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Crime

Why the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson Felt Guilty for the Manson Murders

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Charles Manson‘s murder spree in the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles left seven people dead and many of his cult-like “family” behind bars. But the bloodshed and trauma of that period affected others, too – like Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, Manson’s former roommate.

Though Wilson’s connection to Manson lasted only a few months, it left a scar, as his cousin, and Beach Boys co-founder, Mike Love writes in a new memoir, Good Vibrations.

“Neither Dennis nor I nor anyone associated with the Beach Boys had any idea that Manson was involved in these murders,” Love writes in an exclusive memoir excerpt in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

Still, he writes that when Wilson found out about the murders, “The guilt was devastating.” He adds, “Dennis [was] shaken to the core.”

Manson had come into their life by chance, Love writes, after Wilson picked up two female hitchhikers in 1968 on Sunset Strip and the women mentioned Manson as their guru. As Love writes, “Dennis was the perfect mark – a famous, well-connected entertainer who could help a musical neophyte get discovered.”

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To read more about Mike Love’s recollections of Charles Manson, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

Manson and his “family” plied the band with drugs and women, and Wilson had a voracious appetite for both, Love writes.

The relationship eventually soured – a breaking point came after Wilson claimed to have seen Manson “blow this black [man] in half and stuff him down a well,” Love writes.

In the aftermath of the Manson family’s murderous spree, though, Wilson likely “never told the authorities that he saw Manson murder that ‘black cat’ at Spahn Ranch, and he certainly couldn’t testify in court, where he would have had to look Manson right in the eye,” according to Love.

(Prosecutors have cast doubt on the idea of an undiscovered Manson victim.)

From left: Dennis Wilson and Charles Manson
Michael Putland/Getty;Bettmann/Getty

Still, Love writes in Vibrations, Wilson carried an emotional burden for having known Manson so soon before his violence.

Love tells PEOPLE his cousin felt some responsibility, because he had let Manson into his life and home and introduced him to the producer, Terry Melcher, who once lived at the site of the Sharon Tate murders.

Says Love: “Dennis carried that guilt with him for the last 14 years of his life.”

Reporting by JOHNNY DODD