New Manson murder probe could bring closure for families
Los Angeles police officials said they hope to bring closure to the families of victims in a dozen unsolved homicides that occurred near places where the Manson family operated during its slew of murders four decades ago.
Officials revealed Thursday that they have 12 open cases and that they hope audiotapes recorded in 1969 between Charles Manson follower Charles “Tex” Watson and his attorney could provide some answers.
"We are doing this for the families of these victims,” LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said.
Officials stressed they don't know if these new cases are connected to the Manson family.
Watson is serving a life sentence for his role in some Manson killings.
He has been fighting to limit the Los Angeles Police Department’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 deaths because they occurred near known Manson hangouts around the city.
“These cases have circumstances that are similar to some of the Manson killings,” 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 -- including actress Sharon Tate -- in a notorious plot to incite a race war that Manson believed was prophesized in the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”
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. Watson’s new attorney appealed, and the case was stalled.
The LAPD tried to obtain the tapes using a search warrant.
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 resolved 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 LAPD 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.”
-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
Photos: Charles Manson, left, and follower Charles "Tex" Watson are shown. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation