Charles Manson and his 'Family' committed a series of grisly murders in 1969

By Johnny Dodd
March 06, 2017 10:09 AM
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He masterminded one of the most gruesome crime sprees of the 20th century, and nearly 50 years later, Charles Manson continues to be a source of horror.

On March 17 at 9 p.m. ET, ABC retells the dark, disturbing story of Manson — and his twisted cult of devoted followers he instructed to carry out a series of grisly homicides in 1969 – in the two-hour documentary Truth and Lies: The Family Manson.

Based on never-before-seen video from ABC News’ prison interviews with Manson and former “Manson Family” members Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel (all of whom are now serving life sentences in California prisons), the special digs into the events surrounding the group’s murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others.

“I never told anybody to do anything other than what they wanted to do,” a defiant Manson growls at ABC’s Diane Sawyer during his last network television interview from prison in 1994 – which was unearthed for the upcoming documentary.

“And if they wanted to do murder,” Sawyer asked, “that was OK with you?”

“That was none of my business, woman,” Manson snapped. “I’m a convict. I’m an outlaw. I’m a rebel. I’m not a Sunday school teacher.”

Charles Manson
AP

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The details of the Manson Family’s carnage are still haunting.

It began on Aug. 8, 1969, when he dispatched three of his female followers to the Los Angeles home of Hollywood star Sharon Tate, and ordered them to kill everyone there.

Sharon Tate PEOPLE cover

LAPD officers arriving at the hilltop home the next morning stumbled upon a scene of unimaginable brutality. Inside the residence lay five bodies, including that of Tate, 26, who was eight months pregnant. She had been stabbed 16 times, and had an “X” carved into her stomach.

The next night, Manson ordered his followers to kill again: They descended upon the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and murdered the couple. The word “war” was carved into Leno’s stomach and “Helter Skelter” was scrawled on the couple’s refrigerator in blood — a reference to the race war, named after a song by the Beatles, that Manson wanted to start.

The ABC special revisits crime scene footage and features new interviews with law enforcement and first responders, many of whom are still shaken by the carnage they encountered.

“That’s probably the worst homicide scene I’ve ever seen,” recalls retired LAPD officer Jerry DeRossa, the first law enforcement official to arrive at the scene of the Tate home. “There was blood all over the place.”

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Also interviewed in the program are Tate’s younger sister Debra, along with family and friends of the victims. Beach Boys front man Mike Love, who had several encounters with Manson before the murders, and reporters who were present at his trial are also interviewed.

“At one point, he (Manson) leaped across the counsel table at the judge, screaming, ‘Someone should cut your head off, old man,’ ” Linda Deutsch, who covered the proceedings for the Associated Press, recalls during the program.

Manson, now 82, is serving nine concurrent life sentences at California’s Corcoran State Prison.

Truth and Lies: The Family Manson airs March 17 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.