This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Manson Family's murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate, and her friends, at her California home. After serving 39 years in prison, two women convicted for the murder are seeking parole this month.
The clip above is from the 1973 documentary Manson, which featured interviews with some of the female family members, as well as footage shot by the family, in which they explain Charles' philosophy and the Family's way of life. (Squeaky Fromme, seen in the clip, had no involvement in the Tate/LaBianca murders, but was convicted of attempted assassination of the president, for which she served 34 years. She will be released on August 16. She is still believed to be a follower of Manson's.)
THEN: Atkins, aka "Sadie," was a 21-year-old mother of a 10-month-old baby the night she stabbed pregnant Sharon Tate to death, saying, "She asked me to spare her. I told her I didn't have any mercy for her," and that Sharon's whining got on her nerves. (Atkins' son, Zezozose Zadfrack Glutz, has since been adopted and renamed.) Also involved in the LaBianca and Hinman murders, Sadie was sentenced to death in 1971, (which was automatically commuted to life in prison after a 1972 California Supreme Court case that outlawed the use of capital punishment). Her cellmate said of her,"Sadie was so far out, even the bull dykes wouldn't mess with her." In 1974, she removed herself from the Family and became a born-again Christian. In 1977 she published her autobiography, Child of Satan, Child of God.
NOW: Atkins, now 61, has been married twice while in prison. She has been denied parole 17 times. In 2002, she filed a lawsuit with the federal court claiming she was a "political prisoner" due to the parole denials despite her suitability. Atkins is currently dying of cancer—and reportedly can only turn her head from side to side, and move one arm—and her husband has asked that she be released and allowed to die at home, arguing that it would save the state $10,000 a day in health care. Her next parole hearing is scheduled for September 2.
Leslie Van Houten
THEN: The onetime homecoming queen joined up with the Family shortly after graduating high school in 1967. At 19, she was the youngest defendant in the Tate/LaBianca murders. Having only been involved in the LaBianca murders (she stabbed Rosemary LaBianca 16 times), she said she wished she had been there the night of the Tate murders. Van Houten would giggle during testimony, thus lost the sympathy of the jurors. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, later commuted to life in prison. Three years after her imprisonment she fell away from Manson and the Family. She won a retrial in 1977 on the grounds of ineffective representation by counsel. While out on bail in 1978 she attended the Oscars with a friend, and wasn't recognized. She was later convicted again and sentenced to life in prison.
NOW: Van Houten, who will turn 60 this month, is in the California Institution for Women, where she's spent the past 39 years. While there, she's become a model prisoner. She's taught other illiterate inmates to read, stitched a portion of the AIDS quilt, made bedding for the homeless, and recorded books on tape for the blind, all while holding down various jobs as a clerk for different members of the prison staff. Of her remorse over the murders she says, "It's not easy. If anything, the older I get, the harder it is. I took away all that life." Filmmaker John Waters began what turned into a close friendship with Van Houten in 1985 when he attempted to interview for her Rolling Stone. Van Houten—whom Waters described "looked then, and still does, very much like actress Hilary Swank"—has been denied parole 18 times. During one parole hearing, a judge told her, "You've dug yourself quite a hole and it's going to take a little time to get out of it." Waters asks, "Can you ever dig your way out of that hole by trying to explain LSD to a parole board whose members have never taken a trip?" She is eligible for parole again this year.
THEN: Krenwinkel was 20 when she joined up with Manson. Two years later, she participated in both the Tate and LaBianca murders (specifically, stabbed Abagail Folger to death) and is the one who notoriously wrote in blood on the walls of the LaBianca home, "DEATH TO PIGS" and "HeaLter SkeLTter." She was sentenced to death, later commuted to life in prison.
NOW: Like Van Houten, Krenwinkel is active with prison programs. She's in AA and NA, and has also taught illiterate prisoners how to read, gives dance lessons, and participates in a service-dog training program. She has been denied parole 11 times.
THEN: Charles Manson's third wife, and mother of his child Michael Valentine Manson (aka "Pooh Bear"). She was arrested and jailed for credit card fraud the night of the Tate murders. She was later charged (with two other family members) for the July 1969 murder of Gary Hinman. She received immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against Atkins and Beausoleil. (She later repudiated her statements.) In 1971, Brunner—along with several other Family members—was arrested and convicted for taking part in the robbery of a gun store and subsequent shootout with the cops. She served six years in the California Institution for Women, where Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel were serving their time.
NOW: After her release from prison, she disassociated herself from the Family, regained custody of her son, changed her name and now lives in anonymity somewhere in the Midwest.
THEN: Kasabian had the only valid driver's license of all the Family members, so she was ordered to drive the group to the Tate residence, and the LaBianca residence. (It's bizarre that they cared about traffic laws.) She later turned state's evidence against the Family, and testified at their trials.
NOW: She has refused an media interviews in the past, aside from one for A Current Affair in 1989, but on September 7, as a way to mark the 40th anniversary of the Tate/LaBianca murders, the History channel will air a special on the Family, featuring a new, and extensive interview with Kasabian.
Manson's lasting legacy: 'Live freaky, die freaky' [CNN]
Restoring Sharon Tate [LA Times]
Manson Family Women Seek Parole After Decades Behind Bars [ChattahBox]
40 Years Later, Manson Murders Remembered [ABC News]
Leslie Van Houten: A Friendship, Part 5 of 5 [HuffPo]
Manson Family member interviewed for special [Reuters]