It's been 50 years since the Manson family, under the manipulation and influence of cult leader Charles Manson, brutally murdered seven people in Southern California during the summer of 1969. To this day, the crime spree is shrouded in equal parts revulsion and unwavering fascination in the eyes of true crime followers. The series of murders was rooted in unhinged revenge before spiralling into indiscriminate violence, something loosely explored in Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood.
Before diving into the timeline of the murders themselves, most of which serves as somewhat undefined backdrop for the new Tarantino film centered on Leonardo DiCaprio's washed up actor Rick Dalton, it's important to establish why Manson ordered the murders that would take actress Sharon Tate's life. Upon being released from prison in 1967, Manson moved to San Francisco, where he met Gary Hinman, a music teacher would would later introduce him to Beach Boys' drummer, Dennis Wilson. Wilson then introduced Manson to record producer Terry Melcher.
Before becoming an infamous cult leader and serial killer, Manson was an aspiring musician. Though Melcher took an initial interest in Manson's music, he declined to work with Manson on it. It is believed that this is why Manson ordered the murders at Melcher's former home.
Melcher lived at 10500 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles. The house was then leased to director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate, which is where Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood begins, roughly.
Here's what happened, outside of Tarantino's fictionalized version:
July 1969: Hinman is killed by Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil
Accompanied by fellow Manson family members Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins, Beausoleil stabbed Hinman to death in his Topanga Canyon home. Beausoleil was arrested for the murder just three days before the Tate-LaBianca murders. The murder was reportedly carried out at the request of Manson.
August 8-9, 1969: Manson family members murder five people at 10500 Cielo Drive
Susan Atkins, Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian – considered to be some of Manson's most fervent followers – break into the Los Angeles home and murder Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, her partner Wojciech Frykowski, celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring, and friend of the family, Steven Parent. The murders were reportedly committed by Atkins, Watson, and Krenwinkel while Kasabian came to act as a lookout and were supposedly meant to scare Manson's old rival, Melcher.
"He said for me to take the gun and knife and go up to where Terry Melcher used to live. He said to kill everybody in the house as gruesome as I could. I believe he said something about movie stars living there," Watson testified according to the LA Times.
August 9-10, 1969: Charles Manson searches for more victims
Manson continues his crime spree when he accompanies a group of his followers in search for more victims. The group is made up of Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian, as well as Leslie van Houten and Steve "Clem" Grogan. They drive around for several hours before breaking into the home of grocery store chain owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and killing them. Later, van Houten, who was 14 at the time, would release a tell-all memoir called Member Of The Family.
December 8, 1969: Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian are indicted for the Tate murders
After being arrested, the group, along with van Houten, are also indicted for the LaBianca murders. LA Sheriff's detectives were tipped off in an interview with Al Springer, a motorcycle gang member loosely connected to Manson, who told them that Manson had confessed to killing people just days after the Tate murders. Atkins, who had already been charged with the murder of Hinman at this point, reportedly told a fellow inmate that she killed Tate, "Because we wanted to do a crime that would shock the world, that the world would have to stand up and take notice." Kasabian would later be given immunity in exchange for her testimony against Manson and the other members of the group.
January 25, 1971: Manson and the others are all found guilty
The trial lasted for seven months before the jury found the defendants guilty of seven counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. According to court reports, van Houten was only found guilty of two of the murders as well as conspiracy. All of the family members except Kasabian receive the death penalty.
1972: The death penalty is abolished in California
Manson passed away in prison of natural causes in November 2017.
Atkins passed away in 2009 from brain cancer while serving life in prison.
Kasabian changed her name and has lived a life of anonymity except one interview with documentarian Nick Godwin for his TV documentary, Manson.
In 2016, Watson was denied parole for the 17th time and will not become eligible again until 2021. Beausoleil was recommended for parole in January 2019. There has been no update as to whether it has been granted or denied.
For her part, van Houten remains in prison and has her parole reviewed and turned down every year since 2016.
Krenwinkel has never been eligible for parole and is the California's longest-serving woman prisoner.