You are on page 1of 1

llutchinson News

Sunday, Aug. 6. 1989

Pago 5

^They'll never forget this one'

Two decades later, the Tate-LaBianca murders still haunt
By Linda Deutsch
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES - Two decades after the Sharon Tate-LaBianca murders, the screams of a summer night haunt the memories of '60s survivors and echo through the legends passed to new generations. "There's no question it is the most famous mass murder in American history," said Deputy District Attorney Stephen Kay, who assisted in prosecuting Charles Manson and three women followers. "My kids learn about it in school." "There have been lots worse murders over the years, but nobody remembers them," said Maxwell Keith, the defense lawyer who represented Leslie Van Houten and finds himself remembered for the case. "It was a mass media event," said Irving Kanarek, Manson's attorney. "Manson was on the cover of Life magazine and it just took off." "I think it's indelibly etched," said attorney Paul Fitzgerald, who represented Patricia Krenwinkel. "It's like Loeb and Leopold, Sam Shepard. People can't remember Jim Jones' name or Charles Whitman; they're even starting to forget Patty Hearst. But they'll never forget this one."

seeking freedom. None of them has been given a parole dale, and K;iy, who rep resents iho districl attorney's office i\l the hearings, says he sees no imminent chance of t h a t . "1 have always been of the opinion t h a t Manson, Watson, A t k i n s ami Krenwinkel should never get out," he said. "1 was always of the hope t h a t Van Houten would one day be suitable for parole, maybe when she was in her -IDs." Mut now t h a t Miss Van Houten is about to turn -10, Kay has retreated on that position. He says her brief marriage to an ex convict in 1982 showed she was still susceptible to influence by unstable males. "1 t h i n k there is a chance for Van Houten, but not immediately," he said recently. Fitzgerald, who corresponds w i t h Miss Van Houten, contends she is completely rehabilitated and criticizes the (li.ttrirl attorney's office for "dancing to the t u n e of public opinion."

Victims' voice
Kay's chief ally is Sharon Tale's mother, Doris, who has gathered him dreds of thousands of signatures on pe titions to keep the Tate LaHinnca killers behind bars. Mrs. Tate formed Parents of Mur dered Children, a group t h a t comforts its members and seeks justice for victims. Recently she has been lecturing at pris ons, telling inmates the unfathomable sorrow of victims' families. "I am the victims' voice," said Mrs. Tate, who is frequently asked by friends why she does not put it behind her. "How can you go on with your life when you're totally consumed with this?" she asks. "How can your life be the same as it was before? Never." Like others associated with the case, Mrs. Tale still puzzles over why it hap pcned. "Something deep down inside of me keeps saying, 'Why do human beings react so violently with no reason, especially in cases like mine.' ... Why kill people they don't even know?" Amazingly, that question remains un answered. Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted the killers and wrote a book on the case, propounded an elaborate theory called "Heltcr Skelter," which held t h a t Manson's motive was to torment a race war and that he was inspired by a Beatles song to begin this siege of kill ingsKay, who look over the case when Bugliosi left the prosecutor's office, accepts that theory but recently began to see the killings as a satanic ritual. Mrs. Tate also ascribes to the satanism theory. They recall testimony that Watson, upon entering the Tate home, declared, "I am the devil and I'm here to do the devil's work." Daye Shinn, Miss Atkins' attorney, is convinced that drugs particularly LSD triggered the killings. "How else could anyone believe that Charlie had that much power to get people to kill?" he asks. "It was the mind-expanding drugs they took, the LSD.... Drugs screwed up their minds." The women testified they were under the influence of LSD and other hal lucinogens when they killed. Fitzgerald, while citing the influence of drugs, believes the motive was never known to the killers and was a product of Manson's own slide into paranoia in the summer of 1969. "For reasons known only to him, he became very irrational and antisocial," says Fitzgerald. And for reasons known only to the manic mind of Manson, he decided to send his followers into the night on a mission of murder. Editor's note: Linda Deutsch covered the Tate-LaBianca murders, the Manson trial and subsequent chapters in the Manson Family saga (or The Associated Press.

