As the leader of a messianic cult situated in a desert commune in California, Charles Manson prophesied that a race war was on the horizon and that he and his followers would have to be armed and ready. In fact, he believed it was his duty to usher in the war by ordering his "family members" to go on a killing spree.
On August 8-9, 1969, the Manson Family, on orders from their leader, murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate (who was married to director Roman Polanski at the time) and four others, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent, at 10050 Cielo Drive, and a day later, wealthy grocery store owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
Although the majority of the Manson Family members who took part in the massacres were condemned to death after being tried and convicted, the state of California reversed its decision on the death penalty in 1972, commuting their sentences to life imprisonment. Manson and his followers would ultimately claim they had killed a total of 35 people and buried their bodies in the desert.
Whatever remains to be true, the random and brutal acts of violence committed by Manson and his hippie-communers-turned-murderers ended the decade of love and continues to haunt and confound the world.
Here are the key members of the Manson Family who were convicted of committing murder in the summer of '69 — not only for the Tate and LaBianca murders but also for those of musician Gary Hinman and ranch hand Donald Shea.
Susan Atkins - Murdered Sharon Tate
Born on May 7, 1948, in San Gabriel, California, Susan Atkins was born to alcoholic parents. A shy child, Atkins was left vulnerable as her family life continued to deteriorate. After her mother died of cancer, Atkins' father eventually abandoned her and her brother. Bouncing from various relatives' homes, Atkins met Manson in 1967, and he asked her to join his commune.
Believing Manson was Jesus, Atkins became an ardent follower. She was charged with murdering Tate and later admitted that she was unsure of why she did. Although she ended up expressing remorse, she was denied parole. She succumbed to brain cancer in 2009.
Leslie Van Houten - Murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca
Born on August 23, 1949, in Los Angeles, Leslie Van Houten began using drugs at 15 and ran away from home, only to return briefly to finish high school. Her mother forced her to have an abortion at 17, and she eventually fled to a hippie commune where she found her way to Manson and became a heavy user of LSD and other psychedelic drugs.
Van Houten was only 19 when she was charged for murdering the LaBiancas. Over the years, she has been denied parole but may get another shot next January 2020 — her 20th attempt. Part of the reason she has continually been rejected is due to her blaming Manson for her actions.
Patricia Krenwinkel - Participated in the Murders of Sharon Tate and Rosemary and Leno LaBianca
Born on December 3, 1947, in Los Angeles, Patricia Krenwinkel grew up as an insecure, overweight child who was bullied in school. After graduating from high school, she considered being a nun but decided instead to attend a Jesuit college, only to drop out after one semester.
Shortly after she met Manson, the two had sexual relations. At 21 she was convicted of brutally stabbing Folger 28 times and Rosemary 16 times. Writing "Death to Pigs" in the victims' blood, she also participated in stabbing Leno, who had already died at the hands of Manson Family member Charles "Tex" Watson.
Denied parole more than a dozen times, Krenwinkel has made recent claims that Manson had been abusing her before the multiple murders occurred.
Charles Watson - Participated in the Murders of Sharon Tate and Rosemary and Leno LaBianca
Born on December 2, 1945, in Farmersville, Texas, Charles "Tex" Watson was an honor student and athlete. He attended the University of North Texas, joined a fraternity and eventually got a job as a baggage handler at an airline in 1967, allowing him to access free airfare.
Taking advantage of a free ticket, he flew to Los Angeles where he immersed himself into the drug and music scene. It was there that he met some of the Manson Family women who introduced him to Manson at the infamous Spahn Ranch.
Leading the charge in the Tate and LaBianca murders, Watson claimed he was the devil. After the murders, he escaped to Texas and resisted being extradited to California for nine months. Eventually, he was convicted of murder and is currently serving a life sentence in Sacramento, California. He has since turned to religion, becoming a minister, and earned a business degree.
Bobby Beausoleil - Murdered Gary Hinman
Born on November 6, 1947, in Santa Barbara, California, Bobby Beausoleil grew up in a large Catholic family. At 15 he was sent to a reform camp for delinquent behavior and soon after fled to Los Angeles and San Francisco, getting involved in the music scene. It was during this time he befriended and moved in with Hinman who was a Manson follower.
By the time the Tate murders occurred, Beausoleil was already in jail for the July 1969 murder of Hinman, whom he stabbed to death on orders by Manson for not paying the latter money he felt he was owed.
Serving a life sentence, Beausoleil spends his time creating music and selling art.
Steve “Clem” Grogan - Murdered Donald Shea
Born on July 13, 1951, Clem Grogan was an artistically inclined high school dropout who was involved in petty crimes before he joined Manson's cult. Long before Manson and his followers found shelter at Spahn Ranch, Grogan was working odd jobs there, where he met ranch hand and stuntman Shea.
Believing Shea had snitched to the police about some of the Manson Family's criminal activities, Manson ordered Grogan and fellow follower Bruce Davis to murder Shea on August 26, 1969.
Although Grogan was originally sentenced to death, the presiding judge reduced his sentence to life in prison because he felt Grogan was too intellectually inept and high on drugs to have planned the murder. Grogan received parole in 1985 after revealing to authorities the location of Shea's remains.
Bruce Davis - Murdered Gary Hinman & Donald Shea
Born on October 5, 1942, in Monroe, Louisiana, Bruce Davis was the editor of his high school yearbook and attended college in Tennessee for a few years before traveling to California in the early 1960s. He met Manson and some of his female followers in Oregon and eventually became Manson's "right-hand."
Davis was present during the murder of Hinman and actively participated in the torture and killing of Shea. Although he was temporarily on the lam for a time, he turned himself in to authorities in 1970.
Having become a preacher in prison, Davis is currently serving a life sentence and has been continuously denied parole.
Born on June 21, 1949, in Biddeford, Maine, Linda Kasabian moved to Los Angeles in 1968. She met Mason through Catherine "Gypsy" Share and moved to the Spahn Ranch with Manson and his followers.
At first, Kasabian found Manson's message to be peaceful, but his tone eventually changed to one of violence and paranoia. She was sent to 10050 Cielo Drive to assist in the Tate murders, but never went inside the house as Watson told her to stay outside the residence. She also stayed in the car during the LaBianca murders, eventually leaving the scene with Manson. Kasabian eventually turned herself in, became a lead witness and received immunity.
Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme
Although she was one of Manson's most trusted associates, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme had no hand in the Tate-LaBianca murders. Born on October 22, 1948, in Santa Monica, Californa, she was not present at either murder scene. However, she was a fixture in front of the Los Angeles courthouse during Manson's trial, remaining loyal to him throughout. After Manson was convicted, he was moved from prison to prison, and Fromme moved from town to town to be near him.
In September 1975, she pulled a gun on President Gerald Ford in Sacramento. 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 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.