The Manson Family

Most Notorious Serial Killers

The Manson Family

Linda Kasabian

Linda Kasabian was a 20-year-old hippie with a young daughter when she met Charles Manson and moved to his desert ranch in July 1969. On August 8, 1969, Kasabian and other Manson followers went to a house in the hills of Hollywood to murder the occupants, but Kasabian never went into the residence. She listened in horror as the murders occurred, and fled the Manson "Family" a few days later. When Manson's Family went to trial in 1970, Kasabian was the prosecution's main witness and escaped prosecution.

The Manson 'Family'

Linda Kasabian was born on June 21, 1949, in Biddeford, Maine. Kasabian moved to Los Angeles in 1968, and through Catherine "Gypsy" Share, she met Charles Manson on July 4, 1969. At the time, Kasabian was a pregnant, two-time divorcee and the mother of an infant daughter. She moved to the Spahn Ranch with Manson and his followers, where she proceeded to fall under his spell.

At first, Kasabian found Manson's message to be peaceful, but within her first month at the ranch his tone changed to one of violence and paranoia, focusing on what Manson called "Helter Skelter"-the inevitable race war that he foresaw.

Manson Murders

To precipitate Helter Skelter, Manson sent Kasabian with Charles Watson (also known as "Tex") and two other women to 10050 Cielo Drive, and told them to kill everyone there. Watson told Kasabian to stay outside of the residence, and she listened to the murders occurring within, watching in horror as Wojciech Frykowski died at her feet on the front lawn. Inside, actress Sharon Tate and three others were also murdered, and another man lie dead in his car in the driveway. Kasabian ran to her car and started it, but she was then afraid to drive away, fearing for her baby back at the Spahn Ranch.

The next night, Kasabian rode to the house of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and waited in the car while Manson and the others went inside. When Manson came out, telling his followers that the couple was tied up, he sent in three family members to kill them, driving away with Kasabian in the car. Two days later, she fled.

Manson Family Prosecution

The new home of the "Family," the Barker Ranch, was raided in October 1969. Everyone present was arrested for auto theft, but their involvement in the murders was quickly discovered. Kasabian turned herself in two months later, and became the lead witness for the prosecution. Her testimony was the biggest key to finding Manson and his followers guilty, and Kasabian was given immunity.

After moving to New Hampshire to live with her mother, Kasabian was inundated with media and public attention, so she changed her name and moved west, remaining in hiding until a documentary film crew found her living in near poverty in a trailer park in 2009.

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme

Although she was one of Charles Manson's most trusted associates, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme had no hand in the infamous 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders orchestrated by Manson. She was a fixture in front of the Los Angeles courthouse during Manson's trial, however, remaining loyal to him throughout. In September 1975, she pulled a gun on President Ford; she was grabbed by the Secret Service and later sentenced to life in prison. Fromme escaped from prison in 1987, but was captured and jailed until her 2009 release.

Early Life

Squeaky Fromme was born as Lynette Alice Fromme in Santa Monica, California on October 22, 1948. Fromme was a child performer, touring with a dance troupe around the age of 10. After high school, Fromme moved to Venice Beach, where she met Charles Manson. She was instantly captivated by Manson, as were all members of his "Family," and before long Manson invited her to join him in traveling the country, which she did.

The Manson 'Family'

When they returned, Fromme moved into the Spahn Ranch with Manson and his followers, taking care of 80-year-old George Spahn, who nicknamed her Squeaky because of the sound she made when he would touch her.

When Manson and his followers were arrested for the multiple murders they committed in August 1969, Fromme avoided police scrutiny because she was not present at either murder scene. Instead of sitting in the courtroom with Manson, as a show of her unflagging support she camped outside the Los Angeles County courtroom where Manson and his followers were being tried.

After Manson was convicted, he was moved from prison to prison, and Fromme moved from town to town to be near him. Unrelated to her Manson Family activities, in November 1972, Fromme and four others were arrested after a couple was found murdered and buried in the woods. The other four confessed, and Fromme was released.

Three years later, Fromme's luck would run out when she pulled a loaded pistol on President Gerald Ford in Sacramento, where she had lived for three years (17 days later, another attempt would be made on Ford's life). She was convicted of the attempted assassination and sentenced to life in prison. The trial ended with Fromme throwing an apple at the face of the prosecuting attorney, knocking off his glasses.

In December 1987, Fromme escaped from a West Virginia prison in an attempt to meet up with Charles Manson, who she heard had developed cancer. She was captured and imprisoned until 2008, when her parole was granted. Fromme was released a year later.

Charles "Tex" Watson

Tex Watson was a key member of Charles Manson's "Family," and on August 8, 1969, he led other Manson followers, under Manson's orders, into a house in Hollywood, and murdered actress Sharon Tate and four other people. The next night, Watson murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, as part of Manson's "Helter Skelter" vision. Watson was found guilty of murder in 1971, and has been in prison ever since.

Early Life

As a teenager, Charles "Tex" Watson led his church youth group and regularly attended the Sunday night services. In high school, Watson was an honor-roll student and respected athlete. During his third year at North Texas State University, he visited a friend in California and decided to move there, which he did in 1967. Once in Los Angeles, he enrolled at Cal State but quickly dropped out, caught up quickly in the freedom of the hippie counterculture movement.

The Manson 'Family'

One night, Watson stopped to pick up a hitchhiker who turned out to be Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Wilson invited Watson back to his mansion, which was filled with people hanging out, listening to music, and doing drugs. Before long, Watson had moved into the house and met Charles Manson, who was a regular visitor. Wilson eventually kicked everyone out, and Watson moved out to Manson's desert ranch, where he proceeded to fall under Manson's spell.

Watson moved out of the ranch in November 1968, but was back four months later. Upon his return, he found the focus of the Manson "Family" had changed to what Manson called "Helter Skelter," his name for the inevitable race war that he foresaw. To precipitate Helter Skelter, Manson sent Watson and three of Manson's "girls" to 10050 Cielo Drive and told them to kill everyone there, which they did, savagely stabbing pregnant actress Sharon Tate, her friends Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Jay Sebring, along with a male visitor, Steven Parent, whom they killed in the driveway of the property.

The next night, Manson sent Watson and two of the women to kill Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, and Watson brutally killed them both while Leslie Van Houtenand Patricia Krenwinkel helped. Before fleeing to Texas on October 2, 1969, Watson had a hand in one more murder: that of ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea, whom Manson thought had spoken with the police.

Watson tried to live a normal life in Texas but was arrested for the Tate/LaBianca murders there on November 30, 1969. Two years later, he was found guilty in a California court of seven counts of murder and sentenced to death, but California's 1972 ban on the death penalty changed his sentence to life in prison.

In prison, Watson became a born-again Christian and an ordained minister. He has written an autobiography, Will You Die for Me?, and has been married and divorced, having four children in between.

Patricia Krenwinkel

A member of Charles Manson's "Family," Patricia Krenwinkel and others, under Manson's orders, burst into a house in the Hollywood hills and murdered actress Sharon Tate and four other people on August 8, 1969. The next night, Krenwinkel participated in the grisly murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. She was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, but later had her sentence commuted to life in prison.

Early Life

Born on December 3, 1947 in Los Angeles, California, Patricia Krenwinkel's parents divorced when she was 17. After graduation, she moved from California to Alabama to live with her mother. She attended a Catholic college for one semester before moving to Manhattan Beach, California, to live with her step-sister, Charlene, a heroin addict.

The Manson 'Family'

Krenwinkel met Charles Manson soon after at a nearby house, where he was visiting along with Mary Brunner and Lynette Fromme, better known as Squeaky Fromme. Manson was playing a guitar and immediately captivated Krenwinkel, who slept with him that night. Krenwinkel had always had low self-esteem, and Manson manipulated her, telling her she was beautiful and pulling her into his sphere of influence.

