Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family

Murder!

Quiet and secluded is just what the young movie star wanted. The canyons above Beverly Hills were far enough away from the noisy glitz of Hollywood to afford some privacy and space. Sharon Tate loved this place on Cielo Drive. To her it meant romance — romance with the man of her dreams and the father of her child, director Roman Polanski.

Charles Manson
Charles Manson

It was cooler up there too, which was especially refreshing on that hot muggy Saturday night, the 9th of August 1969. The beautiful young woman kept herself company with her attractive and sophisticated friends: Abigail Folger, the coffee heiress and her boyfriend Voytek Frykowski, and an internationally known hair stylist Jay Sebring.

Sharon was eight months pregnant and very lonely for her husband who was away in Europe working on a film. Impromptu gatherings like this one on a weekend night were not at all unusual.

The house was deliberately secluded but not completely insecure. Approximately 100 feet from the house was a locked gate and on the property was a guesthouse inhabited by an able-bodied young caretaker.

That night the Kotts, Sharon's nearest neighbors who lived about 100 yards away, thought they heard a few gunshots coming from the direction of Sharon's property sometime between 12:30 and 1 A.M. But since they heard nothing else, they went to bed.

Around the same time, a man supervising a camp-out less than a mile away heard a chilling scream: "Oh, God, no, please don't! Oh, God, no, don't, don't..."

He drove around the area, but found nothing unusual.

Nearby a neighbor's dogs went into a barking frenzy somewhere between 2 and 3 A.M. He got out of bed and looked around, but found nothing amiss and went back to bed.

A private security guard hired by some of the wealthy property owners thought he heard several gunshots a little after 4 A.M. and called his headquarters. Headquarters, in turn, called Los Angeles Police Department to report the disturbance. The LAPD officer said: "I hope we don't have a murder; we just had a woman-screaming call in that area."

The home where Charles Manson murdered Sharon Tate on Cielo Drive
The Tate/Polanski House on Cielo Drive

Winifred Chapman, Sharon Tate's housekeeper, got to the main gate of the house a little after 8 A.M. She noticed what looked like a fallen telephone wire hanging over the gate. She pushed the gate control mechanism and it swung open. As she walked up to the house, she saw an unfamiliar white Rambler parked in the driveway.

When she got to the house, she took the housekey from its hiding place and unlocked the back door. Once inside the kitchen, she picked up the telephone and confirmed that it was a telephone wire that had fallen, completely knocking out all phone service. As she made her way toward the living room, she noticed that the front door was open and that there were splashes of red everywhere. Looking out the front door, she saw a couple of pools of blood and what appeared to be a body on the lawn.

She shrieked and ran back through the house and down the driveway, passing close enough to the Rambler to see that there was yet another body inside the car. She ran over to the Kotts and banged on the door, but they were not home, so she ran to the next house and did the same thing, screaming hysterically.

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