California

The Tate murders

August 9, 1969
Los Angeles, California
Members of the Manson Family murder actress Sharon Tate in her home, three of her house guests, and a teenager who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time

Charles Manson had been an aspiring musician and attempted to get a recording contract with producer Terry Mulcher, but was snubbed. He ordered members of his “family” to visit “that house where Melcher used to live” and to “totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can.” At that point, Melcher’s former residence was home to Sharron Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski.

Tate was two weeks away from giving birth to her son at the time of the attack. With her were hairstylist Jay Sebring, screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, and heiress to the Folger empire Abigail Folger. As the members of the Manson family prepared their assault, 18-year-old Steven Parent happened to drive near the group. Tex Watson, leader of the group, threatened Parent with a gun before attacking him with a knife, cutting Parent’s palm with enough force to sever tendons and cut off his wristwatch. Parent was then shot four times in the chest and abdomen and his car was pushed out of the street into Tate’s driveway.

Once the attackers invaded the home, the occupants of the house were gathered together in the living room. Tate and Sebring had their necks tied together with a rope over a ceiling beam. Sebring voiced his concern over the rough treatment of the visibly pregnant Tate and was shot by Watson for his trouble. Watson then stabbed Sebring seven times.

Frykowski managed to free himself from his hand restraints but was cut in the leg by Susan Atkins who had been tasked with guarding him. Frykowski was able to get to the porch before Watson caught up to him, smashing his head with the gun hard enough to break the gun’s grip. Watson then stabbed him multiple times and shot him twice. Around this time, Folger had also managed to escape her guard, Patricia Krenwinkle, and run to the front lawn where she was tackled and stabbed 28 times by Krenwinkle and Watson. Frykowski, still barely alive, was then stabbed to death by Watson. In total, he received 51 stab wounds.

Tate, still bound, begged her captors to let her live long enough to deliver her baby, offering herself as a hostage. Her murderers refused and she was stabbed 16 times by Watson and/or Atkins. To make the scene look “witchy” before they left, Atkins used Tate’s blood to write the word “pig” on the front door.

Susan Atkins received a death sentence for her role which was commuted to life when the state of California overturned the death penalty; she died in 2009 of brain cancer. Patricia Krenwinkel and Tex Watson also received death sentences which were later commuted to life for the same reason. Krenwinkel was denied parole during her fourteenth parole hearing in 2017 and will be eligible for another hearing on 2022. Watson was denied parole during his seventeenth hearing in 2016. He will be eligible for his next hearing in 2021.

Linda Kasabian had voluntarily turned herself in and, during the murders, had tried to convince the other family members to end the attack early. Because she had no active role in the slayings, had turned herself in, and had turned state’s evidence, she was granted immunity and has led a quiet life since the murders and subsequent trial.

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