In November 1968 Tex left the Mason family and moved to Hollywood with his girlfriend, Luella. The two were financially comfortable drug peddlers and Tex changed his dirty hippie image for a more stylish Hollywood look. As the couple's relationship fell apart, Tex's desire to reunite with the Manson family grew. By March 1969, he was back at Spahn Ranch and back in the inner Manson circle. But the family focus had changed into something sinister - somthing the family called "Helter Skelter."
10050 Cielo Drive:
For months Manson spent long hours talking about Helter-Skelter. But the revolution was not happening quickly enough for Manson and a plan to kick start things went into place. On August 8, 1969, the first phase of Helter-Skelter was to begin. Manson put Tex in charge of family members - Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian. He instructed Tex to go to 10050 Cielo Drive and kill everyone inside the home, make it look bad, but most importantly make sure each girl participated.
The Tate Murders:
With Watson in the lead, the four entered the home of actress Sharon Tate-Polanski. Once inside they brutally beat, stabbed and shot all occupants inside the home including the eight-month pregnant Sharon Tate, who begged for her baby's life and cried out for her mother as they stabbed her 15 times. Also found shot to death was 18-year-old Steven Earl Parent, who was visiting the caretaker and caught by the Manson group as he was leaving the residence.
The LaBianca Murders:
The next day Manson, Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Steve Grogan drove to the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Manson and Watson entered the home and bound the couple, then Manson left and sent in Krenwinkel and Van Houten. The three stabbed and beat Leno then his wife Rosemary. They then scrawled on the walls in blood, the words "Healter Skelter" (Helter misspelled) and "Kill the Pigs". Manson had issued the order to kill but left before the killing began.
Donald "Shorty" Shea:
On August 16, 1969, just eight days after the Cielo Drive murders, police raided Spahn ranch and rounded up several members on auto theft charges. After the raid the family headed for Death Valley, but not before Manson, Watson, Steve Grogan, Bill Vance and Larry Bailey killed ranch-hand Donald "Shorty" Shea. Manson believed Shea was a snitch and responsible for the raid.
Leaving the Manson Family:
Watson stayed with the Manson family until the first of October then decided to return to Texas. But the dramatic change from when he first left home in 1964 to who he was five years later made it difficult to stay. He decided to go to Mexico but felt the strong pull to go back to Charlie and his real family. He then flew to L.A. and made his way close to where the family was staying, but stopped short because of the realization that if he did return, Charlie would surely kill him.
Back to Texas and a New Life :
Watson returned to his family in Texas, only this time he cut his hair and began trying to blend into his unfamiliar family world. He reunited with an old girlfriend and his drug use became minimal. The future began to show an inch of promise with parts of his old life
returning. All of that stopped on November 30, 1969, after he was arrested for the Tate and LaBianca murders and charged with seven counts of murder, charges his mother took years to accept and believe.
Tex Watson Charged With Seven Murders:
Some of the members of the Manson family had provided the D.A.'s office in Los Angeles with what they heard around the ranch the days following the murders, but it was Susan (Sadie) Atkins who couldn't resist bragging about the Manson family and the murders while in Sybil Brand Institute for Women in Los Angeles. Later she told the same story to the grand jury and described Watson's involvement in the murders. It was not long after that Tex was located in Texas and arrested.
Extradited Back to California :
After fighting for extradition back to California for nine months he was finally returned on September 11, 1970. By this time Manson, Sadie, Katie, and Leslie were in their third month of trial. The extradition process prevented Watson from being tried with the group. It also allowed Tex the opportunity to find out who was being blamed for what crimes so when it came time for his trial he knew what to admit to and what was already being blamed on the others.
Once in California, Watson began suffering from acute paranoia and regressed to a fetal state, stopped eating and reached 55 pounds before being sent to Atascadero State Hospital for a 90-day evaluation period to see if he was fit to stand trial. It was not until August 2, 1971, that Charles Tex Watson would finally go on trial for his brutal murders.
The Trial: District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi had successfully prosecuted the others involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders and now began the trial of the last, and most culpable of all parties involved. Dressed in a suit and holding the Bible, Watson plead not guilty by reason of insanity yet was sane enough to
admit on the stand only those crimes which he knew the prosecution was already aware. He failed to admit to killing Sharon Tate or being with Charlie when the LaBiancas were first taken captive and bound.
After two and a half hours of deliberation, Charles "Tex" Watson was found sane during the murders at the Tate and LaBianca homes. For his crimes he received the death penalty.
Born Again: Tex spent from November 1971 until September 1972 on death row at San Quentin. After California outlawed the death penalty for a short time, he was moved to California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo. There he met Chaplain Raymond Hoekstra and became a born-again Christian. Charles Watson, five years after merciless murdering seven people in cold blood, was teaching Bible studies which eventually led to his forming his own prison ministry - Abounding Love Ministries.
Prison Life: During his stay at the Colony he also married, wrote "Will You Die for Me" an autobiography, and gained the trust of Suzanne Struthers (Rosemary LaBianca's daughter) who fought for his release during a 1990 parole hearing.
Where Watson is Today: Since 1993 he has been at the Mule Creek State Prison, and is the father to four children. He remains married and continues to fight for his parole. To date, he has been denied parole 13 times.
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