Manson Family murders: Key players in the Tate-LaBianca killings

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Forty-five years ago today, the trial began for Charles Manson and four of his followers responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders.

In the early morning hours of August 9, 1969, actress Sharon Tate, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and four others -- including celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, filmmaker Voityck Frykowksi and 18-year-old Steven Parent -- were brutally murdered at the Beverly Hills home of Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski. All of the victims were shot or stabbed multiple times by "Manson Family" members Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles "Tex" Watson. There were 169 stab wounds between the five. The killers used Tate's blood to write "pig" on the front door; a macabre message that shocked and confused the city.

The following night, Charles Manson, displeased with the sloppiness of the Tate murders and looking to advance his theory of "Helter Skelter," set out with the same followers, as well as Leslie Van Houten, to find a new victim. He decided on wealthy grocers Rosemary and Leno LaBianca -- they were random and horribly unlucky victims. They too were killed in a brutal manner in their Los Feliz home. "Death to pigs" was written in blood on the wall. "Healter [sic] Skelter" marked the refrigerator.

Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten were all convicted and sentenced to death for the murders. However, their sentences were commuted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty in 1972. There was no life in prison without parole at the time, so everyone on death row was resentenced to life in prison.

PHOTOS: The Manson Family murders


Infamous cult leader Charles Manson: Seen left in his 1969 mugshot; On the right, Manson in seen during a 1986 parole hearing.

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Charles Manson
  • Charles Manson, now 80, is currently serving a life sentence in Corcoran State Prison.
  • Though Manson did not participate in the actual killings of Sharon Tate, her house guests, or the LaBiancas, the cult leader was convicted for ordering the murders. In 1971, he was found guilty on seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and sentenced to death.
  • In December 1971, he was convicted of another first-degree murder for the death of Gary Hinman. Manson ordered the murder, but did not participate in the act.
  • In 1977, his death sentence was modified to life in prison.
  • Manson has been denied parole 12 times -- his last on April 12, 2012. He will be eligible for another parole hearing in 2027.
  • Manson has not attended a parole hearing since March 1997, when he rambled on for hours, denying that he had killed anyone and espousing the beliefs that guided his cult.
  • At his last hearing in April 2012, the parole board commissioner said Manson accumulated 108 serious disciplinary violations while in prison, including threatening police officers, possession of weapons (several times) and possession of a contraband cellphone (found twice, on March 2009 and 2011). His most recent violation was in February 2014 when he refused to provide a urine sample, threatened staff and was in possession of a weapon. During the hearing the panel also noted that Manson has shown no indication of remorse, offered no insight of the causative factors of the crimes, he lacks understanding of the magnitude of the crimes, has exceptional callous disregard for human suffering, and that he hasn't participated in any self-help programs - or shown any parole plans.
  • On Nov. 7, 2014, Manson obtained a marriage license in Kings County to wed 26-year-old fan Afton Elaine Burton, but did not get married. The license expired six months later on Feb. 5, 2015.

Manson follower Susan Atkins: Seen on the left en route to court in August 1970; on the right is her last mugshot taken in February 2001.

AP Photo / KABC

Susan Atkins
  • Atkins admitted stabbing Sharon Tate to death as the actress begged for her life and that of her unborn son.
  • It was Atkins who led police to arrest members of the Manson clan when she confessed to a cellmate after she had been arrested during a raid on the ranch for auto theft.
  • She was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy of commit murder (for the five people murdered at the Tate-Polanski house on Aug. 9, 1969 and the LaBiancas on Aug 10., 1969). She was also involved in the murder of Gary Hinman (on Manson's orders) on July 25, 1969.
  • Atkins was sentenced to death on April 19, 1971, but was resentenced to life in prison on Dec. 18, 1972.
  • In July 2008, Atkins requested compassionate release, but was denied, after she was diagnosed with brain cancer and given only months to live.
  • Atkins died of cancer in prison on Sept. 24, 2009, just 3 weeks after a California parole board turned down her last chance for freedom. She was 61.
  • Atkins asked for parole 13 times during her 37 years in incarceration and was turned down every time.

Manson follower Patricia Krenwinkel: Seen on the left en route to court in August 1970; on the right is her last mugshot taken in October 2011.

AP Photo / KABC

Patricia Krenwinkel
  • Krenwinkel was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
  • She was sentenced to death on March 29, 1971, but resentenced to life in prison on Dec. 29, 1972.
  • Krenwinkel was last denied parole for the 13th time on Jan. 21, 2011. Her next parole review will be in 2018.
  • She's well-behaved in prison and participates in rehabilitative programs at the California Institution for Women in Corona.
  • Krenwinkel, now 67, is currently California's longest serving female inmate.

Manson follower Leslie Van Houten: Seen on the left en route to court in August 1970; on the right is her last mugshot taken in March 2015.

AP Photo / KABC

Leslie Van Houten
  • Van Houten was the youngest Manson follower convicted of murder. She was just 19 when she joined members of the Manson Family cult in the killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
  • She did not participate in the Tate killings but went along the next night when the LaBiancas were slain in their home. During the penalty phase of her trial she confessed to joining in stabbing Rosemary LaBianca after she was dead.
  • On Nov. 3, 1971, Van Houten was convicted of two counts of murder for the LaBiancas' deaths and conspiracy to commit murder for the five victims in Tate's house (even though she wasn't present).
  • The 1971 convictions were reversed on appeal. She was retried again in 1976, but the jury could not reach a verdict. She was released on bail and remained free from December 1977 to July 1978.
  • She was convicted in 1978 in the third trial and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
  • Van Houten was denied parole for the 19th time on June 5, 2013. She'll be eligible for another parole hearing in 2018.
  • At her last parole hearing, Van Houten told a California parole board how committed she was to the murders Manson ordered and acknowledged that Manson "could never have done what he did without people like me," but asserted she has changed and is trying to live a life of healing.
  • Van Houten, now 65, has been disciplinary free throughout her incarceration at the California Institution for Women. She's had several jobs assignments, participated in many different self-help and rehabilitative programs, and earned two college degrees will in custody. She's also been commended for her work helping elderly female inmates.

Manson follower Charles 'Tex' Watson: Seen on the left at an extradition hearing in February 1970; on the right is his last mugshot taken in December 2014.

AP Photo / KABC

Charles "Tex" Watson
  • Watson was the self-proclaimed right-hand man of cult leader Charles Manson.
  • He fled the state after the Tate-LaBianca murders and surrendered in Texas in December 1969.
  • Watson was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder on Oct. 21, 1971.
  • In 1973, his death sentence was commuted to life in prison.
  • Watson was denied parole for the 16th time on Nov. 16, 2011. He will be considered for another parole review in 2016.
  • Watson, now 69, is currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison.
  • He's been disciplinary free since 1973. He participates in educational programs and college courses, and has even earned a Bachelors in Science degree.

PHOTOS: Mugshots of Charles Manson and his murderous followers
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