On August 8, 1969 five people inside the home of Roman Polanski – including his heavily pregnant wife Sharon Tate – were brutally murdered by the Manson family. Former model Ava Roosevelt could have easily been the night’s sixth victim, but a stroke of luck saved her life.
Roosevelt has spoken of the guilt she still feels at having avoided the horrific events of that night in an interview with Town and Country.
“The guilt still lingers,” she says. “I survived and they didn’t, and it’s haunted me for years, I never stop thinking about Sharon.”
Listen: Want more cult-themed true crime? Jessie has a recommendation.
Roosevelt, then a 21-year-old friend of Sharon’s was on her way to the Benedict Canyon home on Cielo Drive just before midnight when her Rolls-Royce’s petrol gauge began flickering.
“I was in the car, chugging up a hill around 11:45 p.m, about to turn onto Cielo Drive, when my gas gauge flickered and dropped to empty,” the now-69-year-old says.
“It was a finicky car, so I wondered if the gauge was broken or if I was truly out of gas.”
Fearing that the car could break down any moment, she turned around to drive home – not knowing that he faulty vehicle probably just saved her life.
As Roosevelt would later find out, shortly after midnight, Sharon, along with friends Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Steven Parent were murdered by members of the Manson family - under the orders of their leader Charles Manson.
"It could could have been me. I lived and she didn't, none of them did. And it was my pesky car that ended up saving me."
Of course, when Roosevelt learned of her friend's death, she - along with the rest of the country at the time - had no clue what had motivated their killers.
"I was scared for my life. I was hiding out. I had no idea if Manson was coming after me, too."
Roosevelt told Town and Country finding out on Monday that Manson had died came as a relief, as she felt "finally, safe".
"I ask God to forgive me, but the world is a better place without Charles Manson," she said. "It's a miracle I survived so long ago, and now I don't have to worry about him anymore.
"I can finally let the horror go."