Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family


One month after the murders, Polanski, along with other contributors such as Peter Sellers, Yul Brynner and Warren Beatty, put an ad in the LA area newspapers for a reward:



Roman Polanski and friends of the Polanski family offer to pay a $25,000 reward to the person or persons who furnish information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer or murderers of Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and the other four victims.

It seemed like it was open season on theories. Everybody had a theory. The Mafia did it, the Polish secret police, etc. Sharon's father, Colonel Paul Tate, a former Army intelligence officer, launched his own private investigation. Letting his hair grow long and growing a beard, he started to frequent the hippie joints, the drug markets, hoping that he would get some tidbit of information that would lead to the murderers of his beloved daughter and grandson.

On September 1, 1969, a 10-year-old boy found a gun on his lawn in Sherman Oaks.   He carefully took the .22 caliber Hi Standard Longhorn revolver to his father, who immediately called the LAPD.  The gun was dirty and rusty and had a broken gun grip.

A couple of weeks earlier, the LAPD forensics experts determined that the .22 caliber revolver with the broken grip used on the Tate victims was none other than a Hi Standard .22 caliber Longhorn revolver, which was relatively unique and rare.  Amazingly enough, two weeks later, an identical gun with a broken grip is turned in to the LAPD, tagged, filed away and completely forgotten.

.22 caliber Longhorn revolver
.22 caliber Longhorn revolver

A couple of days later, the LAPD sent out flyers to all personnel describing the murder gun and attaching a photo of the revolver. The flyer was also sent out to other law enforcement agencies around the country and Canada, while all the time, the gun sat in the Property Section of the Van Nuys division.

Three months after the murders, which had been separately pursued by the LAPD and the LA Sheriff's Office, neither group had made any progress. However, the detectives working for the Sheriff's Office were younger and more aggressive than their LAPD counterparts and came to the conclusion that the Tate and LaBianca cases were definitely connected. They had several suspects, one of which was Charles Manson.

The Spahn Ranch
The Spahn Ranch

Finally in mid-October, the LAPD began to talk to the Sheriff's Office and decided to investigate similarities between the murder of Gary Hinman and the Tate-LaBianca crimes. The investigation lead to the Spahn Ranch, which was the home of a hippie group that called itself the Manson Family.

The Spahn Ranch was in the mountains near Chatsworth. In the 1920's it had been the site for old cowboy movies. Author John Gilmore in his book The Garbage People describes the isolated old movie set:

The façade of the main street, a cluster of rundown movie buildings, had become a ghost town with its Longhorn Saloon, the Rock City Café, some stables, weathered props and old trailers. Millions of moviegoers once viewed this old "Wild West" setting, but the dust had settled. Rusted car parts littered the grounds and few visitors passed by...

Bobby Beausoleil, the man charged with the murder of Gary Hinman, had lived at the Spahn Ranch  with the Manson Family.

His 17-year-old girlfriend told police that Manson sent Bobby and a girl named Susan Atkins to Hinman's house to get money from him. When Hinman wouldn't give them the money, they killed him. She also recalled that Susan Atkins mentioned a fight with a man who she stabbed in the legs several times.

When police questioned Susan Atkins, who was still in jail, she admitted that she went with Beausoleil to Hinman's home to get some money he had inherited. When he refused, Beausoleil slashed his face. The two of them kept Hinman prisoner in his home until Beausoleil murdered him a couple of days later.

At that point there did not seem to be any direct connection between Beausoleil and the Tate-LaBianca murders, except for some hearsay that Susan Atkins had stabbed a man in the leg. Gary Hinman had not been stabbed in the leg, but Voytek Frykowski had.

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