Krenwinkel dropped everything and left her life behind to go on a lengthy tour of the United States with Manson and his followers, embracing the counterculture and taking LSD hundreds of times. It was while his followers were on LSD that Manson (who may or may not have been taking the drug) established his firm grip over his minions, posing as a Christlike figure to be worshipped.

By the spring of 1969, Krenwinkel and many others were fully enthralled with Manson and moved in with him to a secluded ranch in the California desert, where Manson's increasingly bizarre visions of a race war were propelling his every move.

On August 8, 1969, Manson sent four of his "Family" members, including Krenwinkel, to the house of director Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. By the end of the night, Tate and four others in the house were murdered, and Krenwinkel had stabbed Abigail Folger (of the coffee empire) countless times. The next night, Krenwinkel participated in another murder, this time stabbing Rosemary LaBianca to death and leaving a carving fork stuck in her husband's lifeless body. She then wrote "DEATH TO PIGS" on the wall in the victims' blood.

In October 1969, most of the Manson Family was arrested for auto theft and suspicion of arson, but their roles in the murders were quickly discovered. Krenwinkel was arrested two months later, in Alabama. The ensuing trials had a dark, carnival-esque mood, with each of the defendants carving and X on their forehead and singing songs with their arms locked, seemingly oblivious to what was happening around them.

On March 29, 1971, Krenwinkel was found guilty and sentenced to death, along with the other Manson Family defendants. California's 1972 ban on the death penalty changed her sentence to life in prison, and as of 2012, she is the longest-serving female inmate in the state of California.

Susan Atkins

In late 1967, Susan Atkins met Charles Manson and his "Family," went on the road with them briefly, and then moved onto their ranch. On August 8, 1969, Atkins and others, under Manson's orders, burst into the house shared by director Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate and murdered Tate and four other people. Atkins was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Her sentence was commuted to life in prison when California banned the death penalty. Atkins died in prison in 2009.

Early Life

Susan Denise Atkins was born on May 7, 1948, in San Gabriel, California. She was the second of three children born to alcoholic parents, and grew up in Northern California. After she dropped out of high school to support herself (her mother died when Atkins was 15 and her father abandoned the family), Atkins moved by herself to San Francisco.

The Manson 'Family'

In early 1967, while staying with friends, Susan Atkins met Charles Manson, and by summer she was on a road trip with Manson and his group. Atkins settled with the Manson "Family" at their Southern California ranch, where she gave birth to a son, whom Manson named Zezozose Zadfrack Glutz (he had previously dubbed Atkins "Sadie Mae Glutz").

By July 1969, Atkins was a trusted member of Manson's inner circle, and he took her and two others with him to shake down a man named Gary Hinman for money. When Hinman wouldn't comply, Manson slashed his face with a sword and left, and the remaining trio later beat and killed him.

By this point, Manson's visions of a race war were propelling his every move, and he had a bizarre plan to instigate it by murdering people in their homes and blaming it on Black Panthers. On August 8, Manson sent four of his followers, including Atkins, to the house of director Roman Polanski and the pregnant Sharon Tate. By the end of the night, Tate and four others in the house were dead. Atkins later admitted to holding Tate down while Charles "Tex" Watson stabbed her to death (although later still, she recanted and said that she was merely a bystander to the scene).

Conviction and Death

In October 1969, the entire Manson Family was arrested, and they were later tried for the murders. The series of trials was circus-like, and the defendants' bizarre behavior became a striking trait of the proceedings.

On March 29, 1971, Atkins was found guilty and sentenced to death, along with all of the other defendants. California's 1972 ban on the death penalty changed her sentence to life in prison, however. Atkins was the longest-serving female inmate in the state of California at the time of her death, on September 24, 2009, at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California.

Leslie Van Houten

Leslie Van Houten was born into a middle-class family in Southern California in 1949. In late 1968, she met Charles Manson and his "Family," moved onto their ranch and became infatuated with Manson. Less than a year later, Van Houten stalked into the house of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and participated in Rosemary's murder, stabbing her approximately 16 times. Van Houten was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. However, her sentence was automatically commuted to life in prison when California banned the death penalty. In September 2017, Van Houten appeared before a California parole panel for the 21st time. She was found suitable for parole, and following a 120-day review process California Governor Jerry Brown, who rejected her parole in 2016, must decide whether to release her.

Early Life

Leslie Van Houten was born in Altadena, California, on August 23, 1949. The second child in a middle-class family, she was outgoing and athletic in her youth and in high school she became homecoming princess.

However, during that time she began experimenting with drugs such as marijuana, hashish and LSD, which she took on a progressively more regular basis. At one point during here teens, she also ran away briefly with her boyfriend to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, a hub of the counterculture at that time.

Joining the "Manson Family"

In the summer of 1968, Van Houten met Bobby Beausoleil and Catherine "Gypsy" Share, and began traveling with them. Soon after they met, Share began telling Van Houten about a man named Charles Manson, whom she described as Christlike and having the answers to all of their questions.

By the fall of that year, 19-year-old Van Houten, the youngest member of the "Family," and the others were living with Manson at the Spahn Ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, but in 1969, Manson's message would change from peace to one of revolution and violence.

Manson Murders

Soon, Van Houten said, "All we did was listen to the Beatles' White Album and read [the biblical book of] Revelations." Manson had visions of a race war, and he had a bizarre plan intended to instigate it, beginning with the murders of model/actress Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, and others on August 8, 1969.

While Van Houten was not directly involved in those murders, the following night she participated with Charles "Tex" Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, during which she was responsible for inflicting a reported 16 of the more than 40 stab wounds LaBianca received.

Manson Murders

Soon, Van Houten said, "All we did was listen to the Beatles' White Album and read [the biblical book of] Revelations." Manson had visions of a race war, and he had a bizarre plan intended to instigate it, beginning with the murders of model/actress Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, and others on August 8, 1969.

While Van Houten was not directly involved in those murders, the following night she participated with Charles "Tex" Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, during which she was responsible for inflicting a reported 16 of the more than 40 stab wounds LaBianca received. 

Charles Manson

Charles Manson (born November 12, 1934) was an American criminal who spearheaded a murderous campaign with his followers, the Manson Family cult, that would make him one of the most infamous figures in criminal history. Notoriously connected to the brutal slayings of actress Sharon Tate and other Hollywood residents, Manson received the death penalty in 1971, a sentence that was commuted to life in prison the following year.

Is Charles Manson Dead or Alive?

Charles Manson died on November 19, 2017, of natural causes. Days earlier, he had been admitted to a hospital in Bakersfield, California; however, no details about his medical condition or his location were disclosed, due to privacy and security reasons. The longtime prisoner had also been hospitalized earlier in the year.

He had been serving time in Corcoran State Prison in California since 1971. In 2012 Manson was denied parole for the 12th time.

The Manson Family Cult

"The Family," as they became known, was a group of around 100 followers of Charles Manson who shared his passion for an unconventional lifestyle and habitual use of hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD and magic mushrooms. After Manson was released from prison for petty crimes in 1967, the Manson Family moved to San Francisco and later to a deserted ranch in the San Fernando Valley. Manson's followers also included a small, hard-core unit of impressionable young girls. They began to believe, without question, Manson's claims that he was Jesusand his prophecies of a race war.

Manson Murders

The Manson Family - including Charles Manson and his young, loyal disciples - is thought to have carried out some 35 killings. Most of their cases were never tried, either for lack of evidence or because the perpetrators were already sentenced to life for the Tate/La Bianca killings.

The first of Manson's victims was murdered on August 9, 1969, at the home Roman Polanski had rented, located at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, an area just north of Beverly Hills. While Manson himself took no part in the actual killings, he directed four of his most obedient followers - Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian - to the address and directed them to kill everyone. According to one of the Family member's statements, the Polanski household had been targeted because it represented the showbiz world that had rejected Manson.

The four victims found inside the Polanski residence had just returned home from dinner at the time of the murder: Polanski's wife, actress Sharon Tate; writer Wojciech Frykowski and his partner; the coffee bean heiress Abigail Folger; and celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring. Polanski himself was away in London shooting a film.

