of ‘Helter Skelter’
We started this project with the understanding that any
intelligent, objective reader will (should) naturally weigh Susan’s
uncorroborated account as suspect. It was also our hope that this book will
be read by intelligent objective readers.
With this in mind it was our intent to document and reference
absolutely everything that is covered in order to produce what we hope will
be an account that is as objective as humanly possible.
We have also tried to limit ourselves to references and
documentation that is as credible as possible. This means that our primary
source for reference was the account written and published by the Prosecutor,
Vincent Bugliosi, himself. This account was written and published only a
couple years after the events, which increases the chance that it is not
tainted by poor memory. It was also produced by the very person who argued
that Susan should be executed. This in itself makes it the most credible
source for facts which support Susan’s account.
We have also occasionally referenced the book written by
Charles Watson, Will You Die For Me?
This account was also produced about thirty years ago (about 1978), and so is
less likely to contain unintentional memory errors. Like Susan’s own
account one might understandably question the truthfulness of Charles
Watson’s account, except to the extent to which he makes admissions
against his own interest. (i.e. – it’s hard to believe that he
would lie to make himself look worse.)
We have further referenced a book by Chaplain Ray, God’s Prison Gang, in which
Chaplain Ray interviewed both Susan and Charles Watson about 1974. Once
again, while objective readers might question the truthfulness of statements
made to exonerate themselves, it is hard to question statements made against
their own self interest. And so we feel that this is a credible reference.
We have referenced the work of Paul Watkins as well. This
account was also written more than a quarter century ago, and may therefore
be less likely to contain errors of memory. Since Susan did not associate
directly with Watkins either before or after the crimes it is hard to
determine why he would be untruthful about Susan’s part in them. To
this extent his account appears credible enough to consider.
On occasion we have also referenced
things Manson himself told the writer of the book Manson, In His Own Words, which was published around 1980. This
account is, at points, wildly fictionalized and self serving. In all
fairness, the writer makes a point of
stating Charles Manson appeared medicated to various degrees during the time
he was being interviewed, and displayed varying moods – so perhaps the
fantastic parts of his story were not intentionally erroneous. In addition, a
lot of the story seems prompted, which is to say it appears Manson is
responding to questions concerning either Susan or Charles Watson’s
earlier published accounts, and not a direct account of his own memory. (It
seems unlikely that, ten years after the fact, Charles Manson’s memory
of the crimes would touch on the very same several moments that Susan or
Charles Watson’s memory did.) While both of these facts make Charles
Manson’s account somewhat suspect, once again to the extent Manson
makes statements against his own best interest it may at least arguably be
assumed to be correct. So to this extent we have occasionally included
citations to this work.
Lastly, we have occasionally cited Susan’s own book, Child of Satan, Child of God.
References to Susan’s own book are not made with the purpose of
compelling the reader as to their truthfulness, but simply to show that this
is the same account she gave almost 30 years ago. This is not
“Susan’s new version of the crimes.”
This heavy footnoting may become ponderous at time, and we
apologize for that. But this whole book is worthless if it is not a process
toward a more thorough understanding of the events associated with this
terrible tragedy, an undermining of the myth surrounding these events, and a
means of producing an intelligent discussion of these events. Merely producing
another unverifiable and wildly speculative account of these crimes serves no
purpose at all other than to continue to hurt the families who have lost
irreplaceable loved ones and to contribute to the engrandizement of the myth
of Charles Manson.
Tragedies like this shouldn’t
be discussed at all unless they are discussed with a legitimate goal. That
goal should be to try to see that similar tragedies do not occur in the
In the fall of
1986 I received a letter from a group of young people living in a commune in Colorado. There were
about two dozen of them between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, and they
wrote to tell me how “cool” they thought my commitment offense
was. Apparently they had failed to discover that I had disavowed Charles
Manson over 15 years earlier.
I wrote them
back explaining that nothing that happened back when I was with Charles
Manson was “cool.” Not the drug use, not the physical abuse, and
certainly not the crimes. I suggested they find more enlightening role models
weeks later I received their reply. It was an envelope with nothing inside
but a photograph of them all holding up a huge banner with “fuck
you” written across it.
like their heroes to be Super Heroes and their villains to be Super Villains.
It’s part of our culture – a bigger-than-life country filled with
heroes are simply ordinary, fallible people who stand up for what they believe
in even when they’re scared, even when they’re unsure of
themselves, and even when no one is watching – they aren’t made
of steel. And criminals are simply fallible humans who make very bad
decisions in their lives – they aren’t anything worth admiring.
thirty-five years ago a crime took place in Los
Angeles that has been blown up to the point
that it has attained mythological proportions in the minds of many Americans.
The stories have become bigger and bigger until more people know the name of
Charles Manson than that of Thurgood Marshal.
That is a
was not a devious, diabolical attempt to start Armageddon spawned by the mind
of a Super Villain, nor was it a statement about environmental injustices. It
was nothing more than an ugly, needless, senseless crime which destroyed
families, hurt communities, and took irreplaceable loved ones out of the
lives of those who needed them. It is neither amazing or interesting.
the fictionalization, exaggeration and engrandizement of this crime and of
the participants, though ripe for media exploitation, produces the very real
risk of turning Charles Manson into a fictitious horror character, or a
comic-book villain that nobody really believes in. And it produces the risk
of making Charles Manson the hero of misguided young people who don’t
actually know anything about him. As thirty-five years come and go, in some
circles it is actually debated whether Charles Manson participated in the
crimes at all.
With this in
mind it seems it is a good time to lay the crimes out the way I saw them back
in 1969, and how I understand them now.
intrigued by what they don’t understand and I think the
“fantastic” nature of some of the reasons given for the crimes
over the years have had the effect of making them a point of obsession. I
believe if I can lay these crimes out so they are perfectly understandable,
even boorishly so, maybe they will be seen as the horrific acts of brutality
they were, and not as a tasteful point of interest or conversation among
With this in
mind and as my impetus, I feel it is time to produce the book you are about
to read with me.
Chapter 1; The Slow, Easy Road To
At the age of
thirteen my mother was diagnosed with inoperative cancer and I
“inherited” a family of five. I would come home from junior high
school and begin cooking, cleaning, and washing for my father, two brothers,
myself and my bed-ridden mother. I was also the one who had to give my mother
the morphine shots as she slowly passed away over the next twelve months.
Upon her death my father increased his drinking until eventually, around my
sixteenth birthday, he ran away from home leaving me and my younger brother to
fend for ourselves.
By the age
of nineteen I’d survived a series of nightmarish episodes to finally
find a moment of stability among a group of people living in San
Francisco in the counter-culture environment.
At the time this was not a terrible place to be. Janis Joplin lived
next-door. Mama Cass of The Mamas And The Papas taught me how to make
BLT’s. We were not “deviants,” we were part of the artist
subculture of the era.
moment of stability ended when my friend Ella-Jo and I came home one day to
find my place empty – my boyfriend had been arrested and once again I
found myself completely broke and on my own. After three long years of
fighting to survive and find some stability I was right back where I’d
started. I didn’t even have a place to sleep.
said it was okay, I could stay with her. And that’s when I met a group
of her friends who were all going down to Los
Angeles for the summer. Ella-Jo said it
ought to be great. One of the guys had an old school bus and they were going
to just pack it full of people and head off.
good. It was the summer of 1967. Young people were moving around and
hitchhiking about the country. I’d been in San
Francisco for a year or two and the prospect
and starting over from nothing again didn’t sound very compelling. How
bad could a summer trip to L.A. be?
always perfect ¾ I should
have stayed in San Francisco.
“guy with the old school bus” was, of course, Charles Manson. The
story of how I got from the empty house in San
Francisco to Death Row four years later is
the single most personally painful story I know. I do not like remembering
it, reflecting on it, or discussing it. Every year I receive numerous
requests from media organizations, college students, law enforcement
agencies, and inquisitive people asking for my story, or for explanations or
reflections. Most these requests are tasteful. Most are sincere. Some are
not. And every couple years the California Parole Board “invites”
me to relive in detail the most horrible three days of my life.
It is only
my firm conviction that talking about this now will serve the community that
I am undertaking this painful and distasteful subject.
I think it
is also important to show that big disasters do not start with a decision to
create a disaster, but with a series of small poor decisions. No one wakes up
one morning and decides they are going to run-amuck. One poor decision leads
to a situation where you are forced to choose between two bad alternatives,
and that decision in turn leads you deeper and deeper into a hole.
once said that the surest path to hell is the slow, easy decent with no
sign-posts, no quick turns, no indication that anything is wrong.
This is as
important a lesson out of this story as anything.
Ella-Jo and I set out on a light-hearted summer trip to L.A. with a
group of young people.
Chapter 2; The Bus Ride
The bus ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles
took several months, moving through the trendy, counter-culture enclaves along
the California coast. Communes and gurus were not uncommon in 1967.
Religious sects and metaphysics were accepted and applauded. Teenagers were
hitch-hiking across the country looking to “find” themselves, or
to find some sort of spiritual enlightenment. One more bus load of
truth-seekers was not even noticed.
Once we arrived in Los Angeles the journey to Spahn’s Movie Ranch in Topanga
took about another year, as we bounced from one open house to another.
This period of time
was relatively unimportant in the context of what was to follow except in a
few notable ways.
First, this was the
period when I got to know most of the people who ended up associated with the
crimes. Bobby Beasusoliel and his friends, including Leslie Van Houten and
Catherine Share, joined the group. Patricia Krenwinkel was on the bus even
before I arrived, as was Lenette Fromme. Sandra Good joined shortly
And second, once we
got to Spahn’s Ranch we were pretty well isolated from the rest of the
world. Though it was just an hour’s drive north of downtown Los Angeles this was an insurmountable distance if you
didn’t have a car. In the end this isolation made it much harder to
avoid the insanity, or to run even if one had the courage.
This is also the time
when I got a better idea of who Charles Manson really was. Unfortunately I
did not understand him well enough. I did not understand him the way I do
Making a Super Villain
out of Charles Manson is a mistake. Claiming he is a criminal mastermind
would actually be amusing if it wasn’t at the price of so many lives.
Most of the attention
the crimes have been given over the years has been generated by how
“inexplicable” they were. Most people who show an interest do so
merely because they seem so hard to understand – people tend to
attribute depth and intelligence to anything they can’t understand.
In truth, the crimes
were an incredible bungle – an incredible series of mistakes which,
once tied together, started a chain reaction which sped on and on, faster and
faster, unstoppably to a terrible conclusion.
If I do my job right by the end of
this book you will understand both these crimes and Charles Manson perfectly.
There will be nothing that happened that won’t make sense to you. You
will understand Charles Manson and the crimes in a way the prosecuting
attorney for the case, Vincent Bugliosi, never truly did. You will understand
Charles Manson in a way that, unfortunately, few of the young people at Spahn
Ranch in the fall of 1969 understood him. And you will understand him in a
way that took me loosing my freedom and thirty-six years of my life to
The two and a half years I had the
misfortune to live around Charles Manson was longer than almost any of the
people who stayed with him. Unlike most of the young people moving about the
country in the late 1960’s, I didn’t have a family to go back to.
Unlike the prodigal son, I couldn’t hitch hike across the country, sow
my wild oats, express my youthful rebelliousness, and return home when I
became tired and disillusioned. By the time I realized what was happening I
But it means I was there to see the
entire thing develop. I was there to see why it happened. So this story comes
from someone who saw more of Charles Manson than most the people he
associated with, someone who told the police Charles Manson was responsible
for the crimes, and someone who has spent the last thirty-six years avoiding
his disciples, ignoring his threats, and burning his hate-mail. In short, I
found out more about Charles Manson than anyone would want to, and in the
Maybe this book will allow some of
you to avoid repeating my mistakes.
Perhaps the best place to start is
with a better understanding of Charles Manson himself. This is what I came to
understand about him.
There is a tendency to simply assume
that people in prison for murder are murderers because there is something in
them that isn’t like the rest of us. That’s a very reassuring
notion – it sets a very clear line between us and the people we think
of as “bad.” The problem is that you end up believing that people
who kill do so because they’re murderers on the inside, and the proof
that they are murderers on the inside is the fact that they killed someone.
This doesn’t leave any real room for intelligent understanding of the
factors that lead to crime.
The real question is what led to
these crimes. What led to so many horrifically bad decisions? Why were these
crimes orchestrated? What did anyone hope to gain from them?
Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi stated
that there is no such thing as a motiveless crime – it is an animal
that doesn’t exist.
I believe this is true.
Psychologists sometimes speak of
sociopaths. Sociopaths, if they really exist, are defined as people who
don’t understand that other people are people. That is to say they don’t really understand on an
emotional level that you and I have the same needs and wants that they do.
They may understand that you and I are people on an intellectual level
– in fact that is usually the source of a great deal of their ability
to manipulate others – but this intellectual understanding
doesn’t effect them. Most of us couldn’t steal candy from a baby.
Most of us couldn’t call someone up and tell them their child had been
harmed. We understand what an emotional trauma that would be and we associate
with it so closely that it would cause us incredible emotional pain to put
another through that. According to psychologists, a sociopath wouldn’t
make that association. He would understand that people would get upset over
their child, but he wouldn’t identify with the emotional pain at all.
This means that a sociopath would be able to be incredibly manipulative
because he wouldn’t feel any remorse about hurting people.
Charles Manson may be a sociopath.
Or he may simply be someone who was so badly abused growing up that he had to
learn to turn off that part of him. Perhaps his emotional responses were
beaten out of him.
Psychologists still argue over how
to separate true sociopaths – those who truly don’t have a
concept of other people as anything other than objects – and those who
simply no longer care about the needs and rights of others. There is a
tendency to say that anyone who does a heinous crime is a sociopath because
they obviously had no feelings for the hopes and dreams of their victims, but
this is a mistake
Almost always you will find that these are
people who were hardened and embittered to the point that they no longer
cared about anything – not even their own life. But they still had a
concept of other people as human beings.
Considerable media attention has
been given to Charles Manson’s ability to “control the minds of
his followers.” His ability to “brainwash” people.
“Hypnotize.” “Zombyize.” But if you look at his methods
of controlling people you will see no mystic clairvoyance, no unearthly
super-power. What you will see is that he knows no more about
“brainwashing” than any other pimp in Los
He took young people, primarily
girls, who had poor family relations, low self-esteem, and who felt they
didn’t belong. He took them away from all their familiar surroundings.
He took them to an isolated place where he could control what they saw,
heard, and learned.
He prevented them from making any attachments outside his group. He took away
all their money under the pretext that the Family would provide for them
– which not only prevented them from leaving but also made them
dependent on him even for their
clothes, food and shelter. He sowed dissension and bitterness toward
outsiders. He encouraged them to become dependent on drugs – drugs
which he alone would disperse.
And then, to polish it all off, he threw in a sizable portion of brutal
I think most people would be
surprised to learn that Charles Manson’s “brainwashing”
often took the form of beating a teenage girl to the point she was bloodied
and screaming when she didn’t do what he wanted (Diane Lake was
fourteen when thirty-five-year-old Manson broke a chair over her head for
talking when she wasn’t supposed to. When Mary Brunner tried to take
her son away from the Family she was beaten so badly she couldn’t get
out of bed for three days.)
Often, Charles Manson’s
“mind control” took an even crueler turn. When Linda Kasabian wanted
to leave Spahn Ranch after the Cielo and LaBianca murders, her daughter was
moved away from the ranch to a place where she could be guarded by armed
This is the same type of “persuasion” which helped contribute to
my decision to recant my Grand Jury testimony and “confess” that
Charles Manson had nothing to do with the murders – Charles Manson sent
his followers to suggest that it might be better for me and my son if I
decided not to testify against him.
This type of cruelty has nothing to
do with “mind control.” It takes no special powers to threaten
and brutalize teenagers and young adults. This is not a very impressive
achievement and Charles Manson deserves no awe or respect for it. Such
brutality does, however, take a special type
And Charles Manson is a social
person, he is not a loner or an isolationist. He has to have people around
Such a need is sometimes the sign of someone extremely insecure about
themself. It can also be the sign of someone with extremely low self-esteem.
Both are probably true for Charles Manson. His insecurity probably shows
through in his belief that he had to mirror back at people what he thought
they wanted to see.
His low self-esteem probably shows through in his need to degrade, brutalize,
and control weaker people around him.
Charles Manson is also a con-man. He
will constantly try to get you to underestimate him. He will try to make you
feel sorry for him. He will tell you how bad life has been to him, and how
rough his upbringing was. That his mother didn’t want him. That his
teachers were mean to him. That society withdrew from him. He will tell you
that fate itself and nothing else pushed him to the place he is now. But this
is just a learned con – it is not true.
Charles Manson had everything. At
one time he had almost thirty young girls taking care of him. He hob-nobbed
with the Beach Boys and attended Hollywood parties
with musicians and movie stars. He lived for free off the generosity of
soft-hearted people who believed in him ¾ like Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys – and off the hard
work of the young girls who took him in. He never once had a job in the three
years he was out of jail. Free drugs. Free sex. Famous people around him. He
lived a dream life. He was offered everything
America could offer
a single man in the late 1960’s. And he had it in the most hedonistic
city in the country – Los
Society gave Charles Manson so many opportunities to make good. Hollywood forgave his
sexual debauchery with under-age girls. Los Angeles forgave his
drug use. The music industry and the counter-culture overlooked his prison
time. Charles Manson was finally rejected by society not, as he likes to tell
it, because they were cruel and worldly establishment people who didn’t
want to “get off his back.” Charles Manson was finally rejected
by society because he was a manipulative USER who abused the people who tried
to be nice to him.
Everyone who ever tried to help
Charles Manson was ultimately made a fool for their troubles. Dennis Wilson,
who claimed to have spent as much as $100,000 on Manson, was threatened with
the death of his son when he finally cut the money off!
Terry Melcher, who had tried to sell Manson’s music to the industry,
was targeted for murder when none of the offers came through.
Gary Hinman, who had donated food and clothing to feed and clothe
Manson’s own baby son, was murdered when he wouldn’t give Manson
more money. Sandra Good’s father helped support Charles Manson after
his daughter joined the Family and was threatened when he wouldn’t give
And perhaps cruelest of all (save
only the murder of Gary Hinman), a whole group of young people who looked up
to and trusted Manson as a leader and guide were ultimately mislead, used,
and then either thrown away or left to die. I don’t speak so much for
myself but for the younger kids at the ranch back in 1969. The young runaways
who, thanks to Charles Manson, were fed a mouthful of bitterness toward the
law and society, and then pulled into auto theft, drug dealing, stealing,
burglarizing, and for some a life of crime and addictions they would never
So if Charles Manson had it tough it
was his own doing. Life gave him everything and he spit it back in
In hindsight I’ve come to
believe the most prominent character trait Charles Manson displays is that of
a Manipulator. Not a guru, not a metaphysic, not a philosopher, not an
environmentalist, not a sociologist or social activist, and not even a
murderer. His long-term behavior is one predominantly of a practiced
But this analysis is all from an
intellectual level, and it has taken me years and years to be able to see
Charles Manson like this. On an emotional level I could have told you about
Charles Manson thirty-six years ago – he is a liar, a con artist, a
physical abuser of women and children, a psychological and emotional abuser
of human beings, a thief, a dope pusher, a kidnaper, a child stealer, a pimp,
a rapist, and a child molester. I can attest to all of these things with my
own eyes. And he was all of these things before
he was a murderer.
Chapter 3; The Error
So how did the Prosecutor, Vincent
Bugliosi, make the mistake of concluding that Helter Skelter ¾ a
black/white race war that would bring on Armageddon ¾ was the
motive for the murders of the LaBiancas and those at 10050
The most obvious reason is that Mr.
Bugliosi didn’t look at the events that led up to these murders in
chronological order. If you don’t study what happened in the order it
happened how can you ever understand why one occurrence followed another?
Did Charles Manson simply wake up
one morning and say, ‘Today’s the day, somebody’s going to
die’? Mr. Bugliosi gives that impression in his version of the crime.
What Mr. Bugliosi doesn’t answer satisfactorily is why it happened. Mr. Bugliosi says the murders were planned to
bring about Helter Skelter but Vincent Bugliosi also claimed that Charles
Manson already believed Helter Skelter was imminent.
So, why would he risk his life to try to set it off himself?
Charles Manson went to
a great deal of trouble to avoid responsibility for the murders. He tried to
get others to do the killing for him, he tried to distance himself from the
places where the murders took place, he ran to the desert, he set up alibis,
he set up armed guards around himself and his camp.
He did not want to be caught. And it wasn’t that he didn’t
understand the consequences of his actions. He knew very well what would
happen if he was caught.
So, if Helter Skelter was already
imminent, why did he take such terrible risks? It just doesn’t seem to
make sense. And when things don’t seem to make sense it generally means
that you haven’t got the story quite right.
If Charles Manson thought Helter
Skelter was imminent, and he desperately didn’t want to get caught for
the murders, why would he still go ahead and arrange for people to be
Something else provoked this rash
act. And as we go through the events that led to those two nights in August
1969, you will begin to see exactly how a long line of interrelated events
ended at this point. And only then will you begin to understand the true
tragedy of the horrible loss of life that ensued.
But for now it is worth pointing
out, in Mr. Bugliosi’s defense, that the Tate-LaBianca trial was rushed
from the start due to the incredible amount of public pressure the Los
Angeles Police Department was under. The Grand Jury was held before the
District Attorney’s Office had any real evidence on anyone, except for my testimony. As
such, Mr. Bugliosi was forced into the case much quicker than he would have
liked. He had to come up with a way to convict Charles Manson of crimes which
Mr. Bugliosi knew he was responsible for but for which Charles Manson had
been very careful to distance himself from.
This began what might be called the
hunt for the Magic Motive.
That is to say ‘the hunt for anything that would convince a jury that
Charles Manson, and Charles Manson alone, was the beneficiary of these
In his book Mr. Bugliosi points out
that the motive is not the prosecuting attorney’s job to establish. But
this case was different. If no motive was established there would be no way
of convicting Charles Manson. And so Mr. Bugliosi jumped in as any young,
ambitious attorney would have and began digging around. But he didn’t
find out that the murder of Gary Hinman was connected to Bernard Crowe until
well after the Grand Jury. How could he possibly uncover the real motive for
the murders of those at the Cielo and LaBianca homes without understanding
the real reason for Gary Hinman’s death?
It wasn’t until the trial
started that Vincent Bugliosi finally found out about the suspected murder of
This suspected murder would have an incredible effect on the actions of
Charles Manson, but by the time Vincent Bugliosi discovered it he was already
selling Helter Skelter to a jury. To have tried to change the purported
motive at that point would have cost him his credibility in a case in which he
was already stretching his credibility to the limit.
So Vincent Bugliosi went on with
Helter Skelter. To his credit, and a testament to his hard work, he won
convictions and death sentences. But this misrepresentation of the motive has
had some disturbing side-effects. The most disturbing, as far as I am
concerned, is the raising of Charles Manson to the status of a mystic,
mind-controlling Super Villain. The attention he has received as a result of
his conviction is not what is deserved.
The second disturbing side-effect of
the Helter Skelter myth is that it allows several of those who were involved
with Charles Manson at the time of the murders, and a whole new generation of
misguided youth, to delude themselves as to what these murders were really about.
They were not revolutionary or environmental symbolic killings. They were
heinous, degraded, and depraved murders of completely innocent people ¾ people with
loved ones, families, friends, dreams and hopes just like the rest of us - and all for
the basest and most arrogant of causes; the serving of Charles Manson’s
Chapter 4; First Appetite
By the fall of 1969, Charles Manson
had as many as 40 people living with him at Spahn Ranch.
I often hear it asked, why did
people flock to this obviously abusive and oppressive deviant? Why did those
who stayed feel drawn to his murder-cult? How could those involved with
Charles Manson deliberately draw more people into his nightmarish web of fear
These are the types of questions you
hear posed by those who look back from a point in time after 1970. For them it seems impossible to believe that the
commune wasn’t steeped in murder and revolution from the start, but it
wasn’t. Without knowing the whole story of what led up to the murders
in the fall of 1969, it’s very easy to doubt that an ordinary hippie
commune, preaching love and music and drugs, could be transformed into what
the Family became. It’s very easy, without knowing what happened, to
insist that the Family must always have been a dark, bitter, twisted and
homicidal group. But that’s not true.
The Family started as something very
different and then it changed. It was only over a relatively short period of
time that it became what the media shows you today. But to understand this
long road you must understand how it began.
In 1967, Charles Manson was released
into Los Angeles after
spending the last seven years of his life in federal prison. His interests
upon leaving prison were few – sex and drugs. The day after his release
he transferred his parole to San
Francisco, where the new hippie movement and
‘free love’ promised both.
Charles Manson must have been in
heaven once he was turned loose in San
Francisco. Years of learning how to
manipulate and con, as well as years of studying pseudo-religions paid off in
spades. San Francisco was filled
with young, naive, idealistic and impressionable kids just looking for
someone to show them a new way. And they were willing to throw themselves
into any new experience or idea whole-heartedly, forsaking everything else.
In 1967, Charles Manson could talk
new-age religion. Charles Manson could talk old religion. Charles Manson knew
eastern religious thought. Charles Manson had the vision and intensity necessary
to hold the attention of young minds. He understood psychology. He understood
nihilism. He gave the appearance of having forsaken his worldly possessions
and dropped out of the rat-race (in truth, this appearance was just because
he left prison with very little and even less to give up). He appeared to
live what he preached.
And what did Charles Manson want?
What was he after? Sex and drugs. But these were available everywhere in the
hippie counter-culture – they were practically given away. So Charles
Manson strung together a little pseudo-religious pseudo-intellectual
mumbo-jumbo, along with his ability to play guitar, and he was in. The
thirty-five year old con-man became a peace-loving hippie and began hanging
around the parks and universities. And he used this new ‘con’ to
get what he wanted.
So why did young people flock around
him? Because in 1967, pseudo-spiritual sermons with a vaguely eastern feel to
them were what people wanted to hear. And Charles Manson was an expert at
telling people what they wanted to hear. Years of learning how to mimic and
ingratiate himself to other inmates in prison had taught him how to draw out
people’s opinions and attitudes and project these back at them.
Why weren’t these young people
able to see through his ‘con?’ Because drugs and sex were things
that were shared casually in the underground. Nobody but Charles Manson would
have perceived these things as something you had to cheat people out of.
So, when people ask how members of
the Family could ever have been attracted to Charles Manson the true answer
often shocks and offends them – in 1967, there was no reason to fear
Charles Manson. He wasn’t preaching murder, he was preaching love and
peace (not out of any belief in these things necessarily, but only as a way
of getting what he wanted). There was no reason to avoid Charles Manson in
People often ask why members of the
Family stayed with Charles Manson. Once again, the answer is often received
with incredible disbelief –
until the summer of 1969, there was no reason to run from Charles
Manson. He could get what he wanted by playing the part of the pacifist
hippie guru. No one suspected that this facade hid an all encompassing and
violently dangerous self interest.
And, yes, if you had been searching for something in San Francisco or Los
Angeles in the late 60’s, and you had run into Charles Manson, he would
have told you whatever it was that you wanted to hear and you would have been
taken in. You would have thought he was a great guy. You would have thought
he shared your beliefs and your understanding of the world, and you’d
have thought you could trust him.
If you were searching for something
in San Francisco or Los Angeles (or anywhere up and down the West Coast), as
many of us were in those times, and you did
not end up with Charles Manson, it was only by God’s good graces
and not by any better judgment of your own.
But it’s hard for people to
And I understand that. It’s
very frightening to accept that if you had been there something like the
Family could have grown up right around you without your having any
forewarning. It is much more comforting to believe that something this
horrible could not have been born without the knowledge and participation of
those around. It is much more comforting to believe there must have been
obvious signs from the beginning –there must have been some reason this
did not begin just like every other
commune experimenting with drugs and free sex at the time.
It is frightening to believe that,
but for the love of God, you weren’t pulled into that nightmare as
well. It is much more appealing to convince yourself that those who ended up
there were somehow different from the rest of the young kids on the West
Coast in the late 60’s. That somehow they must have been intrinsically
evil to end up where they did. That they had a taste for Charles
Manson’s bitter preachings. That you would have avoided Charles Manson.
That you would have seen through his cons.
But you wouldn’t have.
In 1967, Charles Manson’s needs
and interests were so nominal he didn’t seem any more manipulative or
dangerous than the boy next door – all he wanted was a little sex and
drugs. There were no ‘bitter preachings’ about hate and killing
and ‘pigs.’ There was no need. Charles Manson could get all he
wanted by copying and mirroring the love and peace rhetoric of the day. And
he did it well. His years as a pimp and a con man had taught him to say what
people around him wanted him to say, and to say it convincingly.
Very few people who met Charles
Manson during this period weren’t attracted to him. Even his parole
officer, who was familiar with ex-convicts and their manipulations, was taken
in by Manson.
Most of those who heard Charles Manson speak stayed with him. Those who escaped
the nightmare to come did so, not due to their better judgment, but because
they were lucky enough to be left behind when the Family moved from place to
I, unfortunately, was not one of
those who was left behind.
Chapter 5; The Hustle at Spahn Ranch
The movement of the Family to Los
Angeles was the beginning of Charles
Manson’s manipulation, no longer just for sex and drugs, but for
control of the people around him. Having satiated himself with the fruits of
the free love counter-culture that had been denied him for so long while in
prison, his goals were raised. He now wanted more.
This is also the point in the story
when I personally become involved.
A pimp has to know how to control
people. Especially women. Especially young women. Absolute control is
essential if you want to make someone do something that is personally
repugnant to them.
The first rule of pimping is to
remove the people you want to manipulate from all familiar surroundings and
support. This not only makes them dependent on the pimp for everything, it
means that if they begin to have misgivings there is nowhere to turn. And
there is no one around to reinforce their own inner feelings that things
aren’t the way they should be.,
Charles Manson knew this. Not only
is this a basic manipulative tool, he’d had practice. He’d been a
pimp at one time in his checkered past.
Once he settled at Spahn’s
Ranch, in Los Angeles, Charles
Manson’s wants and needs reached even higher. He had men to get him money
and drugs and to do his dirty work. He had women for sex and to take care of
him. But this wasn’t enough. He’d seen the fruits of fame. He
wanted power. He now sought social acceptance.
The story of his ill-fated music
career is not a unique one. Only one in a thousand make it in music –
maybe less. But this was an incredible blow to a man who actually thought he
was the only thing that mattered in the universe. The piquing of his pride
can only be imagined.
But Manson’s brush with fame
– the Beach Boys and the Hollywood crowd
– drew even more people to Charles Manson’s Family during this
time. And there was still no reason for them not to have been drawn in. It
was basically the same sermon he had been using in San
Francisco, only there were more kids and
fewer counter-culture gurus to compete with in Los
Angeles. Charles Manson became better at
telling his stories, learning what best held the interests and imaginations
of the idealistic youths. And as the Family grew a hierarchy developed. Those
who pleased Charles Manson more were given preferential treatment, thus
allowing him to increase his control over them.
But this was probably
no different from any other commune based on a single leader. Some move
closer to him and therefore benefit from increased acceptance, others find
themselves on the outside and so work harder to get back in.
This might be a good point in the
story to explain that I was never
“on the inside.” I was always an outsider. Because of my abusive
upbringing I had a natural aversion to authority, and ironically even though
Charles Manson preached against societal authority, the more he took control
of the Family the more he became the authority. We always had a
personality clash. I didn’t like being told what to do and he demanded that
people did what he told them.
At the time I thought that meant he
was strong – I thought it meant he couldn’t be dissuaded from his
beliefs. He said he liked me and I thought he did, but when I wanted
something he never gave it to me. Other men I’d known always tried to
give me whatever I wanted in relationships – Charles Manson
didn’t. In hindsight I now understand it simply meant he didn’t
care in the least for anyone else’s interests except his own. He told
me he liked me simply because that was a way to control me, a way to get me
to contribute to the Family. Two years later, during the trial, when he made
me and my co-defendants get on the stand and say that we planned the murders in a bid to allow him to escape the death
penalty, thereby assuring our own executions, I discovered just how much he
really cared about me.
One would expect to find great clues
to the turning of the Family during this period, as this is the year or so
that directly preceded the crimes. But there were no obvious signs that
things were changing from the peace and love sermons in San
Francisco. There were clues, but they were
The influx of new Family members was
one of these changes. It was nothing alarming of itself, but it did mean that
a group mentality was forming. It also meant it was easier to pretend
everything that happened among us was all right – there was reassurance
in numbers. Also, the slow decline
into crime would eventually be cushioned and anesthetized by the fact that
everyone around you was participating, so it didn’t seem out of the
The development of the hierarchy was
The hierarchy was a little more
profound. It changed Charles Manson from simply a new-age spiritual leader to
the person who influenced everything that was done around Spahn’s
Ranch. From the clothes you wore to the way you wore your hair, the merest
comment from Manson sent people scurrying to please him. In the end, it was
his ability to simply do no more than “suggest” something be done
to make it happen that lead to his erroneous belief that he couldn’t be
held responsible for the crimes.
He was wrong.
But at the beginning the change was
slow and the effect was not yet obvious in late 1968 and early 1969.
Another change was the beginning of
revolutionary talk. This was the beginning of the talk of Helter Skelter. The
notion of a black/white race war was, of course, something Charles Manson had
picked up in prison.
That it began to come out more and more often was an indicator of the things
being said by the young people who began joining the Family during this time.
A consummate manipulator, Charles Manson simply parroted back at people what
they most wanted to hear. With the Watts riots in LA
and the growing fervor over Viet Nam, revolution
was a popular catch-phrase for snaring the young, the idealistic, and the
unwanted. And so Charles Manson sewed together several disjointed ideas and
began to construct a tale so incredible and fanciful that it could hold the
attention of even the most drug-enfeebled teenage mind. And the story of
Helter Skelter was born.
That Charles Manson’s Helter
Skelter story was around will not be disputed. That he used it to manipulate
the young people around him is abundantly obvious. But the contention that
this had any relation to the true motive for the murders will slowly become
ridiculous as the events are unfolded.
In his new quest for power, Charles
Manson went out of his way to ensnare the lost and unwanted young. This is
another indicator of his expertise in manipulation. They were the easiest to
control. They had no one else to turn to. He, being an unwanted child
himself, knew how to play on their inner bitterness and fear and longing to
be accepted. But this might also be an over-simplification. Charles Manson
tried to snag anyone he could. That he was more successful with the outcasts
among society probably had little to do with his choice and more to do with
the fact that outcasts had few other options open to them.
As an example, by the time of the
crimes I had no family or friends left to turn to. My mother had passed away
when I was fourteen, my father had abandoned my brother and me and gone off
drinking when I was sixteen, my Aunt kicked me out of her house when I was
eighteen because she caught my cousin drinking and was positive I was
responsible, and my grandparents wouldn’t speak to me after I had a
child out of wedlock. Any friends I had before moving to Los
Angeles were lost. Any friends I made in Los
Angeles were harassed by the Family until
they either joined or were scared away.
By 1969, I had nowhere in the world
to go outside of Spahn’s Ranch. If I had left in early 1969, I would
have left with my son and no friends, no family, no money, no food, and
literally only the clothes I was wearing. By late 1969, even this meager
chance would be eliminated and those who left were lucky to leave with their
Probably the most important change
in the Family that took place during the year or so before the murders is
also the least mentioned. That is the increase in drug use.
Drug use tends to produce an ever
increasing appetite. Once you start you slowly become conditioned to them and
you need progressively more and more drugs to feel the high you did the first
time you tried them. This is a very subtle thing and in 1968 it was not much
cause for alarm, but Charles Manson was becoming hooked.
His initial interest in a career in
music faded in part because of the spurn he felt he received from the music
industry, but also because his wants were changing. The Family was growing
daily in Los Angeles. Arriving
with only seven members, by the time he settled at Spahn’s Ranch the
Family sometimes reached up to as many as forty people, counting the hangers
Just providing enough food became a project – you can imagine what the
expenses for drugs were. And for Charles Manson this became a very important
By the summer of 1969, most expenses
at Spahn’s Ranch were financed by drug deals and auto theft. All
activity around Charles Manson and the men he trusted concerned procuring
drugs or money for drugs. Drugs had been one of Charles Manson’s
primary tools for manipulating people ever since blending into the San
Francisco underground, but now I believe they had a hold of him.
