Copyright © 1974 Curt Gentry and Vincent Bugliosi.All rights reserved.
Saturday, August 9, 1969
It was so quiet, one of the killers would later say, you could almost hear thesound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon.
The canyons above Hollywood and Beverly Hills play tricks with sounds. Anoise clearly audible a mile away may be indistinguishable at a few hundredfeet.
It was hot that night, but not as hot as the night before, when thetemperature hadn't dropped below 92 degrees. The three-day heat wave had begunto break a couple of hours before, about 10 P.M. on Friday--to thepsychological as well as the physical relief of those Angelenos who recalledthat on such a night, just four years ago, Watts had exploded in violence.Though the coastal fog was now rolling in from the Pacific Ocean, Los Angelesitself remained hot and muggy, sweltering in its own emissions, but here, highabove most of the city, and usually even above the smog, it was at least 10degrees cooler. Still, it remained warm enough so that many residents of thearea slept with their windows open, in hopes of catching a vagrant breeze.
All things considered, it's surprising that more people didn't hear something.
But then it was late, just after midnight, and 10050 Cielo Drive was secluded.
Being secluded, it was also vulnerable.
Cielo Drive is a narrow street that abruptly winds upward from BenedictCanyon Road. One of its cul-de-sacs, easily missed though directly oppositeBella Drive, comes to a dead end at the high gate of 10050. Looking throughthe gate, you could see neither the main residence nor the guest house somedistance beyond it, but you could see, toward the end of the paved parkingarea, a corner of the garage and, a little farther on, a split-rail fencewhich, though it was only August, was strung with Christmas-tree lights.
The lights, which could be seen most of the way from the Sunset Strip, hadbeen put up by actress Candice Bergen when she was living with the previoustenant of 10050 Cielo Drive, TV and record producer Terry Melcher. WhenMelcher, the son of Doris Day, moved to his mother's beach house in Malibu,the new tenants left the lights up. They were on this night, as they wereevery night, adding a year-round holiday touch to Benedict Canyon.
From the front door of the main house to the gate was over a hundred feet.From the gate to the nearest neighbor on Cielo, 10070, was almost a hundredyards.
At 10070 Cielo, Mr. and Mrs. Seymour Kott had already gone to bed, theirdinner guests having left about midnight, when Mrs. Kott heard, in closesequence, what sounded like three or four gunshots. They seemed to have comefrom the direction of the gate of 10050. She did not check the time but laterguessed it to be between 12:30 and 1 A.M. Hearing nothing further, Mrs. Kottwent to sleep.
About three-quarters of a mile directly south and downhill from 10050 CieloDrive, Tim Ireland was one of five counselors supervising an overnightcamp-out for some thirty-five children at the Westlake School for Girls. Theother counselors had gone to sleep, but Ireland had volunteered to stay upthrough the night. At approximately 12:40 A.M. he heard from what seemed along distance away, to the north or northeast, a solitary male voice. The manwas screaming, "Oh, God, no, please don't! Oh, God, no, don't, don't, don't ..."
The scream lasted ten to fifteen seconds, then stopped, the abrupt silencealmost as chilling as the cry itself. Ireland quickly checked the camp, butall the children were asleep. He awoke his supervisor, Rich Sparks, who hadbedded down inside the school, and, telling him what he had heard, got hispermission to drive around the area to see if anyone needed help. Ireland tooka circuitous route from North Faring Road, where the school was located, southon Benedict Canyon Road to Sunset Boulevard, west to Beverly Glen, andnorthward back to the school. He observed nothing unusual, though he did heara number of dogs barking.
There were other sounds in the hours before dawn that Saturday.
Emmett Steele, 9951 Beverly Grove Drive, was awakened by the barking of histwo hunting dogs. The pair usually ignored ordinary sounds but went wild whenthey heard gunshots. Steele went out to look around but, finding nothing outof place, returned to bed. He estimated the time as between 2 and 3 A.M.
