Tapes could shed new light on Manson murders, LAPD says
Los Angeles police are hoping old recordings of conversations between Charles Manson's right-hand man, Charles “Tex” Watson, and Watson's former attorney could shed light on the infamous Manson family murders.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brenda T. Rhoades in Plano, Texas, granted a request from the LAPD for access to eight cassette tapes containing hours of conversation between Watson and Bill Boyd, a now-deceased Texas attorney who once represented Watson, who remains in prison on multiple murder convictions.
According to LAPD detectives, the judge granted the motion but left open the possibility of a further challenge to their release within 14 days by Watson’s current attorney, who has objected to the disclosure.
Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the LAPD hopes that when those 14 days are up, detectives can begin scouring the tapes for any evidence of unsolved murders tied to the Manson family. Smith said there were "no specific unsolved homicides" that have led L.A. detectives to seek the tapes and that the recordings are being sought because the LAPD learned of their availability.
Smith said the eight hours of recorded discussions between Watson and Boyd were made more than 40 years ago and detectives learned they had become part of a bankruptcy case involving Boyd's now-closed Texas law firm. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office was notified of the proceeding.
"When our detectives learned of those recordings they chose to seek them out," Smith said. "We think it's good police work to continue to pay attention to these cases.”
The recordings were made around 1970 following Watson's arrest after he had committed several killings at Manson's behest.
Watson is serving a life sentence for his role in killing actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and four others at her Hollywood Hills home on Aug. 9. 1969. The next night, Watson and other Manson family members killed grocery store owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Watson was given the death penalty but that sentence was commuted to life. A parole board rejected his release last November from Mule Creek State Prison.
An attorney for Watson objected to the release of the tapes, citing a potential violation of attorney-client privilege.
Smith said the department cannot ignore the prospect of new evidence. "Do we expect to find something in the recordings? We just don't know. But we going to check like any good investigator would."
— Richard Winton