The extent to which this is true can
be seen in accounts of life at Spahn Ranch during this time. Sandra Good has
reported to have given Charles Manson over $6,000 upon joining the Family.
Linda Kasabian confessed to stealing $5,000 and giving it to the Family.
Juanita donated over $10,000 and her van, turning it all over to Charles
And poor Dennis Wilson estimated he spent close to $100,000 on Charles Manson
during the several months he provided for the Family.,
And where did this money go? The Family didn’t pay rent anywhere it
lived. The Family ate the day-old food discarded from supermarkets. The
Family borrowed, and later began to steal, cars when it needed them. Except
for drugs, and later guns, there were no expenses at all for the Family.
I believe it was this reliance on
drugs and the money drugs brought in that began the cycle that led several
months later to the murders of at least nine people.
The main problem about dealing drugs
is also the most obvious – they are illegal. Being illegal, if you decide
to pursue this vocation there is no better-business-bureau to turn to if you
feel you have been cheated. And you will run into many people who are less
than honorable. Charles Manson and the men in the Family began buying and
then carrying guns.
The accounts given of life at Spahn’s Ranch tend to bare out the
statement that guns appeared, not with the invent of Helter Skelter, but with
the increased dealings with drug pushers and dealers. The fact is Charles
Manson spoke of a black-white race war as far back as San
Francisco and there weren’t any guns at
all at that time – they weren’t needed.
What you have building up is a
recipe for disaster. An ever increasing appetite for an illegal substance
that pushes Charles Manson further and further into illegal means of
obtaining it. Robberies and swindles were performed, sometimes including very
dangerous drug burns. And all to obtain more and more money for drugs. By the
summer of 1969, Family members were being encouraged to steal from their
friends and even burglarize their parents’ homes to help make up for
this drug deficit.
And the best part about all this, as
far as Charles Manson was concerned, was that they were giving him the money
and he didn’t have to get near the crimes.
He thought he was faultless because he hadn’t actually gone out and
stole the money himself. This was a pattern he would try to use again later.
Charles Manson had long ago adopted
the communist idea of shared property among the members of the Family. But
here, once again, you can see the true motive. He told new indoctrinates they
had to give up all worldly wealth and possessions to be truly free ...but
they had to give these worldly possessions and wealth up to Charles Manson.
And all so he could dress in expensive leathers and maintain his psychotic
drug state while the rest of us ate food out of dumpsters.
But how we faired didn’t
matter to Charles Manson. In his accounts of those days Manson is fond of
stating everything he did he did for “those kids.” The truth is
he didn’t do anything for the young people around him except live off
them, brutalize them, molest them, and introduce them to criminal life. The
extent to which he cared for the young people around him can be seen in the
fact that he led seven of us to California’s
death row just to satisfy his own petty wants.
But by far, the most important
change that happened during this period as far as I was concerned was the
birth of my son in October of 1968. Though born two months premature and only
weighing a pound and a half, he was absolutely wonderful. He was the only
good thing that happened to me during that entire part of my life.
But the good could not outweigh the
bad. The hustle was taking its toll. During the summer of 1969, you could see
the house of cards beginning to shake. Everything at Spahn’s Ranch was
by the skin of your teeth. Just barely getting enough food. Finding
replacement clothes. Getting the money Charles Manson demanded. Just barely
getting the drugs everyone had been waiting for. And to cover up this shadow
of impending doom – an almost hysterical flippancy. A rebellious
devil-may-care attitude. Almost a fatalism about it all.
If just one little thing went
Chapter 6; The House Fell
When a house of cards like that
teeters, one can only hold one’s breath. And when the house finally
collapses, it goes down fast.
From bad to worse. Already in a bind
for money, and feeling the bite of the local police who’s attention he
wasn’t able to avoid due to the ever increasing numbers of underage runaways
that flocked to Spahn’s Ranch, Manson was under an increasing amount of
pressure. In addition the local bikers, once friends, were beginning to
resent Manson for pulling their members away and they had actually threatened
him several times.
It was in the middle of this already
tense situation that Manson started pressuring everyone more and more for
money. There are some indications Manson was already thinking of moving away
in order to avoid the growing problems with police and bikers, and had sent
people to scout out in the desert. But in order to move he needed more money,
and everyone was pushed more and more to this end.
This is when the “Crowe
Bernard Crowe was a black drug
dealer in the San Fernando Valley. What
apparently happened, though none of us were privy to this at the time, was
that in response to Manson’s pressure Charles Watson had orchestrated a
drug deal with Bernard Crowe. Apparently Watson convinced Crowe to give him
the drugs, leaving his fiancé behind as security. Watson apparently told
Crowe he would sell the drugs to a waiting buyer and then return immediately
with the money.
But this isn’t what happened.
I should mention that Charles Watson
had taken a drug concocted by boiling hallucinogenic seeds earlier in the
week and he wasn’t himself during this whole episode. He’d
disappear for long periods of time, or sit comatose for hours and have to be
hand fed. I don’t know what he’d taken but I remember it really
messed him up. This may have had a very strong effect on what ended up
Another thing worth noting is that
the girl wasn’t really his fiancé. He’d only just met her and
apparently he decided to abandon her and run off with the drugs.
Unfortunately the girl had heard Watson call some people earlier and she
remembered the phone number. When Watson didn’t come back and Bernard
Crowe began pressuring the girl, she called the number she’d seen
Watson call and she asked for “Charles.” But Charles Watson was
known as “Tex” at
Spahn’s Ranch. There was only one “Charles,” and that was
Charles Manson. When Manson answered the phone Crowe told him he was a Black
Panther (which wasn’t true) and he knew where Manson was and if Manson
didn’t come down and give him his money, he and all his Black Panther buddies
were going to make a raid at Spahn’s Ranch and kill everyone there.
It’s worth looking at the
incident that followed – the Crowe Incident – a little closer,
because it is the true beginning of the terrible panicked spiral that led to
the deaths of nine innocent people.
Though Charles Manson had never even
heard of Bernard Crowe it was immediately obvious that (1) Bernard Crowe knew
who he was (this was a mistake in identification, but Charles Manson never
figured this out), (2) Bernard Crowe knew where Charles Manson lived, and (3)
Bernard Crowe was mad.
To Charles Manson this was no small
problem. There was no way he could run from the police, the bikers, and the Panthers... he was broke. So he
had to deal with Bernard Crowe one way or another. If he couldn’t con
Bernard Crowe, Charles Manson believed the only way to prevent the Panthers
from getting his name and where-abouts was to eliminate the source –
Bernard Crowe. If something happened to Crowe no one would be around to tell
the Panthers anything. But either
way, it had to be done quick.
And so Charles Manson told Bernard
Crowe he would meet with him and straighten the whole thing up.
Manson got a gun and took one of the
early members of the Family, a young man named T.J. Walleman, and he went
down into the San Fernando Valley. The
account given by T. J. later was that Charles Manson placed the gun in the
back of his pants, so that it wouldn’t be visible as he walked toward
Crowe. The plan was that if Manson wasn’t able to talk his way out of
the situation, when they got close enough Manson would signal T. J., who was
supposed to pull out the gun and shoot Bernard Crowe.
This plan for killing Bernard Crowe
gives a perfect insight into Charles Manson. He set up the meeting. He
arraigned how it was to be carried out. And the arraignment was that if the
dealer threatened him, he’d
get an innocent person to take the fall for killing Crowe. T.J. was a member
of the very Family that Manson professed a willingness to die for, one of our
“brotherhood” as he used to put it – a friend. And yet
Charles Manson tried to get T. J. Walleman to kill Bernard Crowe.
This is the same basic tact he would
But this wasn’t the way it
According to the
Prosecutor, when Manson got to Bernard Crowe’s apartment there were
several of his friends there. Manson tried to smooth-talk him, but when that
didn’t work and an altercation became inevitable Manson signaled T.J.
to pull the gun. But T.J.’s better sense prevailed and he refused to
pull the gun out of the back of Manson’s pants. This left Manson
standing all alone in the middle of Bernard Crowe’s living room, in a
predominantly black neighborhood, facing several Black Panthers and one angry
dope-dealer who’d just been ripped off.
Manson was forced to
pull the gun himself. He shot Bernard Crowe right in the chest. Crowe fell to
the ground and lay still. Manson and T. J. ran.
Later Bernard Crowe told police
he’d played dead until Manson left and then got to a hospital. His
friends had made sure Manson thought Crowe had been killed, probably to
prevent Manson from coming back looking to complete the job. By the grace of
God Bernard Crowe did not die, though he was on the critical list for over
two weeks. When questioned by police at the time of the shooting, Crowe
insisted he didn’t know who had shot him. One can only imagine what he
had in mind for Charles Manson when he got well.
It may be amusing to look at the
account that Manson himself gives of the events surrounding his attempted
murder of Bernard Crowe. Charles Manson claims he went to Bernard Crowe's
house, not to kill him, but to protect this mystery girl who, Charles Manson
claims, Bernard Crowe was holding hostage until he got his money. According
to Manson it was T.J. who decided to bring the gun with them. Once at the
house, Bernard Crowe attacked Charles Manson and, in defense of his own life
and the honor and virtue of this mystery girl (who Manson had never even seen
before), Charles Manson shot Bernard Crowe down while Crowe had him by the
This version of the story sounds
nothing like the versions told by anyone else and is so ridiculous it really
has to be read to be believed. At one point, Charles Manson claims to have
gotten down on his knees in front of Bernard Crowe and begged for the life of
the girl, actually saying at one point, ‘If you have to kill someone,
then take me and let her go.’
That Charles Manson, the
accomplished Manipulator, ended up having to pull the gun and shoot Crowe
himself is a testament to how foolish a position he’d put himself in.
He had obviously thought he could get T. J. to take care of his dirty work
That it hadn’t worked and
he’d had to dirty his hands infuriated Charles Manson. He was so angry
and abusive to T.J. when they got back to Spahn’s Ranch that T.J., a
long time member of the Family and a friend, left in the middle of the night
out of fear for his life.
The irony of the whole Crowe
incident was the extent to which it blew up in Charles Manson’s face.
He had thought that moving quickly to silence Crowe would keep his identity
hidden from the Panthers. But Bernard Crowe had been with friends when
Charles Manson arrived. As Charles Manson ran from the apartment a few moments
later he believed that now, not only did the Panthers believe it was he who
had ripped off Crowe, they would soon find it was he who had killed one of
When Charles Manson returned to
Spahn’s Ranch that night he still had to worry about where he was going
to raise money for more drugs, and where he was going to make his
connections, and whether the police were getting ready to move in on him over
the auto thefts and under-age kids at the ranch. On top of all that he now
had to worry about a murder charge and the prospect of being arrested.
Probably more disturbing to him that
night was the prospect of retaliation by the Panthers for Crowe’s
death. That would not be good.
Chapter 7; Running and Money
It must have been obvious to Charles
Manson if he wanted to live he had to get away from Spahn’s Ranch. If
Bernard Crowe had found him there then anyone could find him there,
especially Crowe’s friends.
But moving takes money. And the
whole reason the Family had ended up in the old, dilapidated, fly-ridden
movie ranch was because money was scarce (except, of course, for drugs).
Charles Manson needed still more money.
And he needed it immediately. But that’s exactly how he had got into
this mess in the first place.
Barker Ranch, out in Death Valley, had been
located earlier in the year, maybe as early as late 1968. It had originally
been considered as a home for the Family when it looked as though things at
Spahn’s Ranch weren’t going well. Charles Manson loved the
desert. But the problem of just reaching the isolated ranch, let alone moving
in enough food and supplies to feed the expanding Family, kept this move from
being actualized. Now it looked as though this might be the answer to Charles
Manson’s problems. No one would find him there.
But Charles Manson was not going by
himself, he needed gunmen, and women to do chores for him. But in order to
move the entire Family he desperately needed money – and now!
Chapter 8; The Lie That Wouldn’t Die
Believing he had murdered Bernard
Crowe, Charles Manson became frantic. He had, through his undying
self-centeredness and an incredible underestimation of T.J.’s
integrity, put himself in a position where he had dirtied his own hands.
Immediately he had two huge additional problems. The first was that many of
the people in and around Spahn’s Ranch knew he had gone to see Crowe.
That meant there were possibly a dozen people who could corroborate any
accusation against him. It was an incredible blunder for a boastful career
criminal. Even among his loyal Family he must have felt as though a rope was
coiling around his neck. And so he came up with a plan to protect himself
from the very people he claimed he was willing to give his life for.
We’ll get to that later.
The second problem was much more
subtle. Charles Manson needed people around him. He needed the women for sex,
to make him feel important, to do chores for him, and to draw men into the
He needed men to deal his drugs, make his connections, rob and steal to raise
money... and now for protection. But he could hardly admit he had just killed
a Black Panther and the entire brotherhood of Black Panthers was about to
come screaming into Spahn’s Ranch to wipe them all out. Everyone would
have left. The Panthers weren’t looking for any of the rest of us, just
So Charles Manson had to figure out
how to turn Spahn’s Ranch into a fortress without letting anyone know
what the real reason was.
And then it came to him. The answer
was right before his eyes. It was right there in the apocalyptic sermons he
had used to spell-bind the drug-enfeebled minds of the young men and women
all the way back to the San Francisco days.
Vaguely taken from the
Bible, enhanced slowly over months and months to include eastern mysticism,
current social and political events, and even popular music, Charles
Manson’s prophecies about Armageddon now had a use other than to bemuse
young, idealistic minds. This vague and varying prophecy had even found a
name for itself among the revolutionary sounds of the Beatles’ White
Album – Helter Skelter. The kids loved it. And after two years of
modifying the tale, Charles Manson could tell it with dramatic effect. It was
The beautiful part about it was that
any amount of arming and preparations could be covered by the explanation
that they were preparing for Helter Skelter. And Charles Manson’s
constant talk of a black/white race war provided excellent cover for telling
his young idealistic followers to keep an eye out for blacks sneaking around
Spahn’s Ranch. It all worked to perfection. His long, repetitive
sermons every night began to be re-molded to reinforce the militant
This is the time period when more
and more guns began to appear at the Ranch. This is also the time period when
Manson had bowie knives purchased and all the women were told they were
supposed to carry them at all times.
An incredibly crafty bonus of
Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter story was that it really drew the
Family together. If facing an onslaught
of Black Panthers the best defense would be to scatter. But if preparing for
Armageddon there would be no use in running away. Safety would be in numbers
and in friends.
To this day Mr. Bugliosi is still
very adamant Helter Skelter was the motive for the crimes, but I am tempted
to believe this is now more out of personal pride than out of reason. Vincent
Bugliosi made his name on this case and to have to admit his motive might not
have been correct, even after thirty-seven years, might make his victory look
a little less impressive. None-the-less, there has been some evidence in the
past years that even he is starting to accept that Helter Skelter was only a
con to get people to do what Charles Manson wanted them to do.
The truth is
Charles Manson said whatever he had to to whomever he had to to get them to
do what he wanted them to do. To some he insisted the motive was Helter Skelter. That was what they
responded to. For the more militant members of the Family the motive became
To some he made it sound like a religious trial – a bloodletting that
had to be borne. The most ridiculous story to date is the one he told Sandra
Good and Lynette Fromme, and which (incredibly) they still defend –
that all the murders were committed as some sort of militant environmental
That’s what they needed to believe in order to get them to go along.
enough, none of these odd stories is what he told the male followers who were
close to him and who shared his confidence during the drug dealing.
I think the
most decisive blow to the contention that Helter Skelter was the true motive
for the killings was the fact Charles Manson told these men he had just
killed a Panther and he needed money to split to the desert and he needed it now!
The reason I
know this is because by the late summer of 1969, my son was over half a year
old and I was becoming very attached to him. This was not allowed by Charles
Manson. Mothers were kept away from their own children under the pretense
that parents put too much guilt and structure on children and that they
should be allowed to grow up free.
In truth it was an iron-clad way of ensuring the mother would do whatever
Charles Manson told her to do.
In my case,
I became so persistent about seeing my son and trying to look after him that
I was constantly being sent away from Spahn’s Ranch with the men when
they went to take care of business. This not only meant that I overheard
things the other women didn’t get a chance to, I was able to see how
the explanations Charles Manson gave for what we were doing varied depending
on who he was talking to. Specifically, I got to hear what he told the men
– and he didn’t waste their
time with stories of Helter Skelter.
One of the
advantages of my being kept away from the main group at Spahn Ranch was that
I was not subjected to the endless hours of Manson’s sermons about
preparing for the war to end all wars. This, coupled with knowing what the
men knew about Crowe, allowed me to see the militant arming of the Family during
the end of 1969 in a little more disturbing light. And with the benefit of
hindsight, this allows me to understand what went on in a way many of those
who were in the Family at the time still don’t understand.
Manson told the story of Helter Skelter to the women and young people, and he
told the truth to his right-hand men. But the lie was born, and slowly it
took on a life of its own, and within the next year and a half it would grow
and then turn on its creator and wrap its tail around his neck and squeeze
the breath out of him.
Chapter 9; Black Riders
sometimes extremely determined. And coincidence is sometimes suspiciously
poignant. In Charles Manson’s case
it seemed that the book had been written and sealed with that one bullet
he’d put in Bernard Crowe. As if he wasn’t already scared for his
very life, within the week a group of black people showed up at Spahn’s
Ranch to rent horses. That’s what George Spahn did at his Ranch –
he rented out horses. But to Charles Manson this appeared to be an advance
scouting party for the Panthers. He was terrified.
I though he
was crazy. They were obviously just tourists up to rent horses – women
and smiling children. But Charles Manson didn’t see it that way.
Looking back it almost seems as though Fate was giving Charles Manson one
last good kick in the pants to push him over the edge and on the way to his
he called a meeting of his top men – he wanted money and he wanted it now!
Chapter 10; The Targeting of a Friend
course, was not asked to the meeting – none of the women were. But,
once again, I had been forced away from my son and out to where the men met.
