbable people, unlikely connections and terrible twists that led up to Tate-LaBianca murders. What follows is a maddening story of madness.
He grew up poor -- a nobody from nowhere. But he has a talent: He can talk a good game. His name is Dale Carnegie, and in 1936, he publishes a self-improvement book that will teach others how to talk good games, too. Its title is "How to Win Friends and Influence People."
The book will sell more than 30 million copies worldwide; its techniques for “win[ning] people to your way of thinking,” and for “mak[ing] the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest” will be taught in licensed courses.
Over the years, its readers and followers will come to include a young man in prison. Another nobody from nowhere.
Charles Manson is behind bars. Again. A troubled youth, he's grown into a troubled adult with a string of robberies, armed robberies, a stolen-car heist and probation violations on his record.
It's the late 1950s, and the twentysomething Manson is incarcerated in Los Angeles at Terminal Island federal prison for a probation violation.
All Shook Up
Where the outside world sees not much, reform-minded jailers, according to biographer Jeff Guinn’s "Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson," see potential. The intelligent, but unpredictable Charles Manson is pegged for a prized spot in one of Terminal Island’s most popular classes: a certified Dale Carnegie course.
The class has a waiting list, but Manson is ushered right in -- and, for once, he shines.
“Virtually every word in the Cargenie publications resonate[s] with Charlie,” Guinn writes. He doesn’t finish the course -- he still is what he is: erratic and impulsive -- but he’s not finished with its tenets.
Sharon Tate may not know where she’s going exactly, but it seems sure she’s going somewhere. In 1961, she’s a bright, 18-year-old Texan and former “Miss Tiny Tot” living in Italy.
The European mecca is where her army-intelligence father is stationed, and where she’s been crowned homecoming queen by her fellow high-school students.
As recounted in Greg King’s "Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders," Tate is loosely considering a career in psychiatry when she and friends, on a trip to Verona, happen upon a movie set.
"Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man" is a widescreen, would-be epic, and it needs extras to fill out its frame. Tate and friends are recruited.
Once on set, Tate catches the eye of the film’s star, Richard Beymer, a 23-year-old about to become world-famous via the screen version of "West Side Story." According to the King book, Beymer urges Tate to come to Los Angeles, and pursue work in the movies.
Mr. Tambourine Man
Now it’s the late 1960s, and Charles Manson is back at Terminal Island, this time for forgery. He’s 32, and if the near-lifelong criminal hasn’t figured out how to fly straight in the everyday world, then he has managed a kind of contentment in incarceration.
In his second stint at Terminal Island, Manson fashions himself a musician. He plays guitar, writes songs and rubs elbows with show-business types -- or, at least, the types who arrive as inmates in the Los Angeles prison.
When it’s time to be paroled in March 1967, Charles Manson has a request of prison officials: He’d like to stay -- as in, he would really, truly like to remain behind bars. His powers of persuasion, however, don’t work. Like it or not, and he does not, Manson is released.
“I kept taking long deep breaths of fresh air, at the same time sending messages to myself,” Manson will relate of his parole in the book, "Manson in His Own Words," “‘I’m free, I’m on the outside. I can go where I want, I can do as I please.’”
And so Charles Manson does just that: He does as he pleases. He follows a lead up north. To San Francisco.
The Summer of Love, as the Summer of 1967 will come to be called, is about to begin,
The city’s Haight-Ashbury district is virtually paging all flower children to walk its streets, sit on its corners and sleep in its parks.
For once, the rootless, restless Manson fits right in. He’s older than the other long-hairs, but he’s got a guitar -- and he can talk a good game.
Is This a Dream?
Sharon Tate has found a home in Hollywood. In 1967, her years of thankless TV guest gigs on the workaday likes of "Mister Ed" pay off with a starring role in the glossy big-screen soap, "Valley of the Dolls." The job makes her an on-screen peer of Oscar-winners Susan Hayward and Patty Duke.
Tate plays Jennifer North, a sweet ingenue whose charmed life turns tragic following her marriage to a Hollywood star. While Tate’s character is doomed to die an early death, "Valley of the Dolls" becomes one of the biggest box-office hits of the year.