Robert Bullington, an employee of the Bel Air Patrol, a private securityforce used by many of the homeowners in the affluent area, was parked in frontof 2175 Summit Ridge Drive, with his window down, when he heard what soundedlike three shots, spaced a few seconds apart. Bullington called in; EricKarlson, who was working the desk at patrol headquarters, logged the call at4:11 A.M. Karlson in turn called the West Los Angeles Division of the LosAngeles Police Department (LAPD), and passed on the report. The officer whotook the call remarked, "I hope we don't have a murder; we just had awoman-screaming call in that area."
Los Angeles Times delivery boy Steve Shannon heard nothing unusual when hepedaled his bike up Cielo Drive between 4:30 and 4:45 A.M. But as he put thepaper in the mailbox of 10050, he did notice what looked like a telephone wirehanging over the gate. He also observed, through the gate and some distanceaway, that the yellow bug light on the side of the garage was still on.
Seymour Kott also noticed the light and the fallen wire when he went out toget his paper about 7:30 A.M.
About 8 A.M., Winifred Chapman got off the bus at the intersection of SantaMonica and Canyon Drive. A light-skinned black in her mid-fifties, Mrs.Chapman was the housekeeper at 10050 Cielo, and she was upset because, thanksto L.A.'s terrible bus service, she was going to be late to work. Luck seemedwith her, however; just as she was about to look for a taxi, she saw a man shehad once worked with, and he gave her a ride almost to the gate.
She noticed the wire immediately, and it worried her.
In front and to the left of the gate, not hidden but not conspicuouseither, was a metal pole on the top of which was the gate-control mechanism.When the button was pushed, the gate swung open. There was a similar mechanisminside the grounds, both being positioned so a driver could reach the buttonwithout having to get out of the car.
Because of the wire, Mrs. Chapman thought the electricity might be off, butwhen she pushed the button, the gate swung open. Taking the Times out of themailbox, she walked hurriedly onto the property, noticing an unfamiliarautomobile in the driveway, a white Rambler, parked at an odd angle. But shepassed it, and several other cars nearer the garage, without much thought.Overnight guests weren't that uncommon. Someone had left the outside light onall night, and she went to the switch at the corner of the garage and turnedit off.
At the end of the paved parking area was a flagstone walkway that made ahalf circle to the front door of the main house. She turned right beforecoming to the walk, however, going to the service porch entrance at the backof the residence. The key was secreted on a rafter above the door. Taking itdown, she unlocked the door and went inside, walking directly to the kitchen,where she picked up the extension phone. It was dead.
Thinking that she should alert someone that the line was down, sheproceeded through the dining room toward the living room. Then she stoppedsuddenly, her progress impeded by two large blue steamer trunks, which hadn'tbeen there when she had left the previous afternoon--and by what she saw.
There appeared to be blood on the trunks, on the floor next to them, and ontwo towels in the entryway. She couldn't see the entire living room--a longcouch cut off the area in front of the fireplace--but everywhere she could seeshe saw the red splashes. The front door was ajar. Looking out, she sawseveral pools of blood on the flagstone porch. And, farther on, on the lawn,she saw a body.
Screaming, she turned and ran back through the house, leaving the same wayshe had come in but, on running down the driveway, changing her course so asto reach the gate-control button. In so doing, she passed on the opposite sideof the white Rambler, seeing for the first time that there was a body insidethe car too.
Once outside the gate, she ran down the hill to the first house, 10070,ringing the bell and pounding on the door. When the Kotts didn't answer, sheran to the next house, 10090, banging on that door and screaming, "Murder,death, bodies, blood!"
Fifteen-year-old Jim Asin was outside, warming up the family car. It wasSaturday and, a member of Law Enforcement Unit 800 of the Boy Scouts ofAmerica, he was waiting for his father, Ray Asin, to drive him to the West LosAngeles Division of LAPD, where he was scheduled to work on the desk. By thetime he got to the porch, his parents had opened the door. While they weretrying to calm the hysterical Mrs. Chapman, Jim dialed the police emergencynumber. Trained by the Scouts to be exact, he noted the time: 8:33.
While waiting for the police, the father and son walked as far as the gate.The white Rambler was some thirty feet inside the property, too far away tomake out anything inside it, but they did see that not one but several wireswere down. They appeared to have been cut.
Returning home, Jim called the police a second time and, some minuteslater, a third.
