The people in the following story are genuine and the events are real, but some of the names of the individuals have been changed to protect their privacy.
Fictitious names will be set in italic type (E.G. Ann Dornan) the first time each appears.
Revised from DISGUISE OF SANITY Pepperbox Books © Michael Cartel
“DON’T YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE CRUCIFYING?”
An early prison psychological report warned that Charles Manson was a “poor risk for probation.” Every time he was released from the joint he happily got back into crime. He said the only stable home he knew was prison.
Mason’s first home was with his single mother who soon farmed her son out to neighbors in Cincinnati or relatives in the backwater. At 12 he was sent to an Indiana boy’s home for warehousing, then to a series of juvenile impounds after committing various robberies, burglaries. Just after his mandatory release at 18, Manson raped another boy at knifepoint. Sent to a Federal reformatory, Charlie worked at getting paroled.
Released in mid-1954, Manson discovered girls and married the first accepting his proposal. He worked hard to pay bills by stealing cars at night. Charlie drove his now pregnant wife in a boosted car from Ohio to Los Angeles and was arrested on a federal rap, just four months after his release. A sympathetic psychological evaluation convinced a judge to give Manson a suspended sentence and five years probation. Manson quickly violated his parole and was sent to prison for three years on Terminal Island.
In jail he listened to pimps talk about love and money made from their stables of obedient, beautiful women. When released, Manson looked up jailhouse friends and got two teenage hookers but found he couldn’t break into the business. Charlie went back to serious crime, got arrested on a forged federal check and now faced a decade in prison. But then, a girl claiming to be the mother of Manson’s unborn child gave a hysterical performance in court and the 10-year sentence evaporated into more probation and freedom.
During the next year Manson was back pandering while working full-time stealing everything from credit cards to autos. Arrested and released several times, Manson was finally tagged with running an interstate prostitution ring. While free on bail he ran away to Texas. Arrested in Lorado in connection with another pimping venture, Manson got bounced back to the same L.A. judge who had earlier given him probation. Less sympathetic he sent Manson to the McNeil Federal pen to serve 10 years hard time.
Back in jail, Manson learned to play guitar and write music while studying hypnotism, black magic, group control, pop-psychiatry, occult-mysticism and offbeat religious cults. He borrowed and twisted phrases until he had an impressive litany of guru psychobabble. He added science fiction ideas, mixing everything with Bible sloganeering, mostly from the Book of Revelation.
In 1966 Manson went back to Terminal Island to begin his release. Charlie said he had no plans on the outside and pleaded with the officials not to let him out of prison.
Released on March 21, 1967, Manson told officials that he was going up to Berkeley. He didn’t tell them that he was looking up prison contacts. When Charlie arrived in the Bay Area he was thunderstruck at how much had changed.
He mingled with the street people at the university while playing guitar and panhandling, performing his jailhouse hype while loading new ideas from the counterculture. Laury Jenning, a librarian from Wisconsin got swept away with Manson’s comic book jargon and moved him right into her apartment.
Charlie commuted back to the beach area of L.A. and picked up Lynette ‘Squeeky’ Fromme as she sat crying on a bench, not far from where her father had thrown her out of his house. Manson came across as a too-cool vagabond minstrel, swiftly converting the susceptible girl while adding her with Jenning back in Berkeley. Not wanting to be part of a harem, Jenning balked as more girls were added, but Manson convinced her to recruit other female members herself.
In the summer, Manson discovered the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, soon finding another girl with another house, moving in his disciples while gathering more. And there were plenty. Teenage runaways came to the Haight from all over the country, hearing about the free food, crash pads, dope, sex, love, understanding, acid rock music. It was somewhat true for a while, but soon dope wars, the violently disturbed and just too many freeloaders overwhelmed it.
But Charlie found an interested audience among the emotionally wounded. Many never felt loved or understood while some had an indifferent life and craved alternatives. All felt they could never talk to their parents. Charlie talked to all of them. He sized up people fast to find a weakness and unmask passions. He could preach abstractions about love and freedom while the convert gladly surrendered freedoms. He knew how to use companionship, sex, drugs as reinforcement, reward, punishment. Charlie wanted control and obedience and they wanted very much to belong. He was just what they were looking for.
Manson went back to Los Angeles to see another girlfriend but instead met a friend of the friend, 18-year old Patricia Krenwinkle. Another unhappy, confused girl, her only passion at the moment was the Bible. When Manson unloaded his rap of the scriptures, Krenwinkle knew she had found Jesus. Handing over her father’s credit card, ‘Katie’ was rushed up to Frisco for a buying spree.
All new members were required to turn over their possessions, but it wasn’t until Charlie got hold of Krenwinkle’s dad’s charge card that Manson was able to buy an entire school bus. He made his girls spray-paint the bus black, remove seats, decorate the interior in hippy-iridescent, then roamed the coast. Concerned with having to explain himself with a busload of underaged females to the cops, Manson affixed a movie production logo to the sides of the bus. Now he was just a cruising filmmaker with student production assistants.
As they traveled, either Charlie or one of his girls hustled for food along the highway. Gas and mechanical needs were paid for by one of the many stolen bankcards. On a trip into Oregon, Manson took in a 25-year old hippy from Louisiana named Rich Sayer. He would become one of Charlie’s most devoted servants.
Back in San Francisco, Manson met pretty teenage Susan Atkins, a girl with just the kind of nightmare childhood and snarled life that was receptive to Charlie’s hype. He rechristened her ‘Sadie Mae Glutz’ and bussed her away. The group went throughout California, then into the Deep South and back again to the Pacific.
An eccentric woman in the lavish Topanga Canyon area of L.A. let Manson park his bus on her property. Soon Charlie and his girls were living inside the woman’s mansion. At a nearby party, Manson met Jerry Rawlins, a clever 20-year old with female followers of his own. Rawlins lived with Gary Hinman, a music teacher just a few blocks from where Charlie was parked. Although Rawlins was a natural leader, he turned himself and his clan over to Manson. Charlie was just a little bit smarter and a whole lot more organized than the kids he took in.
By now there were so many clawing to join Manson’s family that Charlie could carefully choose. They had to be programmable of course, but they got the fast track if they came with money. Lizabeth Bellen was another convert with a steady supply of cash from her father. Charlie discovered the recently popular hallucinogenic LSD to assist in his understanding of each new member. He gave the drug to everyone, always taking much less himself, then force-fed his ideas, even directing their sex lives.
Manson became fascinated with a new Beatles album titled ‘The Magical Mystery Tour.’ It was just like his own traveling show, and he believed that the music was trying to tell him something important.
In early 1968, a friend of Manson follower Bellen invited Charlie to the Spahn movie ranch in the hilly Chatsworth suburb of L.A. With a grip on a new location, The Family (as Charlie called his group) now had several residences. They stayed on the Spahn backlot for a while but moved when Charlie found something even better.
Dennis Wilson, the lead drummer of the rich rock group The Beach Boys, picked up a hitchhiker who told him about preacher Manson. Invited to Wilson’s three-acre Beverly Hills mansion, Charlie sized up Wilson and apparently said all the right spiritual things. The next week Manson moved in three-dozen girls, most to placate his host, then began selling off Wilson’s expensive possessions. Within a few months everything of value had been expropriated by Charlie, including one of Wilson’s gold records.
Manson also made musical contacts, visiting Terry Melcher, actress/singer Doris Day’s producer son, at his home on Cielo Drive. The same house would later be rented to director Roman Polanski and his actress wife Sharon Tate.
When Dennis Wilson finally woke up to see nothing left in his home, he moved out. Before the landlord’s lawyer evicted the Manson hippies, Charlie took in another follower, 23-year old Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, just out from Copeville, Texas.
Manson spent time on the (Los Angeles boulevard) Sunset Strip, now crowded with teeny-boppers, playlike rebels, rich hippies and sightseers. He also talked to biker gang members, satanists and snuff pornographers where Charlie was now modifying his upbeat Christ-plus-drugs/orgy line with a new sadist-death influence. He also sampled several mystical organizations that were currently popular as they gathered the naïve.
Some merely bilked the gullible while warehousing them, but others added animal sacrifice, blood-drinking and eventually human sacrifice.
One bizarre but moneymaking group had a concept of a karma war between the races. An idea that Manson loaded into his own evolving belief system.
Now dumped out of the Wilson estate, Manson drove his bus to the backup hole at the Spahn ranch. Charlie conned sightless George Spahn into appropriating the western movie town of the ranch. The sets of the saloon, hotel, livery stable and props familiar in several Hollywood films became the living and orgy centers of the Family. Manson had the girls sustain everyone by stealing, panhandling, dumpster-diving.
He kept everyone busy, knowing that if some had too much time to think they just might realize what a creepy arrangement they got themselves into. The girls cooked, sewed, shoveled manure and were ordered by Charlie on all matters sexual. Manson also knew that he couldn’t service all the girls, so he kept just enough male members around for the females to remain interested as they continued their servitude. The ratio was about four to one.
Life with the Family was harmless enough, aside from the burglaries and auto thefts until Charlie received what he thought was a sign for him to accept his destiny.
The message came from the Beatles’ 1968 ‘White Album’ with lyrics that Manson superimposed onto biblical passages. The ‘Sexy Sadie’ album cut obviously referred to Susan ‘Sadie Mae’ Atkins, and ‘Little Piggies’ with its references to stabbing was interpreted by Manson to mean death to The Establishment. ‘Revolution #9’ must have meant the ninth chapter of the Book of Revelation from the Bible. The segment with horses were dune buggies, the four avenging angels were the Beatles, the ‘breastplates of fire’ were the electric guitars, the one-third of dying humanity would be the white race after the karma war, and the fifth angel who lived in the bottomless pit would be Charlie himself. And the song ‘Helter Skelter’ was the name of the final bloodbath.
The fantasy grew in Manson’s mind until he believed that the karma war was imminent and that he had to quickly find the bottomless pit to hide. When the war ends (Charlie believed) the only survivors will be a few African American men, but they won’t know what to do; and that’s when Charlie and the Family emerge to take over the day-to-day operation of the world. Naturally, he needed to find the Hole, and he was certain that it existed in Death Valley, in the nearby Mojave Desert.
Meeting Charlie during one of his various moves through Topanga Canyon, a girl told him about her grandmother who owned land in Death Valley (Myers Ranch). The coincidence was too significant for Manson to avoid, so he raced his bus with several members to scout for a likely takeover. However, the girl’s grandmother didn’t take to Charlie or his love-death spiel, so they instead impounded the nearby ramshackle Barker Ranch. Until he could kill grandma and inherit her Myers property, the Barker spread would be his operation base to locate the Hole and wait for the Karma War.
Now Family groups were scattered along Topanga, Spahn, Barker and small spots. Wherever he planted his flag a corpse would eventually show up.
Charlie was now actively recruiting biker gang members into his Family, figuring they might come in handy if the war gets too close to home. But despite his dope and orgy parties, few bikers wanted to stay and take orders. That is until Frankie Grant, late of the Straight Satans motorcycle club agreed to become Manson’s weapons procurer.
Manson was also buying or stealing dune buggies, stockpiling them at Spahn for shipment through the fire roads into Death Valley.
On February 15, Roman Polanski leased Terry Melcher’s former residence on Cielo Drive. Six weeks later, coffee heiress Abagail Folger and her boyfriend Voytek Frykowski moved in.
Squeeky Fromme is assigned by Charlie to remain and attend to George Spahn. She sweet-talks him into allowing the Family to return to the backlot but just couldn’t get Spahn to deed his property to her. As the hippies invade the western movie town, Jerry Rawlins rejoins the group bringing another automaton, moody Leslie Van Houten. By now most of Manson’s monologues are about death, so Charlie begins probing candidates most likely to kill for him.
Another of Manson’s recruiters finds Linda Kasabian, estranged from her husband and living in a truck near Topanga. Residing in a series of communes across the country since 16, Kasabian is swept away to Spahn hearing about the high karma, good vibed guru. Manson’s girl talks Kasabian into appropriating money that was to be used by her husband on a sailing trip without her. Bringing her baby and the lifted cash, Linda is happily welcomed by Manson. The money, credit cards and driver license are confiscated while Kasabian’s baby is interned with other Family infants. Charlie orders that the mothers can’t speak to their children, lest they get programmed and ego damaged.
All of this nonsense is real to Kasabian who was used to the hippy communal alternative. Even when Charlie had the girls Robin Hood-burglarize homes in Brentwood, Topanga and Beverly Hills it made sense to her. Like Frankie Grant, Linda thought that much considered illegal outside the counterculture could be overcome and justified. With the exception of murder.
In April, Manson zombie Rich Sayer returned from London where Lizabeth Bellen’s sometimes husband, Joel Pugh was coincidentally killed. First ruled a suicide by British police, Pugh’s throat was slashed twice, among other things. A message was written with the victim’s blood on the wall.
In late July, Manson sent Jerry Rawlins, Susan Atkins and Laury Jennings to extort money from (Rawlins’ friend, music teacher) Gary Hinman. Tied and tortured, Hinman said that he had no cash in the house. Rawlins called Manson who arrived later with Sayer and slices off Hinman’s ear with a sword. Hinman swiftly signs over his cars; a Fiat and a Volkswagen bus. But after two days of searching, no money is found in the house. The following day Manson called from Spahn and ordered Rawlins to kill Hinman. Gary slowly bled to death from knife slashes by Atkins and Rawlins. While wiping off fingerprints, Atkins wrote ‘political piggy’ in Hinman’s blood on a wall. Later Manson took Hinman’s Fiat while Rawlins drove north with the van.
Los Angeles Sheriff detectives Paul Whiteley and Charles Guenther investigated the Hinman murder and located a print belonging to Rawlins that was missed from Atkins’ wipedown. The same week, Rawlins’ girlfriend, 17-year old Carla Bonneville ran away from Spahn after getting threatened by Manson. A day later, Rawlins broke down in Hinman’s van and was assisted by a highway patrolman. As the cop was leaving, he received radio news of Hinman’s stolen Volkswagen and Rawlins was arrested.
While Rawlins waited in jail, Lizabeth Bellen and Laury Jenning waited in another jail on a credit card rap. But Charley was up at Big Sur on a recruitment and fact-finding mission. He returned with one recruit and found that no one felt as he did about a race war to correct the bad karma. Manson decided that he would have to start Helter Skelter by himself.
Back at Spahn, Manson tells Atkins and Krenwinkle to get knives and meet Tex Watson by his car. He needed someone to go along who had a valid driver license, and the only member was Linda Kasabian.
Tex had been to the Cielo residence on several occasions, but this time he was told by Manson to simply kill everyone in the house. Manson had his reasons for choosing the Cielo compound to start the revolution. It was the kind of wealthy home in a Establishment community with aristocratic celebrities that might likely be the target of counterculture radicals. Charlie was reportedly angry with Terry Melcher for not advancing his musical career and thought that he would be there tonight. But neither Melcher nor Roman Polanski was there.
As they leave, Charlie tells Atkins to leave a sign, “you girls know what to do, something witchy.”
Near midnight on August 8, Watson parks up the hill from the Polanski house, then walks to the front gate and cuts the electric fence wires. Still afraid of getting electrocuted, Watson leads the girls over the fence, carrying a rope, changes of clothing and weapons. On the driveway they are surprised by a car heading for the exit and stop the driver, Steve Parent (a friend of the caretaker who just happened to visit at that moment) where Tex calmly shoots and stabs him to death.
Watson and the girls continue to the side of the main house, Tex cutting a screen window and telling Kasabian to wait back at the car. And then it began.
Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkle find Frykowski (Folger’s boyfriend) asleep on the living room couch and restrain him. Abagail Folger waves to Atkins as she walks past her bedroom door, believing her to be another guest. Sadie Mae returns, pulling Folger into the hallway. Gathering Folger along the way, Atkins leads Sharon Tate and hairstylist Jay Sebring into the large living room.
Irritated, Sebring lunges for Watson’s revolver (Manson’s .22 Buntline), but misses and gets shot under his arm. Watson ties a rope around Sebring’s neck, throwing the end over a ceiling beam while tying loops around Folger and onto the pregnant Sharon Tate. Now secure, Tex casually tells everyone they are going to die.
Watson tells Atkins to kill Frykowski, but he unties himself at the moment Sadie slashes with her knife. Stabbed several times, Frykowski is nearly at the door when Watson shoots him twice in the back, then strikes him with the revolver when the gun jams.
Folger breaks loose and runs to the other door by the pool where Krenwinkle catches her but is losing the struggle. Watson sees Sebring untangle the rope and stabs him four times, then races to help Krenwinkle.
Tex slashes Folger from the throat to her abdomen, just as she raises her hands to surrender. Frykowski screams while pulling himself along the lawn as Tex keeps stabbing him.
Kasabian hears the screams and runs to the house to see Frykowski still being butchered; to see Krenwinkle repeatedly plunge her knife into Folger’s back as the dying woman crawls by the pool.
Inside, Sharon Tate gets untied and has an instant to escape – but runs the wrong way – just as Krenwinkle and Atkins enter. Tate pleads for her baby’s life, two weeks away from delivery. “Look bitch,” Atkins tells Tate,”I have no mercy for you.” But there is a moment when the girls hesitate. Tex enters, walks directly to Tate and slashes her. And the rest join in the frenzy. Atkins said it felt good and licked the blood from her fingers.
Kasabian yells that she hears something and Watson runs around the house to pierce the bodies a last time as Atkins smears the word ‘PIG’ on the front door in blood. They were going to mutilate the bodies further but didn’t have time.
Tex drove a distance along Benedict Canyon and tossed the bloody clothing into a ravine. It had taken 30 minutes, the bodies inflicted with over 100 stab wounds.
Two nights later, Manson drives himself with Tex, Katie, Sadie (Susan), Linda and this time takes along Leslie Van Houten. They travel for hours until Manson randomly selects an attractive home, telling the others to wait as he secures the residence.
He enters the window and ties up Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, promising he will not harm them. Then Manson orders Leslie, Tex and Katie to “creepy crawl” and butcher them. Manson drives away with Kasabian and Atkins.
The assassins find the couple tied back to back. Van Houten and Krenwinkle untie Rosemary, leading her into the bedroom as Watson positions Leno onto a couch. Now face down on the bed, hands tied behind her, Rosemary hears her husband scream. Mr. LaBianca is slowly bleeding to death from several knife wounds and Rosemary bolts from the bed. Leslie holds Rosemary as Krenwinkle slashes her, then hands the knife to Van Houten to finish up 60 penetrations. Watson knife-etches the word ‘WAR’ onto Leno’s stomach while Krenwinkle embeds a kitchen knife into his torso. ‘DEATH TO PIGS’ is written in blood on the wall and ‘HEALTER SKEALTER’ on the refrigerator, Krenwinkle misspelling the word.
They shower and eat in the LaBianca home, then discard their own clothes a mile away before hitchhiking home.
Two Los Angeles police detectives are assigned the Tate investigation while five work on the LaBianca case. Neither murder scene is linked together. The Tate killing are thought for sure to be part of a dope burn, the LaBianca murders are just copycats.
The Hinman Sheriff detectives tell the L.A. detectives working on the Tate case about similarities between cases; the knives, writing in blood. But since there is already a suspect in custody for the Hinman killing (Rawlins), the L.A. cops ignore the help. When the LaBianca investigators finally ask the Sheriff’s department about similar crimes, over two months later, they think that the information is most significant.
The word ‘Healter Skealter’ at the LaBianca house was one of the few pieces of evidence not released to the press. Police always hold back key questions to test informant’s reliability. Had they released the phrase, several people would have been able to link Manson immediately.
Manson told Kasabian to go into town and bail out Laury Jenning, Lizabeth Bellen and see what the charges were against Jerry Rawlins. Kasabian decided to get out of the Family while she had a car at her disposal. She couldn’t call attention to herself, so she left her baby at Spahn and drove to a familiar commune in New Mexico.
On August 16, two weeks after the Tate killings, Sheriff’s deputies mounted a raid on the Spahn ranch. The assault had nothing to do with murder investigations, but with Charlie’s vast auto theft ring. With nearly 100 deputies and three helicopters, the Manson gang was overwhelmed and bussed into Los Angeles. They spent 72 hours in jail and then released. Incredibly, the wrong date had been filled on the warrant. All the evidence found during the raid at Spahn could not be used and Charlie was free.
Carla Bonneville was not getting along with her parents and went back to the Family, just in time to get arrested when the Spahn raid hit. The Hinman detectives were looking for Bonneville everywhere when they learned that her boyfriend was Rawlins. Every place that is, except a nearby jail.
When Manson got back to Spahn he gathered his members to tie up Donald ‘Shorty’ Shea (a workman for George Spahn), Thinking that Shorty had helped police on the recent raid. Manson enlisted Rich Sayer and Brad Konak to help torture him to death, then got most everyone else to dissect then bury Shea’s body parts in nine separate graves.
By early September, about one month after the Tate-LaBianca murders, Manson moved 30 or so of his group to Death Valley. He transported the collection of stolen dune buggies and other vehicles, then ordered Squeeky Fromme to keep sleeping with George Spahn and get him to sign over his lands. While Manson was elsewhere, Linda Kasabian returned to L.A. and retrieved her daughter from a foster home where the baby and been taken after the Spahn raid. Linda then disappeared to her mother’s home in New Hampshire for two months, until she learned that a murder warrant was out on her.
On September First, young William Kaner brought a Buntline revolver he found on a hill down from Beverly Glen. William’s father had the LAPD pick it up where it remained hidden in the Van Nuys division storeroom. It would soon become the most important piece of evidence for the prosecution. But no one would be aware of its existence for another three months.
A quarter mile separates Meyers and Barker ranches in Death Valley, and Charlie had control of hundreds of miles of desert. Every Family member wore a knife and Manson gave demonstrations on throat cutting. Charlie talked about conquering the little adjoining desert towns, kill all of the inhabitants then kill the cops who investigate. Everything was death and the inevitable karma war. From the desert highway they could attack the cities, return by the intricate fire road system, then remain immune from major battles of the upcoming race wars. Throughout the desert he had caches storing countless gallons of gasoline and tons of food.
Manson often had to discipline a weak disciple. Usually it was just a punch or clubbing, but occasionally one might wake as the main event of a sacrificial rite. At least three suffered lingering deaths as examples. Most accepted the severe obedience, many still believing that Charlie was Christ.
Two of the member girls began thinking that Manson might in fact be mortal and ran out. Escape was difficult, the girls running barefoot nearly 30 miles to the nearest outpost. Manson sent Konak to locate the runaways and discipline them.
While returning from one of his dune buggy maneuvers, Charlie discovered his main road plowed in sections from the Highway Department. When Manson found the earth moving machines responsible, he burned them.
Before, Manson was merely a local nuisance, but now the Park Rangers and the Highway Patrol worked together to go after Charlie. From the air they located Manson’s bus, but Charlie had everyone hide in the outlands during the days to avoid detection. The temperature fluctuations in Death Valley are beyond belief. All in the Family were dirty, hungry, overwhelmed with exposure, and now they had to remain hidden.
Laury Jenning got out of jail, took a drive to Spahn, sized up the situation and decided to go back to her old home in Wisconsin.
A Death Valley Ranger questioned miners living around Manson’s territory and learned enough to coordinate their information with State cops. By late September another raid was launched at Manson’s stronghold but only managed to locate a few stolen cars and some naked hippy girls with buck knives. Tex Watson felt the law getting too close and drove a distance in the desert, got stuck in the sand, then hitched his way back to Copeland, Texas.
Manson didn’t want to wait any longer for the deed of the large Meyers ranch (belonging to his follower’s grandmother), so he sent two assassins to murder grandma. On the way to the killing, the hit team’s car got a flat and, not showing much initiative, returned to Manson. A few days later, Carla Bonneville and another girl escaped, using the opposite road that the two previous Family escapees had gone. The same night, the copes raided the Barker Ranch. They bagged most of the Manson girls plus Brad Konak.
A day later, Carla and her companion flagged down a police car that was returning from the Barker raid. From the Independence Police station Carla called her mother and was told that detectives were looking for her in connection with the Hinman murder. Carla’s mother then called the Highway Patrol where a CHP officer contacted Sheriff detectives Guenther and Whiteley.
Bonneville’s mother told the detectives about Manson, Death Valley and the earlier raid at Spahn, and it was the first time they knew of a connection between Rawlins and the Spahn Ranch. The next day Guenther and Whiteley went to Independence to talk to Carla Bonneville.
On the same day, the Death Valley cops went back to the desert to look for more contraband and saw several men enter the Barker ranch house. All were arrested. And hiding inside a small closet under a washbasin was Charlie Manson. Most of the Family were now in the Independence jailhouse.