In January 1968, about a month after the film’s release, Sharon Tate weds Roman Polanski in London. Polanski is a director with an origin story that’s more fantastical than anything in "Valley of the Dolls." Tate’s new husband is a Holocaust survivor who made his way out of Poland’s World War II-era Krakow ghetto, and, like his new bride, made his way to Hollywood.
It was the movies that brought Tate and Polanski together: They met on Polanski’s horror comedy, "The Fearless Vampire Killers."
On "The Fearless Vampire Killers," Roman Polanski was the director, writer and star; Sharon Tate was his leading lady. The movie is little-seen, but Polanski’s reputation as a filmmaker grows.
By the time of their 1968 wedding, Polanski is about to break through to American moviegoers via the adaptation of the best-selling occult thriller, "Rosemary’s Baby." The film elevates the horror genre, and earns Polanski an Oscar nomination for its screenplay.
Together, Tate and Polanski are a golden couple -- and, as such, they attract other glittery people.
Hollywood figures in attendance at Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski's London wedding reception include Warren Beatty, Michael Caine, Joan Collins -- and Candice Bergen, the actress and live-in girlfriend of Byrds producer Terry Melcher.
Like Tate and Polanski, Bergen and Melcher are a golden couple. Owing to their roots -- Bergen is the daughter of the radio-era star Edgar Bergen; while Melcher is the son of Hollywood legend Doris Day -- they are arguably the most golden couple of all.
Back home in Los Angeles, they’re at the center of a social circle they help keep rolling by hosting parties for their friends, including Tate and Polanski, at their home, a rented French country-style estate located in Benedict Canyon. At 10050 Cielo Drive.
Where Is Tomorrow?
In any real sense of the word, Charles Manson isn’t a star. But by early 1968, Charles Manson is indeed the star of his universe. He’s talked his way into the lives and beds of a small group of young women who dig his music and fall for his no-strings-attached, no-inhibitions-allowed philosophy.
For a man who was virtually raised in captivity, he seems oddly attuned to the times. With the Summer of Love a memory, Manson looks to take his traveling band south. Los Angeles is where it’s at.
As Rolling Stone will relate it, Harold True had ambitions of joining the Peace Corp, and heading overseas. But instead the Southern Californian stays put, and goes to college. During the week, he studies. On the weekend, he unwinds.
On one weekend day in March 1968, True crosses paths with a band of hippies who live itinerantly in the Malibu-bordering, artist enclave of Topanga Canyon. They party.
At some point, True must mention where he lives because the hippies -- or, slippies, as Charles Manson prefers -- show up at his door the very next day.
True lives with a few buddies in a rental house near Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, in a neighborhood known as Los Feliz, on a street called Waverly Drive.
Catch a Wave
Not far from Topanga Canyon, Dennis Wilson is tooling around in his Rolls Royce. The 23-year-old could’ve hopped in the Mercedes or Ferrari (he’s got one of each), but the Rolls it is.
Wilson is obviously rich, and, as a member of the Beach Boys, abundantly famous. He spies a couple of hip, hippie female hitchhikers. He likes -- and recognizes -- what he sees.
The hitchhikers are the same alluring pair Wilson had encountered a month earlier up in the mountains. On that day, they’d been thumbing for a ride, and Wilson had given them one, and he gives them one on this day, too. At the time, hitchhiking is no big thing; in Los Angeles, in some ways, it’s the thing.
“... [T]here was a time, 1965 to 1969 in Laurel Canyon, where you could hitchhike up and down the canyon,” Doors drummer John Densmore will remember for the book, "Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and Music of Laurel Canyon." “There were some crazies. [But] frankly it was car-pooling before its time and community. You talked to people.”
Dennis Wilson reportedly does more than talk with his two hitchhikers. According to Steven Gaines’ "Heroes & Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys," Wilson has sex with the two women at his 14400 W. Sunset Blvd. home in L.A.’s ocean-adjacent Pacific Palisades.
When Wilson returns home that night following a stint in the recording studio, he finds that the hitchhikers, known to him as Yellerstone and Marnie Reeves, are back. Not only that, they’ve brought others, including a diminutive man in fringed buckskin -- their guru, they say.
Wilson knows about gurus. The Beach Boys, like the Beatles, have come under the sway of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (pictured, far left).
Rocked by the nervous breakdown of their creative leader, Brian Wilson, Dennis' revered older brother, the Beach Boys have turned to the Maharishi -- and even plan a summer tour with him.
