Manson's legacy of fear lives on 30 years later

Reuters, August 9, 1999
By Michael Miller

LOS ANGELES - Thirty years after members of Charles Manson's "family" savagely murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others, the legacy of the brutal attacks remains -- from walled-in mansions to continued public fascination with the cult murderer.

The house at 10050 Cielo Drive, where the murderers used the pregnant actress's blood to scrawl the word "Pig" on the front door, is no longer standing, bulldozed into oblivion in 1994 by entrepreneurs who hoped to reap a major profit by destroying the past.

But the memory of the bodies discovered on Aug. 9, 1969, is still etched sharply in the psyche of Los Angeles and America. The murders triggered a wave of fear and paranoia that swept through freewheeling Hollywood and Beverly Hills, fueling a huge private security industry.

The house that was rented by Tate and her director husband, Roman Polanski, was ripped down to make way for a sprawling Italian-style mansion. The address on the new house was changed and its original price of $12.5 million lowered to $7.7 million. But even those changes have not helped make a sale.

"The Sharon Tate thing is a deterrent for some people. A lot of agents won't touch it," said a real estate agent who asked not to be named.

The agent added, "One foreign buyer was concerned about the superstition around the murders. An Asian client was worried about the negative Feng shui."

The murders of Tate, her friend, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Folger's boyfriend, Voytek Frykowski, hairdresser Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent, killed as he was leaving the caretakers house where he had gone to buy a stereo, made headlines around the world and signaled the end of the "Hippie era" of good vibes, peace and love. Polanski was in London at the time and devastated by the crime.

The next day Manson once again sent his followers out, this time to stab to death wealthy businessman Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their home in Los Feliz, a neighborhood on the edge of Hollywood.

It has never been entirely clear why Manson, now serving a life sentence for the murders, targeted Tate, although he had known the house's previous occupant, whom he blamed for not pushing his song-writing career.

Vincent Bugliosi, the attorney who prosecuted the Manson gang, later wrote in his account of the trial, the best-selling book "Helter Skelter," that the slayings were so bizarre they defied belief.

After a nine-month trial, Manson, Leslie Van Houton, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles "Tex" Watson were convicted in 1971 in the Tate and LaBianca murders. In 1972 their death sentences were commuted to life in prison when the state abolished capital punishment.

Atkins, who told jurors the murders were committed "to install fear into the establishment," was also convicted, along with another Manson follower, Robert Beausoleil, of murdering musician Gary Hinman.

>From his top security prison cell, Manson continued to exert his charismatic power over those followers who remained free. In 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was convicted of trying to assassinate then-President Gerald Ford, and Sandra Good received a prison sentence in 1976 for conspiring to send threatening letters to government leaders.

Good, who is now free, has moved to Corcoran, Calif., close to the jail where Manson, now 65, is being held.

Manson never had a web site on the Internet during his reign of terror, but now several sites are dedicated to him, including one that suggests Jesus Christ and Manson are one and the same person. His face is also popular with some on T-shirts.

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