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The Tate-LaBianca murders were perpetrated by members of the Manson Family in Los Angeles, California, when five people were killed on August 8-9, 1969, and two additional victims were killed the following evening.
On the night of August 8, four members of the Manson Family invaded the rented home of a married celebrity couple, actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles. They murdered Tate, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, along with three friends who were visiting at the time, and an 18-year-old visitor, who was slain as he was departing the home. Polanski was not present on the night of the murders, as he was working on a film in Europe.
The murders were carried out by Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel, under the direction of Charles Manson. Watson drove Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian from Spahn Ranch to the residence on Cielo Drive. Manson, a would-be musician, had previously attempted to enter into a recording contract with record producer Terry Melcher, who was a previous renter (from May 1966 to January 1969) of the house along with musician Mark Lindsay and Melcher's then-girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen. Melcher had snubbed Manson, leaving him disgruntled.
The next night of August 9, six Family members - Leslie Van Houten, Steve "Clem" Grogan, and the four from the previous night - drove out on Manson's orders. Displeased by the panic of the victims at Cielo Drive, Manson accompanied the six, "to show them how to do it.":176-184, 258-269 After a few hours' ride, in which he considered a number of murders and even attempted one of them,:258-269 Manson gave Kasabian directions that brought the group to 3301 Waverly Drive. This was the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, a dress shop co-owner.:22-25, 42-48 Located in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, it was next door to a house at which Manson and Family members had attended a party the previous year.:176-184, 204-210 In the early morning hours of August 10, both Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were murdered by the Manson Family.
|Location||10050 Cielo Drive|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Date||August 8-9, 1969|
|Mass murder, stabbing|
|Weapons||.22 caliber revolver, pocketknife|
Charles "Tex" Watson
On the night of August 8, 1969, Tex Watson took Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to "that house where Melcher used to live", as Manson had instructed him, to "totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can".:463-468 Manson had told the women to do as Watson would instruct them.:176-184, 258-269 Krenwinkel was one of the early Family members and had allegedly been picked up by Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys while hitchhiking.:250-253
The occupants of the house at 10050 Cielo Drive that evening, all of whom were strangers to the Manson followers, were movie actress and fashion model Sharon Tate, who was eight-and-a half months pregnant and the wife of film director Roman Polanski; her friend and former lover Jay Sebring, a noted hairstylist; Polanski's friend and aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski; and Frykowski's lover Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folger coffee fortune, and daughter of Peter Folger.:28-38 Polanski was in Europe working on a film project; Tate had accompanied him, but returned home three weeks earlier. Music producer Quincy Jones, a friend of Sebring, had planned to join him that evening, but did not go. Sebring had invited Steve McQueen to the party at Tate's house on the night of the murders; according to McQueen, he invited a girlfriend to come along but she instead suggested an intimate night at home.
When the group arrived at the entrance to the property, Watson, who had been to the house on at least one other occasion, climbed a telephone pole near the entrance gate and cut the phone line to the house.
The group backed their car to the bottom of the hill that led to the estate, parked, and walked back up to the house. Thinking the gate might be electrified or equipped with an alarm, they climbed a brushy embankment to the right of the gate and entered the grounds.:176-184
Just then, headlights approached them from farther within the angled property. Watson ordered the women to lie in the bushes. He stepped out and ordered the approaching driver to halt. Eighteen-year-old student Steven Parent had been visiting the property's caretaker, William Garretson, who lived in the property's guest house. As Watson leveled a .22-caliber revolver at Parent, the frightened youth begged Watson not to hurt him, claiming that he would not say anything. Watson lunged at Parent with a knife, giving him a defensive slash wound on the palm of his hand (severing tendons and tearing the boy's watch off his wrist), then shot him four times in the chest and abdomen, killing him. Watson ordered the women to help push the car further up the driveway.:22-25
After traversing the front lawn and having Kasabian search for an open window to the main house, Watson cut the screen of a window. Watson told Kasabian to keep watch down by the gate; she walked over to Parent's AMC Ambassador and waited.:258-269:176-184 Watson removed the screen, entered through the window, and let Atkins and Krenwinkel in through the front door.:176-184
As Watson whispered to Atkins, a sleeping Frykowski awoke on the living room couch; Watson kicked him in the head. When Frykowski asked him who he was and what he was doing there, Watson replied: "I'm the devil, and I'm here to do the devil's business.":176-184
On Watson's direction, Atkins found the house's three other occupants and, with Krenwinkel's help,:176-184, 297-300 forced them to the living room. Watson began to tie Tate and Sebring together by their necks with rope he had brought and slung up over one of the living room's ceiling beams. Sebring's protest - his second - of rough treatment of the pregnant Tate prompted Watson to shoot him. Folger was taken momentarily back to her bedroom for her purse, out of which she gave the intruders $70. After that, Watson stabbed the groaning Sebring seven times.:28-38
Frykowski's hands had been bound with a towel. Freeing himself, Frykowski began struggling with Atkins, who stabbed at his legs with the knife with which she had been guarding him. As he fought his way toward and out the front door, onto the porch, Watson caught up with Frykowski and struck him over the head with the gun multiple times, stabbed him repeatedly, and shot him twice.
Around this time, Kasabian was drawn up from the driveway by "horrifying sounds". She arrived outside the door. In a vain effort to halt the massacre, she falsely told Atkins that someone was coming.:258-269
Inside the house, Folger had escaped from Krenwinkel and fled out a bedroom door to the pool area.:341-344, 356-361 Folger was pursued to the front lawn by Krenwinkel, who caught her, stabbed her, and finally tackled her to the ground. She was killed by Watson, who stabbed her 28 times.:28-38 As Frykowski struggled across the lawn, Watson murdered him with a final flurry of stabbings. Frykowski was stabbed a total of 51 times.:28-38, 258-269
In the house, Tate pleaded to be allowed to live long enough to give birth, and offered herself as a hostage in an attempt to save the life inside her. At this point either Atkins, Watson, or both killed Tate, who was stabbed 16 times.:28-38 Watson later wrote that as she was being killed, Tate cried: "Mother ... mother ..."
Earlier, as the four Family members had been heading out from Spahn Ranch, Manson had told the women to "leave a sign ... something witchy". Using the towel that had bound Frykowski's hands, Atkins wrote "pig" on the house's front door in Tate's blood. En route home, the killers changed out of their bloody clothes, which they disposed of in the hills along with their weapons.:84-90, 176-184
|Location||3301 Waverly Drive|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Date||August 10, 1969|
Leslie Van Houten
Charles "Tex" Watson
The next night of August 9, 1969, six Family members - Leslie Van Houten, Steve "Clem" Grogan, and the four from the previous night - drove out on Manson's orders. Displeased by the panic of the victims at Cielo Drive, Manson accompanied the six, "to show them how to do it.":176-184, 258-269 After a few hours' ride, in which he considered a number of murders and even attempted one of them,:258-269 Manson gave Kasabian directions that brought the group to 3301 Waverly Drive. This was the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, a dress shop co-owner.:22-25, 42-48 Located in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, it was next door to a house at which Manson and Family members had attended a party the previous year.:176-184, 204-210
According to Atkins and Kasabian, Manson disappeared up the driveway and returned to say he had tied up the house's occupants. He then sent Watson up with Krenwinkel and Van Houten.:176-184, 258-269 In his autobiography, Watson stated that having gone up alone, Manson returned to take him up to the house with him. After Manson pointed out a sleeping man through a window, the two of them entered through the unlocked back door. Watson added at trial, he "went along with" the women's account, which he figured made him "look that much less responsible."
As Watson related it, Manson roused the sleeping Leno LaBianca from the couch at gunpoint and had Watson bind his hands with a leather thong. After Rosemary was brought briefly into the living room from the bedroom, Watson followed Manson's instructions to cover the couple's heads with pillowcases. He bound these in place with lamp cords. Manson left, sending Krenwinkel and Van Houten into the house with instructions that the couple be killed.:176-184, 258-269
Before leaving Spahn Ranch, Watson had complained to Manson of the inadequacy of the previous night's weapons.:258-269 Now, sending the women from the kitchen to the bedroom to which Rosemary LaBianca had been returned, he went to the living room and began stabbing Leno LaBianca with a chrome-plated bayonet. The first thrust went into the man's throat.
Sounds of a scuffle in the bedroom drew Watson there to discover Rosemary LaBianca keeping the women at bay by swinging the lamp tied to her neck. After subduing her with several stabs of the bayonet, he returned to the living room and resumed attacking Leno, whom he stabbed a total of 12 times with the bayonet. After this attack, the word "WAR" was carved into his abdomen by a perpetrator.[a]
Returning to the bedroom, Watson found Krenwinkel stabbing Rosemary LaBianca with a knife from the LaBianca kitchen. Heeding Manson's instruction to make sure each of the women played a part, Watson told Van Houten to stab Mrs. LaBianca too. She did, stabbing her approximately 16 times in the back and the exposed buttocks.:204-210, 297-300, 341-344 At trial, Van Houten would claim, uncertainly,:433 that Rosemary LaBianca was dead when she stabbed her. Evidence showed that many of Mrs. LaBianca's 41 stab wounds had, in fact, been inflicted post-mortem.:44, 206, 297, 341-42, 380, 404, 406-07, 433
While Watson cleaned off the bayonet and showered, Krenwinkel wrote "Rise" and "Death to pigs" on the walls and "Healter [sic] Skelter" on the refrigerator door, all in LaBianca's blood. She gave Leno LaBianca 14 puncture wounds with an ivory-handled, two-tined carving fork, which she left jutting out of his stomach. She also planted a steak knife in his throat.:176-184, 258-269
Meanwhile, hoping for a double crime, Manson had gone on to direct Kasabian to drive to the Venice home of an actor acquaintance of hers, another "piggy". Depositing the other three Family members who had departed Spahn with him that evening at the man's apartment building, Manson drove back to Spahn Ranch, leaving them and the LaBianca killers to hitchhike home.:176-184, 258-269 Kasabian thwarted this murder by deliberately knocking on the wrong apartment door and waking a stranger. As the group abandoned the murder plan and left, Atkins defecated in the stairwell.:270-273
In initial confessions to cellmates of hers at Sybil Brand Institute, Atkins said she killed Tate.:84-90 In later statements to her attorney, to prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, and before a grand jury, Atkins indicated Tate had been stabbed by Tex Watson.:163-74, 176-84
In his 1978 autobiography, Watson said that he had stabbed Tate and that Atkins had never touched her. Since he was aware that the prosecutor, Bugliosi, and the jury, that had tried the other Tate-LaBianca defendants, were convinced Atkins had stabbed Tate, he falsely testified that he did not stab her.
After leaving the DA's office, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, jointly with Curt Gentry, wrote a book about the Manson trial called Helter Skelter (1974). The book won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best true crime book of the year.
It was adapted twice for television movies (one produced in 1976 and one in 2004). As of 2015, it is the best-selling true crime book in publishing history, with more than 7 million copies sold.