It's only natural that Dennis Wilson opens up about his spiritual guide to Yellerstone and Marnie.
“I told them about our involvement with the Maharishi and they told me they too had a guru, a guy named Charlie,” Wilson says in an interview that will appear in the U.K. music weekly, Record Mirror.
Now Charlie’s right there, in the flesh, at Dennis Wilson's house. Charlie drops to the ground, and kisses the Beach Boys drummer’s sneakers.
“I’m a friend,” Charlie assures Wilson, per the Gaines book.
Proving his good intentions to Wilson, per accounts, Charlie offers drugs and a cadre of free-love-practicing women, including Yellerstone and Marnie.
Yellerstone’s given name is Ella Jo Bailey. She’ll become a law-enforcement witness.
Marnie’s given name is Patricia Krenwinkel. She’ll become a killer.
Charlie is Charles Manson. You know what he’ll become.
Dennis Wilson is rich, famous and looking for something, for someone. He allows Manson, the “girls” and assorted hangers-on to move into his home. They become a family.
On November 22, 1968, the Beatles issue their latest: a self-titled, 30-track release that’s as eclectic and busy as its all-white cover is sparse. Cuts on the "White Album," as the collection will popularly be known, include “Piggies,” “Revolution” and “Helter Skelter.”
Charles Manson is a fan of the "White Album." The cut, “Revolution 9,” he will tell Rolling Stone in 1970, “predicts the overthrow of the establishment.”
“This music is bringing on the revolution,” Manson will say.
His reasoning is muddied, but it’s his. “I think Charlie really believed his own hype,” Catherine Share, a then-devoted follower, will tell Los Angeles magazine.
In December 1968, Wilson’s remarkable interview with journalist David Griffiths is published in the Record Mirror. It features perhaps the first printed mentions, outside of the police record, of Charles Manson. But even before the interview hits newsstands, the article's headline, “Dennis Wilson: I Live With 17 Girls,” is outdated.
Perhaps burned by the scorching failure of the Beach Boys’ concert tour with the Maharishi (a run that's marked by empty arenas, hecklers and canceled dates), or perhaps feeling tapped out by the Manson gang, Wilson is done with the guru scene.
But rather than ask Charles Manson and his followers to move out of 14400 W. Sunset Blvd, Dennis Wilson moves himself out, to an apartment elsewhere in the Palisades. The Manson Family, as the group will be known to the world in about a year’s time, hangs on at Wilson’s former house until the lease expires, and they’re evicted.
The group will remain in Los Angeles, but barely, about 25 miles north, as squatters at Spahn Ranch, a 500-acre property in Chatsworth frequently used as a desolate-looking location for Hollywood Westerns.
By all accounts, Manson takes the relocation in stride -- easy come, easy go. Then on December 3, 1968, the Beach Boys issue the first single, “Bluebirds over the Mountain,” from their new album, "20/20." The song’s flip side, or companion cut, is “Never Learn Not to Love.” The song is credited to Dennis Wilson, but it’s really a reworking of a Manson piece, “Cease to Exist.”
Manson is not happy.
It’s February 1969, and 10050 Cielo Drive has new tenants. With Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen having relocated to Malibu about a month earlier, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski sign a rental agreement.
Tate and Polanski will seal the deal on February 12, and and move in three days later, according to "Helter Skelter," the landmark book about the Manson Family investigation by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.
The couple will pay $1,200 a month for what Tate calls her and Polanski’s “love house.”
Games People Play
On the April 16, 1969, broadcast of "The Mike Douglas Show," a daytime-TV variety show, the Beach Boys perform “Never Learn Not to Love.” Dennis Wilson takes the spotlight on lead vocals.
Spahn Ranch doesn’t have heat, so maybe it doesn’t have TV, either. We don’t know if Charles Manson sees Wilson perform his song before millions.
We do know from a later Manson interview that he’ll leave a bullet on Wilson’s bed -- a sign of his displeasure for Wilson having changed, or “remodelled,” as Beach Boys singer Mike Love will put it, his song. (In a 1970 Rolling Stone interview, Manson brushes off the incident: “I had a pocket full of bullets, so I gave him one.")
