The Manson family is one significant product of the counterculture that existed in the United States in the 1960s when people who identified as hippies would create their own communities, embrace sexual liberation, listen to psychedelic music, and use drugs to explore altered states of consciousness.
Led by Charles Manson, the group stood out among all other hippie groups as it comprised mostly young women who followed a leader that presented himself as the manifestation of Jesus. The group operated in the state of California; particularly in the San Francisco, San Fernando Valley, and Death Valley area where they went on to commit a number of crimes, one of which was the murder of actress Sharon Tate which led to the arrest of all involved.
How The Manson Family Formed
The Manson family was formed in 1967, the year Charles Manson was released from prison. The ex-convict had spent more than half of his life in correctional institutions for a variety of offenses. He had then chosen to get his life on track and move to San Francisco, California to pursue a music career after having learned to play the guitar behind bars.
While trying to get things going, Manson met 23-year-old Mary Brunner. The two soon began a relationship and he moved in with her. As the story goes, Manson was able to convince Brunner to allow other women who embraced the hippie culture to live with them. At a point, it was said that Brunner’s apartment housed up to eighteen other women who had gotten radicalized by Manson’s teachings. He portrayed himself to be the Son of Man while he taught his followers that they were the original Christians.
Charles Manson struggled to get his singing and songwriting career going but eventually caught a big break in late spring 1968 following a chance meeting with drummer and founding member of the Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson. This happened after Wilson picked up two female members of the Manson family and took them to his home. He would later go on to meet the girls’ leader and help him with his music. One of Manson’s songs, “Cease to Exist”, was retitled by the Beach Boys as “Never Learn Not to Love”.
Crimes Committed By the Manson Family
The Manson family was responsible for a number of assaults, petty crimes, vehicle thefts, and gruesome murders. The first notable murder was the killing of a drug dealer named Bernard Crowe; Manson shot him in his apartment on July 1, 1969.
On July 25, 1969, Manson and other family members killed music teacher and Ph.D. student, Gary Allen Hinman after holding him hostage for two days. The group believed he was wealthy and had hoped to turn him into a member in order to have access to his home and money. Hinman was uncooperative and was thus stabbed to death.
On August 8, 1969, Manson directed members of the family to go to musician and record producer, Terry Melcher’s home and kill everybody there. Manson met Melcher after the pair were introduced to each other by Dennis Wilson. The family leader had worked to get the record producer to listen to his music and help him make a career but Melcher decided not to sign him. This is what is thought to have infuriated Manson, prompting his decision to sanction the killings. Members of the Manson family went on to kill eight-and-a-half months pregnant actress, Sharon Tate, who had rented the house Manson believed belonged to Melcher. Four other people were also murdered in the house.
The next day, Manson ordered the killing of supermarket executive, Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. The couple were woken up from sleep and stabbed multiple times with a bayonet knife from their kitchen.
The police never tied all three murders together until one member of the Manson family, who had told another person of her involvement in the crime, was apprehended. The information given by the member of the family led to Manson and all other members’ arrest and conviction.
The Whereabouts of the Family Members
The Manson Family consisted of approximately 100 followers. This included people like Susan Atkins, Mary Brunner, Bobby Beausoleil, Lynette Fromme, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, Steve “Clem” Grogan, and Linda Kasabian, all of whom went on to spend time in prison for their involvement in various crimes, including murders.
Susan Atkins died of natural causes in 2009 while behind bars. She was California’s longest-serving female inmate at the time, a title that has since been taken by Patricia Krenwinkel who is still serving life imprisonment (as of this writing). Both ladies, as well as Leslie Van Houten, were sentenced to death for their participation in the Tate-LaBianca murders; however, their sentences were subsequently commuted to life imprisonment when the California Supreme Court invalidated all death sentences issued prior to 1972.
Mary Brunner received a sentence of 20 years to life for numerous offenses that included credit card theft and armed robbery. She did her time at the California Institution for Women before being paroled in 1977. She has remained out of the public’s eye ever since.
Bobby Beausoleil received a death sentence that was also later commuted to a life sentence for the murder of Gary Hinman. In 2019, he was recommended for early release by the parole board, a recommendation that was denied by the Governor of California.
Lynette Fromme is another member of the Manson family that spent time behind bars, however, not for anything related to the group. She was sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to assassinate US President Gerald Ford. She was later released on parole in August 2009 after 34 years behind bars.
Tex Watson was found guilty of murdering up to seven people, including Sharon Tate Polanski, Jay Sebring, Leno LaBianca, and Rosemary LaBianca. He was first sentenced to death before it was commuted to life imprisonment. He is being held at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California.
Like others, Steve Grogan was sentenced to death before it was commuted to life imprisonment. However, unlike any other person in the group that committed murder, he is the only one to have been released on parole as of 2019. His whereabouts are unknown.
The mastermind behind it all, Charles Manson, died of a heart attack and complications from colon cancer on November 19, 2017.