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Manson Family Was Indicted And Arraigned For Murder 50 Years Ago This Week

Charles Manson arrives in Los Angeles on Dec. 10, 1969, to be jailed on murder-conspiracy charges in the deaths of actress Sharon Tate and six others. At left in suit, is his public defender Fred Schaefer. (Harold P. Matosian/AP Photo)
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It was 50 years ago this week that a grand jury returned murder and conspiracy indictments against Charles Manson and five members of his so-called "family."

The charges were made in connection with the gruesome slayings of seven people that terrorized Los Angeles during the summer of 1969. The killings over two nights came to be known as the Tate-LaBianca murders, and remain to this day one of the best-known crimes in modern history.

Actress Sharon Tate and four guests were slain on Aug. 9. 1969 in the Benedict Canyon home she shared with her husband, the director Roman Polanski, who was out of the country at the time. Tate was eight months pregnant (the brutality of that night was most recently reimagined in Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film "Once Upon A Time ... In Hollywood").

Two days later, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were killed in their Los Feliz home.

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Grand jurors listened to two days of testimony before voting to indict Manson on Dec. 8. Also indicted: Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkle, Leslie Van Houten (named as Leslie Sankston in newspaper accounts at the time), and Charles "Tex" Watson.

After testifying, Susan Atkins, 21, leaves the grand jury room in Hall of Justice on Dec. 5, 1969 with attorney, Richard Caballero. (Dick Strobel/AP Photo)

Kasabian ultimately was given immunity for her testimony, which helped send the others to death row. Those sentences were later converted to life in prison after California temporarily ended the death penalty in 1972 -- it was soon reinstated by voter initiative.

When Manson died in prison in 2017, veteran AP courts reporter Linda Deutsch explained the impact the murders had on L.A. in an intervew with KPCC:

"In Los Angeles, the city went into a state of absolute fear after the first murders, which were at Sharon Tate's house. People felt that they were under threat that the celebrity community particularly felt that maybe they were targeted. People were buying guard dogs. They were getting alarm systems in their houses. Everyone was terrified and when a second set of killings happened at the Labianco house they were sure there was either a serial killer or a copycat killer at large."

Susan Denise Atkins, left, 21, Linda Kasabian, right, 20, and Leslie Van Houten, foreground, 19. (AP Photo)
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At the time of the indictment, Manson was being held in jail near Death Valley on car theft charges. He was brought back to Los Angeles for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice on Dec. 12.

Charles Manson is shown en route to court in Independence, Calif., Dec. 3, 1969. At left in suit, is his public defender Fred Schaefer. (Harold Filan / AP Photo)

Cult leader Charles Manson looks back and smiles as his attorney, public defender Fred Schaefer, talks to him in Independence, Calif., on Dec. 4, 1969. Manson and his followers are charged with eight murders. (AP Photo)

Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges on Dec. 12, 1969 (AP Photo)


Deutsch, who covered countless high-profile case for the Associated Press, called the Manson trial "the craziest ever."

It began in June 1970 and lasted until January 1971, costing L.A. County more than $1 million. The proceedings were disrupted both inside and outside the courtroom by Manson's followers and the defendants themselves.

MORE: Former AP reporter recalls surreal spectacle of Manson trial


Van Houten, now 70, remains incarcerated in California Instiution For Women despite numerous parole applications. She's been approved for parole twice by the parole board, only to have those decisions overturned by Calfornia governors.

Krewinkel, now 72, is housed as the same prison as Van Houten. She will next be eligible to apply for parole in June 2022.

Watson, now 74, is incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, according to the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabiltation. He won't be elegible for parole again until October 2021.

Atkins died in prison of brain cancer in 2009. She was 61.

Kasabian has stayed out of the spotlight since her testimony.

MORE: Your Guide To The Manson Family Members (And Where They Are Now)