Long Dark Road
According to a Rolling Stone account of the Charles Manson-Dennis Wilson rift, Manson doesn't escalate the "Cease to Exist" situation, or burn any bridges, because he’s got his eye on the prize: Terry Melcher, the A-list music producer.
Manson has come into Melcher’s orbit through Wilson -- and he wants the producer to produce his music.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
In spring 1969, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski are expecting their first child. Looking to squeeze in work before her pregnancy shows, Tate prepares to fly to Rome, where she’ll film a new movie, "Twelve Plus One." The production will also be shot in London, where Polanski is working on a script.
On March 23, as recounted in the book "Helter Skelter," while Tate packs in the main house at Cielo Drive, a man knocks on the door of the guest house. Rudi Altobelli, the Hollywood talent manager who owns the estate, and stays in the guest house when he’s in town, answers the door.
It’s Charles Manson.
Bad Moon Rising
According to "Helter Skelter," Rudi Altobelli is familiar with Charles Manson -- he’s seen him at Dennis Wilson’s, playing music.
Altobelli greets Charlie, as he calls him, and asks why he’s at his door, instead of the main house. Manson tells him the “people” there -- Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski -- sent him to the guest house.
In any case, the important thing, the reason Manson’s come a-calling: He’s looking for Terry Melcher. (On trial for murder in 1970, Manson will testify he’d been at, though not inside, the Cielo Drive home a total of “five or six” times.)
Altobelli tells Manson that Melcher has moved to Malibu. Manson leaves.
Later, as Tate and Altobelli share a flight to Europe, the actress asks Altobelli, “Did that creepy-looking guy come back there yesterday?”
Something in the Air
It’s May 1969. Terry Melcher cedes to Charles Manson’s overtures, and comes to Spahn Ranch. It’s not the producer’s first time at the guru’s makeshift compound, but it’ll be his last.
Even if Neil Young will one day note in his memoir that, as a singer-songwriter, Manson was “quite good,” Melcher isn't impressed. It’s a hard pass.
Manson is not happy, but, as they say in Hollywood, he’s got other projects. The "virulent racist," as future biographer Jeff Guinn will describe him, has been talking more and more about jumpstarting what he sees as the coming race war between white and black America. The time for “Helter Skelter,” as he has dubbed his philosophy, is near.
Later, law enforcement would pay a visit to Spahn Ranch, where Manson and his "family" were living on, well, very little.
Here's a sampling of one of the interiors at Spahn Ranch at the time.
Time of the Season
On August 6, 1969, at a little before 11 a.m., according to an arrest report recounted by the Manson Family public-record site, CieloDrive.com, a California Highway Patrol officer rolls up on a Fiat station wagon parked along the side of the Highway 101 in central California’s San Luis Obispo. There’s a man in a sleeping bag in the back seat.
The man doesn’t have proper identification, and he doesn’t have a good explanation as to how he came to be in a vehicle that’s registered to Gary Hinman, a Los Angeles-area musician and music teacher who, as a relative will one day tell People, “was an eclectic person” who easily befriended people -- and who was found slaughtered in his Topanga home about two weeks prior.
The man’s name is Robert Kenneth Beausoleil (pictured). Bobby, as he's known, used to live with Hinman. Now he lists his address as 14400 W. Sunset Blvd., the old Dennis Wilson hang.
Beausoleil is arrested for murder -- a Manson Family first.
Sharon Tate is going to name the baby Paul after her Army intelligence officer father. Paul Richard Polanski -- that’ll be his full name. Tate and Roman Polanski will meet him soon enough. Their son is due in two weeks.
Today is Friday, August 8, 1969. It’s hot. The Los Angeles forecast calls for clouds and a high of 94.
In the morning, Tate and Polanski talk by phone. He’s still in London. She’s back at 10050 Cielo Drive.
“[Sharon] told me that they had found a wild kitten, and they were trying to feed it with an eyedropper, and they were keeping him in the bathtub because he was absolutely wild, jumping on people, etc.,” Roman Polanski will relate of their final conversation to Playboy a couple of years later.
It’s not clear who “they” is, though Sharon Tate is not without company while Polanski’s away.
The director’s friend Voytek Frykowski, 32, is staying at Cielo Drive while he writes. Frykowski’s girlfriend, Abigail Folger, who is due to turn 26 on the following Monday, is living there, too.
