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1969: Film star stabbed in 'ritualistic' killings

VIDEO : Police suspect hippie commune of film star killing

Actress Sharon Tate has been found brutally murdered in her Los Angeles home, along with three high-society friends and a fifth, as yet un-named, victim.

All five died from shooting and multiple stab wounds.

Sharon Tate, 26, was the wife of film director Roman Polanski and was eight months pregnant.

In what police said appeared to be a "ritualistic" murder, she was found tied together with her former fiancé, hair stylist Jay Sebring.

Police said both had nylon nooses around their necks, and Mr Sebring's head was covered with a black hood.

They said both probably died of stab wounds.

Horrific scene

The bodies of Abigail Folger, 25, a member of a wealthy coffee-manufacturing family, and her boyfriend Voyteck Frykowski, 32, were found sprawled on the lawn outside. Both had been shot.

The fifth victim, a man, was found slumped over the wheel of a car with multiple gunshot wounds.

Police described a horrific scene at the hilltop house in the wealthy Bel Air district of the city.

Some of the bodies had been mutilated, with blood smeared everywhere and the word "Pig" scrawled on the front door in blood. Police said the phone and electricity lines had been cut.

It's believed that Miss Folger and Mr Frykowsky, as well as Mr Sebring, had come from San Francisco to spend the weekend at the house.

Isolated area

The bungalow-style property, in an isolated area between Beverly Hills and the San Fernando Valley, is owned by Terry Melcher, son of film star Doris Day.

It was being rented by Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate who had recently returned there to have her baby after working in London.

Mr Polanski was still in Europe directing his latest film, but left immediately for Los Angeles on hearing the news.

Immediately after the discovery of the bodies, police arrested a houseboy, William Garretson, 19, who was living in a guest house behind the house. After five hours of questioning, he was charged with five counts of murder.

Sharon Tate began her acting career in the television series, Beverly Hillbillies. She also had parts in the films Valley of the Dolls, the Americanisation of Emily, and The Sandpiper.

In Context
The fifth victim was later identified as Steven Parent, 18, a local boy who had been visiting William Garretson.

The bodies of another wealthy couple were found 36 hours later not far from the scene of the Tate murders.

Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary had also been brutally murdered in their own home. The crime scene bore striking similarities to the Tate murders.

William Garretson was released without charge on the same day. The LAPD were reluctant to link the Tate murders and the LaBianca killings, until mid-October when another similar murder led the police to a hippie group calling itself the Manson family.

In January 1971, Charles Manson and three of his followers - Susan Atkins, 22, Patricia Krenwinkel, 23 and Leslie Van Houten, 21 - were convicted of the Tate-LaBianca murders, after the longest murder trial in US history.

They were all sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment after California abolished the death penalty in 1972.


Web Links
Crime Library: Charles Manson
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