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Convicted cult leader Charles Manson.

The 1969

Manson murders
'Metaphor for the times'

By LINDA DEUTSCH Associated Press

WENTY YEARS alter the Sharon TaleLaBianca murders, the brutal crimes continue to draw attention, even among those who were born alter the lurid case dominated newspaper front pages and television newscasts in the United States. "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 lear.n about it in school," 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 kids into murderers. The crime also was a coda for the '60s, an era of school dropouts, hippies, drug users and (tower children. "II was some sort of metaphor for the times," Paul Fitzgerald, one ol the defense attorneys in the case, says of the collision of Manson's world and the protected Beverly Hills sphere of movie stars. That fatal night of Aug. 9,1969, black-clad intruders crept into prestigious Benedict Canyon and, in an explosion of violence, diverted world attention from the Vietnam War to the senseless butchering of a beautiful, pregnant actress, Sharon Tate. The murder scene was one of ghoulish horror. 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 lull-term fetus, a boy, died with her. One of the murdered was Jay Sebring, then Hollywood's premier hair stylist. Another was heiress Abigail Folger. 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. 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. Bloody scrawlings marked the scene. . People locked their doors and bolted windows while

before closing arguments His body was found later in a remote mountain area where he had gone camping and was drowned in a flash flood. A band ol Manson's ragtag followers camped outside the courthouse daily and shaved their heads to protest the trial. Alter 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 killed the victims. Van Houlen 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. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing the death penally in 1972 commuted their .sentences to life in prison. In 1978, they began a seemingly endless string of parole hearings seeking freedom. None of them has been given a parole date, and Kay, who represents the district attorney's office at the hearings, says ho sees no imminent chance of that. "I have always been of the opinion that Manson, Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkel should never get out." he said. "I was always of the hope that Van Houlen would one day be suitable for parole, maybe when she was in her 40s " But now that Van Houlen is about lo turn 40, Kay has retreated on that position. He says her brief marriage lo an ex-convict in 1982 showed she was still susceptible to influence by unstable males. Fitzgerald, who corresponds with Van Houten, contends she is completely rehabilitated and criticizes the killers remained at large. Three months later the the district attorney's office for "dancing lo the tune of suspects were caught, and their leader's name public opinion." became a synonym lor evil: Charles Manson. Kay's chief ally is Sharon Tale's mother, Doris, who The discovery of the shaggy-haired, wild-eyed Manson has gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures on and his tribe of slavishly devoted, mostly young women, petitions to keep the killers behind bars. followers living in a desert commune added a new Tale formed Parents of Murdered Children, a group dimension. The rich and famous, it turned out, had been that comforts its members and seeks justice lor murdered by children who left their middle-class American victims. She has been lecturing at prisons, telling homes, took drugs and came under Manson's spell. inmates the unfathomable sorrow of victims' families, "These children who come at you with knives, "I am the victims' voice," said Mrs. Tate, who is frequently they're your children," Manson would tell society at asked by friends why she does not put it behind her. large. "I didn't teach them. You did. I just tried to help "How can you go on with your life when you're lotally them stand up." consumed with this?" shii asks. "How can your life be Their parents' bewilderment was mirrored across the the same as it was before? Never." land as teen-agers became runaways into a world of Like others associated with the case, Tate still drug experimentation and violence. puzzles over why it happened. Fresh-faced Leslie Van Houten and rugged one"Something deep down inside of me keeps saying. time high school athlete Charles "Tex" Watson 'Why do human beings react so violently with no became murderers lor Manson. So did Susan Atkins, a reason, especially in cases like mine?' Why kill people troubled girl who found a home with Manson's they don't even know?" "Family," and Patricia Krenwinkel, a homely secretary Amazingly, that question remains unanswered. who said Manson made her feel beautiful. Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted the killers and wrote a "It was a feeling all my life I'd been looking for," book on the case, propounded an elaborate theory called Krenwinkel said of lile with Manson. "Heller Skelter." which held that Manson's motive was to The Manson Family tnals began a public journey into the foment a race war and that he was inspired by a Beatles work) of cults, drugs and song to begin the siege of killings. murder, presaging an era in Kay, who look over the case when Bugliosi left the which such matters would prosecutor's office, accepts that theory but recently become almost began to see the killings as a satanic ritual. Tate also commonplace. ascribes lo the salanism theory. The trial of Manson and They recall testimony that Watson, upon entering the the three women lasted Tate home, declared, "I am the devil and I'm here to do 10% months and was the devil's work." perhaps the most chaotic in Daye Shmn, Atkins' attorney, is convinced that drugs Los Angeles court history. particularly LSD triggered the killings. "It was an experience "How else could anyone believe that Charlie had that of enormous importance much power to get people to kill?" he asks. "It was the and fatigue," said mind-expanding drugs they took, the LSD. Drugs Fitzgerald, who headed screwed up their minds." the defense team. "The The women testified they were under the influence of defendants carving X's LSD and other hallucinogens when they killed. on their foreheads, Fitzgerald, while citing the influence of drugs, Charlie jumping at the believes the motive was never known to the killers and judge, the girls being was a product of Manson's own slide into paranoia in dragged out of court, the summer of 1969, (attorney Ronald) Hughes "For reasons known only to him, he became very disappearing. It was a 24irrational and antisocial," Fitzgerald says. hour-a-day ordeal." . And for reasons known only to the manic mind of Hughes, Van Houten's Manson, he decided to send his followers into the night Sharon Tate lawyer, vanished just on a mission of murder. . . Sunday, Augusts, 1989 THE STARS AND STRIPES. .-.***Page 1,7