|Location||10050 Cielo Drive|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Date||August 8–9, 1969|
|Mass murder, stabbing|
|Weapons||.22 caliber revolver, pocketknife|
|Perpetrators||Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Charles "Tex" Watson|
The Tate murders were a mass murder conducted by members of the Manson Family on August 8–9, 1969, which claimed the lives of five people. Four members of the Manson Family invaded the rented home of married celebrity couple, actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles. They murdered Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant, along with three friends who were visiting at the time, and an 18-year-old visitor, who was slain as he was departing the home. Polanski was not present on the night of the murders, as he was working on a film in Europe.
The murders were carried out by Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel, under the direction of Charles Manson. Watson drove Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian from Spahn Ranch to the residence on Cielo Drive. Manson, a would-be musician, had previously attempted to enter into a recording contract with record producer Terry Melcher, who was a previous renter (from May 1966 to Jan. 1969) of the house along with musician Mark Lindsay and Melcher's then-girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen. Melcher had snubbed Manson, leaving him disgruntled.
On the night of August 8, 1969, Tex Watson took Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to "that house where Melcher used to live," as Manson had instructed him, to "totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can".:463–468 Manson had told the women to do as Watson would instruct them.:176–184, 258–269 Krenwinkel was one of the early Family members and had allegedly been picked up by Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys while hitchhiking.:250–253 The occupants of the house at 10050 Cielo Drive that evening, all of whom were strangers to the Manson followers, were movie actress and fashion model Sharon Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski, who was eight and a half months pregnant; her friend and former lover Jay Sebring, a noted hairstylist; Polanski's friend and aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski; and Frykowski's lover Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folger coffee fortune, and daughter of Peter Folger.:28–38 Polanski was in Europe working on a film project; Tate had accompanied him, but returned home three weeks earlier. Music producer Quincy Jones, a friend of Sebring, had planned to join him that evening, but did not go.
When the murderers arrived at the entrance to the Cielo Drive property, Watson, who had been to the house on at least one other occasion, climbed a telephone pole near the entrance gate and cut the phone line to prevent telephone access to the house. At that point it was after midnight, August 9, 1969.
The group backed their car to the bottom of the hill that led to the estate, parked, and walked back up to the house. Thinking the gate might be electrified or rigged with an alarm, they climbed a brushy embankment to the right of the gate and entered the grounds.:176–184
Just then, headlights approached them from farther within the angled property. Watson ordered the women to lie in the bushes. He then stepped out and ordered the approaching driver to halt. Eighteen-year-old student Steven Parent had been visiting the property's caretaker, William Garretson, who lived in the property's guest house. As Watson leveled a .22-caliber revolver at Parent, the frightened youth begged Watson not to hurt him, claiming that he would not say anything. Watson first lunged at Parent with a knife, giving him a defensive slash wound on the palm of his hand (severing tendons and tearing the boy's watch off his wrist), then shot him four times in the chest and abdomen, killing him. Watson then ordered the women to help push the car further up the driveway.:22–25
After traversing the front lawn and having Kasabian search for an open window to the main house, Watson cut the screen of a window. Watson told Kasabian to keep watch down by the gate; she walked over to Parent's AMC Ambassador and waited.:258–269:176–184 Watson then removed the screen, entered through the window, and let Atkins and Krenwinkel in through the front door.:176–184
As Watson whispered to Atkins, a sleeping Frykowski awoke on the living room couch; Watson kicked him in the head. When Frykowski asked him who he was and what he was doing there, Watson replied: "I'm the devil, and I'm here to do the devil's business.":176–184
On Watson's direction, Atkins found the house's three other occupants and, with Krenwinkel's help,:176–184, 297–300 forced them to the living room. Watson began to tie Tate and Sebring together by their necks with rope he had brought and slung up over one of the living room's ceiling beams. Sebring's protest – his second – of rough treatment of the pregnant Tate prompted Watson to shoot him. Folger was taken momentarily back to her bedroom for her purse, out of which she gave the intruders $70. After that, Watson stabbed the groaning Sebring seven times.:28–38
Frykowski's hands had been bound with a towel. Freeing himself, Frykowski began struggling with Atkins, who stabbed at his legs with the knife with which she had been guarding him. As he fought his way toward and out the front door, onto the porch, Watson caught up with Frykowski and struck him over the head with the gun multiple times, stabbed him repeatedly, and shot him twice. Watson broke the gun's right grip in the process.
Around this time, Kasabian was drawn up from the driveway by "horrifying sounds". She arrived outside the door. In a vain effort to halt the massacre, she falsely told Atkins that someone was coming.:258–269
Inside the house, Folger had escaped from Krenwinkel and fled out a bedroom door to the pool area.:341–344, 356–361 Folger was pursued to the front lawn by Krenwinkel, who caught her, stabbed her, and finally tackled her to the ground. She was then dispatched by Watson; Folger was stabbed 28 times.:28–38 As Frykowski struggled across the lawn, Watson murdered him with a final flurry of stabbings. Frykowski was stabbed a total of 51 times.:28–38, 258–269
In the house, Tate pleaded to be allowed to live long enough to have her baby, and even offered herself as a hostage in an attempt to save the life of her unborn child. At this point either Atkins, Watson, or both killed Tate, who was stabbed 16 times.:28–38 Watson later wrote that as she was being killed, Tate cried: "Mother ... mother ..."
Earlier, as the four Family members had been heading out from Spahn Ranch, Manson had told the women to "leave a sign ... something witchy". Using the towel that had bound Frykowski's hands, Atkins wrote "pig" on the house's front door in Tate's blood. En route home, the killers changed out of bloody clothes, which were disposed of in the hills along with their weapons.:84–90, 176–184
In initial confessions to cellmates of hers at Sybil Brand Institute, Atkins said she killed Tate.:84–90 In later statements to her attorney, to prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, and before a grand jury, Atkins indicated Tate had been stabbed by Tex Watson.:163–74, 176–84
In his 1978 autobiography, Watson said that he had stabbed Tate and that Atkins had never touched her. Since he was aware that the prosecutor, Bugliosi, and the jury, that had tried the other Tate–LaBianca defendants, were convinced Atkins had stabbed Tate, he falsely testified that he did not stab her.
- Bugliosi, Vincent with Gentry, Curt. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders 25th Anniversary Edition, W. W. Norton & Company, 1994. ISBN 0-393-08700-X. OCLC 15164618.
- "Watson, Ch. 14". Aboundinglove.org. Archived from the original on November 19, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
- "Quincy Jones Has a Story About That". GQ. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- Watson, Charles as told to Ray Hoekstra. "Will You Die for Me?". aboundinglove.org. Archived from the original on April 5, 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2007.
- "Watson, Ch. 19". Aboundinglove.org. Archived from the original on November 19, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010.