Born in a military family in Dallas on 24 January 1943, Sharon Tate played small television roles before appearing in films and was regularly featured in fashion magazines as a model and cover girl. Her first appearance on the silver screen was in 1961 and her most remembered performance was in the 1967 cult classic film, Valley of the Dolls, which earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination. She was introduced to the Polish film director Roman Polanski through producer Martin Ransohoff over an uncomfortable dinner, after which Polanski invited her to his apartment for a meeting. Having left her alone for several minutes, he reappeared wearing a Frankenstein's monster mask, which made Tate to let out a bloodcurdling scream, and that scream convinced Polanski, that he should cast the beautiful young lady as the lead in his new horror comedy, the Fearless Vampire Killers.
Meeting Polanski, falling in love with him, and eventually marrying him in January 1968, turned out to be a mixed blessing for Tate, who was nine years younger than her famous husband. Tate, a product of a conventional family, wanted at least the semblance of a traditional marriage. She was neither naïve nor stupid or a cliché starlet.
Quite apart from her exceptional beauty, she was the sort of radiance that springs from a kind and gentle nature. She had a cool brain, never had a bad temper and never had mood swings. She was loved by everybody and she enjoyed being a wife. However, she was an intelligent human being with lots of talent that went far beyond her captivating smile and voluptuous body. Polanski, on the other hand, wanted the freedom to pursue other women and episodes abounded about his infidelities and escapades.
Meanwhile, Charles Manson, an American criminal who spearheaded a murderous campaign with his followers, named the Manson Family cult, was gaining notoriety as an underground figure. A pied piper with a guitar, Manson fascinated the young and mesmerized them with his charisma and apparent wisdom. Deeply obsessed with the idea of being the centre of attention, Charles soon became a sort of spiritual guru and apprehending police harassment, moved from San Francisco to a deserted ranch in the San Fernando Valley, in the hippie-filled Height-Asbury district of the city, which was being prepared for the so-called Summer of Love.
The Manson Family was a group of around 100 followers of Manson, which also included a hard-core unit of impressionable young girls. They were vulnerable young women who were looking for a sense of belonging, and that's exactly what he gave them. The group shared his passion for an unconventional lifestyle and habitual use of hallucinogenic drugs. Manson prophesied his family that African-Americans would soon engage in wide-scale violence against their white counterparts. A huge Beatles fan, he termed the race war ‘Helter Skelter,’ after a track from the Fab Four's ‘White Album’.
The first victim of Charlie's followers was a musician and friend of the Manson family Gary Hinman. In fact, somebody had informed Manson that recently Gary had inherited a large sum of money. Manson thought to give it try to persuade Hinman to join the commune and contribute his purported new inheritance. Therefore, on 25th July 1969, Manson accompanied Susan Atkins, Bobby Beausoleil and Mary Brunner to Hinman’s residence. It may be mentioned here that Bobby was a talented young musician and Mary Brunner, a graduate from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, was impregnated by Manson and gave birth to a boy on 15th April, 1968. However, when Gary Hinman insisted that he had not inherited any money, Bobby Beausoleil thrashed him severely and after that Manson himself sliced off his ear and slashed his face with a sword. It was alleged that, the remaining crew held Hinman hostage for three days. On the third day, when again Hinman refused to pay any money, either Atkins or Beausoleil stabbed him brutally. Before leaving the place Susan Atkins wrote on the wall ‘Political Piggy’ in Hinman’s blood.
The violence did not end there. In his early life, Manson had the dream to establish himself in the music world. However, he could not make it and rejection by the insiders, which included Brian Wilson of Beach Boys and record producer Terry Melcher, son of the famous actress Doris Day, helped to ignite Manson’s rage. In his attempt to get a record deal from producer Terry Melcher, Manson once visited his rented house on Cielo Drive, where Melcher was living with his girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen. It was reported that, on that occasion Melcher refused to oblige Manson and insulted him, which made Mason determined to take revenge on Hollywood.
On the fateful evening of 9th August 1969, Manson instructed Tex Watson to take Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel to the house where Melcher used to live and to totally destroy everyone in the house in the most gruesome way.
