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Charle Manson and the Tate and LaBianca Murders


Manson Mugshot
Hulton Archive/Stringer/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The Tate Murders:

On the night of August 8, 1969, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian were sent by Charlie to the old home of Terry Melcher at 10050 Cielo Drive. Their instructions were to kill everyone at the house and make it appear like Hinman's murder, with words and symbols written in blood on the walls. The four did as they were told and brutally killed Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Sharon Tate and Sharon Tate's unborn child.

Leno and Rosemary LaBianca:

The next day Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Steve Grogan, Leslie Van Houten, and Linda Kasabian went to the home of Leno and Rosemary Labianca. Manson and Watson tied up the couple and Manson left. He told Van Houten and Krenwinkel to go in and kill the LaBiancas. The three separated the couple and murdered them, then had dinner and a shower and hitchhiked back to Spahn Ranch. Manson, Atkins, Grogan and Kasabian drove around looking for others to kill, but failed.

Manson and The Family Arrested:

At Spahn Ranch rumors of the group's involvement began to circulate. So did the police helicopters above the ranch, but because of unrelated investigation. Parts of stolen cars were spotted in and around the ranch by police in the helicopters. On August 16, 1969, Manson and the Family were rounded up by police and taken in on suspicion of auto theft (not an unfamiliar charge for Manson). The search warrant ended up being invalid because of a date error and the group was released.

Donald "Shorty" Shea:

Charlie blamed the arrests on Spahn's ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea for snitching on the family. It was no secret that Shorty wanted the family off the ranch. Manson decided it was time for the family to move to Barker Ranch near Death Valley, but before leaving, Manson, Bruce Davis, Tex Watson and Steve Grogan killed Shorty and buried his body behind the ranch.

The Barker Ranch Raid:

The Family moved onto the Barker Ranch and spent time turning stolen cars into dune buggys. On October 10, 1969 Barker Ranch was raided after investigators spotted stolen cars on the property and traced evidence of an arson back to Manson. Manson was not around during the first Family roundup, but returned on October 12 and was arrested with seven other family members. When police arrived Manson hid under a small bathroom cabinet, but was quickly discovered.

The Confession of Susan Atkins:

One of the biggest breaks in the case came when Susan Atkins boasted in detail about the murders to her prison cell mates. She gave specific details about Manson and the killings. She also told of other famous people the Family planned on killing. Her cellmate reported the information to the authorities and Atkins was offered a life sentence in return for her testimony. She refused the offer, but repeated the prison cell story to the grand jury. Later Atkins recannted her grand jury testimony.

The Grand Jury Indictment:

It took 20 minutes for the grand jury to hand down murder indictments on Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, Kasabian, and Van Houten. Watson was fighting extradition from Texas and Kasabian became the prosecutions main witness. Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten were tried together. Chief prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, offered Kasabian prosecutorial immunity for her testimony. Kasabian agreed, giving Bugliosi the final piece of the puzzle needed to convict Manson and the others.

Bugliosi's Challenge - Manson Never Murdered Anyone:

The challenge for Bugliosi was to get the jury to find Manson as responsible for the murders as those who actually committed the murders. Manson's courtroom antics helped Bugliosi accomplish this task. On the first day of court he showed up with a bloody swastika carved into his forehead. He tried starring down Bugliosi and with a series of hand gestures had the three women disrupt the courtroom, all in hopes of a mistrial.

Manson Is Found Guilty:

It was Kasabian's account of the murders and of the control that Manson had over the Family that nailed Bugliosi's case. She told the jury that no family member ever wanted to tell Charlie Manson "no." On January 25, 1971 the jury returned a guilty verdict of all defendants and on all counts of first-degree murder. Manson, like the other three defendants, was sentenced to death in the gas chamber. Manson shouted, "You people have no authority over me," as he was led off in handcuffs.

Manson's Prison Years:

Manson was originally sent to San Quentin State Prison, but was transferred to Vacaville then to Folsom and then back to San Quentin because of his constant conflicts with prison officials and other inmates. In 1989 he was sent to California's Corcoran State Prison where he currently resides. Because of various infractions in prison, Manson has spent a considerable amount of time under disciplinary custody (or as prisoners call it, "the hole"), where he was kept in isolation for 23 hours a day and kept handcuffed when moving within the general prison areas.

When not in the hole he, is kept in the prison's Protective Housing Unit (PHU) because of threats made on his life. Since his incarceration he has been raped, set on fire, beaten several times and poisoned. While in PHU he is allowed to visit with other inmates, have books, art supplies and other restricted privileges.

Over the years he has been charged with various crimes including conspiracy to distribute narcotics, destruction of state property, and assault of a prison guard.

He has been denied parole 10 times, the last time in 2001 when he refused to attend the hearing because he was forced to wear handcuffs. His next parole is 2007. He will be 73 years old.

The Family, Helter Skelter
The Early Years

See Also: The Manson Family Photo Album

Desert Shadows by Bob Murphy
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
The Trial of Charles Manson by Bradley Steffens

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