Tex Watson

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Tex Watson
Watson in an undated prison photograph
Charles Denton Watson

(1945-12-02) December 2, 1945 (age 77)
Other names
  • Charles Montgomery
  • Texas Charlie ("Tex")[1]: xvii 
Criminal statusIncarcerated
AllegianceManson Family
Conviction(s)First degree murder
Conspiracy to commit murder
Criminal penaltyDeath; commuted to life imprisonment
DateAugust 9–10, 1969
Date apprehended
November 30, 1969
Imprisoned atRichard J. Donovan Correctional Facility[citation needed]

Charles Denton "Tex" Watson (born December 2, 1945) is an American murderer who was a central member of the "Manson Family" led by Charles Manson.[2] On August 9, 1969, Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent 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 convicted of murder in 1971 and sentenced to death. As a result of a 1972 California Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality in the state of the death penalty, he avoided execution but has remained incarcerated ever since.

Early life[edit]

Watson was born in Dallas, Texas, on December 2, 1945,[3] and grew up in nearby Copeville. He was the youngest of three children.[4] Watson grew up attending church locally, and was an honor student, editor on the school paper, and captain of the football team, and set a state record for the low hurdles at Farmersville High School.[4][5] 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.[4]

Introduction to Manson Family[edit]

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. One day Watson picked up The Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson while he was hitchhiking and drove him to Wilson’s house. There he was first introduced to the Manson Family who lived with Wilson.

Drug dealing and Bernard Crowe[edit]

In December 1968, Watson left the Manson Family. He moved in with a woman who sold small quantities of marijuana and LSD to his friends,[6] and became her lover. The two lived a reasonably normal life in Hollywood for a few months, improving their illegal activity, until Watson became restless and rejoined the Family.[6]

Following Manson's orders to "find money for Helter Skelter", Watson contrived to steal money from his lover's friend, Bernard Crowe.[4] Crowe called the ranch, spoke to Charles Manson and told him he would come to the ranch and kill everyone if he did not get his money back. In response, Manson shot Crowe in the stomach[7] using the same pistol that Watson would use in the Tate murders.[6]

Tate–LaBianca murders[edit]

Tate murders[edit]

On August 9, 1969, as a member of the Manson Family, Watson led Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to 10050 Cielo Drive, the home of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. They murdered all four people inside the house, and also Steven Parent in the driveway. Watson and his crime partners inflicted 28 stab wounds to one victim, Abigail Folger, alone.[8]

LaBianca murders[edit]

The following night, Watson and six others went to the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Manson and Watson entered the home. According to Watson's book Will You Die For Me?,[6] Manson held the occupants at gunpoint while Watson tied them up, before the gang killed them.


On October 2, 1969, Watson fled the Spahn Ranch and headed back to his native state of Texas. On November 30, 1969, he was arrested in Texas for the Tate–LaBianca murders. He and his lawyers fought extradition to California for nine months. Upon arriving in California, he 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. He stayed there until February 1971, when he was deemed able to stand trial.[1]: 514–515 

On October 12, 1971, Watson was convicted on seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.[9] One week later, the same jury took only two and a half hours to determine that he was sane.[10] On October 21, 1971, he was sentenced to death. He arrived on California's death row on November 17, 1971, but avoided 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.[1]: 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.


According to his prisoner outreach website, Watson converted to Christianity in 1975.[11] Will You Die for Me?, Watson's autobiography, as told to Raymond "Chaplain Ray" Hoekstra, was published in 1978.[12] 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.[13][14]

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. In later years the group, with Doris Tate and her daughters Patricia and Debra, submitted petitions with more than two million signatures.[15][16]

In 2012, Watson disputed a request to release recordings made in 1969 with his defense attorney Bill Boyd. The recordings became part of a bankruptcy proceeding involving the deceased attorney's law firm. Members of the Los Angeles Police Department 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.[17][18] Judge Richard A. Schell ruled Watson had waived attorney-client privilege for the tapes after he allowed the co-author of his 1978 memoir to hear the recordings. The LAPD acquired the tapes, which allegedly contained Watson confessing to other murders, but reportedly no new information.[19] 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.[20]

Watson's own minimum eligible parole date was November 26, 1976; he has been denied parole 18 times since then, including two stipulations. He was most recently given a five-year denial of parole at a board hearing in October 2021.[21] He remains incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California.[22]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 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. Archived from the original on December 15, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  2. ^ Linder, Doug (2014). "The Charles Manson (Tate–LaBianca Murder) Trial". University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016.
  3. ^ Watson, Charles. "FAQs". Abounding Love Ministries. Retrieved April 5, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b c d Watson, Charles. "Will You Die For Me". Abounding Love Ministries. Archived from the original on April 5, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  5. ^ Neiswender, Mary (June 13, 1971). "'Tex' Watson, Honor Student, Athlete: Accused Mass Killer's Profile". cielodrive. Archived from the original on August 4, 2020. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d Watson, Charles; Hoekstra, Ray (1978). Will You Die For Me?. Archived from the original on April 5, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  7. ^ Waxman, Olivia B. (July 26, 2019). "Why Did the Manson Family Kill Sharon Tate? Here's the Story Charles Manson Told the Last Man Who Interviewed Him". Time magazine. Archived from the original on September 24, 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2022.
  8. ^ "Parole Hearing: Charles Manson 2012". www.cielodrive.com. Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  9. ^ "Charles 'Tex' Watson 1978 Parole Hearing Transcript". www.cielodrive.com. Archived from the original on August 7, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  10. ^ Watson, Charles. "Will You Die For Me". Abounding Love Ministries. p. 96. Archived from the original on April 5, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  11. ^ Broughton, Ashley (March 30, 2009). "Aging Manson 'Family' members long for freedom". CNN. Archived from the original on March 31, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  12. ^ Library of Congress catalog record on Will you die for me?. F. H. Revell. 1978. ISBN 9780800709129. Archived from the original on August 19, 2021. Retrieved November 9, 2009.
  13. ^ Parole Board Hearing Transcript 2011.
  14. ^ Watson, Charles. "About Charles". Aboundinglove.org. Abounding Love Ministries. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  15. ^ Childress, Deirdre M. (April 30, 1984). "Slain actress Sharon Tate's mother – with tears rolling..." upi.com. UPI. Archived from the original on August 19, 2021. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  16. ^ Mancino, John (November 20, 2017). "The Charles Manson legacy: Leslie Van Houten". speroforum.com. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018.
  17. ^ Martinez, Michael; Cary, Michael (June 13, 2012). "Judge declines to reverse order giving Manson follower tapes to police". CNN. Archived from the original on October 27, 2012. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  18. ^ Esposito, Richard (October 19, 2012). "Manson Possibly Tied to Homicides". Good Morning America. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012 – via yahoo.com.
  19. ^ O'Neill, Tom (2019). Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-47757-4. Archived from the original on June 6, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  20. ^ Healey, Patrick (September 19, 2014). "Attorney May Try Subpoena To Pry Open Recording by Convict Who Killed for Charles Manson". NBC Los Angeles. Archived from the original on December 14, 2014. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  21. ^ Hamilton, Matt (October 16, 2021). "Manson follower Tex Watson denied parole for Tate/La Bianca killings". The Mercury News. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved March 5, 2022.
  22. ^ (CDCR), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "State of California Inmate Locator". inmatelocator.cdcr.ca.gov. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. Retrieved September 25, 2017.

External links[edit]