Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family

Motive

Manson mugshot
Manson mugshot

Even though it was not necessary for the prosecution to establish the motive for the crimes, Bugliosi considered motive an important piece of evidence, especially since Manson was not physically present at the Tate murders. Bugliosi set out to establish that the primary motive was Helter Skelter: Manson's belief that he could start a race war and personally gain from it. But certainly, there was the connection between Manson's anger at Terry Melcher and the crimes committed on his former property.  To further bolster that motive, it was established that two different people had chased Manson off the property a few months before the murders.

Rudi Altobelli, the man who bought the Cielo Drive property from Melcher, was an important man in the entertainment industry. He represented stars like Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Because he traveled so much, he rented out the property to the Polanski's and stayed in the guesthouse when he visited the area.

In March of 1969, Manson went to the house where four of the five murdered people were staying. Charlie said he was looking for Melcher. Sharon's houseguest sent him away in not too friendly terms, but not before he saw Sharon, who wondered what the "creepy looking guy" wanted.

Then Manson went to the guesthouse and told Rudi Altobelli that the people in the main house told him to ask at the guesthouse. Altobelli admonished Manson for bothering his tenants and told him he didn't know where Terry Melcher had moved.

Manson knew the layout of the house and he knew who was living in it. It was quite possible that the "Helter Skelter" crimes were committed at that particular house because Charlie wanted to pay back the residents for rejecting him and scare the daylights out of Melcher for not backing his recording career.

Manson himself became a major player as he appeared frequently in the courtroom. Bugliosi studied him and described the behavior he witnessed:

Though he had little formal schooling, he was fairly articulate, and definitely bright. He picked up little nuances, seemed to consider all of the hidden sides of a question before answering. His moods were mercurial, his facial expressions chameleon-like. Underneath, however, there was a strange intensity. You felt it even when he was joking, which, despite the seriousness of the charges, was often. He frequently played to the always-packed courtroom, not only to the Family faithful but to the press and spectators as well. Spotting a pretty girl, he'd often smile or wink. Usually they appeared more flattered than offended.

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