Steven Parent, an 18-year-old who took care of and lived in a guest home on the Cielo Drive property that Polanski and Tate rented, had been visiting his friend William Garretson when he became the Manson Family's first victim. As he drove away from the house in the dark early morning hours, he was spotted by the intruders and shot dead. Kasabian was horrified by the shooting of the boy, and she remained outside to keep watch. Kasabian acted as the getaway driver and was to become the star witness during the trial.

When the other three broke into the house, they herded the occupants into the living room and tied them up. Jay Sebring was shot and brutally kicked as he tried to defend Ms. Tate. During the terrifying murder spree, both Frykowski and Folger managed to escape from the house but were chased and stabbed to death. At the trial, Kasabian described how she saw Frykowski staggering out of the house covered in blood and was horrified at the sight. She told him she was "sorry," but despite her pleas to his attacker to stop, the victim was bludgeoned repeatedly. Folger escaped from the house with terrible injuries but was caught on the front lawn and stabbed 28 times.

Eight-months-pregnant Sharon Tate, who, despite pleading for the life of her unborn child, was mercilessly stabbed in the stomach by Susan Atkins. Kasabian told of Atkins's chilling words to Tate before she stabbed her: "Look, bitch, I have no mercy for you. You're going to die, and you'd better get used to it." Atkins then used Tate's blood to write the word "pig" on the front door. However, instead of this brutal massacre sating the pathological Manson, he criticized the murderers for being sloppy.

The following night, on August 10, 1969, Manson took Family members Watson, Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten to the Los Feliz address of wealthy supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, and the couple was murdered in a similarly horrifying fashion.

Charles Manson's Wives and Children

In 1955, between prison sentences, Charles Manson married a 17-year-old hospital waitress, Rosalie Jean Willis. The couple moved to California and had a son, Charles Manson Jr., who committed suicide in the 1990s. By 1956, Willis had left with their child to be with her new lover, and she later divorced Manson. In 1959, Manson married a prostitute, Leona Rae "Candy" Stevens, with whom he had a second son, Charles Luther Manson; Stevens divorced Manson in 1963.

In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, a woman named Afton Burton, who called herself Star, claimed that she and Manson were in a relationship, telling the reporter: "I'll tell you straight up, Charlie and I are going to get married. When that will be, we don't know. But I take it very seriously. Charlie is my husband. Charlie told me to tell you this." At the age of 19, Star had moved from Illinois to Corcoran, California, to be near the prison where Manson was incarcerated, and she also ran multiple websites aimed at securing his release.

In November 2014, the 26-year-old Star and 80-year-old Manson obtained a marriage license. However, their marriage license expired in 2015, and allegations were made in February of that year by writer Daniel Simone that Star primarily intended to marry Manson so she could publicly display his corpse for profit after his death. Star later told Inside Edition the nuptials were still on, while her mother disputed Simone's claims in a Rolling Stone story.

Childhood and Early Life

Charles Manson was born Charles Milles Maddox on November 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Kathleen Maddox, a 16-year-old girl who was both an alcoholic and a prostitute. Kathleen later married William Manson, but the marriage ended quickly and Charles was placed in a boys school. Rejected in his attempts to return to his mother, Charles was soon living on the streets and getting by through petty crime. 

Still just a teenager, in 1951 Manson began spending time in prison. Early on, before he discovered the benefits of being a "model prisoner," he was considered dangerous. He would eventually spend half of the first 32 years of his life behind bars.

Manson was described by probation reports as suffering from a "marked degree of rejection, instability and psychic trauma" and "constantly striving for status and securing some kind of love." Other descriptions included "unpredictable" and "safe only under supervision."

From 1958, Manson was in and out of jail for a variety of offenses, including pimping and passing stolen checks, and he was sent to McNeil Island prison in Washington State for 10 years. It was while he was incarcerated that Manson learned how to read music and play the guitar.

