Manson Family Gets Convicted of Murder
On January 25, 1971 cult leader Charles Manson and his followers Susan Atkins, Leslie VanHouten, and Patricia Krenwinkle were convicted of the brutal murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others. Manson and his acolytes were sentenced to death. The homicide conviction of Manson was unusual in that he never actually committed any acts of violence. His followers committed the crimes after being directed by Manson.
Manson’s cult, called The Family, was formed in 1968 after Manson got out of federal prison for violations of the Mann Act. The enigmatic Manson began to gather followers from the San Francisco hippie community. He preached of an upcoming race war and that his Family would be left in charge of the country at the war’s end. Manson’s followers believed that he was a manifestation of Jesus Christ. He often compared his cult as the Christians in the Roman Empire. They would survive when the Empire crumbled.
As his Family grew and his followers became more enamored with his teachings, Manson started to preach violence. He told his followers that he needed to murder famous people to draw attentions to their beliefs.
On August 9, 1969, with detailed instructions from Manson, four of his followers drove up to Cielo Drive above Beverly Hills and broke into Tate’s home. During the next few hours, they engaged in a murderous rampage that left five dead, including Sharon Tate, three of her friends, and an 18-year-old man who was visiting the caretaker of the estate. The next night, Manson followers murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their home in Los Angeles.
The cases went unsolved for several months before the Los Angeles Police Department started to make headway with the case. The homicides were originally not believed to be connected. Eventually cops associated the two events together with an earlier murder. The connection to the Manson Family was made and arrest warrants were issued.
The trial was a circus, with Manson disciples still under his sway. Manson represented himself and made numerous bizarre motions and statements. The state’s case against him was unusual in that he did not physically commit any of the acts, but you have to think that the jury was not going to let a lunatic like Manson free for one more minute. The Family members were all convicted and got the death penalty, but California outlawed the practice shortly after their sentencing.
An interesting note; While in federal prison on McNeil Island in Washington in the 1960’s, Manson learned to play guitar. His mentor was none other than former Public Enemy #1 Alvin Karpis. Manson would go on to write and record several albums both before and after his murder conviction. His songs have been recorded by artists such as GunsNRoses, the Beach Boys, and Henry Rollins. He made a small fortune from the royalties.