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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

But the press was more observant than the police:

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

As I wrote in my book,

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:

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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.

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.

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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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