NBC News’ ‘Dateline: The Summer of Manson’ chronicles the shocking crimes that Charles Manson and his followers committed in 1969. The series of murders shocked the nation, and the ensuing trials garnered extensive media attention. Eventually, Charles and most of his followers were sent to prison for their actions, helped partly by testimony from the people who took part in the crimes. So, if you’re curious to find out where these cult members are, we’ve got you covered.
Who Are Manson Family Members?
Charles Manson spent a lot of his early life in prison. After being released in 1967, he began gathering a group of impressionable individuals and became their spiritual leader. These followers believed that he was Jesus Christ and would do anything he asked of them. At the time, Charles talked about an impending race war and said they would live in a desert and wait it out before taking on a leadership role at the end of it all.
Among those people was Susan Atkins, who met Charles in 1967, a drifter who had dropped out of school. By 1969, Charles and his followers lived in Spahn Ranch in California. There, they reportedly got by their days by stealing credit cards, looking for food in trash cans, taking drugs, and having group sex. They would also break into homes while the owners were sleeping. On the night of August 8, 1969, Charles told Susan and a few other followers: Patricia Krenwinkel, Tex Watson, and Linda Kasabian, to put on black clothes and carry knives. The plan was for them to find a house and kill the people inside.
The group ended up at actress Sharon Tate’s residence in Benedict Canyon in Los Angeles, California. The group proceeded to murder a pregnant Sharon and her friends — Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, and Abigail Folger. Susan later confessed to stabbing Voytek and Sharon in addition to using the latter’s blood to write “PIG” on the wall. According to Susan, Sharon asked to let the baby live, but she told the young woman that she didn’t have mercy for her.
Later, Susan also talked about the murders to prison inmates, providing a break in the case. Patricia later admitted to her part in the crime, saying she stabbed Abigail 28 times. After the murders at Sharon’s home, Charles decided to break into another house. He accompanied Susan, Tex, Patricia, Linda, and Leslie Van Houten. They forcefully entered the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, with Tex, Patricia, and Leslie killing them both. Susan claimed to have stayed in the car, and later, Patricia admitted to writing “Death to pigs” on the wall in blood.
Where Are Manson Family Members Today?
In 1971, Charles, Susan, Patricia, and Tex were found guilty of seven counts of first-degree murder. The prosecution was helped immensely by Susan and Linda’s testimony. Leslie was found guilty of being involved with the murders of Leno and Rosemary. Not just that, Susan pleaded guilty to killing Gary Hinman in July 1969. While all of them received the death sentence, it was later reduced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after the death penalty was abolished.
Susan turned to Christianity while in prison and was also married twice. She was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008 and received treatment at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California. The 61-year-old died on September 24, 2009, of natural causes. Tex remains incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California. He has been denied parole several times. In 2016, Tex stated he was stabbed by another inmate in 2013.
In May 2022, Patricia, now 74, was found suitable for parole by a state board, pending review. For now, she remains incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Corona, Riverside County. Linda received immunity in exchange for her testimony and later said, “I could never accept the fact that I was not punished for my involvement. I felt then what I feel now, always and forever, that it was a waste of life that had no reason, no rhyme.”
Linda has since maintained a low profile after the trial ended and lived under a different name. As of 2017, she lived in Tacoma, Washington, close to one of her four children. Ultimately, Leslie’s parole has also been denied several times, and she is currently serving her sentence at the same prison where Patricia is.
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