AP Photo/George Brich
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cult leader Charles Manson, who directed his “family” to carry out a series of shocking murders in 1969 in a bid to start a race war he called “Helter Skelter,” died of natural causes at 83.
He collected a band of young followers in California before orchestrating the slayings of actress Sharon Tate; friends Jay Sebring, Voityck Frykowski and Abigail Folger; and Steve Parent, a guesthouse visitor on Aug. 9, 1969. The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were killed.
Manson and three followers were convicted of murder. Manson also was later convicted of the slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea.
Here’s a look at the key people involved in the case:
Convicted of the Tate, LaBianca and Hinman murders. A teenage runaway, she wound up dancing in a topless bar in San Francisco and using drugs. She met Manson while living in a commune in the Haight-Ashbury district. Manson gave her a cult name, Sadie Mae Glutz, and when she became pregnant by a “family” member, he helped deliver the baby, naming the boy Zezozoze Zadfrack.
The Manson slayings were unsolved for three months until Atkins confessed to a cellmate after her arrest on an unrelated charge. At trial, she testified she was “stoned on acid” and didn’t know how many times she stabbed Tate.
“She kept begging and pleading and begging and pleading, and I got sick of listening to it, so I stabbed her,” she said.
Atkins said at the time she felt no guilt, but many years later she said she had sinned. She was married twice in prison and died of brain cancer on Sept. 24, 2009, shortly after being denied parole again. She was 61.
Participated in the Tate-LaBianca killings. She was a 19-year-old secretary when she met Manson at a party. She has said she left everything behind three days later to follow him because she believed they had a budding romantic relationship, but those feelings faded when Manson became physically and emotionally abusive and trafficked her to other men for sex. She said she left Manson twice but was brought back and was usually under the influence of drugs and rarely left alone.
She testified at a parole hearing last year that she repeatedly stabbed Folger at Tate’s home and stabbed Leno LaBianca in the stomach with a fork, then wrote “Helter Skelter,” ”Rise” and “Death to Pigs” on walls with his blood. She was most recently denied parole in June.
LESLIE VAN HOUTEN
Convicted of the LaBianca murders. She has told a parole panelists that she was devastated by her parents’ divorce when she was 14, started using marijuana and LSD by 15, ran away with a boyfriend to San Francisco at 17 and then returned home pregnant. When her mother found out, Van Houten says she ordered her to have an abortion and bury the fetus in their backyard.
Traveling California, she met Manson at an abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles. She has said she held Rosemary LaBianca down with a pillowcase over her head as others stabbed her dozens of times. Then, ordered by Manson disciple Charles “Tex” Watson to “do something,” she picked up a butcher knife and stabbed the woman more than a dozen times.
While incarcerated, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling, was certified as a counselor and headed numerous programs to help inmates. In September, she was recommended for release, a decision awaiting approval by the state Parole Board and Gov. Jerry Brown.
CHARLES “TEX” WATSON
Convicted of the Tate-LaBianca murders. Watson was a college dropout from Texas who headed to California in 1967 and once believed Manson offered “utopia” but actually had a destructive worldview, according to a website that promotes his prison ministry.
A psychiatric evaluation at the time of a 2006 parole hearing portrayed him as “a very devout fundamentalist Christian … a young, naive and gullible man (who) got into drugs and bizarre company without appreciating the deviance of the company he was keeping.”
Watson wrote a book in prison called “Manson’s Right-Hand Man Speaks Out!” He has argued he has changed, been a model prisoner and is no longer a danger to the public. He has repeatedly been denied parole.
Convicted of the Hinman and Shea murders but not involved in the Tate-LaBianca killings. Davis testified at his 2014 parole hearing that he attacked Shea with a knife and held a gun on Hinman while Manson cut Hinman’s face with a sword.
“I wanted to be Charlie’s favorite guy,” he said then.
Parole panels have repeatedly recommended his release but the governor has blocked it, most recently in June.
The 26-year-old former model gained film stardom after appearing in 1966’s “Valley of the Dolls.” A year later, she starred in “The Fearless Vampire Killers,” directed by her future husband, Roman Polanski. At the time of her death, Tate was 8 months pregnant with Polanski’s son. She pleaded with the killers to spare the life of her unborn child.
Tate’s mother, Doris, later became a driving force for victims’ rights in California and was instrumental in a 1982 law that allows family members to testify about their losses at trials and parole hearings.
The director was out of town the night of the killings. He has said it took him several years to recover from the grief of losing his wife and unborn child in such a brutal way. Now 84, Polanski has been a U.S. fugitive since he fled to France in 1978 after pleading guilty to one count of statutory rape for having sex with a 13-year-old girl during a photo shoot in Los Angeles.
Polanski won an Academy Award for best director for his 2002 film “The Pianist” and was nominated for 1974’s “Chinatown” and 1979’s “Tess.” Polanski has not commented on the death of Manson.
The Hollywood hairdresser was a former boyfriend of Tate. He pleaded with her killers to consider her unborn child. The 35-year-old was shot, kicked in the face and then stabbed multiple times.
The Alabama native was a Navy veteran who transformed the male hair care industry after graduating from beauty school in Los Angeles. His high-profile clients included Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. In 1967, he founded the company Sebring International to market hair care products and franchise his salons in New York, London and elsewhere.
VOITYCK FRYKOWSKI and ABIGAIL FOLGER
The couple had dined out with Tate and Sebring the night all four were killed. The 32-year-old Frykowski was a friend of Polanski’s from Poland and an aspiring screenwriter. An autopsy found he had been stabbed more than 50 times and shot twice. His 25-year-old girlfriend was the heir to the Folger coffee fortune. Folger managed to escape the house but was tackled on the front lawn and stabbed 28 times.
The 18-year-old was visiting the resident of a guesthouse on the Polanski-Tate estate and encountered the murderers as he was leaving.
LENO AND ROSEMARY LABIANCA
The wealthy couple, who owned a chain of Los Angeles grocery stores, were stabbed to death at their home the night after the Tate murders but had no connection to the actress or her glamorous friends. Their house was chosen by Manson, who tied them up and then ordered his followers to kill them. Among the weapons used was a chrome-plated bayonet. The word “war” was carved into Leno LaBianca’s abdomen. The 44-year-old was stabbed at least a dozen times.
The cool, relentless prosecutor became nearly as famous Manson himself during the trial that would define his life. Bugliosi famously denounced the cult leader as the “dictatorial maharajah of a tribe of bootlicking slaves” and called Manson’s followers “robots” and “zombies.”
He was an ambitious but anonymous deputy district attorney when he was handed the case after a more veteran prosecutor was removed for mocking one of the defendants to reporters.
After all were convicted, Bugliosi would go on to recount the case in “Helter Skelter,” one of the best-selling true-crime books of all time. He would write 11 more books after that, but Bugliosi, who died in 2015 at 80, would be best remembered as the man who put away Manson and his followers.
LYNETTE “SQUEAKY” FROMME
A Manson “family” member who was never implicated in the Tate-LaBianca murders, Fromme was convicted of pointing a handgun at President Gerald Ford in Sacramento in 1975. She was released in 2009. Fromme received her nickname from the “family” because of her voice.