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Watson in a 1971 prison mugshot
Charles Denton Watson Jr.
December 2, 1945
Farmersville, Texas, U.S.
|Date||August 9–10, 1969|
|November 30, 1969|
Charles Denton "Tex" Watson Jr. (born December 2, 1945) is an American murderer who was a central member of the "Manson Family" led by Charles Manson. On August 9, 1969, Watson and other Manson followers murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. The next night, Watson traveled to Los Feliz, Los Angeles, and participated in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Watson was found guilty of murder and imprisoned in 1971.
Watson was born in Farmersville, Texas, on December 2, 1945, and grew up in nearby Copeville. He was the youngest of three children. Tex grew up attending the Copeville Methodist Church. In high school he was an honor student and athlete, and worked as the editor on the school paper. In September 1964, Watson moved to Denton, Texas, to attend the University of North Texas, where he became a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
In January 1967, Watson began working at Braniff International as a baggage handler. Using free airline tickets to travel, he visited a fraternity brother in Los Angeles; there he became interested in the psychedelic and music lifestyle of the late 1960s. Soon Watson met some women who were in the Manson Family and then met Charles Manson. Watson decided to join the Manson Family shortly afterwards.
On August 9, 1969, as a member of the Manson Family, Watson accompanied Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to the large estate on Cielo Drive in Hollywood leased by movie director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant. Polanski was in London working on a film. Present in the house were Tate and her friends: hairdresser Jay Sebring, writer Wojciech Frykowski, and Folger's coffee heiress Abigail Folger.
Watson, who had been to the 10050 Cielo Drive address on at least one previous occasion, climbed a telephone pole near the security gate and cut the house phone line. The entire Manson group then climbed over the fence. When a car from the guest house approached, driven by an 18‑year‑old named Steven Parent, Watson ignored his pleas for mercy and shot Parent four times in the chest and abdomen at point-blank range.
After pushing Parent's car further up the driveway and traversing the front lawn, Watson cut the screen of a window and let Atkins and Krenwinkel in through the front door. At Watson's direction, Atkins found the house's three other occupants and with Krenwinkel brought them to the living room. Watson tied Tate and Sebring together at the neck with rope and slung it up over a beam. Sebring started to resist and Watson shot him. After Watson shot Sebring and took $72 from Folger's purse, Folger and Frykowski bolted from the house, but they were chased outside, and after being stabbed further, died on the front lawn. Watson and his crime partners inflicted 28 stab wounds to Folger alone. Tate, Sebring, and Frykowski all suffered numerous stab wounds. Sebring and Frykowski were also shot.
The next night, Charles Manson (who was displeased by their performance and pledged to show them "how to do it") drove six "Manson Family" members, Leslie Van Houten, Steve "Clem" Grogan, and the four from the previous night into Los Angeles. In March 1968, Manson and other Family members had attended a party at the rented home of Harold True in Los Feliz, located at 3267 Waverly Drive. Manson did not want to kill True because he thought it could be traced back to him, so he settled for the house next door where Leno and Rosemary LaBianca lived. After driving their car up and down the street, and waiting, Manson and Watson got out of the car, disappeared walking up the driveway and entered the home together. According to Watson's book Will You Die For Me?, Manson held the occupants at gunpoint while Watson tied them up. Manson returned to the car to say he had tied up the house's occupants and sent Krenwinkel and Van Houten into the house.
Krenwinkel and Van Houten took Rosemary LaBianca to her bedroom as Watson murdered Leno LaBianca in the den. Rosemary LaBianca was then murdered in her room, primarily by Krenwinkel and Watson, with additional (and possibly postmortem) wounds inflicted in her back by Van Houten. Both victims were stabbed numerous times and the word "WAR" was carved into Leno LaBianca's stomach; a fork was also left protruding from his stomach. Using blood from the victims, "Rise" and "Death to Pigs" were written on the walls, and a misspelled "Healter Skelter" was written on the refrigerator door.
On October 2, 1969, Watson fled the Spahn Ranch and headed back to his native state of Texas. On November 30, 1969, Watson was arrested in Texas for the Tate–LaBianca murders. He and his lawyers fought extradition to California for nine months. Upon arriving in California, Watson stopped talking and eating, losing 55 pounds, and began regressing to a catatonic state. He was admitted to Atascadero State Hospital for a 90‑day evaluation period to determine if he was fit to stand trial. Watson stayed there until February 1971, when he was deemed able to stand trial.:514–515
On October 12, 1971, Watson was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. One week later, the same jury took only two and a half hours to determine that he was sane. On October 21, 1971, Watson was sentenced to death. He arrived on California's death row on November 17, 1971. Watson escaped execution when the California Supreme Court's People v. Anderson decision resulted in the invalidation of all death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972.:661–662 He was found guilty of the murders of seven people: Abigail Folger; Wojciech Frykowski; Steven Parent; Sharon Tate Polanski, who was eight months pregnant; Jay Sebring; Leno LaBianca; and Rosemary LaBianca. His seven counts were to be served concurrently.
