Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family


Vincent Bugliosi
Vincent Bugliosi

On November 18, 1969, 35-year-old Deputy District Attorney Vincent T. Bugliosi was assigned the Tate-LaBianca murder cases. Aaron Stovitz, head of the Trials Division of the District Attorney's Office, was assigned as a co-prosecutor, but was later pulled off for another case.

Bugliosi had an unbelievably difficult job ahead of him. Not only did he need to prove that members of the Manson Family were responsible for the Tate and LaBianca murders, but he had to prove the Charles Manson ordered them to do it. While Manson had sent four Family members to the Cielo Drive massacre, he did not go himself. He did, however, tie up Rosemary and Leno LaBianca and gave three others instructions to kill them.

The prosecutor had to establish Charlie's dominance over the members of his Family and convince a jury that Charlie had sufficient motive to want these seven people dead.

Charles (Tex) Watson
Charles (Tex) Watson

At the beginning, he didn't have much of a case. There was Susan Atkins' story as related to Virginia Graham and the stories that Al Springer and Danny DeCarlo told the police, along with some comments from other people interviewed about Manson and his followers. It wasn't until December 3 that Bugliosi knew for certain who of Manson's Family had actually been involved with the murders.   Manson had sent Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian to the Tate residence. Accompanying him to the LaBianca home was Watson, Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten. Atkins, Kasabian and Steve "Clem" Grogan waited in the car.

Atkins' testimony was deemed vital to the prosecution, but she was not offered immunity. However, if she cooperated with the prosecution, they would not seek the death penalty against her in any of the three cases: Hinman, Tate and LaBianca. The extent to which she cooperated would affect whether the prosecution would press for first-degree murder, life sentence, etc.

Things started to look up for the prosecution when a fingerprint of Patricia Krenwinkel's was found on a door inside of Sharon Tate's bedroom. This physical evidence was added to the .22 caliber bullets found at the Spahn Ranch (the gun used at the Tate murders was a .22 caliber revolver).

The first order of business for Bugliosi was to get grand jury indictments against Manson and the individuals involved in the murders. When Susan Atkins testified to the grand jury, she gave the same bloodcurdling story to them that she gave to Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham. She showed absolutely no sign of guilt or remorse for the ghastly things she did. The jurors stared at her in disbelief.

Biker Danny DeCarlo testified that he, Manson, Watson and others had used a .22 caliber Buntline revolver for target practice at the Spahn Ranch.

He also said that the three-strand nylon rope that was used in the Tate murders was identical to the rope used at the ranch.

Linda Kasabian
Linda Kasabian

It only took the grand jury twenty minutes to hand down the indictments Bugliosi sought: Charles Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Linda Kasabian, seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder; Leslie van Houten, two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

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