In 1974, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, was published by the lead prosecutor assigned to the notorious case, Vincent Bugliosi. This book goes into great detail about the actual murders carried out by the Manson family, the family’s history, as well as possible motives, and different theories surrounding the murders. Los Angeles, August 10th, 1969, police arrived at a residence, which to their surprise is a complete disaster area, multiple bodies lay around the property, all of who have been savagely beaten, stabbed, and shot multiple times, the bodies of Roman Polanski, his wife Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowksi, and Steve Parent.
Police entered the home and found the bodies of Sharon Tate, and Jay Sebring, as well as a cache of different party drugs, which gave police the idea that this was some sort of wild party gone wrong.
The next night, at another house also within Los Angeles, Frank Struthers, came home to find most of the curtains in his house drawn, he knows this isn’t a normal thing, and calls his sister, who later shows up to enter the home with her distraught brother.
Upon entering the home they find that both of their parents have been murdered in cold blood, stabbed and beaten, their father, Leno LaBianca, had the word “war” etched into his stomach, and their refrigerator had “Helter Skelter” written in blood. Concerned this may be the work of a serial killer, a sergeant decided he better calls the Los Angeles police to identify any possible similarities between the two recent murders.
Police decided these cases were not linked.
A few weeks later, after the murders, the Sheriff’s department raided a ranch in Death Valley, where a horde of hippies that were arrested about a week before this raid had gone after the heir their release, about twenty-four to be exact, all of whom wherwere re-arrested. The people within this ranch were all part of the “Manson Family”, which were all duped by Charles Manson, that he was some sort of greater being above themselves. Manson was able to manipulate these people by making them completely dependent on him, which was relatively easy as most of them had already had nothing and would do anything for a better life. He often used drugs and threats of violence to help gain control over them as well.
Susan Atkins, one of Manson’s followers, was arrested during the raid at the ranch, as someone named her as an accomplice in a previous murder. During her time in county jail, she couldn’t help but tell anywhere whether inmate, Ronnie Howard, that she was involved in the murders at the Polanski residence. Deeply disturbed Ronnie notified the police of this encounter.
At the same time, while Howard was informing the police about his encounter, another division was interviewing members of a motorcycle gang who have also heard about murders committed by Manson and his followers. Danny Decarlo, a member of the gang, says that he knows other members of Manson’s cult who may have been involved, as well as a theory of the motive. The motive provided by Decarlo, states that Manson was hoping to put blame on the Black Panthers and start a race war. With all this new information, police are having trouble piecing together all the evidence and getting a clear idea of what happened and when.
The prosecutor assigned to the case, Vincent Bugliosi, starts digging deeper into the current evidence to see if he can dig up some evidence of his own. He visited both ranches, to try and uncover details that may have been missed by police. Bugliosi goes on to describe Manson’s family history, stating that Manson’s name at birth was Charles Milles Maddox, and was an unwanted child by his sixteen-year-old mother. Manson was always a troubled child, with constant run-ins with the law. His first arrest was at age thirteen when he committed an armed robbery. Manson continued his life of crime, with charges ranging from grand theft auto, rape, and forgery. After a lengthy sentence in prison, he become widely interested in music by The Beatles as well as science.
Manson was rof farmeleased from his long stint in prison in the summer of 1967, when he moved to San Francisco, and started forming his cult, he was able to trick young men and women into giving him money and following him blindly.
Susan Atkins, the woman who told a fellow inmate about the murders at the Polanski residence, was offered a plea deal, in return for information regarding the previous murders. During her testimony, Atkins detailed disturbing images relating to the murders, she also described the assailants, Charles Manson, Kasabian, and Krenwinkel. The people then took note that, Atkins, showed, no “remorse, sorrow, or guilt.” After her testimony, the grand jury decided to indict all the named parties as well as Atkins.
While police and Atkins discuss the terms of the plea deal, police were able to match a fingerprint found at the Polanski residence to a Tex Watson, and Patricia Krenwinkel. During which police were able to finally find the murder weapon, which has been sitting in an evidence locker in Van Nuys for months.
Police investigators, as well as Bugliosi, were perplexed with this case and were desperate to find a motive, according to the testimony by Atkins, and the motorcycle gang, it seems as if these murders intended to fire up a race war. Manson took to the bible to back his reasoning, by stating that the Book of Revelations spoke to him and told him to carry out these murders, as well as lyrics written in multiple songs by the Beatles.
Manson believes, a record producer, Terry a Melcher, who previously lived at the same address where the Polanski murders took place, was supposed to write and produce a song for Manson. Since this never happened Manson chose this residence to carry out his “Helter Skelter” murders to in some form send a message to Melcher. Manson was also able to trick Atkins into taking back her statement by saying it was all lies, but fortunately, the prosecution was able to turn in another key witness within the family, Linda Kasabian.
Bugliosi decided to take Kasabian on a cruise to the crime scenes hoping he could extract more information from her. Kasabian, completely distraught after returning to the brutal crime scene, describes how she saw Watson fire shots, ultimately killing Parent, to which she then decided she would wait in the car, where she witnessed Krenwinkel follow Folger. At the same time, she witnessed Watson then stab Frykowski. Not knowing what she was getting into, Kasabian, ran away in fear not knowing what could be next for her.
Investigators got a break when they discovered bullet casing at one of the Family’s ranches, that matched the gun used at the Polanski residence.
The judge decided Manson was not fit to represent himself, so he hired a lawyer by the name of Irving Kanarek. After the trial begins, even though Manson himself wasn’t involved in the murders, he would be tried equally, as he orchestrated them and convinced all of his followers to come together for an ultimate goal. Once Kasabian took the stand Manson was staring at her, moving his fingers across his neck, insinuating that she will die for her testimony against him, shortly after he took a pencil off the table and jumped towards the judge and Kasabian, ultimately being stopped by a bailiff.
The prosecution then goes on by showing the different pieces of evidence that link family Manson and his people to the murders, as well as the motive behind them. They had experts from many fields ranging from, weapons experts, health experts to describe the causes of death, and techs to explain the fingerprints. All of the other witnesses on the stand had similar stories to Family’sa Buglisi’s theory. As well as members of the Family describing how Manson made them believe he was the second coming of Christ.
The judge let one of the members off on probation, Steve Grogan, even though Bugliosi and his team urged the judge that he was not fit to be in public prosecution and that he was extremely dangerous. Outside the courthouse during the trial, members of Manson’s following were chanting, praising their “father”. In November 1970, the prosecution concluded their side of the story.
Shortly after the defense finished their side family familythe story, the prosecution’ star witnesses decided they wanted to take full responsibility for all the murders. That same weekend an attorney for one of the family members went missing after a camping trip, it was speculated that he was murdered by the famfamily decidedly decide decided because he was trying to work with them to place blame on Manson and get them lesser sentences. The jury decideddecided guilty of all charges for every member of the family.
After the jury prosecution’ssion of guilty, the insanemoved towardstowardand the jury was forforntencing hearings, many of the family members of the cult pleaded to save the lives of their loved ones. Doctors even testified for the defense by saying members of Manson’s “Family” were either insanefor or under the influence of LSD, altering their state of mental being. Ultimately though, all parties agreed to the death penalty of all the main defendants. Later though, the death penalty was repealed before any of the defendants were put to death and were then put in prison for life.
Throughout the book, Bugliosi sets quite an eerie tone, which was admirable. Throughout he laid down facts that were easily comprehended, with the timeline of events leading up from the time of the murders whenofthrough which the investigation, to the verdict. Bugliosi painted a perfect picture of the maniac Charles Manson was, when he described the way he appeared in court, how he would make odd statements like, “beating everyone in the room with the microphone” which insane moves very interesting.