Coda for the '60s

Why, after 20 years, do people still care? Why do they sign petitions to keep the Tate murderers behind bars? Why do they tune in when Manson occasionally gives TV interviews? The answer apparently lies in public fascination with Hollywood stars, cults, drugs and the power of a charismatic leader to turn clean-cut, ail-American kids into murderers. The crime also was a coda for the '60s, the dead-end stop sign for an era of drppouts, hippies, druggies and flower children. "It was some sort of metaphor for the times," Fitzgerald says of the collision of Manson's world and the protected Beverly Hills sphere of movie stars. "In the beginning, the notoriety of the victims was the fuel that jettisoned this into outer space," he said. That fatal night of Aug. 9, 1969, blackclad intruders crept into prestigious Benedict Canyon and, in an explosion of violence, diverted world attention from killing in Vietnam to the senseless butchering of a beautiful, pregnant actress, Sharon Tate. The murder scene was one of ghoulish horror. Miss Tate, the 26-year-old wife of movie director Roman Polanski, was found slaughtered along with three friends and a caretaker's guest in a house where her blood was used to scrawl the word "Pig" on the front door. She had been hanged before she was stabbed to death, and her full-term fetus, a boy, died with her. One of the murdered was Jay Sebring, then Hollywood's premier hair stylist. Another was Abigail Folger, heiress to the coffee fortune. Voityck Frykowski, a jet-setting Polish film director, was a friend of Polanski's. Steven Parent, the 18-year-old friend of the caretaker, died with them.

Associated Press photos

Charles Manson, shown in Feb. 1986, with a swastika on his forehead, staring at the parole board in San Quentin, is the most famous inmate in the Callshly devoted, mostly young women followers living in a desert commune added a new dimension. The rich and famous, it turned out, had been murdered by children of privilege who left their middle-class American homes, took drugs and came under Manson's spell. "These children who come at you with knives, they're your children," Manson would tell society at large. "I didn't teach them. You did. I just tried to help them stand up." Their parents' bewilderment was mirrored across the land as teen-agers became runaways into a world of drug experimentation and violence. Fresh-faced homecoming princess Leslie Van Houten and rugged one-time high school, athlete Charles "Tex" Watson became murderers for Manson. So did Susan Atkins, a troubled girl who found a home with Manson's "family," and Patricia Krenwinkel, a homely secretary who said Manson made her feel beautiful.

fornia prison system. At 54, the wild-eyed one-time guru of a murderous "family" still gets stacks of mail and requests for interviews.
ing and was drowned in a flash flood. Keith was appointed to finish the case. A band of Manson's ragtag followers camped outside the courthouse daily and shaved their heads to protest the trial. After months of claiming innocence, the Manson women abruptly took the stand during the penalty phase of their trial and confessed in repulsive detail that they and Watson had killed the victims. Miss Van Houten was not at the Tate house but admitted stabbing Mrs. LaBianca, probably after she was dead. The women tried to absolve Manson of guilt, but the jury decreed he was as guilty as they were for ordering the killings, even if he was not present. Manson and the three women were sentenced to death. Watson, who was tried separately, also received a death sentence. But a U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing the death penalty in 1972 commuted their sentences to life in prison, and in 1978 they began a seemingly endless string of parole hearings

Synonym for evil

As Los Angeles reeled in shock, the killers struck again a day later. Wealthy market owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were found gruesomely slain across town in their Los Feliz home. A carving fork was left in LaBianca's stomach and bloody scrawlings marked the scene. People locked their doors and bolted windows while the killers remained at large. Three months later the suspects were caught, and their leader's name became a synonym for evil: Charles Manson. The discovery of the shaggy haired, wild-eyed Manson and his tribe of slavi-

"It was a feeling all my life I'd been looking for," Miss Krenwinkel said of life with Manson. The Manson Family trials began a public journey into the world of cults, drugs and murder, presaging an era in which such matters would become commonplace. The trial of Manson and the three women lasted 10Vz months and was perhaps the most chaotic in Los Angeles court history. "It was an experience of enormous importance and fatigue," said Fitzgerald, who headed the defense team. "God, it was an ordeal! The defendants carving X's on their foreheads, Charlie jumping at the judge, the girls being dragged out of court, (attorney Ronald) Hughes disappearing. It was a 24-hour-a-day ordeal." Hughes, Miss Van Houten's lawyer, vanished just before closing arguments. His body was found later in a remote mountain area where he had gone camp-

The first night's victims

Sharon Tate The 26-year-old pregnant actress was wife to film director Roman Polanski.

Voityck Frykowski Frykowski was a Polish film director and friend of Tate's husband.

Steven Parent Parent was a guest of the Tates' caretaker.

Jay Sebring

Sebring was Hollywood's premier hairdresser.

Abigail Folger Folger was heiress to the coffee fortune.