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Charles Manson scholars eagerly await release of new tapes

Click for photos of California's most notorious killers

Eight cassette tapes containing hours of conversations between one of Charles Manson's most fervent followers and his late attorney will be released to the Los Angeles Police Department for review.

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Texas granted the request this week, and authorities are hoping the tapes of Charles "Tex" Watson will hold new clues that could shed more light on the Manson murders.

Detectives believe Watson may have discussed "additional unsolved murders committed by followers of Charles Manson," according to a letter sent to the U.S. Justice Department by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

"Do we expect to find something in the recordings? We just don't know," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "But we're going to check just like any good investigator would."

PHOTOS: California's most notorious killers

Among Manson murder experts, there is much debate about what -- if any -- dramatic revelations the Watson tapes will yield in the much-chronicled and much-investigated case.

One of Manson's prosecutors, Stephen Kay, said Manson had bragged about additional murders over the years but it was impossible to know if he was telling the truth.

"Manson told one of his cellmates his followers committed as many as 35 murders," Kay said. "He provided no particulars, no names and no dates. He just fueled the fear that he craved .... Criminal defendants are known to lie to their attorneys. But maybe these tapes will reveal something."

Watson is serving a life sentence in prison for killing Tate and four others at her Hollywood Hills home. Detectives had until now not been able to get the tapes, but Watson's attorney died in 2009 and the law firm filed for bankruptcy. Watson's decision to sell the tapes to a coauthor of his 1978 book "Will You Die for Me? The Man Who Killed for Charles Manson Tells His Own Story" waived his attorney-client privilege, the LAPD argued in court.

With the judge's ruling, detectives could get the tapes in two weeks, barring a legal challenge by Watson.

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-- Hector Becerra and Richard Winton

Photo: Charles Manson in 1969 being escorted to his arraignment in the Sharon Tate murders. Credit: Associated Press

 
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