Infamous Crimes: Charles Manson, his Family and the Tate-LaBianca Murders

The hippie culture of love and innocence was brought to a brutal end on August 9, 1969 by Charles Manson and his Family. In an effort to ignite a race war he referred to as Helter Skelter, Manson instructed some of his followers to brutally and gruesomely murder a number of innocent people. Because some of the victims were celebrities and the violent nature of the crimes, there was a great media circus. Manson and his group were finally caught, tried and convicted, and most remain in prison to this day. In this video, learns more about Charles Manson, his Family and their infamous crimes.

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The Manson Family Murders

These are some of the most infamous homicides in American history. Learn more about the Manson Family murders.

Charles Manson's Youth and the Beginning of the "Family"

Charles Manson spent much of his youth imprisoned for crimes like theft and armed robbery. After his release in early 1967, Manson moved to San Francisco at the height of the hippie movement. There, he attracted a small group of devoted followers, many of whom were female.

Connection to Dennis Wilson

In early 1968, Manson and his “Family” met singer Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and moved into his home. The Beach Boy introduced Manson to some of his music industry friends, including producer Terry Melcher. However, after Wilson spent over $100 thousand on Manson and his followers, he cut ties with the group.

The Beatles' White Album

By August 1968, the nomadic Manson Family began living on various California ranches and survived by stealing and trading sex. Late that year, Manson heard the recently-released Beatles White Album, and this greatly influenced his philosophy.

Helter Skelter: A Race War

Manson believed a war was imminent between whites and blacks, and he nicknamed that war “Helter Skelter” after the Beatles’ song. Manson suggested that during this race war, his Family would hide underground to emerge only after the blacks had claimed victory. The Family would then seize control from the blacks to run the world.

A Secret Message

Manson claimed the White Album told this same story in code. He wanted to create an equally-influential album with the same message, and looked to Terry Melcher for help. However, he showed little interest in helping Manson.

Manson Family Crimes

By mid-1969, the Manson Family crimes escalated. They were credited with at least two murders prior to their most famous homicides. The group’s MO included writing messages in the victims’ blood to confuse police and ignite Helter Skelter. Some Family members were arrested for these crimes, but they were not deterred.

August 1969

In August, Manson sent a group of Family members to a house formerly owned by Terry Melcher with instructions to gruesomely murder its occupants. In the early hours of August 9th, 1969, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkle entered the property on Cielo Drive, while fellow Family member Linda Kasabian stood watch.

Steven Parent

They encountered student Steven Parent as he left from a visit with the groundskeeper. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was the first victim that night.

Multiple Murders

Inside the house that was rented to director Roman Polanski, they found his very pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, and her friends: hairdresser Jay Sebring, heiress Abigail Folger and Folger’s boyfriend Wojciech Frykowski. Despite Kasabian’s attempts to stop it, they were all brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family. The horrific scene was discovered the next morning, along with the word “Pig” written on the front door in blood. A media circus erupted due to the victims’ fame.

The LaBianca Murders

Another set of murders followed the next night. Many of the same Family members were present when wealthy couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were tortured and killed. At that crime scene, the words “Rise,” “Death to Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” [sic] were left as calling cards.

Killers in Custody

Initially, police did not connect the murders with each other, or with Manson. Soon after, many Family members were arrested in a raid on their ranch, and by December the killers were all in custody.


Motives for these murders surfaced during the troubled investigation. They included Helter Skelter, a desire to attack what they perceived as an unjust society, and an effort to exonerate their jailed friend through copy-cat crimes.

The Manson Murder Trial

Finally, the Tate-LaBianca murder trial began against Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten on June 15th, 1970. Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney, and Linda Kasabian was the star witness against Manson.

Conviction and Sentence

Despite Manson Family antics often disrupting the trial, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death, as was Tex Watson in a separate trial. However, those sentences were reduced to life in prison when California briefly abolished the death penalty.

Life in Prison

Following Manson’s incarceration, some Family members stayed true to his beliefs, while others renounced him. Despite their possibilities of parole, Charles Manson and most of the other incarcerated Family members have never left prison.

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