Charles Manson; Actress Sharon Tate
AP; Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty
08/07/2009 at 08:00 PM EDT
It was 40 years ago this weekend that a group of young people led by Charles Manson sent a wave of terror through the hills and valleys of the Los Angeles area.
Manson, then 34, and a group of followers known as the Family were convicted for killing seven people, including Hollywood starlet Sharon Tate, who was more than eight months pregnant with husband Roman Polanski's son.
On Aug. 8, 1969, Manson instructed Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten to kill everyone at the L.A. home rented by Tate. Later that day, Manson instructed his followers to strike again. Members entered the Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and killed the couple.
The gory slayings left the public stunned. The group was given life sentences. They have spent most of their adult lives behind bars, some claiming they have renounced their devotion to Manson.
"These are sociopaths," says Tate's sister Debra Tate, 56. "They're no less violent today then they were then."
One Family member faces the parole boards again this year and another – not associated with the Tate-LaBianca murders – is about to be released.
"These are five of 168,000 offenders in our custody," says Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation in Sacramento, Calif. "There's no special treatment that they get just because of who they are. Manson is in the same unit as Sirhan Sirhan (who assassinated U.S. Sen Robert F. Kennedy). They're not the only high-profile offenders we have."
Here is a list of a few people involved and where they are now:
Charles Manson, 74
Currently locked in California State Prison in Corcoran. He dreamed of becoming a musician and now plays his guitar in his cell or the dayroom, says Thornton. He has been denied parole 11 times. His next hearing is in 2012.
Susan Atkins, 61
Also known as Sadie Mae Glutz, she confessed to stabbing Tate to death. In May 2008, she filed for a "compassionate release" after she was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given six months to live. Her request was denied. In September, she was transferred to the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla because it provides a higher level of medical care. She is in serious but stable condition, Thornton says. Her next parole hearing is Sept. 2. She is the longest-serving female inmate in the state.
Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel, 61
She actively participated in both murders. She has been called a model prisoner at the California Institution for Women in Frontera, earning a degree and teaching inmates how to read. She has been denied parole 12 times.
Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme
Vernon Merritt III / Time Life Pictures / Getty
Leslie Van Houten, 60
Unlike the other women, Manson never gave her a new name. In an effort to impress Manson, she participated in the LaBianca murders. In the following years, she cut off all ties with Manson and says she was brainwashed and under the influence of LSD. She is at the California Institution for Women in Frontera, Calif. She has been denied parole more than a dozen times.
Charles "Tex" Watson, 63
He was considered Manson's right-hand man and participated at both murder sites. Shortly after the murders, he fled to Texas but was extradited back to California. He pleaded temporary insanity, but was found guilty of murder. He is a self-proclaimed born-again Christian and teaches Bible study in prison. He is serving his sentence at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, Calif.
Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, 60
She did not participate in the Tate-LaBianca murders, but was an integral member of Manson's circle. Still wanting to show her commitment to Manson, she pulled a gun on then President Gerald Ford. She was immediately arrested and tried for treason, a federal crime. She is serving her sentence at the Federal Medical Center Carswell, a federal prison that specializes in medical and mental health services to female offenders in Fort Worth, Texas. She is scheduled for release on Aug. 16.
She was 26 when she was murdered inside her home. She was a Hollywood newcomer and received rave reviews for her role in Valley of the Dolls.
Her husband Polanski was out of the country at the time of the murders. Tate was two weeks shy of giving birth when she was stabbed 16 times. She begged the killers to let her baby live. During the trial, Atkins testified that Tate cried for her mother while being stabbed to death.
Debra Tate, 56
Not involved with the Manson family, Sharon's younger sister Debra, who was 16 at the time, was supposed to be there that night. She had called and asked if she and their sister Patti could spend the night. Sharon said no because she wasn't feeling up to it, says Debra, the only surviving Tate family member. Now, Debra lives outside of L.A. and spends her time fighting for victims' rights. She attends every parole hearing of the Manson family. "These are sociopaths," she says. "They're no less violent today then they were then."