The capture and conviction of Charles Manson took over one and a half years to complete. Within this time period many law enforcement officers and forensics professionals put in countless numbers of hours collecting, preserving and testing the physical evidence they found. In addition, the forensics practices used in this case as well as the police investigation techniques serve as a valuable lesson for those in these fields today. In this paper we will look at some of the crimes that were committed by the Manson Family, the mishandled investigation that followed and the forensic techniques used to aid (and sometimes hinder the efforts) in obtaining convictions against those involved.
The first five murders, later to be called the "Tate" murders, occurred in a house high above the city of Los Angeles. One victim (Steven Parent) was found in his car outside the house and he had been shot four times and stabbed once. Another two victims (Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski) were found on the back lawn of the Tate estate. Coroner's reports would later indicate that Abigail had been stabbed twenty-eight times and Voytek was shot twice, struck over the head thirteen times and stabbed
Fifty-one times. The remaining two bodies (Sharon (Tate) Polanski and Jay Sebring) were found inside the house tied together by a rope around their necks, which was hung over a rafter in the ceiling. Sharon, who was eight months pregnant at the time, had died from multiple stab wounds to the chest and back, totaling sixteen. Jay, who was found with Sharon, had been stabbed seven times and shot once. He died of exsanguination, which is bleeding to death and neither of the victims had actually died from hanging. The next two victims, in what would become known as the "LaBianca" murders, were found in a home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were found stabbed to death in their home. He had been stabbed multiple times and a knife and fork were found protruding from his body and she had been stabbed forty-one times. The departments working on the two investigations were the Los Angeles Sheriffs Office (LASO) (LaBianca) and the Los Angeles Police Department ( LAPD ) (Tate). This would later play a very important role in the investigation in the year and a half due to mass miscommunication between the two departments concerning the two crime scenes.
Lack of communication between the two law enforcement entities put both cases in jeopardy several times during the investigations. For example, the word "PIG" was printed on the door at the Tate scene and the detectives from the LASO approached LAPD detectives and told them of the writing of the words "Death to Pigs" in the victim's own blood at the LaBianca scene. When presented with possible evidence that the two crimes might be linked, Los Angles Police Department (LAPD) inspector K.J. McCauley told reporters "I don't see any connection between this murder (Tate) and...