Earlier in the week, a cop pulled over a car that had belonged to Gary Hinman. The driver was horrified to learn that he was implicated in a murder and swiftly gave the names of several people who had driven it before him. One was Frankie Grant. The Sheriff detectives were still questioning Bonneville, learning that Atkins and Jenning were involved in the Hinman killing. The detectives flew back to Independence to confront Atkins, eventually booking her in Los Angeles on suspicion of Hinman’s murder.
The LAPD detectives working on the LaBianca case finally asked the Sheriff detectives (Guenther and Whiteley) if they had any murders that were similar to theirs. The L.A. LaBianca investigators, unlike the Tate LAPD detectives, connected the bloody words at the LaBianca apartment with the Beatles’ White album. By mid-October, Manson was the main suspect in all of the killings. Now the LAPD and L.A. Sheriff’s Department went after the Family.
Frankie Grant was finally located, along with several other bikers who knew Manson, talked about how Charlie often bragged of the several killings. Then Grant, making a deal to knock off years of jail time, told what he knew about Manson’s love-hate spiel.
When Patricia Krenwinkle was released from the Independence jail she raced to her home in Mobile, Alabama. The two LAPD detectives working the Tate case waited 11 days before asking Carla Bonneville about Atkins, but Sadie was already talking her fool head off to several inmates at the local women’s jail. Inmates Caludine Mercer and Sonia Herman listened horrified as Atkins told every detail of her several murders.
On November 5, many of the released Manson clan resided at a Venice residence when Zero got himself shot in the head. All the witnesses, including Rich Sayer said that Zero was playing Russian roulette. However, the revolver cylinder had been fully loaded. It was a warning, of course for all members to stay tight and not snitch.
Frankie Grant and Laury Jenning testified in a weak effort at Rawlins’ Hinman murder trial that resulted in a hung jury. In a second trial, Laury Jenning again testified, then recanted and rejoined the Family.
Sonia Herman called the LAPD Hollywood station from Sybil Brand Jail to tell what Atkins had been bragging to her about. The connection was finally made between the Hinman and Tate murders. The following day, Deputy District Attorneys Vincent Bugliosi and Aaron Stovitz were named prosecutors in the Tate-LaBianca cases, now officially linked.
Stovitz worked on legal specifications while Bugliosi labored on evidence and a motive. Both put in 100-hour weeks, Bugliosi eventually moving a cot into his office.
Although they knew that Manson had ordered four people to commit seven murders, they had no case. They had no physical evidence, they had only a jailhouse confession by Atkins (that several others disputed) and they did not have a motive. Grant confirmed that Manson owned a Buntline .22 revolver but the weapon had vanished. A request for the gun was mailed to every police agency in America, except to the Van Nuys division where it was and had been for two months when the Kaner family had found it and turned it in.
As Bugliosi talked to Family members, bikers, Death Valley miners and others who had listened to Manson, he began fitting together a motive that might explain the insanity to a jury. Then he heard from Atkins’ attorney.
Sadie wanted to make a deal and talk in front of a Grand Jury. Atkins might decide to recant her confession later, but the testimony now would likely be enough to get indictments against Manson and others while buying time for the investigation.
After being badgered daily by the media, Los Angeles Chief of Police Edward Davis was finally able to announce the end of the mystery on December 1. But Charlie was soon to be released from the arson charge and Bugliosi would still need a lot more to convict anyone if it even came to trial.
Then the first incriminating physical evidence was uncovered. Because of a minor drug bust in June, fingerprints were taken of Tex Watson that positively identified his bloody right ring finger at the Tate home. The only other print belonged to Krenwinkle. But both were out of state and fighting extradition. Watson would certainly not get returned in time o the trial; his sheriff relative in Texas was protecting him.
From the moment-to-moment account by Atkins, Bugliosi requested the Tate detectives to follow the Cielo Drive road and look for the blood-stained clothing that were discarded by the murderers after the Tate slayings. They never did. However, a local television news team read Atkins’ transcript, drove along the route described and found the evidence in a ravine in one day.
The next morning, four months after he had turned in the missing Buntline revolver (that his son had found), Mr. Kaner called a TV newsman to let someone know that the most wanted weapon in America was in fact in Van Nuys police custody.
