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A Madman Gets His Fifteen Minutes of Fame, Part III

Manson believed that mankind was on the brink of self-annihilation. And he felt like savage murders of wealthy whites by what would appear to be black activists would be the spark of a racial war that would push society over the brink.

He predicted that blacks would eventually prevail, then he and his family would rise from their underground secret city beneath Death Valley to be welcomed by the victors as the new ruling class.

Apparently, this all sounds logical if you take enough LSD.

Manson once wandered up to Roman Polanski's and Sharon Tate's home looking for a former resident he had known, musician Terry Melcher. He was told by a friend of Tate's that the person was not there, and that they had never heard of him. Manson was advised to try the guest house where the owner of the property lived, that he might know something about the former tenant.

By now, Tate had appeared at the door to see what was going on. This was the first encounter she had with Manson. The future killer walked around to the guest house to find that the owner was not there. He walked off of the property, to reappear that night.

That evening, he found the owner, Rudi Altobelli, and asked Melcher's whereabouts. He told him he had moved somewhere in Malibu, he wasn't sure where. It turned out that Manson and Altobelli had met at Dennis Wilson's house. Altobelli was in the entertainment business, and Manson wanted to talk to him about getting his songs recorded. Wanting no part of it, Altobelli told him he was flying to Rome the next day to stay for a year. The story was not true, but was intended to keep Manson away. He also told him not to bother his tenants any more.

The first murder took place on July 27, 1969. Family member Bobby Beausoleil stabbed to death acquaintance Gary Hinman in a dispute over money. Per Manson's instructions, he was kept alive for two days imprisoned in his home while he was tortured. Manson himself showed up to take part, then Hinman was finished off. Manson, obsessed with the Beatles' White Album, told Beausoleil to write "political piggy" on the wall in the victim's blood.

A few days later, Beausoleil was arrested after he was caught driving Hinman's car, which contained the murder weapon. On August 8, Manson told family members at Spahn Ranch, "now is the time for Helter Skelter." The family was told to go to Melcher's former home, now occupied by Polanski, and create gruesome carnage to get the war started. The family members were Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel.

I won't go into the details of what happened next. The Wikipedia entry on Manson provides those, if you wish to read them. But let's just say the members eagerly and happily committed possibly the most horrific murders in US history.

The next night, Manson sent them to the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca. Manson had once attended a party in a house next door to it. Again, horrible, sadistic murders were committed upon LaBianca and his wife.

Police made no connection between the murders of Tate and her friends and those of the LaBiancas. On August 16, the police raided Spahn Ranch and took Manson and twenty-five others as suspects in an auto theft ring. But, a misdated warrant soon set them all free.

However, armed with better paperwork, Manson and his family members were eventually captured at various other ranches. Manson was found hiding under a sink.

Through associates of the first accused murderer, Bobby Beausoleil, connections were finally made to Manson and his family members to both sets of August murders. Tex Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel, who had fled to Texas, were arrested there. The trial of Manson, Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian, and Atkins began on June 15, 1970.

Manson's strategy was to create numerous ruckuses to distract the jurors from comprehending the testimony. He was removed from the courtroom on several occasions. During one such outburst, he threatened the judge with cutting his head off. That scene, as much as the gruesome evidence, showed the jurors what they had in Manson.

His family members on the outside communicated his wishes to the ones on trial to implicate themselves and paint a picture of innocence for Manson himself. Still dangerous, two more murders took place in an attempt to intimidate witnesses.

The jury found all four guilty on all counts. They also recommended a sentence of death. The judge commended the jury for standing up to the intimidating glares of the family members and making good decisions. He stated that there was no clearer case of the death penalty needing to be used. Within a year, Tex Watson had also be found guilty and sentenced to death, and Manson was convicted of more murders as well.

Then on February 18, 1972, the California Supreme Court ruled the death penalty to be cruel and unusual. All death sentences were commuted to life in prison, with parole a possibility.

How well that must have made the jurors and witnesses for the prosecution sleep.

Later that year, people of the state passed a constitutional amendment overturning the court ruling and reinstating the death penalty. However, today's California courts have a reputation for going easy on violent criminals.

Hopefully, Manson and his family members, who should be dead, will never see the light of day again. Many of them have profited from accounts of their sick lives being published as books. And Manson himself is held up as a hero by a few crazed anti-establishment types.

So, as you can see, we Boomers unfortunately saw the first sadistic, senseless murders that would make similar acts by David Berkowitz, Jeffrey Daumer, and Timothy McVeigh make us think back to the night Helter Skelter went down.

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