'Helter Skelter'

Manson was also influenced not only by drugs, such as LSD, but by art works and music of the time, most notably The Beatles song "Helter Skelter," from their White Album. He had a strong belief and interest in the notion of Armageddon from the Book of Revelations, and also explored the teachings of Scientology and more obscure cult churches, such as the Church of the Final Judgment.

In many ways, Manson reflected personality traits and obsessions that were associated with gurus of cult-quasi-religious groups that began to emerge in the 1960s. He was pathologically deluded into believing that he was the harbinger of doom regarding the planet's future.

Manson was released from prison on March 21, 1967. In August 1969, Manson gathered a group of his most loyal Family followers to carry out his massacre among Hollywood's elite and "beautiful people."

Manson's Arrest and Trial

Ironically, Manson and his Family were arrested not on suspicion of the Tate/LaBianca murders, but simply on the belief that they had vandalized a portion of the Death Valley National Park while they were hiding out in the Mojave Desert. In 1969, the county sheriff had taken them into custody, not realizing that they were involved in the heinous murders. But it was through the confession of Susan Atkins, while held in detention on suspicion of murdering Gary Hinman during an unrelated incident, that led detectives to realize that Manson and his followers were involved in the killings.

Various motivations were examined during the course of the trial. The most feasible was that Manson's pathological ego, insanity and belief in Armageddon were influences that led him to leave behind a trail of destruction. Manson believed that he was the new Messiah, and that after a "nuclear attack" he and his followers would be saved by hiding in a secret world under the desert. His prophetic visions included a belief that the race war would result in a black victory, and Manson along with his Family members would have to mentor the black community, as they would lack experience to run the planet.

As Manson and the Family were to be the beneficiaries of the race war, he told his followers that they had to help initiate it. According to defense witness and killer Van Houten, this was the primary reason why they murdered the LaBiancas. Manson had taken the wallet of murdered Rosemary LaBianca with the intention that he would deposit it in a section of L.A. where an African American might find it, use it and then possibly have the murders pinned on them.

Later in court, Van Houten, who was just 19 when she took part in the LaBianca killings, alleged that Manson had taken advantage of her vulnerability and dislike for her mother, although she believed, like the other members, that he was a man of vision. Thirty years later, during a parole board hearing, Van Houten said she was horrified by what she had done that night and desperately wanted to redeem herself. She was denied parole in 2006 and again in 2010.

Susan Atkins admitted in initial confessions to fellow prisoners that she had wanted to cut out Tate's unborn baby but didn't have the time. She also revealed that other grisly and macabre acts were to be perpetrated against the victims and that a list of other high-profile Hollywood stars were on a list to be killed and mutilated. These included Elizabeth Taylor and husband Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and Tom Jones. When asked why they wanted to kill celebrities, Atkins replied that the Manson Family wanted to commit murders that would shock the world and make people take notice.

The trial began in June 1970, with lawyer Ronald Hughes named the attorney for Manson and Van Houten. Hughes soon dropped Manson as a client, reportedly because he felt he could convince the jury that Van Houten had been unduly influenced the Family leader. The move may have cost him his life: Late in the year, Hughes went camping and disappeared, and his decomposed body turned up several months later. It is thought that he was the victim of a retaliation killing by members of Manson's Family.

During the trial, Manson released an album titled Lie in an effort to raise money for his defense. He reveled in the media attention, and during court proceedings he turned up with an X carved into his forehead. Some of his female followers copied the act and shaved their heads, sometimes sitting outside the courthouse. The X was gradually modified until it turned into a swastika.

Throughout the trial, the killers often giggled and exchanged grimaces with Manson, showing no remorse for their crimes.

On January 25, 1971, Manson was convicted of first-degree murder for directing the deaths of the Tate/LaBianca victims. He was sentenced to death, but this was automatically commuted to life in prison after California's Supreme Court invalidated all death sentences prior to 1972.

Kasabian was granted immunity for her part as star witness. Susan Atkins was sentenced to death, but her sentence was later commuted to life in prison. She was incarcerated from 1969 until her death in 2009.

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