On that Friday, house staff and gardeners are also on hand. There are visitors, too: actresses Joanna Pettet (1967’s "Casino Royale") and Barbara “Bobo” Lewis ("The Monkees," "Bewitched") lunch with Sharon Tate in the afternoon. Tate shows her friends the nursery that awaits baby Paul.
A couple of hours after Pettet and Lewis depart, Jay Sebring (pictured) arrives. Tate’s ex-fiancé, the 35-year-old Sebring has remained friends with the married star. With Roman Polanski’s blessing, he’s a frequent visitor to Cielo Drive.
Down on the Corner
On this Friday night, Jay Sebring makes reservations for the four Cielo Drive regulars -- himself, Sharon Tate, Voytek Fyrkowski and Abigail Folger -- to dine out at El Coyote.
The red-boothed, classic L.A. Mexican restaurant is located on Beverly Boulevard, a 15-20-minute drive down the canyon from Tate's house. The group arrives, hangs at the bar as they await their table, and then dines.
Around 10 p.m., they head back to Cielo Drive.
At about 11 p.m., on August 8, 1969, his night shift at Jonas Miller Stereo on Wilshire Boulevard behind him, Steven Parent packs a state-of-the-art Sony Digimatic clock radio into his father’s white AMC Rambler.
Parent hits the road from El Monte, per "Helter Skelter." (A San Gabriel Valley Tribune account says Parent departs from the stereo shop.)
All major accounts agree on this point: Parent is headed off to try to sell the clock radio to his friend, William Garretson. The 19-year-old Garretson (pictured) works as a live-in caretaker at 10050 Cielo Drive.
Let It Bleed
Does he do it to throw the police off the trail of Bobby Beausoleil, one of his loyalists? Does he do it to strike fear in Terry Melcher? Does he do it because he can, because the one the Family calls Jesus Christ can do anything? Or, does he do it to serve his philosophy of Helter Skelter?
Prosecutors will successfully argue the last point at his eventual murder trial.
The bottom line is this: Charles Manson does it. He orders four members of the Family -- Dennis Wilson’s old acquaintance Patricia Krenwinkle, Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian -- to drive to 10050 Cielo Drive. Their mission: Kill everyone inside.
At about 8 a.m., on August 9, 1969, Winifred Chapman, the housekeeper at Cielo Drive, reports to work. She finds a crime scene.
Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski have been shot, stabbed and beaten. Steven Parent is dead, too -- slain in his Rambler as he headed out and down the driveway.
William Garretson, as Vincent Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" will put it, is the "only person still alive on the premises." Police don’t think the caretaker got lucky; police think he’s the killer.
Garretson is arrested.
Back at Spahn Ranch, Charles Manson wants a do-over. The Gary Hinman killing, which he ordered for reasons that remain murky to this day, was a protracted affair. The Cielo Drive killings weren’t efficient, either.
Maybe the kill team from the Tate house had told Manson about how Voytek Frykowski and Abigail Folger ran for their lives, and had to be chased down on the lawn. Or maybe they told Manson about how Sharon Tate begged the knife-wielding Susan Atkins to spare the life of her unborn baby.
In any case, Manson determines to set things right per his twisted view. On the night of August 9, 1969, Manson rounds up Tex Watson (pictured), Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Leslie Van Houten. He and the Family hit the road.
Fourteen-year-old Frank Struthers Jr. is having too much fun at Lake Isabella to want to go home. His mother, Rosemary LaBianca, agrees to let Frank Jr. stay an extra day with a friend at the Kern County, California, reservoir.
Rosemary LaBianca, husband Leno LaBianca and Suzan Struthers, Frank’s sister and Rosemary’s child from a previous marriage, meanwhile, call it a wrap on the family weekend.
Bound for Los Angeles, some 150 miles south, the family hits the road.
The Worst That Could Happen
At about 1 a.m. on Sunday, per the timeline as presented in "Helter Skelter," the LaBiancas and Suzan Struthers arrive in their L.A. neighborhood of Los Feliz. Struthers lives in an apartment at 4616 Greenwood Place, the future main exterior for TV’s "Melrose Place." The LaBiancas drop her off there.
Next, the LaBiancas stop at a local newsstand. Leno LaBianca buys a newspaper. Finally, they drive to their own home: on Waverly Drive -- 3301 Waverly Drive.