Because of this I was within earshot when Charles Manson brought the subject
up. He’d killed a Panther, he said. They were coming to get him. He
wanted out and he wanted his protection, the entire Family, to come with him.
it over for a long time. No one had any money. If anyone they’d known
had had any money they would have stole it long ago. Manson was desperate and
getting angry. He was particularly angry with Charles Watson. Manson had done
all this for them, he insisted. He
had gone to Crowe’s place to protect them – to cover up for Watson’s mistake – now
they had to do something to protect him.
Manson hadn’t gone to Crowe’s place for anybody but himself. It
was in the interest of keeping his identity hidden from the Panthers that
Charles Manson shot Bernard Crowe. That he would try to make the other men
feel guilty, and imply that only he had had the courage to do what had to be
done, was not below him at all. But it was Charles Manson himself who had
pressured Watson and the others into drug deals. This is what ultimately led
him to the confrontation with Bernard Crowe. In the final analysis he can
blame it on no one else.
also be mentioned that the reason why Charles Manson couldn’t find
anyone in all of Los Angeles who was willing to loan or give him enough money
to flee, or to put him up for awhile until the heat died down, was because by
the summer of 1969, Charles Manson had abused the friendship of everyone
who’d ever tried to help him. He’d robbed some of these people,
stolen from others, threatened others when they didn’t give him what he
wanted, and shamelessly lived off others until he’d abused his welcome
everywhere. No one who had anything worth taking wanted him anywhere near
men at the meeting were reduced to grabbing at the faintest of straws. Bobby
Beausoliel thought he remembered someone saying a friend of the
Family’s, a music teacher named Gary Hinman, had inherited $20,000.
This didn’t seem very likely to me. Gary lived in a
little place down Topanga Canyon –
nothing fancy. But that’s all they could come up with.
Manson said that Hinman was practically part of the Family – or at
least he could be convinced to join the Family. If he joined the Family he
could be expected to turn his inheritance over.
was all they could come up with they decided to try it.
became quite obvious Manson didn’t really care if Hinman joined the
Family, as long as Manson got his money.
Chapter 11; The Killing of a Friend
So it was
decided that Bobby Beausoliel would ask Gary to join the
probably picked as the one to approach Gary for a
couple reasons. Gary Hinman taught guitar and he’d shown both
Beausoliel and Manson some techniques, so Bobby already knew him pretty well.
may be another reason Bobby was chosen. Bobby and Manson were both the
tentative leaders of the Family. At the time Manson met Bobby, Bobby already
had a small “family” of his own including Leslie Van Houten,
Catherine Share and several other girls. Since Bobby Beausoliel was
ultimately arrested prior to the Tate-LaBianca crimes it is often forgot he
was also a leader of the Family, and there was something of a power struggle
between him and Manson. This competitive relationship would have allowed Manson
to insinuate to Bobby that he, Manson, had done his part by intercepting
Crowe, and now Bobby had to show he was an active leader as well.
It was also
a way of assuring Bobby dirtied his hands, making it less likely he’d
be willing to testify against Manson about Crowe.
to send Mary Brunner and me along as well. This is probably partly because
Gary Hinman knew both Mary and me, and he would be comfortable with us. But
I’m convinced it was also because Mary and I both had infant sons back
at Spahn’s Ranch – sons who could be used to prevent us from
going to the police if anything happened.
And I think Manson knew something was going to happen.
was in the back room while he had been talking to the men – or perhaps
not aware I had heard him – Manson told Mary and me we were going with
Bobby to pick up some money Gary owed
Manson. At the time I found it hard to believe Gary had any
money at all, but off we went.
I had grave
misgivings about the trip. A day or two earlier Manson had approached me and
challenged me to go down and kill Gary. If I
hadn’t overheard the conversation of the night before I would have
assumed it was one of his mind games – “would you die for me? I
would die for you. Would you kill for me?”
started the conversation by suggesting that I wasn’t a leader or a
doer, that I should just stay in the background. He knew this would get to
me. An expert at manipulation, he knew that I strove for attention and
validation. He knew that suggesting I learn to “stay in the
background” would grate on me and make me want to prove him wrong. I
could tell he was trying to goad me. That he suggested killing Gary Hinman,
even with a joking smile, struck me with fear. Charles Manson often used
these kinds of little games to test people.
If he was just testing me I would have to play up to him. But what if he
wasn’t just testing me?
Manson I wouldn’t and he had laughed and walked away as though it was
all just a mind game. But the episode left me very wary about the trip to Gary’s.
In the end
my worst fears were realized.
a music teacher, a practicer of transcendental meditation, a pacifist with a
truly gentle spirit who had gone out of his way to befriend and help Charles
Manson and the Family, was stabbed to death by Bobby Beausoliel for refusing
to give up money which, it turned out, he never had.
senselessness, callous nature of this killing will never cease to grieve and
dumbfound me. What made this so cruel was that Gary Hinman had befriended Charles
Manson about a year ago while helping to provide food and clothing for
Manson’s new-born son by Mary Brunner. Gary Hinman had even allowed
Mary Brunner to use his address with the social services people instead of
the dilapidated Ranch so they wouldn’t take Manson’s son away
from her. The extent to which drugs can befuddle the mind and destroy
one’s priorities is incredible.
hindsight, the death of Gary is perhaps
the hardest thing to understand or make sense of.
After Gary declined to
join the Family, and after he insisted he’d inherited no money, Bobby
pulled a gun out (to the surprise of Mary and me) and demanded the money.
When Gary continued
to deny he had any, even after Bobby beat him up, Manson arrived with Bruce
Davis and became so enraged he tried to cut Gary’s
head off with his machete. Manson missed but severed Gary’s
earlobe and opened up a cut along the side of his face.
ordering Mary and me to stay behind and nurse Gary back to
health. After a couple days it became obvious that Gary certainly
didn’t have any money. Bobby was on the phone several times in heated
discussions with Manson, but I never knew what they were talking about.
On the third
day, Bobby ordered Mary and me into the back of the kitchen and he went out
into the living room where Gary was and
Bobby then told us to wipe the house down to remove any fingerprints. Bobby
took Gary’s car
and drove us back to Spahn’s Ranch.
description of Gary’s
death is not needed here. Nor is any justification for my own part in his
death. That I refused to hold a gun on Gary, that I feared for my son’s
life if I said anything, and that I truly hoped against hope that the
incident wouldn’t end the way I feared is all I have to excuse myself.
to puzzle me is what Charles Manson and Bobby Beausoliel said on the phone
that led Bobby to kill Gary. I will
never know, but I can guess.
Manson had suggested Bobby go to get the money from Gary because Charles
Manson knew if push came to shove he could remind Beausoliel that he, Manson,
had already killed someone in the name of the Family. That Bobby had been
beat over the head all week long about how only Charles Manson had the guts
to take care of Bernard Crowe can easily be imagined. After challenging and
shaming Beausoliel for the better part of a week, Manson sent him off to Gary’s.
It may also
have been possible that Manson insinuated Bobby didn’t have the guts to
kill Gary because
Bobby was homosexually attracted to him. Perhaps Manson bated Bobby with this
impossible to tell, but there are several reasons to think that Manson had
intended for Gary to be
killed from the beginning.
thing, Manson’s attack on Gary whether
lethal or not assured that Gary would have
gone to the police as soon as he was left alone. Even if Gary
hadn’t wanted to, he could not have turned up at an emergency ward with
that injury without the police being called. Manson must have known that.
that Manson sent Mary Brunner and myself with Bobby is also interesting. On
one side was the fact the Gary Hinman knew and liked all three of us. That
Charles Manson picked friendly faces to try to talk Gary out of his
money can not be a mistake. But on the other side, it bares pointing out that
Mary Brunner and I were the only women at Spahn Ranch with babies. (Linda
Kasabian hadn’t arrived with her daughter yet.) This can not have been
a mistake either. That these children were kept away from us and guarded was
well known, as was Manson’s penchant for using them to persuade us to
do “what’s best for you and the children.” That Mary and I
wouldn’t flee the Family or talk no matter what happened at Gary’s was
assured as long as Manson had our children.
if Bobby killed Gary then Manson
would have something on Bobby that would assure that Bobby wouldn’t
tell anyone that Manson had killed Bernard Crowe – Bobby’s hands
would be dirty too.
was poorly thought out, but the manipulation was flawless.
There is one
other thing worth noting at this point. Remember when I said Charles Manson
had made a terrific mistake when shooting Bernard Crowe in part because so
many people at Spahn’s Ranch knew he had gone to Crowe’s that
day, and there were now almost a dozen people who could corroborate any
accusations against him? And remember I said he had formulated a plan to
protect himself? Well, I think this was the plan – if Charles Manson
had his hands dirty then he was going to make sure everyone got their hands dirty.
This is a
pattern that developed over the next couple months. When Manson heard that I
wasn’t able to hold the gun on Gary Hinman during that murder, Charles
Manson made sure that I was included in the Cielo murders. When he heard that
Linda Kasabian had run from the Cielo murders, Charles Manson made sure she
was included on the night of the LaBianca murders. He shamed Bobby Beausoliel
into committing the Hinman murder by pointing out that he, Charles Manson,
had already shot Bernard Crowe (ostensibly for the Family). Then he shamed or
psyched Charles Watson into the Cielo-LaBianca killings by pointing to the
“sacrifice” that he and Bobby Beausoliel had made for the Family
with the Hinman murder (ostensibly to cover up Watson’s mistake with
Crowe). He then psyched out Steve Grogan into the Shea murder by pointing to
Bobby Beausoliel and Watson. One by one everyone was dirtied.
Until no one
was left to finger Manson.
Chapter 12; The Tightening Trap
Manson’s point of view the genius of the plan to kill Hinman was that
after he was killed the house would be arranged to look like black radicals
had done the murder. The Black Panthers would be suspected and this would put
heat on them. With the police coming down on them the Black Panthers
wouldn’t have time to worry about Charles Manson. Once again –
the consummate manipulator. And once again Charles Manson’s interests
would be served.
Hinman murder was slip-shod. Manson wanted to distance himself from the
crime, but this meant that he had to tell others what to do – others
who, in the case of Mary and me, didn’t want to be there and who
hadn’t been told Manson’s true motives and so couldn’t
properly carry out his ideas. Manson had told so many lies to different
members of the Family about why the killings were taking place that no one
had the same idea about what he wanted done. This problem would blow up in
Charles Manson’s face within the month.
Hinman crime though, Bobby Beausoliel knew exactly what Manson had planned.
He knew all about the drug burn and the shooting of Bernard Crowe. He also
understood that the killing of Gary Hinman was supposed to look like a
Panther hit to throw pressure on them so they wouldn’t have time to
come to the Ranch.
When Gary was killed
Bobby made Mary and me clean the house of anything that showed that we had
been there. A vaguely revolutionary statement was left on the wall in Gary’s own
blood – “Political Piggy.” And for the final touch Bobby
Beausoliel made a bloody palm print on the wall in the form of a panther paw.
Charles Manson was desperate to get out of Spahn’s Ranch and head for
the desert, Bobby Beausoliel was directed to make Gary Hinman sign over the
registration slips for his two cars. That Bobby actually did this was very
foolish – because it made him the prime suspect – but perhaps it
shows even at that point Bobby Beausoliel didn’t actually think Manson
was going to insist he kill Gary. But this
doesn’t make much sense either, because Manson had already sliced Gary’s
face open from temple to chin with a machete, removing half of Gary’s ear
in the process – it was pretty obvious no matter how much Gary Hinman
liked Bobby he was going to go to the police as soon as he got a chance.
To show his “devotion”
to the Family, Charlie packed up his things and left unceremoniously the day
after Gary was killed.
He said he was just going out for a couple days but it was obvious he feared
that the police would soon trace the murder to Spahn’s Ranch and so he
was running for the hills.
Two days later the police still hadn’t discovered
Gary’s body. But by now Bobby Beausoliel had begun
thinking – he’d been careful to wipe his fingerprints from
everywhere in the house where he might have put his hands, but couldn’t
he be identified by his bloody palm print as well? Of course he could. He
raced back over to Gary’s house and desperately tried to wipe the print
from the wall, but apparently it wouldn’t come off.
Spahn’s Ranch Bobby Beausoliel must have been furious. He’d been
pushed into this by Manson and now he felt caught. The possibility he’d
been conned by Manson must have been in the back of his mind – no
report of Bernard Crowe actually being found dead had been heard. No police had
even come to ask questions about Crowe. And to top it all off Charlie had
packed up and split. Beausoliel loaded up one of Gary’s
cars and took off immediately without telling anyone where he was going
including his pregnant girlfriend.
week he was arrested in San Jose (San Luis
Obispo?) when police found him sleeping in
the car on the side of the road and ran the license number. That Bobby had
the registration slip signed over to him might have saved him, but in his
haste to leave the Ranch he’d driven off with not only his bloody
clothes in the trunk, but the knife he’d used to kill Gary as well.
Spahn’s Ranch Charles Manson looked white as a ghost when he heard. If
the charges stuck Beausoliel might try to bargain with the DA. And what did
Bobby Beausoliel have to bargain with? How about Bernard Crowe. Charles
Manson must have felt as though his foot was caught in the door.
Chapter 13; Selling Your Soul to Save
Beausoliel was transferred to Los Angeles County Jail, Charles Manson sent
people to go and talk to him. It can only be imagined that Bobby Beausoliel
gave them an earful to report back to Manson. The gist of Bobby’s point
was this – take care of this or I’m not going down alone.
was truly scared can be appreciated only by looking at his situation. He
still had the police and the motorcycle gang breathing down his back. The
Panthers were still as real and imminent a threat in his mind as ever. He
still had his hands all over the Crowe shooting. But now Charles Manson
couldn’t even run to the desert. As long as Beausoliel was in jail
accused of the Hinman murder, Charles Manson was stuck. If Manson made a run
for it Bobby would assume Manson was throwing him to the lions and he’d
roll over on Manson in a minute.
insult to injury, the Hinman murder was not being associated with the Black
Panthers at all. And it never was.
The police hadn’t the slightest idea what the paw print was supposed to
Manson had felt hunted before, now he was trapped and hunted. He couldn’t go back to jail now, the joint was
filled with Black Panthers. Charles Manson wouldn’t last a week if they
found out about Crowe.
immediately after getting Bobby’s messages Manson drew the Family
together. He was more agitated than ever before. “The Family has to get Bobby out,” he said.
“He’s our brother! We’ll do anything to get our brother out
of jail!” In hindsight it is obvious that it was Charles Manson who had to get Bobby out of jail. And not
because he was our “brother,” either.
immediately Manson ran into trouble. Most of the Family had no idea what
Bobby had actually done. Those who did still had completely different ideas
about why Gary had been
killed. Manson had told everyone something different. Now those lies were
coming back to him. He certainly couldn’t tell them the truth. He
didn’t want to implicate himself in the Crowe matter any more than
possible. He fell back to preaching about coming atrocities and Armageddon.
Perhaps he was talking more about his own impending doom than anything else
– it must have seemed as obvious to him now as a monster about to
swallow him whole.
stories no longer made any sense. Their references to the Bible and mythical
stories were disjointed and didn’t follow. It was only by his own
desperate intensity that he made the reasoning unquestionable. I saw the fear
and desperate anxiousness in him – that spark that could turn so
quickly into a violent rage. He sounded mad. But I wasn’t going to
question him. I’d seen him cut Gary Hinman’s face open from brow
to chin. And Gary had been a friend of Manson’s.
And I knew
I’d never been a friend.
wasn’t going to say anything. But I started keeping my eyes open and
looking for a way out.
Chapter 14; A Desperate Plan
that the Cielo-LaBianca murders were in direct response to Charles
Manson’s fear of Bobby Beausoliel rolling over on him – the
copycat motive – is decisively supported by the fact that on the
morning of Friday August 8, 1969, Charles Manson sent Mary Brunner and Sandra
Goode out to buy escape supplies, including rope, for a breakout attempt at
the Los Angeles County Jail.
mid-afternoon news came back that Brunner and Goode had been arrested for
trying to buy the supplies with a stolen credit card.
give the reader an indication of just how hard up for money Charles Manson
was. He had counted on that money
from Gary Hinman. The District Attorney’s investigation showed that it
was during this time that Charles Manson even went back to beg the money from
Dennis Wilson, the drummer for the Beach Boys – a long time supporter
of Manson’s who, when he told Manson he didn’t have that kind of
money laying around, was threatened with the death of his son!
It had been
over a week and a half since Gary Hinman’s death and Charles Manson was
at his wit’s end. He was staying up for days at a time on drugs
watching for Panthers. Guards were now posted all around Spahn Ranch, on the
roofs of the buildings, on 24-hour watch.
The women began to fear for their lives as paranoid, speed-frazzled gunmen
combed the ranch pointing hand guns and rifles with shaking hands at anyone
who made a loud noise. And now Mary and Sandra were in jail.
not a fourteen-year-old girl who Manson could threaten or seduce into
silence. And Bobby had promised that he would not go down alone. Manson, on
the other hand, had promised himself that he was not going back to prison. He
knew very well that going to prison for killing a Black Panther would be a
only one other way for Manson to get Bobby off the hook for the Hinman murder
and thereby save his skin. That evening he decided to put plan B into effect.
Chapter 15; Into the Maelstrom
Charles Manson hesitated for a single moment before ordering the murders of
the morning of August 9,
1969, I don’t know. That he was very afraid of being caught
was obvious by his meticulously calculated planning. But that he ever for a
second thought about the people who would be killed; their hopes, their
dreams, their loved ones, their right to life ...or their right to the pursuit of
happiness, a right that Charles Manson certainly held dear for himself, I
never saw any proof. Never once did he mention them afterwards. Never once did
he seem torn by the decision. And not once since has he expressed any regret.
very careful who he sent that night. Once again he took care, first, to
choose people who couldn’t say no. Charles Watson was young and quiet.