The gun was finally located and Bugliosi got the first element that linked Manson to the crimes.
Linda Kasabian voluntarily surrendered to authorities and offered to discuss everything she knew. But Bugliosi had already given immunity to Atkins. Kasabian would be the better witness since she had murdered no one while Sadie May Atkins had butchered everyone in sight. And, with all the deals and possible deals, their weakest case was against Manson himself.
Then abruptly, and conveniently Atkins withdrew her testimony. And Kasabian became the prosecution witness. Bugliosi was also helped by Manson when Charlie decided to take over his own defense. Eventually, Manson believed he could cause the most trouble at the trial by getting Stephen Leonard appointed to him, a notorious delaying attorney. Still Charlie was in charge. Each of the other defendants, Atkins, Krenwinkle and Van Houten, had separate lawyers.
Leonard began by objecting to most every question Bugliosi asked in court, confusing an already bewildered jury. But carefully Bugliosi presented his case. Kasabian’s testimony, lasting over a week was most effective. Neither Leonard’s badgering nor Manson’s ‘freak beam’ stare unnerved her. Kassabian’s account of the two murder nights was corroborated with 45 pieces of circumstantial evidence.
The trial was often interrupted as the three female defendants would suddenly stand and either scream, shout or recite in unison, on cue from Manson. Charlie got escorted out of the court when he leaped from the defense table and toward the presiding judge. The disruptions occurred so often that Judge Charles Older ordered the defendants to an adjoining room and listen from an intercom as the trial proceeded.
Outside the courtroom, Manson’s followers protested ‘the second persecution of Christ’ and handed out leaflets.
After nearly 10 months, the longest American criminal trial ended. The jury found Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkle and Van Houten guilty on all counts, seven of murder and one of conspiracy to commit murder. Then after the penalty phase, the jury voted for execution.
However, the California Supreme Court dismantled the death penalty (California vs. Anderson 1972), automatically reducing the sentences of everyone on death row to life in prison with parole hearings beginning in 1978.
The Manson Family actually took in more members as the trial progressed, helped by the tireless proselytizing of Squeeky Fromme, Laury Jenning and others.
After Sharon Tate’s death, several Hollywood friends offered a $25,000 reward. 12-grand apiece went to the two women who retold what Sadie (Atkins) blabbed in jail, and $1,000 went to young William Kaner who had discovered the murder revolver. Frankie Grant jumped his bail and made himself ineligible. Clara Bonneville was never considered, nor were Charles Guenther and Paul Whiteley, the two L.A. Sheriff detectives who were likely most responsible for hauling down the Manson kingdom.
Later in the year Tex Watson is finally brought to court in L.A., then Rich Sayer and Brad Konak stand trial for their murder of Donald Shea. All get convictions, and all, including Jeff Rawlins have been eligible for parole since 1978. Konak was released in 1985.
In September 1976, Lynette ‘Squeeky’ Fromme, then the outside Manson Family leader of over 100 members, tried to shoot President Gerald Ford in Sacramento at point blank with a .45 automatic pistol. She forgot to load a bullet into the chamber and it didn’t fire. Squeeky got life in prison for her attempted assassination. In late 1987, Fromme escaped from her high security jail cell trying to reach Manson but was soon captured. She was released on parole on 2009.
While in prison, Susan ‘Sadie Mae’ Atkins got married twice, which included conjugal visits. Soon after being denied parole for the 18th time, Atkins suffered a crippling illness and died in 2009.
Manson’s mother, Kathleen Maddox told a Los Angeles Times reporter that her son was “pampered by all the women who surrounded him,” and never had the creepy childhood that he always whined about.
Charles Manson was a tricky small-time career criminal and angry sociopath who wanted to control people. He was only able to play jailhouse games on emotionally wounded kids who he betrayed at every hazard. He was forever lucky getting around the flaws of the criminal justice system.
Like his hero Adolph Hitler, Manson remains a cult curiosity. Commerce gains from his infamy, media reports him during slow days in the news, followers wait for his release. But Charlie is in no hurry; he was always happier just being in prison.
Disguise of Sanity 1985,
Revised/updated third edition
NOW on Amazon KINDLE ©Michael Cartel
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