Aug. 9, 2004 -- Thirty-five years after the infamous slayings by Charles Manson's followers, relatives of the victims united in their grief and determination to keep the former "family" members behind bars.
In August 1969, the nation was stunned by the slayings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and four of her friends — Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Voyek Frykowski and Steve Parent. The victims were killed on two separate nights as part of a killing spree, marked by multiple stabbings and bloody scrawlings at the crime scenes.
Charles Manson and his cult "family" members, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins, were convicted of the Tate-LaBianca slayings in 1971. Manson had inspired his followers to commit the murders to start a race war in America with the hopes of rising to leadership and re-enslaving African-Americans. Initially, Manson and his three co-defendants were sentenced to death, but their sentences were commuted to life terms when the death penalty was abolished in California in 1972. (It has since been reinstated.)
Some legal experts have said Manson will never be paroled and will eventually die in prison. In the three-and-a-half decades since the Manson family slayings, former followers Van Houten and Krenwinkel have made multiple bids for parole. Krenwinkel has been denied parole 11 times, most recently last month; Van Houten's petition has been turned down 13 times.
Both have insisted they are changed women and are repentant for the killings. But various relatives of their victims do not believe their pleas and say they will continue to attend their hearings and oppose their parole.
"I truly don't think so [that Van Houten and Krenwinkle have changed]," Debra Tate, Sharon Tate's younger sister, told ABC News' Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America today. "The reason I don't think so is the very heartfelt emotion they showed to you [in past interviews], they have never shown to any one of us, the victims' families. I believe that they need to spend the rest of their lives in jail."
No Parole for Grief
Anthony DiMaria, the nephew of hairstylist Jay Sebring, said Van Houten, Krenwinkel and other Manson followers should remain in prison because the families of the people they killed must live with their loss and grief for the rest of their lives.
"These crimes didn't end 35 years ago," DiMaria said. "It's something that becomes who you are. … That's what we live with. It will poison our lives until the day we die."
"Forgiveness in a situation like this — if I consider the nature of the crimes, the heinous nature … the hundreds of family members whose lives were destroyed and devastated, the killers sentenced our loved ones to death," DiMaria continued. "And they sentenced the families to a lifetime of heartbreak and pieces. That's without parole."
Remembering Loved Ones
According to Debra Tate, Sharon's slaying devastated their mother. A once-vibrant woman, Doris Tate became the "walking dead" as she appeared at all the parole hearings and fought to keep Manson and his former followers in prison until she died of cancer in 1992.
Debra Tate said she still thinks about her mother as she carries on her fight against Sharon Tate's killers.
"She [Doris Tate] was a wonderful woman," she said. "You could be a beggar on the street, and she would invite you into her home, feed you. You would feel perfectly comfortable putting your feet up on her table. She was a warm, wonderful human being."
DiMaria was only 3 years old when his uncle was killed, but he said he has fond memories of Sebring.
"He was a lot of things to a lot of people," DiMaria said. "Vidal Sassoon said he was a leader. Steve McQueen, Dennis Hopper called him their best friend. … He was one thing, though. He was my mother's big brother and her idol. And he's my idol."
A Web site memorial set up by relatives of Sharon Tate can be found at www.tatelegacy.com.