On August 8, 1969, the city of Los Angeles awoke to the terrible news that Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanski, had been murdered in her house, along with four others. It took the police nearly a year to find and arrest the culprits, four young people who belonged to a cult known as the Manson Family.
Charles Manson was the leader of the cult. Although he didn’t physically play a role in the deaths, he was considered the instigator. The Manson Family showed the dark side of the hippie counterculture that was starting to reign at that time.
Charles Manson, the leader of the Manson Family
When Charles Manson was released from prison in the late 60s, he encountered the hippie movement, which was rapidly expanding at the time.
During this time, he managed to recruit some members to the Manson Family. Eventually, they ended up with blood on their hands on his behalf.
Manson knew how to manipulate and dominate vulnerable young people. In fact, many of the experts in this particular case highlighted his ability to detect weaknesses in those around him and manipulate them.
He may have developed these abilities in his dysfunctional childhood and adolescence. He was clearly negatively influenced by his upbringing.
However, Manson didn’t set out to be a cult leader. He wanted to be famous. In fact, he wanted to achieve success in the music industry. His failure to do so became one of the triggers for those fatal events of the summer of 1969.
The Manson Family, the followers
Manson moved to Spahn Ranch in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains with his disciples. There were a total of 39 adults and 7 children. They lived in total isolation, away from all outside influences.
Manson controlled what happened at all times. His goal was to have complete dominance and power. To this end, he made members of his cult carry out certain tasks.
Manson came to dominate the minds of his followers to such an extent that they believed that the world was coming to an end and that there was going to be an inter-racial war.
The 10050 Cielo Drive murders
Manson chose four of his followers to carry out the murders. They were Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, Susan ‘Sadie’ Atkins, Patricia ‘Katie’ Krenwinkle, and Linda Kasabian. The target was the mansion of Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate.
Shortly before midnight on August 8, 1969, Manson gave orders to Watson. They all set off for the mansion carrying several knives, some rope, and a gun.
A quiet evening planned
On the night of August 8, Sharon Tate had invited several friends to her home. She was feeling lonely as her husband, Roman Polanski, was in Europe, preparing for his next shoot. Her friends, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Voytek Frykowski, planned to stay the night.
Steve Parent was the first to die. He was an 18-year-old who’d been visiting his friend, the caretaker of the estate, who lived in an adjacent property. Watson shot Parent at point-blank range.
After that, Watson, Atkins, and Krenwinkle entered the house through an open window.
The Manson Family gathered Sharon Tate and her guests together in the living room. Once there, they tied up Sharon, Abigail, and Jay by the neck. Jay tried to protect Sharon, but Watson shot him and then hit him in the face with a revolver.
Voytek, who’d been restrained by Atkins, managed to escape. However, he was stabbed several times in the leg by Watson and hit with the butt of his gun. Abigail had also managed to escape and reached the garden, but Krenwinkle hunted her down and repeatedly stabbed her. The only person left was Sharon. Although she pleaded for her life so she could give birth to her son, they stabbed her to death.
When Atkins was convicted of another murder, she admitted to being involved in the 10050 Cielo Drive murders. On December 5, 1969, she confessed in exchange for a deal with the prosecution to avoid the death sentence.
The police subsequently issued arrest warrants for Krenwinkle, Watson, Manson, and Kasabian. The latter became the main witness for the prosecution. In fact, she testified and provided evidence against Manson and the Family in exchange for immunity. To this day, she’s the only one who remains free.
On January 25, 1971, the jury gave its verdict. Krenwinkle, Watson, and Manson were found guilty of conspiracy and murder along with another follower, Leslie Van Houten (for a different murder). On March 29, all of them were sentenced to death, including Atkins, because she decided to retract her initial statement.
However, the state of California abolished the death sentence in 1972. For this reason, the sentences were all commuted to life in prison.
The end of the Manson Family
The convicted members of the Manson Family remained in different prisons. They were repeatedly denied parole.
Atkins died in prison in 2009 from brain cancer. Manson died in 2017 at the age of 83 in prison. He’d been serving a life sentence since 1971.
Watson, still in prison, converted to evangelical Christianity. He married and had four children, thanks to conjugal prison visits. Krenwinkle remains in prison and has proved herself a model prisoner.
At the time, people were horrified to discover that these murders had been committed by young people from normal middle-class families. People wondered how they could possibly commit such bloody murders under the orders of Charles Manson.
The 10050 Cielo Drive mansion was demolished and nothing has been built in its place.
Charles Manson and the Psychology Behind His Evil Cult