The Manson Family: A Look at the Key Players and Victims in the Killings of a Cult Leader

LOS ANGELES — (TodayNews) — In 1969, Charles Manson sent a group of disillusioned young followers into a two-day carnage that terrorized Los Angeles. The killings remain etched in the minds of Americans.

On Tuesday, Leslie Van Houten was released after spending more than 50 years in prison for two of the murders. She is the only one of the Manson followers involved in the infamous Tate LaBianca murders to go free.

Members of the Manson “family” arrived at Sharon Tate’s home in the Hollywood Hills on August 8, 1969, where they stabbed, beat, and shot the young actress and her friends—celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski. On their way to the house, they ran into teenager Stephen Parent, who was staying with an acquaintance at the estate’s guest house, and shot him dead.

The next night, Manson led a handful of followers, including Van Houten, to the home of wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Manson tied the pair up and left the rest to kill them.

Manson and his followers also killed two others – musician Gary Hinman and Hollywood stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea – in separate, unrelated attacks.

Decades later, some of Manson’s followers have died and others have remained behind bars.


“Charles Manson was a petty criminal who had been in and out of prison since childhood when he rediscovered himself as a philosopher guru in the late 1960s. He targeted runaway teenagers and other lost souls, especially attractive young women he exploited and sold to others for sex.

He sent them to kill the rich and famous in Los Angeles in what prosecutors say was an attempt to provoke a race war, an idea they say came from a distorted reading of the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”

Decades after his conviction, Manson continued to taunt prosecutors, parole agents, and others, sometimes denying any role in the murders and sometimes boasting about them. At a parole hearing in 2012, he said, “I buried five people. I am a very dangerous person.”

He died in 2017 after nearly 50 years in prison. He was 83 years old.

Susan Atkins, convicted of the murders of Tate, LaBianca and Hinman, was a runaway teenager working as a topless dancer in a San Francisco bar when she met Manson in 1967.

The Tate-Labianca murders remained unsolved for several months until Atkins, who was in prison on unrelated charges, bragged about her involvement to a cellmate.

At her trial, she testified that she was “high on acid” and didn’t know how many times she stabbed Tate when the actress begged for her life. Atkins, who became a born-again Christian in prison and convicted Manson, tearfully recounted the standoff during his parole hearing years later.

She died in prison from cancer in 2009. She was 61 years old.

Leslie Van Houten, former high school cheerleader and homecoming princess, saw her life spin out of control at 14 after her parents divorced.

She turned to drugs and became pregnant, but said her mother forced her to have an abortion and bury it in the family’s backyard.

Van Houten met Manson at an old movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where he created his so-called “family” of followers.

She took no part in the Tate murders, but escorted Manson and the others to the LaBianca’s house the next night. She described holding Rosemary LaBianca with a pillowcase on her head as LaBianca was stabbed dozens of times by others. Then, under orders from Manson follower Charles “Tex” Watson to “do something,” she said she took a knife and stabbed the woman over a dozen times.

Van Houten, 71, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling while in prison and has run several prison inmate rehabilitation programs. She was repeatedly recommended for parole, but two governors – first Jerry Brown and then Gavin Newsom – blocked her release.

However, she was eventually released after Newsom announced last week that he would make no effort to keep her behind bars.

Patricia Krenwinkel was a 19-year-old secretary when she met Manson at a party. After three days, she gave up everything to follow him, believing they were starting a romantic relationship.

After he started abusing her and trading her for sex, she said she tried to get away from him twice, but the followers brought her back, followed her closely, and kept her high on drugs.

At her 2016 parole hearing, she testified that she repeatedly stabbed Folger, and the following night stabbed Leno LaBianca in the stomach and wrote “Helter Skelter”, “Rise” and “Death to Death” on the walls in his blood. pigs.

Krenwinkel, 75, remains in prison. Krenwinkel claims she has changed but has been denied parole more than a dozen times. After all, last year she was recommended for parole, but Newsom reversed the decision.

Charles “Tex” Watson was a college dropout from Texas when he arrived in California in 1967 looking for “satisfaction through drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll,” as he explains on his website.