Charles Manson, meanwhile, pulls an address out of his head, and directs Linda Kasabian, the Family’s driver, to his old pal Harold True’s house.
True lives at 3267 Waverly -- or, at least he did. He and his friends vacated the rental about a year earlier. Undeterred, Manson sets his sights on the house next to True's old pad. The house at 3301 Waverly Drive.
Carry That Weight
Bad things that can happen to anyone put everyone on edge. “Toilets are flushing all over Beverly Hills -- the entire Los Angeles sewer system is stoned,” an unnamed Hollywoodista tells Life magazine weeks after the Tate slayings.
It’s speculated -- if not feared -- that the actress, her friends and Steven Parent were killed by drug dealers. (William Garretson, who passes a lie-detector test, is cleared and released from custody within a day’s time.)
There’s a larger assumption that a quirk or kink in the victims’ lifestyles is responsible.
“This must be the world-famous orgy house,” Roman Polanski says bitterly as he visits the still-blood-splattered Cielo Drive with a Life reporter in late August 1969.
Rosemary and Leno LaBianca don’t fit the Hollywood-hedonism-gone-bad narrative, but no matter: At first, they don’t fit into the narrative at all.
Despite the victims of Cielo and Waverly drives being similarly butchered, and despite "White Album"-inspired scrawlings being similarly left behind in blood (“Pig” at Cielo; “Death to pigs” at Waverly), it’ll take police months to link the Tate killings to the LaBianca killings.
It’ll also take police months to link the Tate-LaBianca killings to the Gary Hinman case.
Seeing Things Through
In seeking out the killers, police focus on evidence big and little.
On October 23rd, law enforcement officials reveal that a pair of prescription eyeglasses found at the home of slain actress Sharon Tate may lead to the killer of the star and four other persons.
The glasses are photographed by the press, pictured on top of a notice that police have distributed to various optometric associations describing the glasses. Authorities say the wearer of the glasses is "quite a bit nearsighted" and would have to replace them.
The Beginning of the End
The killers will be caught by unlikely twists and turns themselves: chief among them, in October 1969, authorities, acting on tip related to stolen cars, raid a property in California’s Death Valley.
The property's called Barker Ranch, and it’s where the Family has relocated after their run at Spahn Ranch ends (and Spahn Ranch ranch hand Donald “Shorty” Shea goes missing -- and is presumed dead).
Among those arrested in the Barker Ranch sweep is Susan Atkins. While in custody, the 21-year-old is implicated in the Gary Hinman murder. But the bigger picture isn’t clear until Atkins gets chatty -- very chatty.
Atkins tells her cellmates all about Sharon Tate, the LaBiancas, herself, her cohorts -- and Charles Manson. By December 1969, the puzzle pieces are assembled, and the blame for the August 1969 killings is placed where it belongs: with the Manson Family.
Trial of the Century
Media obsesses over the resulting trials.
During the entire court proceedings, Manson amuses himself in the courtroom by doodling on pieces of paper, seen here.
Avatars of Murder
The trials are full of evidence.
Here are some mannequins used in trial of Manson Family members.
Susan Atkins, Robert Beausoleil, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, Steve “Clem” Grogan, Bruce Davis and Charles Manson will be convicted for their respective roles in the summer of ‘69 slayings.
Linda Kasabian, who did not actively participate in the Tate-LaBianca killings, will be granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.
Manson and Atkins will die in jail -- in 2017 and 2009, respectively.
All the rest, save for Grogan, who was paroled in 1985 for assisting in the location of Donald Shea’s remains, remain in prison.
Fifty years on, just as there was no milestone 50th birthday for Paul Richard Polanski, there’s no closure for those swept up in the awful saga of chance.
“We went from 'Happy Days' to hell in one weekend,” Lou Smaldino, a nephew of the LaBiancas told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. “The fork that they stabbed Leno with was from the carving set we used for our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I can see that… To this day, I can see that in my mind.”
We don’t know if or how often Dennis Wilson thought back to that day in Malibu, the one when he did a solid for a couple of hitchhikers. In 1976, Wilson swore to Rolling Stone he’d “never talk about that,” meaning Charles Manson and the Manson Family. He never did.
A broken, substance-abusing Wilson drowned in 1983 at the age of 39. The death was ruled an accident.