There is some confusion as to exactly what happened to the calls. Theofficial police report only states, "At 0914 hours, West Los Angeles Units 8L5and 8L62 were given a radio call, `Code 2, possible homicide, 10050 CieloDrive.'"
The units were one-man patrol cars. Officer Jerry Joe DeRosa, driving 8L5,arrived first, light flashing and siren blaring. DeRosa began interviewingMrs. Chapman, but had a difficult time of it. Not only was she stillhysterical, she was vague as to what she had seen--"blood, bodieseveryplace"--and it was hard to get the names and relationships straight.Polanski. Altobelli. Frykowski.
Ray Asin, who knew the residents of 10050 Cielo, stepped in. The house wasowned by Rudi Altobelli. He was in Europe, but had hired a caretaker, a youngman named William Garretson, to look after the place. Garretson lived in theguest house to the back of the property. Altobelli had rented the mainresidence to Roman Polanski, the movie director, and his wife. The Polanskishad gone to Europe, however, in March, and while they were away, two of theirfriends, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski, had moved in. Mrs. Polanski hadreturned less than a month ago, and Frykowski and Folger were staying on withher until her husband returned. Mrs. Polanski was a movie actress. Her namewas Sharon Tate.
Questioned by DeRosa, Mrs. Chapman was unable to say which, if any, ofthese people were the two bodies she had seen. To the names she added stillanother, that of Jay Sebring, a noted men's hair stylist and a friend of Mrs.Polanski's. She mentioned him because she remembered seeing his black Porschewith the other automobiles parked next to the garage.
Getting a rifle from his squad car, DeRosa had Mrs. Chapman show him how toopen the gate. Walking cautiously up the driveway to the Rambler, he looked inthe open window. There was a body inside, in the driver's seat but slumpedtoward the passenger side. Male, Caucasian, reddish hair, plaid shirt, bluedenim pants, both shirt and pants drenched with blood. He appeared to beyoung, probably in his teens.
About this time Unit 8L62, driven by Officer William T. Whisenhunt, pulledup outside the gate. DeRosa walked back and told him he had a possiblehomicide. DeRosa also showed him how to open the gate, and the two officersproceeded up the driveway, DeRosa still carrying his rifle, Whisenhunt ashotgun. As Whisenhunt passed the Rambler, he looked in, noting that thewindow on the driver's side was down and both lights and ignition were off.The pair then checked out the other automobiles and, finding them empty,searched both the garage and the room above it. Still no one.
A third officer, Robert Burbridge, caught up with them. As the three menreached the end of the parking area, they saw not one but two inert forms onthe lawn. From a distance they looked like mannequins that had been dipped inred paint, then tossed haphazardly on the grass.
They seemed grotesquely out of place on the well-cared-for lawn, with itslandscaped shrubbery, flowers, and trees. To the right was the residenceitself, long, rambling, looking more comfortable than ostentatious, thecarriage light outside the main door shining brightly. Farther on, past thesouth end of the house, they could see a corner of the swimming pool,shimmering blue green in the morning light. Off to the side was a rusticwishing well. To the left was a split-rail fence, intertwined withChristmas-tree lights, still on. And beyond the fence was a sweeping,panoramic view that stretched all the way from downtown Los Angeles to thebeach. Out there life was still going on. Here it had stopped.
The first body was eighteen to twenty feet past the front door of theresidence. The closer they came, the worse it looked. Male, Caucasian,probably in his thirties, about five feet ten, wearing short boots,multicolored bell bottoms, purple shirt, casual vest. He was lying on hisside, his head resting on his right arm, his left hand clutching the grass.His head and face were horribly battered, his torso and limbs punctured byliterally dozens of wounds. It seemed inconceivable that so much savagerycould be inflicted on one human being.
The second body was about twenty-five feet beyond the first. Female,Caucasian, long dark hair, probably in her late twenties. She was lyingsupine, her arms thrown out. Barefoot, she was wearing a full-lengthnightgown, which, before the many stab wounds, had probably been white.
The stillness now got to the officers. Everything was quiet, too quiet. Theserenity itself became menacing. Those windows along the front of the house:behind any a killer could be waiting, watching.
