Los Angeles was gripped with fear after the gruesome murder of actress Sharon Tate and four others on Aug. 9, 1969, at her Benedict Canyon, California, rental home.
A maid discovered the bodies of Tate and her friends Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger surrounded by pools of their blood. Steven Parent, a friend of the property’s caretaker, was also found dead, shot multiple times and left in the driver’s seat of his car at the home’s driveway.
Cult leader Charles Manson had sent his Manson “family” followers -- Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel to the property to kill whoever was at the home. Another follower, Linda Kasabian, served as a lookout at the Tate house while the others carried out the brutal killings.
Tate, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, was stabbed 16 times.
“They had mayhem, bloodshed and incomprehensible words scrawled in blood on the walls of these crime scenes,” Los Angeles magazine writer Steve Oney told ABC News.
The next night, Manson led Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and another Manson follower, Leslie Van Houten, to the home of Leno LaBianca, who ran a successful grocery business, and his wife Rosemary LaBianca. Manson’s followers stabbed the couple to death.
Manson didn’t participate in the killings, but ordered his followers to write words in the LaBiancas’ blood around the home, including “Helter Skelter.”
When news of the Tate and LaBianca murders and their striking similarities reached the public, people in the Hollywood community were terrified.
“I grew up with a lot, a lot, of fear, a lot of fear in my own home, because nowhere was safe anymore. Nowhere. Not laying in your bed at night. Nothing was safe in my world anymore,” Patti Tate, Sharon Tate’s younger sister, told ABC News.
The Los Angeles Police Department was eager to quickly solve both crimes, but they didn’t have any suspects or rational motive for either of the killings at first.
The LAPD initially did not believe the homicides were related, and two different detective squads investigated the Tate murders and the LaBianca murders independently of each other.
“It was a botched investigation. Part of it, as I say, was because there were two investigations. Part of it was that there were missed clues,” said Steve Oney.
In fact, it was an KABC News TV crew -- not police -- that found the discarded clothes of the killers involved in the Tate murders.
“They came up and found the clothing, which we introduced at the trial,” former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Manson for the murders, told ABC News in 1994.
And a 10-year-old boy named Steve Weiss found the gun that was used at the Tate crime scene.
One of the Manson family members had tossed the gun out a window as they were leaving the scene. According to police reports, Weiss found it in his yard and told his father because he said he had seen enough TV to know not to touch the gun.
“And so a patrol officer, came out, picked up the gun with his hands, and then took it and booked it into evidence in Van Nuys, [California],” former assistant Los Angeles district attorney Stephen Kay told ABC News in 1994.
Kay says the Van Nuys Police had the gun for a long time before the LAPD even knew they possessed it.
It was only after one of Manson’s followers, Susan Atkins, was arrested in a raid at Spahn Ranch, where the Manson family lived, that detectives working both cases started to put the pieces together.
While she was being held, Atkins reportedly bragged to cellmates about committing the murders in Benedict Canyon. Police then charged Manson, Atkins, Watson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten with murder. Kasabian was given immunity in exchange for her testimony against Manson and the others.
In 1971, Manson and his followers were found guilty of murder and all received the death penalty. The death sentences were commuted to life sentences when a California Supreme Court ruling abolished capital punishment in 1972.
Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten remain in prison to this day. Atkins died in prison in 2009.