On the night of August 9, 1969, three women and one man entered the Bel Air, California, house rented by film director Roman Polanski and savagely murdered his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, and four other people. One night later, in nearby Los Feliz, a small group invaded another luxury home and killed businessman Leno LaBianca and his wife. In both crimes, as well in as the earlier murder of a local music teacher named Gary Hinman, the killers used their victims’ blood to mark the crime scene with slogans such as PIG, DEATH TO PIGS, and HEALTER SKELTER.
The Tate and LaBianca murders, coming so close together, in such exclusive neighborhoods, gripped Los Angeles with fear and paranoia. It took more than two months for authorities to link the crimes and trace them to a group called The Family, which had been living on a rundown ranch in Death Valley lorded over by a tiny, 34-year-old man named Charles Manson. The group consisted mostly of young women, and a few men, who, through an indoctrination of sex, drugs, and messianic rants about the Beatles and the Bible, had become so deeply in thrall to Manson that they were willing to kill for him.
They wanted to take out the eyes of the people and squash them against the walls and cut off their fingers. “We were going to mutilate them, but we didn’t have a chance to.”