Leaving DeRosa on the lawn, Whisenhunt and Burbridge went back toward thenorth end of the residence, looking for another way to get in. They'd be opentargets if they entered the front door. They noticed that a screen had beenremoved from one of the front windows and was leaning up against the side ofthe building. Whisenhunt also observed a horizontal slit along the bottom ofthe screen. Suspecting this might have been where the killer or killersentered, they looked for another means of entry. They found a window open onthe side. Looking in, they saw what appeared to be a newly painted room,devoid of furniture. They climbed in.
DeRosa waited until he saw them inside the house, then approached the frontdoor. There was a patch of blood on the walk, between the hedges; several moreon the right-hand corner of the porch; with still others just outside and tothe left of the door and on the doorjamb itself. He didn't see, or laterdidn't recall, any footprints, though there were a number. The door beingopen, inward, DeRosa was on the porch before he noticed that something hadbeen scrawled on its lower half.
Printed in what appeared to be blood were three letters: PIG.
Whisenhunt and Burbridge had finished checking out the kitchen and diningroom when DeRosa entered the hallway. Turning left into the living room, hefound his way partly blocked by the two blue steamer trunks. It appeared thatthey had been standing on end, then knocked over, as one was leaning againstthe other. DeRosa also observed, next to the trunks and on the floor, a pairof horn-rimmed glasses. Burbridge, who followed him into the room, noticedsomething else: on the carpet, to the left of the entrance, were two smallpieces of wood. They looked like pieces of a broken gun grip.
They had arrived expecting two bodies, but had found three. They were nowlooking not for more death, but some explanation. A suspect. Clues.
The room was light and airy. Desk, chair, piano. Then something odd. In thecenter of the room, facing the fireplace, was a long couch. Draped over theback was a huge American flag.
Not until they were almost to the couch did they see what was on the otherside.
She was young, blond, very pregnant. She lay on her left side, directly infront of the couch, her legs tucked up toward her stomach in a fetal position.She wore a flowered bra and matching bikini panties, but the pattern wasalmost indistinguishable because of the blood, which looked as if it had beensmeared over her entire body. A white nylon rope was looped around her necktwice, one end extending over a rafter in the ceiling, the other leadingacross the floor to still another body, that of a man, which was about fourfeet away.
The rope was also looped twice around the man's neck, the loose end goingunder his body, then extending several feet beyond. A bloody towel covered hisface, hiding his features. He was short, about five feet six, and was lying onhis right side, his hands bunched up near his head as if still warding offblows. His clothing--blue shirt, white pants with black vertical stripes, widemodish belt, black boots--was blood-drenched.
None of the officers thought about checking either body for pulse. As withthe body in the car and the pair on the lawn, it was so obviously unnecessary.
Although DeRosa, Whisenhunt, and Burbridge were patrolmen, not homicidedetectives, each, at some time in the course of his duties, had seen death.But nothing like this. 10050 Cielo Drive was a human slaughterhouse.
Shaken, the officers fanned out to search the rest of the house. There wasa loft above the living room. DeRosa climbed up the wooden ladder andnervously peeked over the top, but saw no one. A hallway connected the livingroom with the south end of the residence. There was blood in the hall in twoplaces. To the left, just past one of the spots, was a bedroom, the door ofwhich was open. The blankets and pillows were rumpled and clothing strewnabout, as if someone--possibly the nightgown-clad woman on the lawn--hadalready undressed and gone to bed before the killer or killers appeared.Sitting atop the headboard of the bed, his legs hanging down, was a toyrabbit, ears cocked as if quizzically surveying the scene. There was no bloodin this room, nor any evidence of a struggle.
Across the hall was the master bedroom. Its door was also open, as were thelouvered doors at the far end of the room, beyond which could be seen theswimming pool.
This bed was larger and neater, the white spread turned back to reveal agaily flowered top sheet and a white bottom sheet with a gold geometricpattern. In the center of the bed, rather than across the top, were twopillows, dividing the side that had been slept on from the side that hadn't.Across the room, facing the bed, was a TV set, on each side of which was ahandsome armoire. On top of one was a white bassinet.