He, like Bobby had been worked on for over a week about how Manson and Bobby
had gone the distance for the Family. He was chemically dependent. He was
beat over the head again and again with the fact that all this had started
because of the drug burn that he, Watson, was in charge of and which had led
the Black Panthers to Spahn Ranch. Watson owed
him, Charles Manson insisted. He had saved Watson’s life by
shooting that Black Panther. Watson owed him.
thing Manson was careful to do was to pick people who didn’t have their
hands dirty yet. And that is why I was chosen. Linda Kasabian and Patricia
Krenwinkel were pushed into the car for the same reason. Though Linda had
only been in the Family for a month or two, she was picked for the same
reason I had been sent to Gary Hinman’s – her four-year-old
daughter was being kept by Charles Manson in a separate area of the ranch
“for her safety.” Patricia Krenwinkel was chosen because she had
nowhere to run to. She couldn’t have left the Family no matter what
choices were all deliberate. Calculated. Cold. His manipulation was expert
once again, but his criminal planning was as faulty as with the killing of
one of Manson’s main problems was that he was still trying to avoid
admitting to anyone he had shot, and presumably killed, a Black Panther. And
so the manipulations began again. The killings were done for revolution...
no, they were done for the environment... no, they were done because we all
just loved Bobby that much... no, they were done to start Helter
Skelter... In reality, they were
instigated by Charles Manson to save his own skin. And it very quickly became
obvious how expendable the “love of the Family” was to him. We were
to do his dirty work and then, if worse came to worse, be thrown to the fire
like a human sacrifice to the Justice Department to pay for the sins of
bumbling began. Charles Manson sent Watson to do a copycat killing just like
the killing of Gary Hinman. But Watson had never been to Gary Hinman’s
house. He didn’t know anything about the killing. All he knew was that
it was horrible. Bobby hadn’t stuck around long enough to do much
describing other than to say that it was a terrible mess and that Hinman had
been stabbed to death. Charlie himself knew little about the actual scene,
and so he simply told Watson to “make it as gruesome as
Remembering that something had been written on the wall in Gary
Hinman’s blood, Manson simply told the me and the other girls,
“write something witchy.”
But we still
didn’t know exactly what was going on. Pat, Linda and I knew nothing
about threats by the Black Panthers. We didn’t know that these murders
were supposed to throw suspicion back on the Panthers. All we knew was a vague
story about Helter Skelter, or revolution, or that these people were
establishment people that should be hated.
weren’t even told what was going to happen, we were simply told to go
with Charles Watson and do what he said.
had been at the Hinman house I was told to copy whatever had been written on
the wall there. But all I could remember was “Pig.” But it was
not “Political Piggy,” which was what had been written at Gary
Hinman’s house. A paw print was not left, but the reason here should be
obvious – that’s what Bobby Beausoliel believed got him caught.
In fact, nothing of a revolutionary nature was left this time. The killings
were so “witchy” that no one had any idea what the motive was. In
truth, the reason there was no obvious motive was because the people Charles
Manson sent didn’t really know what they were supposed to be doing.
was that, just as with the Hinman killing, no one ever suspected the Black
Panthers of the crime. What’s even more pathetic, and definitely worse
for Charles Manson, was that the killings were so “gruesome”
that, other than the fact that a knife had been used, they didn’t
resemble the Hinman crime at all!
night the same thing. Once again Charles Manson hand picked the people he
wanted to go out.
Charles Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel would take Leslie Van Houten out to
dirty her hands. And, because of our poor showing the night before, Linda
Kasabian (who had run away) and I (who had lost my knife at the house and
then froze) where forced to go again, this time taking Steve Grogan to dirty
specifically picked because she was originally one of Bobby
Beausoliel’s girls. Charlie wanted to make sure that, just in case her
loyalty turned back to Bobby and she decided to testify against Charles
Manson at Bobby’s trial, Manson would have something on her.
was picked because he was one of the men who had already heard about the
Crowe shooting. He had also been on the boardwalk of Spahn’s Ranch the
night before when the car had driven up with blood on the door handles and
steering wheel. Grogan already knew too much and Manson wanted to make sure
that, just in case Grogan ever thought about talking, he knew he had
something to lose as well. Manson wanted him all the way in or all the way
killings the night before hadn’t been what Manson had wanted. They
hadn’t been “done right.” The news reports didn’t
even mention a connection to the Hinman crime. Though Manson still wanted to
distance himself from the killings as much as possible, so he could slip away
if the police ever caught up to the Family, he felt that he had to go along
to show everyone what he had expected.
At the LaBianca residence he actually tied the couple up and robbed them,
slipping out just before they were killed. That this action alone made him
guilty of conspiracy as well as two counts of first degree murder shows his
bungling – it also shows how unsophisticated her was about the law.
Manson still knew less about how the Hinman murder was carried out than Mary
Brunner or myself. He insisted in directing us in copying a murder about
which he himself knew almost no details. The only thing that Charles Manson
knew for sure about the murder of Gary Hinman was that he’d had his ear
cut off. But Manson didn’t remember to copy this!
the LaBianca killings were much more extreme than the killing of Gary Hinman.
For one thing, Leslie Van Houten hadn’t participated during the
killings, so she was told to go back after the crime and do more. This led to
the problem (a problem as far as Charles Manson’s copycat plan was
concerned) that this crime had ten times the number of wounds as the crime at
writing was left in blood. But this time no
one who’d been at the Hinman residence was there to help make any
similarities. Patricia Krenwinkel thought she remembered something about
“pigs,” but she wasn’t sure what it was. “Death to
pigs,” “rise,” and “healter skelter” were left
instead. They sounded vaguely revolutionary. But Manson’s reluctance to
let anyone really know what was going on backfired on him again – the
reference to the Beatles’ song Helter Skelter not only completely
eliminated the Black Panthers as suspects, it was Manson’s own calling
card. The bungling goes on.
put suspicion on the Black Panthers and convince the police the LaBianca
killings were related to the Hinman case, Manson had stolen Ms.
LaBianca’s wallet and had Linda Kasabian hide it in a gas station
bathroom in a predominantly black neighborhood.
Unfortunately she hid it so well it wasn’t found until long after we
were all arrested.
wasn’t this crime associated with the Black Panthers or the
murder of Gary Hinman... it appeared to be so different that it wasn’t
even associated with the Cielo crimes!
By the end
of the weekend, seven more innocent people are dead. But more to
Manson’s interest, he’d managed to suck another eight members of
his own Family into the depravity of his own soul just to make sure they
couldn’t turn him over about the shooting of Bernard Crowe.
Ranch was now in complete paranoia. Guns, knives, suspicion was everywhere.
There was still no money. There were still Panthers out there. The bikers
actually came up to the ranch looking to beat their money out of Manson and
he only scared them away with riflemen up on the roofs.
The men practiced shooting out behind the ranch every day.
The women were instructed to wear their knives. Everyone was supposed to wear
dark clothing. Strangers, even hippies, were no longer welcome.
was coming apart so quickly. Charlie was walking around with his eyes wide
open, double and triple checking his tracks to make sure he couldn’t be
Did everyone wipe their fingerprints off? Did everyone get rid of their
bloody clothing? Were the knives and gun discarded far from Spahn’s
Ranch? Were the knives wiped clean of prints before being discarded?
bad. Real bad. It was as though we were drowning – always a sick
And I think that’s how Manson must have felt – as though he just
barely had his head above water. If there was even the slightest ripple, he
knew he’d go under.
The Sickening Sigh of Relief
the contention that Charles Manson’s motive was to save his own skin by
getting Beausoliel off the Hinman charge so that he wouldn’t carry out
his threat to implicate Manson is borne out by the fact that the very next
day, Monday the 11th, he sent Linda Kasabian to go visit Bobby
Beausoliel in jail. The message he told her to give is a simple one –
“Say nothing; everything’s all right.”
Spahn’s Ranch breathes a sigh of relief. But the churning sickening
feeling stays. For Charles Manson the killings represented no more than a
calculated risk. To those in the Family who had been ordered to carry them
out they were horrific, traumatic experiences that would not go away. And
Spahn Ranch became a ghost town, with half-dead, shocked specters drifting
between the buildings.
This is a
fundamental difference between Charles Manson and all the other co-defendants
related to these crimes. As far as I know, Charles Manson is the only one who
has never shown any remorse. All the other co-defendants have, at some time
over the last thirty years, gone through a complete emotional and
psychological breakdown over what they witnessed and were a part of.
I don’t know if the true horror of those nights has ever struck him.
convinced that he’d freed himself from the threat of Bobby throwing him
to the wolfs, Charles Manson relaxed... a little. There was still the need to
get away from the Ranch as soon as could be managed.
were being stolen and converted for desert use as quickly as possible.
Charles Manson had visions of making it to the desert within weeks. But that
On August 16th,
the police swarmed into Spahn Ranch with a warrant for evidence connecting us
all to auto theft. And everyone ended up in jail. Manson must have had a
heart-attack when he saw those police flashlights. Even once he was assured
that the arrests were only for auto theft there must have been an eerie
forewarning as he was locked up in County Jail. He must
have felt like he couldn’t breathe.
Chapter 16; A New Desperation
The auto theft
arrests were eventually thrown out because the search warrant was old. That
Charles Manson would have breathed a sigh of relief can only be imagined. If
he did, it was a short one. Once back at the ranch he became possessed with
getting out to the desert. The time in jail must have really shook him up.
To get a
true understanding of Charles Manson it is worth pointing out that when
arrested he was still holding Linda Kasabian's two-year-old daughter as a
safety precaution against her going to the police. Linda had stolen one of
the vehicles from the Ranch and escaped prior to the police raid only by
abandoning her daughter.
When everyone was put in jail the child became a ward of the courts, as did
my own. When Linda Kasabian found out about the arrests she figured it would
be safe to sneak back to Los Angeles and get her
daughter from the courts without anyone from the Family finding out. She was
horrified to find, from the case worker, that a young woman had already
showed up to claim the child but was refused when she couldn't provide any
that Charles Manson knew exactly why he was holding on to those children. It
was no coincidence that Linda Kasabian's child, as well as my own and that of
Mary Brunner, were away from Spahn Ranch just at the time of the murders. It
was not out of concern for the children that they were kept under guard night
and day. It was a calculated, and brutal, form of manipulation. They were his
Once out of
jail, the first order of the day for Charles Manson was retribution. Donald
“Shorty” Shea had been a ranch hand at Spahn's Ranch ever since
the Family moved there the year before. He'd always been on cordial terms
with Manson, but when Shea begun to suspect that stolen cars were being
stripped in the back of the ranch his attitude changed. This had been right
around the time Bernard Crowe had been shot. Now Manson’s frustration
and anger were vented on Donald Shea.
Donald Shea actually had anything to do with the police raid or not has never
been proved. I suspect that if he had then Vincent Bugliosi would have found
out about it and used it against Manson at the trial. But then, Shea’s
actual involvement didn’t really matter, what’s important was
that Manson thought Shea was responsible
for the raid.
And the raid had sent Manson back almost to square one as far as getting out
of Spahn’s Ranch. In fact it set him back even more, because now the
police hung all over the Ranch just waiting for someone to step out of line.
back. Shea was reportedly hacked to pieces out behind the Ranch and buried in
several deep holes. His body wasn’t discovered until almost seventeen
years later when Steve Grogan agreed to cooperate with authorities.
not killing Shea took Charles Manson a moment of forethought is impossible to
know. If all that made Charles Manson’s hand hesitate from killing was
the fear of discovery, then Donald Shea’s murder was a cinch for him.
Manson arranges the killing for his own purposes. The main participant is
Steve Grogan, who did not get his hands dirty on the night the LaBiancas were
killed. That Grogan ends up dragged into murder is important to Manson
because Grogan not only knows about Crowe, he now knows about the LaBianca killings
and he watched Manson greet those coming back from the Cielo murders. The
back-up cast, those who either lured Shea out behind the Ranch or helped
clean up and bury him afterwards, included just about everyone not involved
to this point; Catherine Share, Nancy Pitman, Sandra Good and Lynette Fromme.
Manson’s safety net, his ability to blackmail anyone who knows about
his shooting Bernard Crowe, is almost completely in place.
period is nothing like the love-filled days in San
Francisco or the first year in Los
Angeles goes without saying. That the
atmosphere is still anything like communal is ridiculous. Those who could
leave, do. Linda Kasabian has already abandoned her daughter and fled.
The friend I had traveled to Los
Angeles with, Ella-Jo – one of the
original six girls in the Family, disappears with her boyfriend one morning
without a word. She didn’t say good bye to anyone.
immediately after the Crowe incident. Patricia Krenwinkel disappeared shortly
after the Shea murder.
Charles Watson stood up one day and simply vanished. Bruce Davis went into
hiding. Paul Watkins ran off from the Family’s desert ranch.
By the time
the Family is arrested in the desert, a month or two in the future, there are
only a dozen or so members still there out of a Family that at one time held
ready or not, the Family is moved to the desert. Manson could have gone much
sooner on his own, but he’s afraid to move without his bodyguard of
followers. Supplies are sparse and conditions rough. More people try to
leave. Some are hunted down in the desert and brought back, others are caught
up to where ever they surface and warned to tell no one what they’ve
seen or heard.
Manson’s mind the Panthers are now far behind. But the police are not.
Caches of arms and gasoline are stored out in the desert sands in case it
becomes necessary to escape through the deep desert. Once again, armed guards
and sentries are posted everywhere. Manson claimed these were to protect us,
but, as I’ve mentioned, the only time they went out in force is when a
Family member tried to escape.
trial, Vincent Bugliosi claims that all the guns and supplies were to allow
the Family to survive Helter Skelter. But the true reason for the
preparations was clearly the police, not Helter Skelter. While Charles Manson
still talked a lot about revolution and Armageddon in order to cover his true
motives, he also gave lectures on how to kill with a knife ... how to kill
police officers that came around the ranch to be specific.
He wasn’t preparing for a black/white race war at all.
again Charles Manson must have felt he had to cover up, not only the true
motive for the quick move and the change in the Family philosophy of love and
acceptance, but for the bungling that took place in his murders. They weren’t copy-cat murders now,
they were supposed to throw fear into the establishment so that they would
leave us alone, or they were supposed to make the establishment stand up and take
notice, or they were to start Helter Skelter, or to scare Terry Melcher, or
to save the earth (I’ve never understood that one).
desert was hard and ugly. Maybe it was just that everyone in the Family felt
hard and ugly on the inside. As I’ve said, all those directly involved
in the murders were in either a state of shock or in hysterical
Charles Manson’s manipulations for drugs and power were falling apart.
There were no drug connections in the desert. And his following was dwindling
despite his armed guards. Those that were left were a tired and traumatized
group who were ready to give up.
also no one to steal from in the desert. No one to con. Money was very
limited, but Manson was afraid to go back to the city.
everyone, our stay in the desert didn’t last very long.
Chapter 17; Last Daylight
police made their three day raid on Barker Ranch, where the Family stayed,
they picked up the pathetic remains of Charles Manson’s Family. It was the
last free day Charles Manson ever had. He and about a dozen others, myself
included, were put in jail originally, once again, for Grand Theft Auto.
Eventually, once again, most were released.
I was not.
told police that I knew something about a killing where someone’s ear
had been cut off. When the police told me I was under suspicion I thought it
was Beausoliel finally starting to deal his way out of jail. Instead it was
apparently one of the young girls who’d escaped from the desert hideout.
Instead of being released with the others I was transferred to Los
Angeles to be questioned in regard to the
Chapter 18; Pretrial Jailtime
Most of what
happened during this whole episode happened after I’d been arrested. In fact, after the bungling of the
crimes – which covered a relatively short period of time – the
wrangling and maneuvering and manipulation during the trial was where the
real dramatics began. And that is where the myth of Helter Skelter began as
actions during this time have been misrepresented to such an extent that they
have effectively buried me. Up until now there seemed little way of even
attempting to lay out what really happened so that others could see it if
they cared to.
First it is
important to note that everyone in the Family except for Bobby Beausoliel,
Manson and myself had been set free. Watson had disappeared a week or so
after the crimes even before we headed out to the desert. Linda Kasabian had
run off, abandoning her daughter in her escape. Leslie Van Houten, Patricia
Krenwinkel, Bruce Davis, Catherine Share, Lynette Fromme and Sandra Good were
all set free.
This left me
basically on my own in County Jail. After
several weeks I elicited the unwanted attention of two middle-aged career
criminals, Virginia Graham and Ronnie Howard, who apparently decided they
were attracted to me. In order to avoid them I began talking about the
biggest news on the Television – the killing of Sharon Tate.
spent much of his youth in correctional facilities and during the growing
paranoia after the crimes and into the desert he’d continually preached
to us that when you’re in jail you have to act tough in order to avoid
getting targeted. You have to tell stories. You have to exaggerate to make
yourself seem tougher and nastier than you are. So I exaggerated the only
story I knew. I told them I knew who was responsible for the Tate crimes and,
in fact, I knew who killed Sharon Tate. It was me.
I am not
twenty-one years old anymore. Nor am I naive. I am quite aware that claiming
I was merely lying to avoid unwanted homosexual advances in County Jail when I
claimed to have killed Sharon Tate is very self-serving. And I am well aware
the reader has no reason to believe me or to take my word for it.
don’t want the reader to take my word for it. But then, I don’t
want the reader to take anyone else’s word for it either.
merely offer the facts as told by others.
admitted he’d instructed everyone that if they were arrested they had
to act tough and tell stories in jail in order to survive.
prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, asked these women why, if I’d confessed
to killing Sharon Tate, they hadn’t contacted the police immediately,
they claimed they got the impression I had just been trying to act tough.
It should be pointed out that even the Prosecutor claimed these women
weren’t naïve, they were career criminals not likely to be fooled by
the lies of a twenty-one year old girl. Their assessment was that I’d
Watson also claimed I’d been lying when I said I killed Sharon Tate. He
stated this in 1976,
and again in his own book, published in 1978.
Since Charles Watson was the only other person there at the time, and since
this is actually a statement made against his own best interests, it is hard
to see what he would gain by lying about it.
Attorney admitted that others in the family had told investigators I had not
killed Sharon Tate.
though I realize it doesn’t hold any weight if you don’t believe
me anyway, I claimed this was a lie in 1976, and again in my own book,
published in 1977. This is also the story I told the Parole Board even
earlier in the 1970’s. I offer this merely to show you this isn’t
“Susan Atkins’ New Version” of the crimes. If this is
merely a self serving story of mine it is the same one I’ve been
telling for over thirty years.
Even if you don’t believe me, at least give me credit for having the
intelligence to not change my story every three years.
That I was
lying is further indicated by the fact that most of the other things I told
the two women have been proven to be lies.
The irony of
the lie is that it had its desired effect. Both women avoided me from that point
on. The down-side was that several weeks later I was “invited” to
talk to the police about it.
opportunity was a God-send. It had been impossible to sit in Jail with all
that in my heart. I was going crazy. And the chance to get it out of me was a
salvation in itself.
it is interesting to point out that most people don’t remember it was
over two months after the crimes and both the Los Angeles Police Department
and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department had absolutely no leads. It is
perhaps impossible now to look back and realize how odd, and frightening, it
was for the entire community to have such a widely publicized crime with
absolutely no leads.
It is with
this backdrop that I suddenly told the LA District Attorney’s office I knew
exactly who was responsible for the crimes, that the Tate and LaBianca crimes
were connected (something they still didn’t realize), and that a
suspect they’d questioned and already dismissed was actually the author
of those crimes.
revelation was such a bomb blast that Vincent Bugliosi states in his account
that without my testimony they had no case at all. Without my testimony they
never would have been able to even indict Manson, let alone bring him to
trial and convict him.
At the time
I was given a very conscientious court-appointed Attorney named Richard
Cabalero. He told me to keep quiet and he’d make a deal with the
Prosecutor. But I didn’t care by that time. The nightmare was still in
my heart and I had to let it out. In the end, despite my fears, I agreed to
testify before the Grand Jury in order to indict Manson and the others
responsible for the crimes. In exchange all I asked was that I not face the
Death Penalty. I didn’t even ask to escape being held accountable.
It is also
worth pointing out that the public was putting an incredible amount of
pressure on the Police and the District Attorney’s office about this
case. It was this public pressure that forced the District Attorney’s
Office to rush the case to the Grand Jury, and it’s one of the reasons
the myth of Helter Skelter was embraced before most of the facts of the case
Caballero set up a meeting with the Prosecutor. They explained to me
they’d made a deal. I would testify at the Grand Jury but I wouldn’t
have to testify against Manson in open court. I would still have to be tried
for the crimes but I wouldn’t face the Death Penalty. In addition I
would be isolated and protected from my co-defendants. The only stipulation
was that I had to tell them the truth. If I didn’t tell them the truth
they could invalidate the whole deal, use my testimony against me and my
co-defendants, and I’d also face the Death Penalty.
So I sat
down and told Mr. Bugliosi the truth. The interview was conducted in Mr. Caballero’s
office and lasted only two hours.
here’s the problem. I had been implicated in the crimes because
I’d told two women in Jail I had killed Sharon Tate. That had been so
shocking to them they had eventually contacted the police. Now I was told I
had to tell the police the truth or I’d be tried and executed. But the
two were not the same.
So I told
Mr. Bugliosi the truth. I hadn’t killed Sharon Tate.
when he wrote his book about the crimes, Mr. Bugliosi stated he got the
impression I was lying to him about this – that I had, in fact, killed
I have to
admit that during the time of the trials I did not like Mr. Bugliosi.
It’s hard to like someone who’s part of a system that took your
son away from you. And it’s hard to like someone who knew how much
pressure you’d been under and yet still told people you were a
blood-drinking vampire, and who told you he’d have you executed if you
didn’t say and do what he wanted you to.
was wrong about a lot of things. And he was wrong about me killing Sharon
Tate. But with the grace of God, and thirty-seven years of hindsight,
I’ve come to respect the fact that as far as I know Mr. Bugliosi has
always been careful to make it clear this is just his belief. This is what he
believes. He doesn’t claim to
be God and he doesn’t claim to know
what happened that night.
might sound like an odd point for me to stress, I assure you if you are ever
unlucky enough to find yourself on trial there is a huge difference between a
prosecutor who tells the jury he believes you did something you didn’t
and a prosecutor who tells the jury he knows
you did something you didn’t. It’s a question of integrity.
he’s wrong about a lot of things, I’ve never caught Mr. Bugliosi
deliberately lying about anything.
And so after
the interview I was rushed to the Grand Jury. I told them what happened at
the Tate and LaBianca crimes. I told them the truth. Charles Manson was indicted
and charged with the crimes. So were Linda Kasabian, Leslie Van Houten,
Patricia Krenwinkel, and Charles Watson.
awhile for the police to find them all. Manson was still in Jail but the
others had scattered across the country. Some of them I did not even know by
their real names.
Watson was found in Texas. Patricia Krenwinkle in Alabama. Linda Kasabian had
traveled to Salt lake City and then onward to New York. She turned herself in
when she heard on TV that she’d been indicted.
And so I had
it all out of my heart for the first time in months. I could breath again.
And I thought that was the end of it. We’d be tried and found guilty
and that would be the end of it.
I was wrong.
Chapter 19; The Pressure Inside.
It is interesting
to note that even at this late stage in the game Manson still believed he had
a couple cards up his sleeve. As you will see, his manipulating and self
interest didn’t stop or falter for a moment. In the end I think you
will see that ironically it was his own meddling in his case that cost him
remember, Manson has prepared for this eventuality from the start. Every step
of the way he has taken care to put distance between himself and the crimes
he was organizing. Except for the Crowe blunder and his inability to keep
from “showing how it’s done” on the night of the LaBianca
Murders, he’s done pretty good at keeping himself covered. He’s
also gone to great lengths to see that everyone who could possibly turn on
him has their hands dirty as well.
Charles Manson began to organize a network with which to run the Family from
jail. Over the next couple years this network will be the means by which
Charles Manson threatens witnesses, orders people to give and recant
testimony, directs lawyers, orders jail-breaks, directs robberies, and even
Through members of the Family not charged with the crimes, namely Lynette
Fromme and Sandra Good, Charles Manson begins fabricating his defense.
defense primarily involves sacrificing everyone else to the flames.
defense is, of course, to deny any knowledge of the crimes. When I go to the
Grand Jury and implicate him, his response is fast and brutal. My attorney,
Richard Caballero receives death threats.
I receive visits from “friends” who suggest it might be in my own
best interest for me to recant my testimony.
I receive endless harassing letters. Threats to my life were posted around
And, though I was supposed to be held incommunicado, Catherine Share gets
herself arrested and put on my floor of the jail to scream and yell at me for
a day and a half – I was a snitch, I was dead, Charlie wanted to see
me, if I came back everything would be forgiven.
I was reminded they could still find my son.
If one reads
Mr. Bugliosi’s account of the crimes there is something odd that
doesn’t pop out unless one is paying close attention. It is something
that obviously didn’t occur to Mr. Bugliosi.
My son had
been taken by Social Services after I was arrested during the police raid at
Spahn’s Ranch. So had Mary Brunner’s son and Linda
Kasabian’s daughter. As I already mentioned, Linda Kasabian heard about
the arrests and returned to Los Angeles to retrieve her daughter. She was
horrified to hear from the Social Worker that a young woman claiming to be
Linda had showed up and tried to collect the child but had been turned away
because she hadn’t had any identification.
had been able to get her son back from Social Services when the Grand Theft
Auto charges were dropped once she was released from Jail. This is because
Mary still had a driver’s license.
didn’t have a driver’s license.
knows this. This is one of the reasons Linda was forced to drive to the Tate
house – she was the only one who had a valid driver’s license.
(Mary Brunner was in jail at the time for using a stolen credit card.)
But when I
was arrested again in the desert my son was taken into custody again. Somehow
my son had been returned to me despite the fact I didn’t have any
occurred to the Prosecutor.
But this is
The way it
happened is that Manson sent me to social services to find out where my son was
and then he sent four men to escourt me to the house and ask to see my son.
When the couple who were looking after him left the room the men ushered me
and my son back into the car, drove me back to Manson, my son was taken out
of my hands and returned to where the other children were being kept
“for his safety.”
isn’t a breath-taking story, except that years later I’m still
taunted by District Attorneys and Parole Board Commissioners who imply
I’m lying when I say I was threatened with the life of my son while I
was in Jail. They claim this is ridiculous because my son was safely in the
care of the Social Services – no one could harm him. But I knew better.
If Manson had been able to find where my son was once he could find him
again, and he could send people to get to him.
In the end,
Manson’s insistence that I recant my Grand Jury testimony shows a very
naive understanding of the legal system. He believed that since my Grand Jury
testimony was the only real evidence against him, if I recanted my testimony
the charges would have to be dropped and he would have to be released.
I put up
with this pressure for months. Through his minions, and then later in person,
Charles Manson told me it would be “better for everyone,”
including myself and my son if I recanted my Grand Jury testimony.
He said the DA had no real evidence against any of us and once I recanted my
testimony we’d all be set free.
Manson’s reasoning was clear – the only implication the District
Attorney had on him was me. As for the claim that “we would all be set free,” in truth, the
only one who had any real evidence against them was me. Due to my talking to
Virginia Graham and Ronnie Howard, if I recanted my testimony and lost my
immunity I would become the focal point of the DA’s whole case. But
this didn’t matter to Charles Manson. For a man who insisted he loved
his Family and would give his life for any of its members, he didn’t
seem to have any qualms about using my son to force me to let go of my one
chance at life. And all just so he could beat a rap and not take
responsibility for a crime I had already resigned myself to.
In the end I
succumbed. But I have to point out the position I was in was not a very nice
one. I was being promised by Manson that if I didn’t do what he told me
to I wouldn’t live a year in prison and possibly my son would be harmed
as well. On the other side I was being promised by the Prosecutor that if I
didn’t do what he told me to I would be executed.
In the end
it became very clear. I’d seen what Charles Manson was capable of doing
even to friends like Gary Hinman, and I knew he’d never considered me a
“friend.” I also knew Mr. Bugliosi still had to prove his case.
In the spring of 1970, there really was a chance he might not be able to do this.
thirty-six years that have followed this moment in my life I have been
regularly lambasted for my decision. The fact that I was the one who got
Charles Manson indicted, and the fact that I was the one who told the Los
Angeles Police Department he was even connected to the crimes, is regularly
dismissed due to my recanting. At my parole Hearings the District Attorney
regularly asserts it shows my willing and deliberate commitment to Charles
Manson. When I claim my recanting was the product of coercion and fear they
is, Mr. Bugliosi himself claims to have been given up to three bodyguards
during the trial,
and his family was moved into a “safe house” in response to
threats against his life.
He also claims our judge was given three bodyguards, had a 24-hour guard on
and carried a loaded gun under his judicial robes.
Both my Attorneys had their lives threatened.
Patricia Krenwinkel’s Attorney had his life threatened.
Leslie Van Houten’s Attorney may actually have been killed.
And all of this while Manson was locked away in jail.
Most of the
Family members were still free at that time. This included Lynette Fromme and
Sandra Goode, whom the Prosecutor claimed followed him around with a knife,
as well as Bruce Davis and Steve Grogan both of whom would eventually be
convicted and recommended for death by their juries.
very real reasons to fear Charles Manson even while he was incarcerated. And
the District Attorney’s Office knew this.
Chapter 20; Being Thrown Away By Both
my testimony and immediately heard that despite Manson’s assurances
we’d all be freed, instead the District Attorney merely made a new deal
with Linda Kasabian.
Now she was going to be their
“evidence.” I was still going to face trial, but now I was going
to face the Death Penalty too.
But suddenly it became very clear. I’d
been promised not merely immunity from the Death Penalty, I’d been promised
protection and isolation from my co-defendants. The District Attorney knew I
was receiving visits from known Family members while supposedly being held
And he knew Catherine Share had been placed on my floor and on my hall of the
Los Angeles County Jail (which had four floors of jail cells) and that she
was allowed to yell threats down at me for the better part of two days. They
knew threatening signs were being found hung on the walls of the jail,
indicating I was a snitch, and they knew this was pushing me closer and
closer to recanting.
I’ve come to believe this is exactly what the prosecution wanted.
And there are several good reasons for this belief.
California you can’t use the testimony of one defendant against their
co-defendants unless there is some corroborating evidence. That means you
have to have at least one other piece of evidence to indicate the testimony
of the defendant is truthful. In my case, though I was the one responsible
for Charles Manson being indicted and charged, and though I was the one who
told the District Attorney’s Office what happened and who was involved,
my testimony could only go so far at trial.
could be used against Charles Watson and Patricia Krenwinkle because the
police had found a fingerprint from both of them at the crime scene. And
Leslie Van Houten had spoken to another girl at the Ranch about the LaBianca
crime. Charles Manson himself had made several vaguely incriminating remarks
to various people indicating his connection to the crimes. This provided the
corroborating evidence that would allow my testimony to be used against them.
was no corroborating evidence against Linda Kasabian. This meant they
wouldn’t be able to use my testimony against her and they didn’t
have anything else.
In the end
it was obvious the District Attorney would rather have made a deal with Linda
from the start – they knew they weren’t going to be able to
prosecute her anyway - the problem
was she hadn’t come forward until she’d already been indicted.
I, on the
other hand, was different. If I could be induced to recant my testimony, and
therefore invalidate my deal, what I’d said to the women in County Jail
could be used as corroborating evidence for anything Linda said against me.
Bugliosi admitted to being angered when he found the DA’s office had
offered me immunity.
Why? Because he was horrified by my participation in the crimes? No. Because
from the DA’s point of view I was the only one he felt he had a good
chance of prosecuting thanks to my statements to Virginia Graham and Ronnie
Howard. He would much rather have chosen Linda, against whom he had no
corroborating evidence, as the one he’d have offered immunity to.
prosecutorial point of view it just made sense to try to get rid of me.
finally did recant my testimony, Manson’s first question to me was
“have you gotten to Linda?” His foremost interest was still
me, Linda Kasabian couldn’t be threatened. The District Attorney’s
Office offered her complete immunity (meaning she wouldn’t even be
tried for the crimes) as well as protection and isolation from her
indication of how the District Attorney’s Office could have prevented
me from suffering the pressures I did when they left me in the Jail is seen
in how differently they handled Linda Kasabian – the Prosecutor himself
went straight over to the Jail the very day he made the deal with Linda and
talked to the Sheriff in charge and had her put in isolation.
True isolation. On a separate floor from all the other people in jail. And he
kept her there for the entire trial.
the fact they left me in the main jail population even though they knew I was
being threatened and pressured a good indicator they knew what they were
doing. They knew I was being pushed closer and closer to recanting.
indicator the District Attorney’s Office wasn’t being entirely
honest with me is the fact that they only interviewed me once for two hours.
They later claimed my deal would have been invalidated even if I hadn’t
recanted simply because I had not been “entirely truthful” with
them. They claimed I hadn’t told them Manson had taken Linda Kasabian,
Steve Grogan and me out to Venice Beach after the LaBianca’s and
ordered us to kill a friend of Linda’s.
is, I hadn’t told the prosecutor about that event because the interview
never touched on it, it never came up, I didn’t think it was relevant,
we hadn’t done it, and the Prosecutor only talked to me for two hours - it never
Prosecutor’s claim that I had deliberately omitted this is highly
suspect, and I think he knows that.
himself confesses he rarely interviews
witnesses just once because they often overlook things they remember later.
This indicates he knew perfectly well if he only interviewed me once there
was a very good chance he could find something we hadn’t covered and
which he could claim invalidated my deal.
as soon as he made a deal with Linda he started interviewing her regularly.
He claims to have spent as many as fifty hours interviewing her, some of
these interviews lasting up to nine hours. In addition he gave her a pad of
paper and told her to write down anything she’d overlooked when
they’d talked. He claims some of the letters she wrote him were ten or
more pages long.
In fact even minor witnesses were interviewed for hours and hours.
interviewed me once, for two hours, and then claimed I hadn’t told him
also interesting that in the end I was the only person who agreed to testify
against Manson without demanding complete immunity. Everyone else who had
anything over them demanded complete immunity. From Linda Kasabian
to Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham. From Danny DeCarlo
to Mary Brunner.
I was the only one who accepted my part in the crimes and testified about
them while still accepting responsibility for them.
But this is
not an indictment of Linda. Linda did what she should have done.
But she had a lot of advantages that I did not. Her daughter was now in the
hands of her family on the east coast. She was being held incommunicado... true
incommunicado. No one was allowed to see her. No one was allowed to talk to
her... for nine long months.
Manson had made another incredible blunder. If he had left me as the
DA’s main witness he would have been able to continue to threaten me
with my son and undermine the prosecution’s attack. Now there was no
way for him to touch the DA’s main witness.
But his goal
was obvious. With my testimony recanted, he immediately called for a
dismissal of the charges against him. That I was still implicated by my
talking to Virginia Graham and Ronnie Howard, and therefore now faced eight
counts of first-degree murder with the loss of my immunity, didn’t
bother him at all. I was disposable.
I realized I’d been thrown away by the DA’s Office at the point
when I was no longer useful to them, and I was being thrown away by Manson
now that I was no longer needed by him.
had ever wanted me.
Chapter 21; The Selling of Bobby
Bobby Beausoliel’s first trial had ended in a
hung jury. But the investigation into the Cielo-LaBianca murders was still
turning up more evidence and more people who knew about the death of Gary.
Mary Brunner was identified and charged as a co-defendant for the murder of
Gary Hinman. Manson must have realized what Beausoliel was probably thinking.
Manson decided to throw Bobby to the wolves.
was told to make a deal with the DA’s office. At Bobby
Beausoliel’s second trial Mary insisted that Bobby had acted on his
own, that no one had prompted his killing of Gary Hinman.
Bobby must have realized what was happening. His “brother”
Charles Manson was stabbing him in the back. In response, Bobby took the
stand himself and declared that Manson was responsible for the murder. This
is exactly what Manson had feared Beausoliel would do from the beginning, and
it was exactly what he didn’t need right now. But it was too late for
Beausoliel. He was convicted of first-degree murder.
Manson had orchestrated the killing of Gary Hinman perfectly. By the time Beausoliel
realized he was being thrown to the wolves his credibility was destroyed and
he couldn’t even finger Manson convincingly.
But Manson was still afraid of being
fingered for Crowe, the only murder he didn’t think he could worm his
way out of. And so he immediately sent Mary Brunner back to recant her
testimony in order to pacify Bobby. Then Bobby Beausoliel moved for a
mistrial and release, claiming Mary’s testimony was the only evidence
He was denied. And Manson was left to worry about whether Beausoliel would
turn to the DA’s office about the Crowe incident.
So far in
the investigation for the Cielo-LaBianca murders, the DA Vincent Bugliosi was
digging as deep as he could for a motive and finding nothing but talk of
revolution, environmentalism, and Helter Skelter.
Manson must have smiled.
nothing about Bernard Crowe. All that nonsense that he had been spewing for
months had paid off. All the stupid people who had trusted him to lead them
were so confused as to what the murders were actually about that Bugliosi was
getting nothing but nonsense. Charles Manson knew he couldn’t possibly
be convicted on that. No one would believe that. No one would believe he had
tried to instigate a race war to gain control of the world. And once a jury
scoffed at that, Manson would simply show there was no proof he was at Gary
Hinman’s house or the Cielo residence, and he’d left the
LaBianca’s residence before anyone
was hurt. He was in the clear.
To this end
he continued to actively uphold the Helter Skelter motive himself. In
interviews with the press Manson spoke of revolution, society’s ills,
and the need to call the attention of the whole world. He instructed Lynette
Fromme and Sandra Good and the members of the Family still free to stir the
media up with claims that the murders were symbolic acts of revenge for the
destruction of the planet. The girls who held vigil outside the courthouse
were instructed to fill the newspapers with threats of impending doom and
retaliation if he, Manson, was convicted. In the end, Manson believed, he
would insist it was the girls’ ridiculous ideas that had prompted the
killings and he had nothing to do with any of it, and he would slip away and
leave us to die.
But he was
missing something. His lust for media attention and his iron-clad control of
his codefendants’ legal representation was beginning to show through.
He didn’t realize, but the jury was beginning to see the extent of his
control and manipulation of the Family. And the bizarre courtroom antics he
arranged to make my codefendants and me look crazy and wild were beginning to
back-fire as the jury and the press slowly became convinced the Family was
just crazy enough to actually believe in Helter Skelter. Perhaps the murders were committed solely upon the
deranged delusions of a madman.
It must be
mentioned that in the fall of 1969, at the time of his arraignment for the
Cielo-LaBainca murders, Charles Manson was almost universally believed by the
professional and legal communities to be either completely innocent of the
crimes or in a position that he could never be successfully prosecuted for
them. And this was probably true. There was no physical evidence or sound
motive connecting Charles Manson to the crimes. What eventually put Charles
Manson on death row was his own foolish interruption of his legal defense.
If, from the
start, he had just let his State-appointed lawyers do their jobs he probably
would not have ended up in prison... that is, until he got caught for
something else. But his involvement with his own legal representation not
only confounded and undermined his lawyers, it made his controlling and
manipulating nature more and more obvious.
end of the guilt phase of the trial it began to look as though the jury, and
certainly the press, might actually be taking the Helter Skelter motive
seriously. But Charles Manson was so wound up in the media blitz and being
the center of attention, he didn’t even notice his twilight was coming.
Chapter 22; And the Heavens Cried
toward the end of the guilt phase of the trial something occurred which only
merited a minor note from prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi. That Vincent
Bugliosi didn’t realize the true significance of this occurrence shows
his lack of understanding of the crimes.
escorted between jail and court, Charles Manson was led down one of the halls
of the justice building when he met another prisoner being led in the other
direction. It was Bernard Crowe.
Bugliosi says that the sheriffs escorting Manson said he turned to Crowe and
said “sorry I had to do it, but you know how it is.”
(This alone tends to throw doubt on Manson’s claim that the shooting
was in self defense - no apology
would have been necessary.)
irony of this moment can only be appreciated if one understands the real
reason all the killings began – to get money so that Manson could run
away from the police and the Black Panthers, who he was sure were coming
after him for killing Bernard Crowe.
At this one
moment it must have all became obvious to Charles Manson. Bernard Crowe
wasn’t dead. Manson hadn’t killed anyone that day. What’s
worse was that it was also obvious that Bernard Crowe must have never
mentioned the shooting to the police. And none of Crowe’s friends had
either. And no Panthers had ever come up to wipe out Spahn Ranch. Bernard
Crowe must not even know any Panthers!
That was the
moment when the true horror and tragedy of all those murders should have come
to Manson. That was the moment when it was obvious that when Charles Manson
had ordered the murder of Gary Hinman, no one, not the police or the
Panthers, was pursuing him. There had been no need for desperation. There had
been no need for money to flee. And there had been no need for Gary Hinman to
Manson’s fears about Crowe led to the completely unnecessary murder of
Gary Hinman. Bobby Beausoliel’s arrest for the murder of Gary led to
the horrific murders at the Cielo residence and the LaBianca residence. The
murders at the Cielo and LaBianca residences led, ultimately, to the murder
of Shorty Shea. And all of it was for nothing!
Bernard Crowe alive and in police custody should have sent a sickening chill
through Charles Manson. The horror of nine innocent people dead should have
don’t know if it did. What I really think troubled him was the thought
that Crowe might press charges or put a hit out on him.
personal note, I have often wished that I could have been there when this
exchange took place. To see the look on Charles Manson’s face at the
moment when he realized nine people had died and eight more were on their way
to death row for nothing. All for
I would have
liked to have seen if even a flicker of recognition of that horror showed on
his face for even a second - some sign
that for one moment in his life he actually cared about those people, both
for those victims he hadn’t even known and for those young people who
had trusted him.
heavens must have cried.
Chapter 23; The Lies That Bind
end of the guilt phase of the trial Manson should have realized that things
weren’t going well. He’d tied his lawyers’ hands and
insisted on controlling everything they did in court, even though he knew
nothing about the law or legal proceedings, and he’d foiled their every
attempt to help him.
And this was despite the fact that, nine months ago, ninety percent of the
legal community believed there would be no way to convict Manson.
But those people had underestimated Charles Manson’s need to control
everyone around him even when he didn’t know what he was doing.
At the end
of the guilt phase of the trial Charles Manson got the shock of his life when
he found out that he’d actually been convicted for the murders of the
seven people at the Cielo and LaBianca residences. And he’d thought
he’d been so careful to distance himself from the murders. The
immaturity of his knowledge about the law can be seen in his lack of understanding
that just his knowledge that the murders were going to take place and his
knowledge afterwards that they did take place, even without the fact that
he’d orchestrated them, made him an accessory to the murders and
therefore legally culpable. The fact that he’d helped tie up the
LaBiancas made his part in the murders active and premeditated. So he
shouldn’t have been surprised.
someone who thought he was the only one who mattered in the world this blow
must have been tremendous. And he’d been convicted with that ridiculous
nonsense about Helter Skelter at that!
Chapter 24; The Penalty Plan.
convicted, Manson changed his strategy going into the penalty phase of the
a guilty verdict during the guilt phase of the trial is followed by a penalty
phase, where the jury determines the penalty imposed. In the case of First
Degree Murder in 1969, the choice was between seven-years-to-life in prison
or the Death Penalty.
trial Manson had been careful to tie the hands of his co-defendants. He had
forced each of us to fire our court-appointed attorneys and to hire attorneys
who had solicited Manson. Mr. Bugliosi stated the result was that Manson had
four attorneys and my co-defendants and I had none.
that during the trial he had prevented any of us from putting forth a
defense. The reason is obvious. What could our attorneys have said other
than, “These young women were forced into the crimes by the
machete-wielding maniac Charles Manson”? Charles Manson’s hopes
of being found not guilty rested squarely on me and my co-defendants taking
the full weight of the responsibility for the crimes. He didn’t want us
to have a defense. We were expendable. We were slated to die.
been found guilty, Manson had to totally overhaul his strategy. He was now
already implicated in the Hinman murder, so hiding the copy cat motive was no
longer necessary. He also now knew he hadn’t killed Bernard Crowe, and
so he didn’t have to worry about the police finding out about that. He
now believed his best bet lay in throwing doubt upon the Helter Skelter
motive he’d originally been so happy to see the prosecution latch onto.
He’d also take every opportunity to try to slander the
prosecution’s main witness, Linda Kasabian.
This is one
of the reasons why my case is so strange. It was handled completely
backwards. Our defense lawyers put forth no defense during the trial and then
the entire defense was laid out during the penalty phase. This is one of the
reason why, thirty-seven years later, no matter what I say skeptics can
claim “nothing like this was
ever brought out at the trial.” And they’re entirely correct
– because no defense was brought out at the trial.
So this was the new plan Manson unfolded for the
penalty phase of the trial. It was based on one of the most elementary
manipulative tricks of them all - mix your lies with a lot of truth.
The copy cat
motive would be uncovered and admitted, but with a few novel changes that
would suit Charles Manson. First and foremost, the defense would claim Manson
didn’t have anything to do with the planning of the murders. The man
who told people in the Family what to wear, how to cut their hair, and broke
chairs over people’s heads if they talked when he didn’t want
them to, was now to be portrayed as an innocent bystander to the most
all-encompassing decision ever made by the Family. A completely ridiculous
charge to anyone who’d ever been in the Family or even seen the Family,
but would the jury buy it?
most important change was that Linda Kasabian would be portrayed as the main
ring-leader in the murders. This would help discredit her as a witness against
Manson and give the illusion she was fingering Manson just to remove herself
from the picture as much as possible. Once again, to anyone who knew the
Family or Linda Kasabian, the charge was ridiculous.
It should be
pointed out that Linda Kasabian was not the angel Vincent Bugliosi claimed
she was (she was the only one besides Charles Manson himself to drive the
Family to the crime scenes, and she was the only one to hide the weapons
after the Cielo crimes), but she was certainly not responsible or culpable in
any way for the murders. She was just as frightened and unwilling as the rest
of us (during the Cielo murders she actually ran away, and the next night she
deliberately steered Charles Manson away from potential victims in order to
avoid any bloodshed).
But the true
absurdity of Charles Manson’s claim that Linda was the ring-leader for
the murders could be seen in the fact that she’d only been with the
Family for about two months. Certainly no one who knew anything about the
Family would have thought for a second she would have been able to usurp
power over the Family from Manson. But the jury didn’t know the Family.
Would they believe it?
The rest of
the copy cat motive would be left as close to the truth as possible so there
would be sufficient corroborating evidence.
(fictional) version would run something like this; Linda Kasabian was madly
in love with Bobby Beausoliel. When Beausoliel was arrested she became
frantic to find a way to free him. She then came up with the idea of performing
copy cat murders so the police would see the murders were continuing and
conclude they must have arrested the wrong man. Beausoliel would be freed and
the Family would be back together and she would be with Beausoliel again. She
had convinced the other girls in the Family and together they had lured the
men in to help them. And all without breathing a word to Manson.
Manson began dictating this version of the story to the members of the Family
who weren’t arrested, namely Lynette Fromme, Sandra Goode, and
Catherine Share. He would then have his lawyers call these people as
witnesses during the penalty phase of the trial to try to sell the story to
And this is
what he did. The problem was that most of these girls weren’t closely
related to the group that had gone out on the nights of August 8th and 9th.
That whole group was now in jail. So it was easy for the prosecution to shed
doubt not only on their testimony, but on their motives and credibility as
well. To make things worse, many of the girls called to testify didn’t
have the story down straight and others over-acted. This just gave the jury
the impression that Charles Manson was orchestrating a cover-up – which
is exactly what he was doing.
for Charles Manson it showed the jury, once again, the depth of his
manipulation and control over the people in his Family. It became more than
obvious he did have the power to
order people murdered and no one in the Family would have done anything he
hadn’t told them to do. No one would have taken control away from him,
not Watson and certainly not a twenty-one year old Linda Kasabian.
thing about all of this is that the prosecution knew this version of the
copy-cat motive wasn’t true. But by now they also knew about the
connection between Gary Hinman’s death and the Cielo/LaBianca killings,
and they even knew about the incident with Bernard Crowe. So they knew the
Helter Skelter motive was at least somewhat, if not highly, suspect.
they’d gone to the moon and back to sell the Helter Skelter theory, and
the jury had believed it. The prosecution couldn’t possibly admit it
was entertaining the idea that perhaps Helter Skelter wasn’t the motive. They would have lost all credibility.
could all be traced back to the public pressure the District Attorney’s
Office had been under which forced them to rush the case to the Grand Jury
before they fully understood everything that had happened. This book, of
course, is meant to address this mistake. But in the case of the prosecution
it meant they were locked into the Helter Skelter theory from that moment
stuck with Helter Skelter.
Chapter 25: Suicide on Command.
became obvious the poorly rehearsed and disjointed testimony of these girls
wasn’t going to be enough to get Charles Manson off the hook, he did
something that showed his character much more clearly than anything other
than the murder of Gary Hinman, the man who’d helped feed his son.
Fromme, Sandra Goode and Catherine Share perjured themselves on the stand for
Charles Manson during the penalty phase of the trial they did so with little
or nothing to lose. But when he came to Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van
Houten and myself and told us that we were going to have to get on the stand
and claim we had deliberately and remorselessly, and with no direction from
him at all, committed all the murders ourselves, he was basically asking us
to commit suicide.
request came so easy for him was probably the nastiest point in my life. That
he was brutal and cruel at times I already knew. That he was capable of
murder, even the murder of a friend, I had known since watching him take a
swing at Gary Hinman’s head with a machete. That it appeared I was
being set up for the murders ever since recanting my Grand Jury testimony was
a thought I had tried to keep from my mind. But I had always assured myself,
though cruelty and brutality seemed to surface at times, it was only because
of the dire straits we had been in at Spahn’s Ranch. I had assured
myself all those words Manson had said about one big Family where everyone
cared about everyone else and was willing to make sacrifices for one another
That day I
had to stop pretending and come to face the fact that all those sentiments
were nothing but words to Charles Manson. The two and a half years I had
spent with his Family overcoming adversity, struggling to get along,
struggling to make ends meet, partying, hoping for the future, enjoying his
dreams of being a musician, and scrimping though the hard times meant
absolutely nothing to Charles Manson. I
meant nothing to Charles Manson. None of the young people who’d
come to follow and look up to Charles Manson meant anything to him, they were
That was the day that I really began to understand Charles Manson the way I
do today - the way
I’m showing him in this book.
By this time
in the trial I no longer even had my conscientious attorney Richard Caballero
to turn to. I had had him replaced, at Manson’s order, with one of
Charles Manson’s attorneys - Daye Shinn. Both of my codefendants had replaced their
lawyers with one of Charles Manson’s lawyers as well
(Krenwinkel’s attorney had simply been converted).
At this point in the trial, and faced with Manson’s request, there was
nowhere at all to turn.
The whole trial I had been hoping that he
and the lawyers had some idea of what they were doing. Charles Manson always
said everything was going to work out all right. I didn’t realize what
he had meant was everything was going to work out all right for him because,
if worse came to worse, he had a back-up plan. That his plan was simply to
sacrifice my codefendants and me was an idea I had refused to accept up to
Manson was an expert manipulator. He’d waited to the end to tell us
this was his back-up plan on purpose. By this time in the trial, he said,
there was only one hope for all of us and that was to discredit the
prosecution’s case. We couldn’t defend ourselves from all his
charges, Manson said, but we could throw dirt on Linda Kasabian and
completely undermine the Helter Skelter motive. If we could convince the jury
the prosecution was completely wrong about the motive for the murders, there
was a chance they could be persuaded they hadn’t been given the whole
story, there might have been mitigating circumstances the prosecution had
didn’t work. All four of us ended up on death row. But Manson should
have known it wouldn’t work. He made the same mistake he had with the
testimony from the other girls in the Family - our stories were thrown
together and poorly rehearsed, they were obviously concocted for the sole
purpose of slandering Linda Kasabian and removing Charles Manson from the
crimes, and they were only more proof to the jury that Charles Manson was in
complete control of the Family, even unto death.
Charles Manson had been beat - or rather,
he’d beat himself.
it illustrates the self-interested purpose of Charles Manson to point out
that during the penalty phase of the Cielo-LaBianca trial, he not only
instructed us to confess to those murders but he made us confess to the
murder of Gary Hinman. This was a completely uncorroborated story and it was
ridiculous for many reasons, the most obvious being that neither Patricia
Krenwinkel or Leslie Van Houten had even been to Gary Hinman’s home.
more, Mary Brunner had already testified it was Bobby Beausoliel who had killed
Gary Hinman. And Bobby Beausoliel, in an attempt to extricate himself, had
claimed Manson had killed Gary. Both accounts made it very unlikely my
co-defendants or I could have done it After all, if Beausoliel was trying to
save his skin it would have been a lot easier to claim I had killed Gary than
to have claimed anyone else had, and it would have been the first thing on
his mind if I actually had killed
makes this maneuver interesting is that Manson was already trying to expedite
himself from the murder charge for Gary Hinman even before he was tried for
Gary’s death. He was already trying to set up an alibi.
plan had been simply to distance himself physically from the murders. Now it was
obvious the ridiculous Helter Skelter motive could be used to convict him
even though he wasn’t at the crime scene when the murders took place.
But that had been his whole master plan. He’d gone to a lot of trouble
to distance himself physically from the murders and now it wouldn’t
help him at all.
So now my
codefendants and I had to swear we killed Gary Hinman without Manson’s
encouragement. In fact, now the death of Gary Hinman was changed to look more
like self defense. But the whole story was now so ridiculous that nobody
Even subtler is the fact that Charles Manson
was trying to get us to admit to the murder of Gary without Bobby being involved. The reason for this can be
understood only if one tries to think what Manson would gain by this. He now
knew he would be tried for Gary Hinman’s death, and he knew he could be
convicted if it could be shown that he had instigated the killing.
He knew his
three codefendants could be forced to confess he had had no part in the
killing, but what about Bobby Beausoliel? Beausoliel had already let Manson
know if he was convicted he’d implicate Manson, and now he was
convicted. Bobby Beausoliel had also already testified, unconvincingly, at
his second trial that Manson had done the killing. It was obvious Charles
Manson was trying to throw Bobby Beausoliel a bone. If Charles Manson could
force us to take the heat for Bobby Beausoliel, he might be able to convince
Bobby not to testify against him. Manson might still be able to worm his way
out of that charge.
this ploy didn’t work. And once again this was due mostly to poor story
telling by myself and my codefendants. But what is of interest is the depth
of Manson’s manipulations.
example of Charles Manson’s cold calculations was his attempt, in the
later stages of the trial, to force Catherine Share to tell everyone she was
carrying his child.
Her child was not Manson’s
son, and he knew it. He was simply trying to play on the hearts of the public
and the jury members right before they were to decide whether to sentence him
In the end
my testimony and the testimony of my co-defendants was a joke. Our lawyers,
learning that we intended to implicate ourselves, refused to question us.
When we finally were allowed to give statements none of the stories worked
together. They contradicted each other. They didn’t make sense.
But by this
time I really didn’t care. I was testifying simply to protect myself
and to get Manson off my back. I didn’t care if the stories
didn’t make sense. I didn’t care if they weren’t
convincing. And I honestly didn’t care if the jury believed them. I was
already convicted and looking at the death penalty – why should Manson
walk away free?
It was also
during this testimony I was asked, once again, to say I had killed Sharon
Tate. It hardly seemed important now - I was numb after months and months of pressure both from the
District Attorneys and Manson’s minions. While my two co-defendants at
least had each other to confide in, I had no one. Though we stood together in
the pictures for the newspapers, no one would even talk to me. They blamed me
for getting everyone indicted.
another reason I went along with Manson’s plan and
“confessed” to killing Sharon Tate. Besides the constant threats
and pressure from Manson, I realized I’d already been convicted.
Whatever the outcome, either life in prison or the death penalty, I was going
to prison and I was going to be locked up with these two women and many more
Manson followers. My best hope was to mend that rift and try to get
“back in the fold.”
during the Penalty Phase of the trial was so ridiculous the Prosecutor
claimed the holes in my story were a mile wide.
In fact he used my Grand Jury testimony as proof I was lying.
for me if you lie under oath, or if you tell two different stories under
oath, the prosecution can use your inconsistencies to discredit the parts of
your story they don’t want to accept, while the parts of your story
they want to use they can call a “confession.”
Prosecutor admits that almost everything I said during my Penalty Phase
testimony was a lie, he can still claim I confessed under oath I killed
Sharon Tate. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
in our Legal System, if you choose to commit suicide on the stand
there’s nothing anyone can do to stop you.
Chapter 26: The Difference Between
Vampires and Angels.
There are a
lot of reasons to believe I did not kill Sharon Tate.
won’t waste your time asking you to take my word for it. This book is
absolutely worthless unless the reader is skeptical. I’ll simply lay
down what other people have said and you can weigh it as you see fit.
already shown my exaggeration of my part in the crime when I was talking to
Virginia Graham and Ronnie Howard in County Jail was in line with
Manson’s own admission that this is exactly what he’d told us to
do if we were ever arrested. As well as being in line with Graham and
Howard’s own assessments that I was simply exaggerating in order to
look tough and hide the fact I was scared.
I’ve shown that even the Prosecutor admits my testimony on the witness
stand during the penalty phase of the trial was almost complete nonsense directed
by Manson with the sole purpose of shifting the responsibility for the crimes
off Manson and onto myself and my co-defendants.
I’ve shown if my present claim that I didn’t kill Sharon Tate is
a lie, then it’s one I made up over thirty years ago and have stuck to
I can also
point to the fact that I said I hadn’t killed Sharon Tate during my
Grand Jury testimony in 1969. This was the testimony I was told by the
Prosecutor had to be true or I could be executed. That’s a strong incentive
to tell the truth.
Bugliosi, of course, believes I lied about that part of the crime in my Grand
Jury testimony. I am happy to point out that even Mr. Bugliosi admits my
rendition of the crimes as told to the Grand Jury was corroborated in every instance
by the version Linda Kasabian gave.
And what makes this all the more impressive is that Linda never heard my
Grand Jury testimony, nor could she in any way be induced to conform her
story to mine - there was
no reason to, she’d already been given complete immunity.
was not present in the Cielo House when Sharon Tate was killed, and therefore
can not confirm or deny that part of my story, it carries a certain weight
that in every instance where our stories can be compared they do not
contradict one another.
of this is proof in itself, it does indicate there is a real possibility what
I say is true. But even beyond this there are numerous objective indications
my story is true.
already mentioned Charles Watson has stated I didn’t kill Sharon Tate.
Since this is a statement against his personal interest it is hard to see
what he would have to gain by lying about it.
the Prosecutor has since admitted the knife I was carrying the night Sharon
Tate was killed was actually found at the crime scene. It was tested for
blood and it was found to be clean.
It had never
evidence is strange for several reasons. The primary reason is because I
didn’t know about this until sometime around 1990 when I worked with
several lawyers who, at their own expense and on their own time, actually
went back and checked the prosecutor’s account of the crime. I honestly
don’t remember anything about this at the trial.
There is no
dispute it was my knife, as Linda Kasabian was the one who handed out the
knives and she identified it. And there is no dispute there was no blood on
The Prosecutor has apparently insisted the fact my knife wasn’t used
doesn’t prove I didn’t kill Sharon Tate at all - claiming I could
have borrowed Charles Watson’s knife.
problem with this explanation is if I’d had to ask Charles Watson for his knife he would have discovered
I’d lost my knife while we
were still in the house. But Linda Kasabian testified Watson didn’t discover
this until after the crimes when Linda was collecting the weapons and I had
to admit I’d lost my knife in the house. According to Linda Kasabian,
Watson became very upset and yelled at me.
We then discussed whether we should go back to the house to look for it.
In the end we all decided we didn’t want to.
find this compelling or not, it is the prosecution itself that put forward
the proof Watson didn’t discover I’d lost my knife until after
the crime. It’s hard to insist Watson could have loaned me his knife
without noticing my hands were already empty.
Kasabian, who was standing guard at the end of the front walkway, also
testified that when the crimes began she at first ran to the front door to
find me and implore me to make the others stop. It was her testimony that I
held out my hands and said I couldn’t.
didn’t realize is that I wasn’t saying “I don’t want
to stop what’s happening,” I was holding out my hands to show
her, “I can’t do anything, I’ve even lost my own
whether you believe me or not is only an intellectual point - conspiracy
to commit a crime makes you morally and legally culpable whether you struck
the actual blow or not. I was convicted for those deaths and whether I
physically partook of the crime or not doesn’t matter legally.
it becomes interesting at all is because it has a very strong bearing on the
difference between a Vampire and an Angel.
final summation, right before the jury was sent out to determine my sentence,
the Prosecutor told them I was a blood-drinking vampire.
He meanwhile claimed that Linda Kasabian was an Angel - a
“true flower child.”
the truth is Mr. Bugliosi realizes there are a lot of reasons to believe I
did not actually kill Sharon Tate, but I also believe it will be almost
impossible for him to ever admit that. The reason is because if he admits I
probably didn’t kill Sharon Tate he has to deal with the fact that he
nearly had me executed. This should bother him because if I didn’t kill
Sharon Tate then there is absolutely no level upon which Linda Kasabian was
less culpable than I was.
been with the Family for less than two months when she participated in the
deaths of seven human beings.
Manson had had over two years to threaten and pressure me.
two parents, separated, and an ex-husband she could have escaped to (and
eventually did). I had no one in the world to turn to.
claimed she participated because of fears for her four-year-old daughter. I
had a ten-month-old, two-month premature son to fear for.
sharpened the knives at Spahn’s Ranch, I hadn’t.
carried a knife that night, just as I had.
driven the car on both crime nights. I had not.
watch outside the Cielo House. I had not.
away from the crime scene at the Cielo House. I had frozen and had not been
able to participate.
collected the weapons and clothing after the Cielo crime. I had not.
discarded the weapons and clothing after the Cielo crime. I had not.
Cielo crime, when Manson asked all of us if we had any remorse Linda claimed
she didn’t – just as I had.
gone out the next night fearing what would happen, just as I had.
driven Manson to the LaBiancas’ home, I hadn’t.
in the car at the LaBianca crime scene, just as I had.
accepted Ms. LaBianca’s stolen wallet from Manson. I hadn’t.
deposited Ms. LaBianca’s wallet at a gas station to mislead police. I
stopped the car so Manson could attempt to kill another motorist. I
Manson where another victim might be found the night of the LaBianca crime. I
Manson where the other potential victim lived. I had not.
didn’t go to the police even after she’d escaped from
Spahn’s Ranch while I agreed to help the police even when I was in jail
and was being threatened for being a “snitch.”
didn’t go to the police even after she got her daughter back. I agreed
to testify even though I never got my son back.
didn’t go to the police even when she and her daughter moved all the
way to New York.
offered to make a deal with the District Attorney’s Office after
she’d been indicted. I had agreed to work with the police as soon as
they asked me.
to testified against Manson on condition she be given absolute immunity. I
had agreed to testify against Manson and still go to trial for my part in the
hadn’t been the one to break the case to the police. I was.
hadn’t been the one who got Charles Manson indicted. I was.
didn’t go out with the police to try to find evidence. I did.
claims Linda told him she still loved Manson even after watching him
orchestrate the murder of seven people, even during the trial. I never
point upon which my part in the crimes appears greater than Linda’s is
if one insists I killed Sharon Tate.
Once that assertion
is questioned it becomes very hard to determine why I was the Vampire and
Linda was the Angel... other than the fact the prosecutor had to explain to
the public why he was letting Linda go scott free at the same time he was
asking the jury to put me to death.
It may be
cynical but it has to be pointed out Mr. Bugliosi’s book about the
crime was published just before he ran for Attorney General of California. It
wouldn’t have looked good to have to admit Linda was allowed to go free
simply because that was the deal they had to make. It was much better to
insist she was given complete immunity because she wasn’t culpable
– she was an innocent “Angel.” In fact, Mr. Bugliosi went
so far as to claim he thought people would understandable how she could still
love Charles Manson even after watching him orchestrate seven murders.
But he also
had to explain why, if I was so bad, the District Attorney’s Office had
agreed to make a deal with me. Mr. Bugliosi’s account of the crime and
trial is very detailed about his own insistence he’d always been
against giving me any consideration.
Whether or not it was true it was a smart thing to say right before one runs
for Attorney General.
But all this
isn’t an indictment of Linda. I know exactly the pressure she was
under. And I know exactly what Linda was doing. She was doing whatever it
took to stay alive and keep her daughter alive until she could figure out how
She was putting on an act so Manson - the man who’d killed his friend Gary Hinman when he
insisted he didn’t have any money and who’d had Donald Shea
killed because he thought Shea had called the police on him -
wouldn’t even suspect she was simply waiting for a moment to run.
I know this.
I know it even better than the prosecuting attorney. I know it because I was
there. My son was being held by armed guards right along with Linda’s
I stood right beside her after the crimes as she told Manson she had no
regrets and I did the same.
understand why she ran to New York and hid and didn’t tell the police
even after she retrieved her daughter from Manson’s grasp. She was
afraid. I understand this because I was afraid of him too.
what she had to do to survive. And when the time came she did what she should
have and she testified against Manson. I’ve never held that against
her, even though by doing so she testified against me as well.
But I had
been faced with quite a different situation. I could have either testified
against Manson and then spent my life in prison trying to avoid getting
killed by his minions and hoping they never found my son (remember, my deal
was simply that I wouldn’t get the Death Penalty, I was still going to
prison). Or I could have recanted my testimony and taken a chance we wouldn’t
be found guilty and I would have known no matter what the outcome of the
trial my son would be safe.
faced with the choice of either testifying against Manson and walking away
completely free, or refusing to testify and facing the Death Penalty.
the right choice and it’s a choice I wish I’d had the opportunity
to make, but I had been faced with a much different situation than she was.
Note: In the subsequent Wrongful Death Lawsuit, filed after the criminal
trial, Linda Kasabian was tried along with Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel, and
Susan, and determined to have been equally responsible for the deaths of the
five people at Cielo Drive, including Sharon Tate, and held joint and
severally liable for over $10 million dollars in damages.]
Chapter 27; Life and Death
In the end
we were all sentenced to death for the seven murders that occurred at the
Cielo and LaBianca residences. Then we began the trial for Gary
By this time
I was exhausted emotionally and mentally by the trial and the continuing
isolation my co-defendants were putting me under. As soon as the trial for
Gary’s death began I agreed to plead guilty. I did it to get out of
that courtroom and away from Manson.
But when the
Judge asked me if I understood I was pleading guilty to going to Gary’s
house intending to kill him, I told him the truth. I didn’t know Gary
was going to die.
asked me if I went there in order to rob him and I told him the truth. I didn’t
know anyone intended to rob him.
point the Judge delicately pointed out to me that in order to plead guilty I
had to actually confess to doing something wrong. Since I was being tried for
first degree murder I had to admit to some form of premeditation or he
couldn’t accept my guilty plea. So I told him I killed Gary by
It was an
odd thing to say. It wasn’t true. But I just honestly didn’t see
any reason for sitting in that courtroom next to Manson for one more minute
when I already had the death penalty.
Attorney got up and told the judge their evidence showed Gary had not been
suffocated and they had never believed I’d killed him, but that they
would accept my guilty plea because they believed I had known he was going to
be robbed or killed and had gone there for that reason.
accepted my plea and sentenced me to life. I asked him whether I was supposed
to serve that before or after my death penalty. I was told I would be serving
Manson, he was tried and convicted for the murder of Gary Hinman and received
an additional death sentence.
was also convicted for Gary’s death, though as far as I remember he
merely showed up with Manson the afternoon Manson attacked Gary. He joined
Bobby Beausoliel on Death Row.
trial for the death of Donald Shea was conducted, but since I had nothing to
do with that I don’t know the details. Manson was convicted again, as
was Steve Grogan. The jury recommended the death penalty but the Judge gave
Grogan life instead, claiming he had diminished capacity I believe.
was paroled around 1985 after agreeing to lead authorities to the body of
To their surprise, contrary to Steve’s boasting in 1969, Donald’s
body hadn’t been cut into pieces. That had apparently all been a story
to try to scare the younger Family members from talking to police.
Watson was later tried for the Cielo and LaBianca crimes and was convicted as
well. Though I don’t know the details of that trial, I think because he
was not under the threat of Manson he was able to put forward a much more
realistic defense, at least acknowledging the incredible pressure everyone in
the Family was under from Manson.
Late in the
year 1971, Manson ordered Catherine Share and Mary Brunner to break another
man out of jail. After the jailbreak, the three of them, along with other
members of the Family, instigated the robbery of a Hawthorne sporting goods
store. Their goal was money and guns with which to break Charles Manson out
of jail. They failed and another long line of people headed to prison,
misguided by Charles Manson’s talk of “brotherly love” and
“self-sacrifice” - two
concepts of which Charles Manson himself had no understanding of or use for
Chapter 28; Life after Death
While I was on Death Row my son was
legally taken from me because no one in my family was willing to raise him.
His name and identity have been changed and sealed, so I have no idea where
he is or how he is doing. I have since been told his name was changed to
Paul, and whether or not that is true I like it. In the 1970’s I
watched a talk-show which featured a woman who handled difficult child cases
and who claimed to have handled the adoption of one of the “Manson
family children.” Since my son was the only child who was taken away,
it would have had to have been him.
My continuing separation from my
son, even after all these years, remains an incredibly poignant and enduring
Obviously I wasn’t executed.
Due to the convictions of a bare
majority of the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, the death penalty in
America as it was imposed up until 1972 was determined to be
unconstitutionally arbitrary. The California Supreme Court invalidated the
death penalty in California even before the U.S. Supreme Court could,
determining that it violated the California Constitutional’s
prohibition against unusual punishments.
My sentence was commuted to the
harshest constitutional sentence California had at the time – seven-years-to-life
with the possibility of parole.
Of the five women on death row in
California at the time the Supreme Court invalidated the Death Penalty, only
me and my two co-defendants are still in prison. One of the women was paroled
after about eight years, the other was paroled in the early 1980’s
after serving about 13 years.
As for my co-defendants, I’ve
never interacted with them much. A lot of that probably was residual
resentment for my getting them indicted. I know they both have exemplary post-conviction
records and both are regularly denied parole for little or no reason other
than the crime.
Twenty or twenty-five years after my
conviction I was in a State-mandated child development class and my
codefendant Leslie happened to be in the class as well. I’d been
interacting in class and talking about how I’d been kept away from my
son during his early development and how much I resented that. During the
break Leslie came up to me and apologized. She told me for over twenty years
she’d disliked me because way back when we were all living at
Spahn’s Ranch, Manson had told her my son was being kept with the other
children because I didn’t want him. Since Leslie and I didn’t
interact back then she had no way of knowing it wasn’t true. Just
another indication of the subtle ways in which Manson was able to instigate
resentment and ill-feelings between people simply in order to make them
easier to control.
In the end, as decades and decades
go by, I’ve been able to see the work both of my codefendants have done
in this institution, contributing to various community services and
victim’s services. And so now, even though I still do not interact with
them, I can appreciate how much they’ve made of their lives in this
In the 1990’s Patricia
Krenwinkle gave the only interview I believe she’s ever given. I was
surprised to hear the one thing she felt she needed to stress over and over
again was that there was nothing cool about what happened during our crime.
Apparently she, like me, has received letters from people interested with the
crime and convinced it was something other than a horrible, senseless
My hope for this book has from the
start been that it will lay the crimes out in a way that makes them look like
what they really were. There is nothing mystic about them. Nothing
impressive. Nothing worthy of admiration.
It is also my hope something good
will come out of this. Every year I receive dozens of letters from people
asking me for advice in reaching their sons or daughters or their younger
relatives concerning either drugs or the pitfalls of cults and
gang-mentality. Sometimes I get letters from police officers or correctional
officers working with youth asking how to reach children and young adults
when they get to the point where they’re so alienated they no longer
listen or trust anyone. And that’s a tough question.
One of the most important things to
take from this whole story is that actions lead to consequences. Freedom
involves responsibilities. Freedom is a gift and a treasure. That’s
what I’d like to think young people will take from this story.
This is the past I have to live
with, and I have to live with it every day. Unlike the reader, or the people
who seem to think Charles Manson was cool, I can’t think about it for
an hour or so and then go on with my life. Just like the families and friends
of the victims, this is with me every day. I have to wake up every day with
this and no matter what I do for the rest of my life and no matter how much I
give back to the community I will never be able to replace what my crime took
away. And that’s not “neat,” and that’s not
And I want to apologize, once again,
to the families of the victims. I want to apologize for what my actions, and
my lack of courage, took from them. For the loss they’ve suffered, and
which they continue to suffer.