UPDATE: This article was originally published May 17, 2019.
If we’re going to talk about Charles Manson, we’ve also got to talk about the Manson family members he had with him on the nights of August 8 and 9, 1969 and how they participated in the two-night killing spree as well. As we near the 50th anniversary of these crimes, Quentin Tarantino's new movie Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood fictionalizes the Manson family. But what’s different about Tarantino's film from all the other Manson movies and documentaries is that it actually spends less time on Manson himself, and more on the Manson girls and, specifically, one character named Pussycat, who appears to be inspired by a real Manson follower.
It’s horrible enough to think about one person killing multiple people, but it’s even worse to think about a family of killers – and many members of Manson’s family were women.
Though Manson died in 2017 (while serving a life sentence for his crimes), many of the Manson girls are still alive. Some of them are in prison, some of them aren’t, and if we’re going to talk about the man himself we need to look at the women, too. The portrayal of these women in Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood is less about them and more of a setting for Leonardo DiCaprio's character Rick Dalton, so if you’re looking for a little bit more in-depth information about the Manson girls, here’s what the main players did... and where they ended up.
Leslie van Houten
At age 19, van Houten dropped out of school and ran away to join Manson’s family. She would commit her first murder on August 9, 1969, participating in the deaths of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca (even though many of the stab wounds found on the victims were done post-mortem). She was arrested in December of that same year for her involvement in the crimes.
While taking the stand during her trial, Van Houten giggled throughout most of it and acted uninterested, which she later blamed on her use of LSD. On March 29, 1971, she was convicted of murder. Her sentence was execution, and at the time she was the youngest woman ever condemned to death in California. However, in 1972, the death penalty in California was overturned for everyone and van Houten’s sentencing became life in prison. She had two re-trials, and as of publication has been denied parole 21 times; her 22nd attempt to receive it is currently ongoing. She applied for parole on January 30, 2019, and the governor of California has 150 days to review it.
Patricia met Manson in 1967 and literally uprooted her life for him, leaving Los Angeles to head to San Francisco. While a part of Manson’s family, she went by the name “Katie” and was once picked up by Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and later turned his house into a place for Manson and his family to stay (until Wilson kicked them out).
Krenwinkel was one of the major participants in the Tate murders and killed Abigail Folger. The next night, Krenwinkel went to the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and participated in killing both of them, using various kitchen utensils to stab them repeatedly. Krenwinkel is also credited with writing “DEATH TO PIGS” and “HeaLter Skelter” in blood on the walls of their home.
Everyone in the family was arrested on August 16, 1969, but due to an error with the search warrant, they were released. Krenwinkel was arrested again on October 10, 1969, and though her father bailed her out of jail, she went back to Manson. She was arrested for a third time on December 1, 1969, and this time charged with seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Krenwinkel was sentenced to death, but that conviction later became live in prison, and she’s been denied parole 17 times as of 2017.
Squeaky’s real name is Lynette, and she does appear (played by Dakota Fanning) in the new film. Fromme was not a participant in either the Tate or LaBianca murders and instead took to camping outside the trial so she could be close to Manson. She later started writing a book about the Manson family, but it was scrapped when she realized it would be incredibly incriminating (however, the book was then published in 2018 under the title Reflexion).
Completely unrelated to Manson's schemes, in 1975, Fromme decided she wanted to speak to then-president Gerald Ford about the California Redwood trees. Dressed in a robe and carrying a gun, she approached him and pointed the gun at the president. She was immediately restrained by secret service. Though she never fired the gun at Ford, and the gun didn’t go off, she was sentenced to life in prison in accordance with a law protecting against assaults on U.S. presidents.
While Atkins didn’t participate in every murder committed by the Manson family, she was there for a majority of them. She was present for the death of Gary Hinman (Manson wanted some of his money), and later the Tate murders and the deaths of the LaBianca couple. Atkins is allegedly the one who wrote “PIG” on the door in Sharon Tate’s blood.
Atkins was arrested and while in prison confessed to some of the other prisoners that she had actually stabbed Tate herself; the prisoners reported this information and it was later used against her in her trial. She was charged with the murder of Tate and Hinman, and sentenced to death, which later became life in prison.
While in prison, she married twice and was denied parole 13 times and later it was revealed she had terminal brain cancer. Her husband at the time, fought for her to be released but that was also denied. She passed away on September 24, 2009, at the Central California Women's facility in Chowchilla.
Brunner has the unfortunate honor of being the first person recruited into Manson’s “family.” She and Manson started a relationship, and on April 15, 1968, she gave birth to Manson's son, Valentine Michael. She, along with Manson and others, was arrested on April 21, 1968. Brunner was specifically arrested for endangering a child, as at the time Valentine was only one week old. She was later arrested again on August 8, 1969, for using stolen credit cards. With this arrest, Brunner was completely removed from the Tate and LaBianca murders as there’s no way she could have been present at them.
However, Brunner was later charged with the murder of Gary Hinman, but she received immunity testify against the others. She was released and returned back to the rest of the Manson family who weren't in jail.
On August 21, 1971, Brunner along with two others robbed a gun store, trying to steal as many weapons as possible (allegedly, they were going to later hijack a plane and kill one person per hour until Manson and the rest of the family members were released from jail). However, the police were quick to the scene and surrounded the group, taking them all into custody. Brunner was sent to prison but released six years later in 1977.
Kasabian, with her young daughter in tow, joined the Manson family in 1969. During the Tate murders, Kasabian was told to gather the supplies needed for the family, and then wait outside in the car. She did, and could hear the screams from what was happening inside and wanted to try and stop everything. However, fearing for her daughter who had been left behind at the family’s house, she stayed. A few days later, Manson instructed to her to kill an actor, and not wanting to actually go through with it, Kasabian instead knocked on the wrong door. Kasabian then left the family and returned to New Hampshire to be with her mother.
Since Kasabian was not arrested with the others, she instead became a witness for the trial explaining all that she had seen and heard during the murders.
Kathryn "Kitty" Lutesinger
Because her nickname was Kitty, Lutesinger is believed to be the inspiration for Margaret Qualley's Pussycat in Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood. Lutesinger was not involved in the Manson Murder spree and in fact, is said to have fled the family numerous times. She was arrested a few times for her involvement, but never ended up with a conviction and even tried to alert the police with her concerns about Manson early on.
Catherine "Gypsy" Share
Played by Lena Dunham in the Tarantino film, Share maintains that she had nothing to do with the Manson Murders, though she was arrested in connection with a shootout with police in Hawthorne, California. She reportedly recruited Manson girls like Kasabian and van Houten, and has spoken about how easy it was to become enamoured with Manson himself. According to the book Helter Skelter, Share is now a Christian and happily married.