At around midnight, three members of the Manson Family arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills, where film director Roman Polanki lived with his actress wife Sharon Tate. With Polanski in London for work related to one of his films, an 8 1/2-month pregnant Tate was at home with Jay Sebring, her hairstylist and a former boyfriend, Voytek Frykowski, an actor friend of Polanski from Poland, who starred in Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and his girlfriend, Abigail Folger. It was a remote area, a relatively isolated hilltop property nestled in Los Angeles' Benedict Canyon and there were no neighbors within distance who could be expected to hear what was about to take place.
After cutting the telephone wires, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Tex Watson proceeded up the driveway, while Linda Kasablan remained behind the wheel to guard them. In the driveway, they encountered18-year old Stephen Parent in his car. He was a student, who came to visit the caretaker of the property. He was shot by Watson in the driver's seat of his car. After that, all the three entered the building and committed one of the most infamous and cold-blooded murders to disgrace the annals of crime.
Voytek Frykowski was asleep on the couch in the living room. His girlfriend Abigail Folger was in the guest bedroom reading, while Sharon Tate was in her room talking to Jay Sebring. After they were gathered in the living room, the intruders tied one end of a rope around Tate's neck, tossed it over a ceiling beam and tied the other end around Sebring's neck. As Sebring was trying to fight for his life, Watson shot him and then stabbed him multiple times.
In the meantime, Frykowski was struggling with Susan Atkins, who started stabbing him in the legs. However, but he managed to get outside only to find Tex Watson there. He was the only one in the group carrying a gun. He shot Frykowsk twice, then battered him with the butt of his revolver and ended up with 51 stab wounds. Folger managed to escape and was halfway across the front lawn, when Patricia Krenwinkel caught up with her and stabbed her 28 times. Sharon Tate was the last to die. She was held down by Susan Atkins and they barbarously stabbed her 16 times.
Just before leaving the place, after the horrible job, Atkins wrote ‘Pig’ on the front door in Sharon Tate’s blood, a part of Manson’s plan to frame African-Americans for the brutal massacre and add fuel to provoke the race war he believed was imminent. Later she told the grand jury that she held Tate down, while Watson stabbed her. However, during the sentencing phase of the trial Atkins testified that she stabbed Tate because she was sick of listening to her pleading and begging, begging and pleading for her unborn child.
The following night, Manson took Watson, Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten to the Los Feliz address of the La Biancas and the couple was murdered in a similar horrifying fashion. During that time, Van Houten was just 19 and later confessed in the court that she was horrified by what she had done that night and desperately wanted to redeem herself. Linda Kasabian, who remained outside to keep watch, described in the court, how she saw Frykowski staggering out of the house covered in blood and was horrified at the sight. Susan Atkins admitted that she had the intention to cut out Tate's unborn baby, but did not have enough time. She also revealed that, they had a list of other high-profile Hollywood stars, who were to be killed and mutilated. It included Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and Tom Jones.
Sharon Tate's shockingly violent murder went unsolved for several weeks, and during that time her family lived in limbo, traumatized not only by the loss of their beautiful daughter and sister but by the sheer brutality of her killing and the police's seeming inability to solve the crime. Tate's grief-stricken father, Paul, a former Army colonel, used his background in military intelligence to try to close the case himself, even going so far as to dress up in hippie outfits to hunt down the perpetrators. Paul was, according to his daughters, a firm and unyielding parent. It was not an easy task for him to play the role of a California hippie. Still, he was willing to do whatever it took to bring his daughter's killers to justice.
All the members of the Manson family were arrested in October 1969. During the prosecution it was revealed that, the Polanski household had been targeted because it represented the showbiz world that had rejected Manson. Nevertheless, after a long trial, Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten were found guilty and sentenced to death on 29 March 1971. However, the death penalty was changed to life imprisonment, as California banned the death penalty in 1972. Linda Kasabian, who drove the getaway car, was the only member of the murderous Manson family not to be jailed, as she turned witness for the prosecution during the trial.