According to his prisoner outreach web site, Watson converted to Christianity in 1975. Will You Die for Me?, Watson's autobiography, as told to "Chaplain Ray" (Ray Hoekstra), was published in 1978. In 1979, he married Kristin Joan Svege. Through conjugal visits they were able to have four children (three boys, one girl), but those visits for life prisoners were banned in October 1996. After 24 years of marriage, Svege divorced Watson after meeting another man in 2003. Svege and Watson remain friends. He had become an ordained minister in 1981, and received a B.S. in Business Management in 2009 from California Coast University, a distance-learning college. 
In August 1982, a Southern California‑based group, Citizens for Truth, submitted some 80,000 petition signatures and several thousand letters opposing Watson's parole. The group received support from Doris Tate, the mother of victim Sharon Tate. The group was asking the California Board of Prison Terms to deny parole for Watson. In later years the group, along with Doris Tate, and her daughters, Patricia and Debra, submitted petitions with more than two million signatures.
In 2012, Watson disputed a request to release recordings of conversations with his attorney. The recordings became part of a bankruptcy proceeding involving the deceased attorney's law firm. Members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said they believed the recordings might contain clues about unsolved murder cases involving the Manson family. Watson asked the presiding judge to allow police to listen to the tapes but not take possession of them. The LAPD did acquire the tapes, which allegedly contained Watson confessing to other murders, but reported that they did not contain any new information. In September 2014, Richard Pfeiffer, an attorney for Leslie Van Houten, said that he was considering subpoenaing the tapes to look for information that might help Van Houten in her next parole hearing.
Watson's own minimum eligible parole date was November 26, 1976; he has been denied parole 17 times since then, including two stipulations. He was most recently given a five-year denial of parole at a board hearing on October 27, 2016. He remains incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California.
- Bugliosi, Vincent; Gentry, Curt (1994) [1st pub. 1974]. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-08700-0. LCCN 94-20957. OCLC 30624822. OL 1096365M.
- Linder, Doug (2014). "The Charles Manson (Tate–LaBianca Murder) Trial". University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
- Watson, Charles. "Will You Die For Me". Abounding Love Ministries. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
- "Parole Hearing: Charles Manson 2012". www.cielodrive.com.
- "Charles "Tex" Watson 1978 Parole Hearing Transcript". www.cielodrive.com.
- Watson, Charles; Hoekstra, Ray (1978). Will You Die For Me?. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- Watson, Charles. "Will You Die For Me, pg 96". Abounding Love Ministries. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
- Broughton, Ashley (March 30, 2009). "Aging Manson 'Family' members long for freedom". CNN.
- "Library of Congress catalog record on Will you die for me?".
- Parole Board Hearing Transcript 2011.
- Watson, Charles. "About Charles". Aboundinglove.org. Abounding Love Ministries. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
- Childress, Deirdre M. (April 30, 1984). "Slain actress Sharon Tate's mother -- with tears rolling..." upi.com. UPI.
- Mancino, John (November 20, 2017). "The Charles Manson legacy: Leslie Van Houten". speroforum.com. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018.
- Martinez, Michael; Cary, Michael (June 13, 2012). "Judge declines to reverse order giving Manson follower tapes to police". CNN.
- Esposito, Richard (19 October 2012). "Manson Possibly Tied to Homicides". Good Morning America – via yahoo.com.
- Healey, Patrick. "Attorney May Try Subpoena To Pry Open Recording by Convict Who Killed for Charles Manson". NBC Los Angeles. Los Angeles. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
- Hamilton, Matt (2016-10-28). "Parole denied for convicted Manson follower Charles 'Tex' Watson". MSN. Archived from the original on 2017-04-08. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
- (CDCR), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "State of California Inmate Locator". inmatelocator.cdcr.ca.gov.
- Official website
- Will You Die For Me?. Abounding Love Ministries.
- Bardsley, Marilyn. "Charles Manson and the Manson Family". Crime Library. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015.
- Newton, Jennifer (April 6, 2016). "Manson family murderer Tex Watson mailed Wikipedia handwritten edits of his page from prison demanding they be changed". Daily Mail.