He recalled meeting Manson at the home of Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson after seeing Wilson hitchhiking and giving him a ride home.

Watson, 77, led the killers to the Tate estate, shot Parent as he tried to leave, and took part in the killings that night and the following night at the LaBianca home.

In prison, he became a born-again Christian and in 1980 organized a prison ministry, which he continues to lead. Watson, the author or co-author of several books, while in prison, claims that he has changed and is no longer a danger to anyone. He was repeatedly denied parole.


Sharon Tate, 26, became a model and rising movie star after her breakthrough role in the 1966 film Valley of the Dolls. She was 8.5 months pregnant when she was attacked and she begged her killers to spare her unborn son.

Tate’s mother, Doris, became an advocate for victims’ rights in California and was instrumental in passing a 1982 law that allows family members to testify about their losses in lawsuits and parole hearings.

Her younger sister Debra has also dedicated her life to protecting the rights of victims and has testified in countless parole hearings for the killers, demanding that they never be released.

Tate’s husband, director Roman Polanski, was out of the country on the night of the murders and said it took him years to recover from the grief of losing his wife and child.

– Jay Sebring, hairdresser of Hollywood stars, was Tate’s ex-boyfriend and also begged the killers to spare her unborn child. They shot at him, kicked him in the face and inflicted several stab wounds.

Sebring changed the men’s hair industry after graduating from Los Angeles beauty school and his clients included Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. In 1967, he founded Sebring International to market hair products and market his salons worldwide.

Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger had dinner with Tate and Sebring earlier this evening.

Frykowski, 32, was Polanski’s friend from Poland and an aspiring screenwriter. An autopsy revealed that he had received over 50 stab wounds and had been shot twice.

His 25-year-old girlfriend was the heiress to the Folger coffee fortune. She managed to escape from the house, but on the front lawn she was seized and stabbed 28 times.

Stephen Parent, a recent high school graduate planning to attend college in the fall, stopped by the on-site guest house to visit the 19-year-old caretaker of the estate, a casual acquaintance named William Garretson. He was leaving the property when Watson confronted him at the main gate and shot him dead.

Garretson, who was briefly taken into custody, returned to his native Ohio shortly after the murder. With the exception of his testimony during the murder trial, he rarely spoke publicly about that night. He died of cancer in 2016.

Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, who owned a chain of grocery stores in Los Angeles, had nothing to do with Sharon Tate or her glamorous friends.

Their home was chosen at random by Manson, who tied them up and then ordered his followers to kill them before leaving. Among the weapons used was a chrome bayonet.


– Lynette “Squeaky” Fromm, 74, a member of the Manson “family” not involved in the Tate LaBianca murders, was sentenced to prison for pointing a gun at President Gerald Ford in 1975. Since her release in 2009, she has lived quietly in upstate New York.

— Linda Kasabyan, a key witness in the trial, received immunity from prosecution. She accompanied the assassins to the Tate house, but was posted outside as an observer. In this position, she said that she saw some murders.

The next night, she stayed in the car outside the LaBianca house while Manson tied up the victims and then left with him while the others stayed behind to kill them.

The 20-year-old man moved in with the “family” a few weeks before the murder and fled immediately after. She turned herself in to the authorities after the others were arrested. Kasabian later changed her name and lived off the radar for decades. She died on January 21 in Tacoma, Washington. She was 73 years old.

– Bruce Davis, 80, was convicted of involvement in the Hinman and Shea murders, but was not involved in the Tate LaBianca murders.

At his 2014 parole hearing, he testified that he attacked Shea with a knife and pointed the gun at Hinman, while Manson cut Hinman’s face with a sword. “I wanted to be Charlie’s favorite boyfriend,” he said. The parole boards repeatedly recommended that he be released, but the governors blocked it.

– Steve “Clem” Grogan, 71, who once worked at the old movie ranch where Manson found his followers, was sentenced to life in prison for his part in Shea’s murder. In 1977, he told authorities where Shi’s body was buried.

Grogan was released on parole in 1985 and moved to northern California.


John Rogers retired from The Associated Press in 2021.

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