The Manson Murders: The Failure to Connect the Dots

The two crime scenes at Cielo and Waverly Drives were just 24 hours apart and contained numerous similarities. Why didn’t investigators notice?

The crime scene at 3301 Waverly Drive

On July 28, 1969, Robert ‘Bobby’ Beausoleil stabbed chemist and musician Gary Hinman to death. Manson Family members Susan ‘Sadie’ Atkins and Mary Brunner also contributed to Hinman’s death. Earlier that weekend, Charles Manson slashed Gary’s temple with a sword while another Family member, Bruce Davis held a gun on the victim.

The murder of Gary Hinman was part of a botched drug deal — one of several botched drug deals, in fact — during the summer of 1969. Before Manson showed up at Gary’s Topanga Canyon home, Hinman had been in an argument and altercation with Beausoleil. Bobby had hit and punched Gary, even breaking a tooth — but Charlie did much worse damage when he used the sword on Hinman. The sword sliced through Gary’s upper left ear, severing the ear partially from the face and resulting in a gush of blood.

Sadie later stitched up the ear, but Gary’s insistence hours later on being taken the hospital for his wounds left Beausoleil with little option but to kill the man. After all, if Charlie got implicated in Hinman’s murder, Bobby would have HELL to pay.

So Bobby killed Gary Hinman, who had been a loyal and trusting friend. Nine days later, Bobby was arrested in Gary’s car for murder.

With directives given by Manson, Bobby staged the scene at Gary’s murder. He left a bloody ‘paw print’ on the living room wall to give the impression that black militants (like the Black Panthers) were the culprits and he wrote the words ‘Political Piggy’ above the paw print.

Two days later, Charlie found out about Bobby’s arrest and in a panic that Beausoleil would spill the beans (Charlie was on federal parole at the time — being an accessory to murder would slam his ass immediately back in the joint, for a long time), Charlie then ordered the murder of the occupants at 10050 Cielo Drive.

Cielo Drive was currently being rented by filmmaker Roman Polanski and his American wife, actress Sharon Tate. The couple were expecting their first child in a few weeks, and while Polanski was overseas working on a movie project, another couple were living with Sharon as houseguests.

Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski

Abigail Folger, 25 years old, was a social worker from San Francisco and an heiress to the Folgers’ Coffee fortune. Her boyfriend, Wojciech Frykowski (34-years old) was a friend of Roman’s from Poland, a former swimming champion. The couple met in New York City in 1967 and moved to Los Angeles a few months later, where they rented a house at 2774 Woodstock Road in Laurel Canyon. Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas was a neighbor and friend of Folger/Frykowski.

The couple kept their rental and allowed other friends to stay at Woodstock Road, while they stayed with Sharon so that she wasn’t alone during her second and third trimester.

Just after midnight on Saturday, August 9, 1969, four members of the Manson Family approached the property at 10050 Cielo Drive: Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, Patricia ‘Katie’ Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian and Susan Atkins (who was selected to join the group by Charlie because she had been at Hinman’s and knew what the scene looked like including the bloody marks on the wall). They murdered Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and two others guests — noted men’s hairstylist Jay Sebring (a friend and former boyfriend of Tate’s) and 18-year old Stephen Parent who had stopped by to visit the caretaker of the property, who lived in a small cottage at the back of the property.

Parent was slashed and shot in his car. Sebring was tied about the neck, shot, kicked and stabbed and a cloth or towel was later found covering his face. Folger was chased across the lawn, stabbed and left face-up on the grass — her white nightgown so bloodied it appeared painted red. Frykowski was stabbed numerous times and shot, and lay on the lawn with his hands clutching a fist full of grass.

Sharon was stabbed in the living room, a rope also around her neck. She lay on her side in front of the couch. She had cried for her mother as she was stabbed.

The killers left the scene, with bodies strewn in the driveway, front law and living room, and a bloody message left upon the front door: the word PIG, scrawled by Sadie in Sharon’s blood.

The next morning, the bodies were discovered by Sharon’s housekeeper and police were summoned. Initially, cops arrested the caretaker (19-year old Bill Garretson) but released him in a couple days when it became clear that he did not know what happened, or who had done it.

The next night, again shortly after midnight on Sunday, August 10th, the Family struck again. They drove to the upscale home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, married business owners who lived at 3301 Waverly Drive in Los Feliz. Charlie and Tex Watson entered the property, tied up the two residents, placed pillow cases over their heads, and then Watson, Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten stabbed them.

Leno and Rosemary LaBianca

Again, bloody messages were left at the scene, this time by Katie (Pat Krenwinkel). They included: RISE, DEATH TO PIGS (both scrawled on the walls) and HEALTER SKELTER (an homage to the Beatles’ song and Charlies’ vision of a black/white race war) which was misspelled and written in blood on the refrigerator.

In the evening that Sunday, Rosemary LaBianca’s 15-year old son arrived home from a weeklong lake vacation with friends and discovered something amiss at his home. He phoned his sister, who arrived with her boyfriend, and they entered the property, discovering the deceased bodies of their mother and stepfather. They ran to a neighbor’s to call for help.

One of the investigators at Waverly Drive had also been called to Cielo Drive, that day. Danny Galindo had been part of the evidence-gathering at the Tate/Polanski evidence and even stayed overnight to make sure that the crime scene was not tampered with.

I was at the homicide division of Parker Center downtown typing reports. I got a phone call. It was a reporter from the police beat, and he said, “Danny, listen to this. You’re gonna get a call right now. They got another one of those bloody ones just like the one you’re working on. And there’s a knife stuck in the throat of the victim.” I hung up, and the phone immediately rings. It was the inspector. So I drove to Los Feliz. When I walked in, Leno LaBianca’s body was lying on the floor in front of the couch on the left side, and it was sitting in a huge pool of blood. The couch was full of blood. They bled him dry. I noticed that his head was covered with a pillow slip all the way down over his chest… When the coroner took the pillow slip off Leno’s head, there was that knife plunged into his throat that the reporter had told me about. The press knew far more than the police wanted it to, but it didn’t know everything. No one except the investigators and the killers was aware that ‘Healter Skelter’ had been written on the LaBianca refrigerator.

That night I was interviewed by a television reporter… “Do you think this case is connected to the other one?” He meant Tate. I told him, “I think it’s more of a copycat case”… It was a helluva mistake on my part… — Danny Galindo, retired LAPD homicide detective quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine

Galindo wasn’t the only investigator who did not notice the similarities:

As early as Monday, police were minimizing the similarities between the two crimes. Inspector K. J. McCauley told reporters: “I don’t see any connection between this murder and the others. They’re too widely removed. I just don’t see any connection.” Sergeant Bryce Houchin observed: “There is a similarity, but whether it’s the same suspect or a copycat we just don’t know.”— Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry ©1974 W.W. Norton & Company

But the press was more observant than the police:

The front page of Monday’s Los Angeles Times noted that the Waverly Drive murders might be connected to those at Cielo. Clearly, the press was more observant of the similarities between these crimes than the police were. The report of the writing ‘Healter Skelter’ was withheld in news reports but it was the smoking gun that would have led… directly to the Family. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications

The crime scenes at Cielo Drive (left) and Waverly Drive (right)

As I wrote in my book,

Two teams of investigators were beginning the laborious process of deciphering the clues and evidence at both the Cielo Drive and Waverly crime scenes. Neither team spoke with one another despite the fact that:

· The crimes occurred approximately 24 hours apart, 11 miles from each other, both in the early hours of the day (midnight to 2:00am);

· Both scenes appeared ritualistic in nature, according to detectives;

· Robbery was immediately ruled out as primary motive at both residences. Small items/amounts of cash were, however, taken at both locations;

· One investigator — Danny Galindo, Robbery/Homicide Division at LAPD — was present at discovery for both scenes and would likely have noticed the similarities;

· The ‘hood’ over Jay Sebring’s head and the pillowcases over Rosemary and Leno’s heads (as well as the throw pillow over Leno’s face);

· The binding of victims’ hands and heads at both scenes (rope around Jay Sebring’s hands and around the necks of both Sebring and Sharon Tate, the leather thong around Leno’s wrists and the lamp cords around both Leno and Rosemary’s necks), plus;

· The use of knives as primary weapons, the number of stab wounds and savagery of the attacks, and;

· The scrawling of victims’ blood in both locations, and commonality of those messages (‘Pig’ on the door of Cielo Drive and ‘Death to Pigs’ on the wall at Waverly Drive seem pretty similar, do they not?);

And of course, the similarity in these messages to that of ‘Political Piggy’ in Topanga Canyon.

Police Sergeant Bryce Houchlin told the Progress Bulletin on Monday, August 11th: “There is a similarity [between the two crimes], but whether it’s the same suspect or a copycat we just don’t know.”

Granted, some evidence was held back from public reports (like the words ‘Healter Skelter’ on the LaBianca’s refrigerator) to preserve the integrity of evidence should someone come forth either to admit to the crimes or to name suspects. That’s standard operating procedure in any homicide investigation. But within 24 hours of the LaBianca’s deaths, the investigation at Waverly Drive concluded that there was no obvious link between those two deaths and the five that occurred the evening before.

Garretson, chief suspect at Cielo, was still in custody when the LaBiancas were tied up with lamp cords and stabbed to death. He was freed the next day after passing a polygraph test. Because police did not believe that the Tate and LaBianca cases were connected, he remained a suspect at Cielo for months.

Failure to connect the crimes was only a fraction of the investigation failings. At Cielo Drive, detectives failed to subtype the blood found. Blood types indicate which of the four major blood groups a sample would be classified (A, B, AB, O) but subtypes break the population into more than four groups. There are dozens of subtypes, which can indicate who a victim is but also whether any suspects were wounded in the commission of the crime. Some blood types will only present a certain number of subtypes once the blood is dry. Failure to subtype blood immediately upon discovery risks further drying of blood, and therefore eliminates most of the subtypes that may be found and identified while still wet or damp.

Blood subtypes near the bodies of Tate and Sebring were taken, but not those around the bodies of Frykowski and Folger. Remember: Susan Atkins had bleeding feet the night she entered Cielo Drive, and departed from the front porch, leaving a bloody footprint there.

The homicide teams worked their investigations, separately and unsuccessfully, for the next three months. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications

Three weeks after the Tate and LaBianca murders, an eleven year old in Van Nuys found a .22 Buntline revolver — the discarded murder weapon used to kill Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and Stephen Parent on August 9th at Cielo Drive. The killers tossed the knives and gun out of the car window after they drove away from the scene that night. The boy, Stephen Weiss, was a former boy scout and he knew the appropriate way to handle a weapon: by the barrel, not the handle. He brought it to his father, who called the police. The officers who arrived, however, were not as diligent as young Stephen:

The revolver used to kill the victims at Cielo Drive (left) and the boy who found the gun and turned it over to police (right). Stephen Weiss later testified during the 1970 Tate/LaBianca murder trial.

They manhandled the weapon, putting their own finger prints all over it while the boy watched. The police, who admitted to Weiss’ father that they didn’t even know how to open the revolver, obscured the fingerprints left by Watson three weeks earlier. Steven and his father told the officers that they believed the gun might be linked to the Tate killings in nearby Benedict Canyon.

Police had sent out circulars to the region’s law enforcement offices, with pictures of a similar gun and even mentioned the missing handle grip. But the investigators at the Weiss residence that day didn’t remember those circulars. They had no idea that a Good Samaritan had just turned in the very weapon they were supposed to be looking for.

Seven shell casings, plus two live bullets were still in the revolver when it was booked into evidence in Van Nuys. Long after the culprits were in jail and under investigation, still nobody linked the gun found by Steven Weiss to the crimes in Benedict Canyon. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications

Two weeks after the LaBiancas were murdered, several male members of the Manson Family killed Donald ‘Shorty’ Shea, a ranch hand at Spahn Ranch (where the Family was living that summer) who they believed was a police informant. A few days later, the Family fled to Death Valley. But after they committed arson on a piece of earth-moving equipment in Death Valley National Park, the entire group was arrested during a 3-day span in October.

One of the members, the pregnant 17-year old girlfriend of Bobby Beausoleil, implicated Susan Atkins in Hinman’s murder. Police spoke to Atkins and she confessed her role in Gary’s death and was taken into custody and driven to Sybil Brand, the women’s prison in Los Angeles County. There, she tattled about her murderous exploits to several other inmates. Two of them went to police to report the Family for the Tate/LaBianca murders.

Kitty Lutesinger (left) told investigators that Susan Atkins (aka Sadie — on far right) was involved in Gary Hinman’s murder along with her boyfriend, Bobby Beausoleil (center)

Gary Hinman was killed on July 28th. Sharon Tate and her friends were killed August 9th. The LaBiancas were murdered the following night, and Shorty Shea was slaughtered on July 26th or 27th.

The Hinman/Topanga Canyon, Tate/Benedict Canyon and LaBianca/Los Feliz crime scenes bore numerous similarities and yet, law enforcement failed to connect the dots.

Their failures bear a large responsibility for the murder of Shea.

You can learn more about the murders of the LaBiancas here:

And more about the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends here:

Written by

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

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