LAPD probing Manson family link to 12 unsolved homicides
The Los Angeles Police Department disclosed Thursday that it has open investigations on a dozen unsolved homicides that occurred near places where the Manson family operated during its slew of murders four decades ago.
The Police Department made the revelation amid a legal battle to obtain hours of audio tapes recorded in 1969 between Charles Manson follower Charles “Tex” Watson and his attorney. The LAPD has said detectives believe tapes could shed more light on the activities of Manson's group.
Watson has been fighting to limit the LAPD’s access to the tapes. This month, a federal judge in Texas granted an emergency order preventing the police from executing a search warrant at an office where the tapes are kept.
LAPD officials did not disclose details of the cases and said the department is examining the murders because they occurred near known Manson hangouts around the city.
“These cases have circumstances that are similar to some of the Manson killings,” Cmdr. Andy Smith said. “We are hoping that these Tex Watson tapes can provide us further clues on these cases... We are doing this for the families of these victims.”
Manson and his followers were convicted of killing eight people in a notorious plot to incite a race war that he believed was prophesied in the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”
The next night, Manson rode with his cohorts to the Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, then left three of them to commit the murders. “Death to pigs” was written on a wall, and “Healter Skelter,” which was misspelled, was written on the refrigerator door.
They also killed Gary Hinman, 34, a musician, and Donald “Shorty” Shea, a stuntman and a ranch hand at the Chatsworth ranch where Manson and his followers lived.
Some authors and former prosecutors who studied the case have long suspected that the Manson family was responsible for more killings.
This spring, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Texas granted the LAPD’s request to review eight cassette tapes containing hours of conversations between Watson and his late attorney. But Watson’s attorney appealed, and the case was stalled.
The LAPD tried to obtain the tapes using a search warrant.
But on Oct. 9, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Schell issued an order forbidding the LAPD and Texas authorities from taking the tapes until the Bankruptcy Court resolves Watson’s appeal.
“This court understands and respects the desire of the LAPD to seek access to the 42-year old tapes, Schell wrote. “However, the LAPD has provided no explanation as to why this court should shortcut the usual procedure for determining a bankruptcy appeal of a previous ruling in Bankruptcy Court.”
Smith said the Police Department is frustrated with the delays. “The civil courts here are blocking a criminal investigation,” he said. “We don’t even have a date for when this will be resolved.”
Watson is serving a life sentence for his role in killings.
-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
Photos: Charles Manson, left, and follower Charles "Tex" Watson. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation