Charles Manson has died. According to the California Department of Corrections, the 83-year-old cult leader and convicted serial murderer was pronounced dead on Sunday, having succumbed to natural causes.
It’s a painfully ordinary demise for a man who orchestrated such brutal endings for his victims. Rather Manson’s his unstable upbringing, his criminal past, his quasi-commune turned deadly cult, it’s them we should remember. The ten people denied the long life and natural death that their killer ultimately enjoyed.
Eight of them – four men, three women and unborn child – were slain during a two-day killing spree that began in the early hours of August 9, 1969 in Beverly Hills, California. While Manson didn’t inflict a single one of the 169 stab wounds or seven .22-caliber gunshot wounds that claimed their lives, he ordered a group of his blindingly loyal followers – including Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Tex Watson – to do so on his behalf. For his role in the crimes, he served seven life sentences, plus two for later murders.
If there’s one name that became tangled with Manson’s twisted legacy it’s Sharon Tate. The Hollywood actress and model was the most famous of his victims; she’d appeared on magazine covers, in small television roles and earned a Golden Globe nomination for her part in the 1967 cult classic film, Valley of the Dolls.
In 1968 she married director Roman Polanski, and it was in their home on Cielo Drive that 26-year-old Tate was murdered, tied by the neck to friend Jay Sebring and stabbed 16 times. The motivation for her death? The house had formerly been occupied by Terry Melcher, a music producer who had once denied Manson a recording contract. Snubbed, the aspiring musician asked Tex Watson “a favour”: to take his cohorts to “that house where Melcher used to live” and “totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can”.
Tate was just two weeks away from giving birth at the time of her death to her first child, a boy named Richard.
Yet despite this tragic fact, despite her fame, it was the stories of Tate’s killers that dominated the narrative – a phenomenon her mother, Doris Tate, sought to stop by campaigning to change Californian criminal law to allow victim impact statements to be read during sentencing of violent criminals. Her success meant that she was able to do address her own daughter’s killers, and helped “transform Sharon’s legacy from murder victim to a symbol of victims’ rights”.
Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger
Close friends of Tate, lovers Frykowski and Folger had been house-sitting Tate and Polanski's home while the pair were away on separate film projects. They remained there after Tate returned on July 20, keeping her company until her husband's arrival closer to her due date.
Folger, heir to a US coffee empire and heavily involved in civil rights and social justice causes, nearly managed to escape the night of the murders, but was tackled by Krenwinkel and stabbed to death on the lawn outside the home.
Her lover, Polish film actor Frykowski, had already been stabbed then shot twice in the living room. He was 32.
Sebring was a celebrity hairstylist, and owner of high-profile salons in Los Angeles, New York and London. He'd dated Tate for two years, before she ended their relationship after meeting Polanski on the set of The Fearless Vampire Killers in 1966.
Despite the breakup, the Alabama-born man forged a friendship with the couple, which placed him at their home that fateful evening. Ordered into the living room with the others, the 35-year-old attempted to reason with the intruders, urging them to consider Tate's unborn child.
He was shot by Tex Watson, and kicked in the face as he lay dying. But was the seven stab wounds that followed that ultimately proved fatal.
Just 18 at the time of his murder, Parent was the second youngest victim of the so-called Tate Murders. He didn't know the actress nor Polanski, but was a friend of their caretaker, Bill Garretson, who lived in a small house at the back of the Cielo Drive property. He visited that night in the hopes of selling the 19-year-old a radio; Garrestson declined, and so Parent instead drank a beer with him and left.
As he drove toward the front gate, he was stopped by a gun-weilding Watson. Despite his promises to remain silent and pleas for his life, Watson slashed the teen's hand with a knife then opened fire. The bullets struck Parent in the head and chest. He died behind the wheel, the first victim of August 9.
Leno and Rosemary LaBianca
The next night of August 10, 1969, the same four followers were joined by Leslie Van Houten, Steve "Clem" Grogan and Manson himself. The group drove for several hours, before Manson's directions brought them to the Los Angeles home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, who co-owned a dress shop.
The pair were roused from their sleep, their heads covered with pillowcases and their hands bound in their living room. Rosemary was hauled back into the bedroom, while Leno was stabbed with a bayonet. When she began calling for her husband while attempted to fight off her captors, she too was stabbed 14-16 times.
Leno was stabbed again, fatally this time, and the word "war" carved into his chest.
Shea was a 35-year-old Hollywood stuntman and actor, whose remains were not discovered until close to a decade after he was murdered by Steve "Clem" Grogan and Bruce Davis at Manson's request.
Shea had been working as a ranch hand at Spahn Ranch, the sprawling property where Mason's 'family' of followers took up residence in 1968. The co-existed in relative peace until the cult leader concluded he had reported them to the police, resulting in the arrests of several members on suspicion of car theft in August the following year. His decision to "snitch" was deemed by Manson to be punishable by death.
He was tortured and fatally stabbed on August 26, 1969.
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