She Saw The Man Who Ordered Her Murder

Sharon Tate saw Charles Manson at her home

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Sharon Tate, murder victim of the Manson Family

In February 1969, actress Sharon Tate and her husband, Polish-born film director Roman Polanski, rented the house in Benedict Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. 10050 Cielo Drive was a modest three-bedroom home in a luxury neighborhood, zip coded ‘Bel Air’. The couple, married just a year, had newly discovered they were expecting their first child. They had been renting a home that was owned by Tate’s costar in “Valley of the Dolls”, actress Patty Duke.

The Cielo Drive home had previously been rented by Terry Melcher, a producer for Columbia Records and the son of film star Doris Day. Melcher knew Charles Manson through Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson. Manson was relying upon these men to help him launch a successful music career. He visited the Cielo Drive home on at least three occasions, before Melcher moved out in early 1969.

Sharon and Roman threw a housewarming party about four weeks after they moved into the property. The next morning, Roman was scheduled to fly overseas to begin production on new film, an adaptation of the science-fiction novel Day of the Dolphin. Sharon was due to fly overseas a few days later, for a film she was shooting in Italy. Roman asked a friend of his, Wojciech Frykowski and Wojciech’s girlfriend, Abigail Folger (nickname ‘Gibbie’) to stay at the property while he and Sharon were away. The two actually came before Sharon departed, and began to get to know the young mother-to-be.

The following is excerpted from The Manson Family: More to the Story

On March 16, Sharon drove her husband to the airport, then returned home to help settle in their houseguests. It didn’t take long for Gibbie and Sharon to bond. There were times when Wojciech tried Sharon’s patience, but there was real affection and friendship between the two women.

Charlie did not know that Terry Melcher had moved out of Cielo Drive. On March 23rd, he went to Benedict Canyon looking for the producer. Manson, wearing a fringed buckskin suit, sauntered onto the property where he encountered Shahrokh Hatami, Sharon’s photographer friend. Hatami was visiting Sharon, taking pictures of her that day. He was outside, readying his equipment for photos by the poolside, when Manson arrived.

…Sharon Tate, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Jay Sebring (Sharon’s ex-boyfriend and longtime friend) were all inside the house that day. Charlie approached the front porch and Hatami walked up the path from the pool to greet him. When Manson demanded to see Melcher, Hatami said he didn’t know any Melcher, and suggested he check the guest house.

Charlie walked down the flagstone path to the small cottage. There, he encountered landlord Rudy Altobelli.

Altobelli met Manson once, the summer before, at Dennis Wilson’s home. He’d heard Manson’s rap and wasn’t interested. In fact, he thought the musician was a leech. That March, when Manson showed up at his house, Altobelli ordered him off the property. Voices were raised.

At some point the foursome in the main house looked out to see what the fuss was. Sharon stepped onto the front porch, just as Manson finally understood that the man he was looking for no longer lived there and he needed to buzz off.

The next day, Sharon flew to Rome to film scenes in 12+1 (later renamed Thirteen Chairs). She was not excited for the film shoot, despite working with the likes of Orson Welles, but felt it was a good distraction from her personal problems. It was also her last chance to work on a movie before having her baby. She flew overseas with Altobelli and during the flight, asked him whether that ‘creepy-looking guy’ came back to Cielo Drive!

She saw the man who would orchestrate her murder and he left her with a disturbing impression, although she had no idea just how diabolical he was.

Some writers and documentarians use language to indicate that Sharon came ‘face to face’ with Manson, or that she or her houseguests had an altercation with him. Neither is true.

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Sharon Tate and her Yorkie Saperstein, at Cielo Drive

She just happened to see him, as he was departing the property. She thought him odd enough to comment the next day to Altobelli, and she heard raised voices. But she didn’t meet him and wasn’t standing near him and didn’t hear the context of his argument with the property owner.

After the murders (August 1969), some claimed that there were other connections between Charles Manson and his most famous murder victim. Were there drug deals going on between the Manson Family and the residents of Cielo Drive? Did they party together at Mama Cass’s (singer of the Mamas and the Papas) house? Did they attend social functions at the Haight/Ashbury Free Clinic, a medical facility in San Francisco where the Manson Family was occasionally treated as patients and Abigail Folger and her family were donors? Could there have been other reasons why Cielo Drive was targeted, other than the past association with producer Terry Melcher?

There is little in the way of evidence showing that Sharon or her guests ever directly met Charlie or his followers. But we know that they saw him that day, five and a half months before they were savagely and unmercifully killed, at his orders.

You can read more about Sharon Tate here:

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Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series.

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