Cautiously, adjoining doors were opened: dressing room, closet, bath,closet. Again no signs of a struggle. The telephone on the nightstand next tothe bed was on the hook. Nothing overturned or upset.
However, there was blood on the inside left side of the louvered Frenchdoor, suggesting that someone, again possibly the woman on the lawn, had runout this way, attempting to escape.
Stepping outside, the officers were momentarily blinded by the glare fromthe pool. Asin had mentioned a guest house behind the main residence. Theyspotted it now, or rather the corner of it, some sixty feet to the southeast,through the shrubbery.
Approaching it quietly, they heard the first sounds they had heard sincecoming onto the premises: the barking of a dog, and a male voice saying,"Shhh, be quiet."
Whisenhunt went to the right, around the back of the house. DeRosa turnedleft, proceeding around the front, Burbridge following as backup. Steppingonto the screened-in porch, DeRosa could see, in the living room, on a couchfacing the front door, a youth of about eighteen. He was wearing pants but noshirt, and though he did not appear to be armed, this did not mean, DeRosawould later explain, that he didn't have a weapon nearby.
Yelling "Freeze!," DeRosa kicked in the front door.
Startled, the boy looked up to see one, then, moments later, three gunspointing directly at him. Christopher, Altobelli's large Weimaraner, chargedWhisenhunt, chomping the end of his shotgun. Whisenhunt slammed the porch dooron his head, then held him trapped there until the youth called him off.
As to what then happened, there are contrary versions.
The youth, who identified himself as William Garretson, the caretaker,would later state that the officers knocked him down, handcuffed him, yankedhim to his feet, dragged him outside onto the lawn, then knocked him downagain.
DeRosa would later be asked, re Garretson:
Q. "Did he fall or stumble to the floor at any time?"
A. "He may have; I don't recall whether he did or not."
Q. "Did you direct him to lay on the ground outside?"
A. "I directed him, yes, to lay on the ground, yes."
Q. "Did you help him to the ground?"
A. "No, he went down on his own."
Garretson kept asking, "What's the matter? What's the matter?" One of theofficers replied, "We'll show you!" and, pulling him to his feet, DeRosa andBurbridge escorted him back along the path toward the main house.
Whisenhunt remained behind, looking for weapons and blood-stained clothing.Though he found neither, he did notice many small details of the scene. One atthe time seemed so insignificant that he forgot it until later questioningbrought it back to mind. There was a stereo next to the couch. It had been offwhen they entered the room. Looking at the controls, Whisenhunt noticed thatthe volume setting was between 4 and 5.
Garretson, meantime, had been led past the two bodies on the lawn. It wasindicative of the condition of the first, the young woman, that he mistakenlyidentified her as Mrs. Chapman, the Negro maid. As for the man, he identifiedhim as "the young Polanski." If, as Chapman and Asin had said, Polanski was inEurope, this made no sense. What the officers couldn't know was that Garretsonbelieved Voytek Frykowski to be Roman Polanski's younger brother. Garretsonfailed completely when it came to identifying the young man in the Rambler.
At some point, no one recalls exactly when, Garretson was informed of hisrights and told that he was under arrest for murder. Asked about hisactivities the previous night, he said that although he had remained up allnight, writing letters and listening to records, he had neither heard nor seenanything. His highly unlikely alibi, his "vague, unrealistic" replies, and hisconfused identification of the bodies led the arresting officers to concludethat the suspect was lying.
Five murders--four of them probably occurring less than a hundred feetaway--and he had heard nothing?
Escorting Garretson down the driveway, DeRosa located the gate-controlmechanism on the pole inside the gate. He noticed that there was blood on thebutton.
The logical inference was that someone, quite possibly the killer, hadpressed the button to get out, in so doing very likely leaving a fingerprint.
Officer DeRosa, who was charged with securing and protecting the sceneuntil investigating officers arrived, now pressed the button himself,successfully opening the gate but also creating a superimposure thatobliterated any print that may have been there.
Later DeRosa would be questioned regarding this:
Q. "Was there some reason why you placed your finger on the bloody buttonthat operated the gate?"
A. "So that I could go through the gate."
Q. "And that was intentionally done?"
A. "I had to get out of there."
It was 9:40. DeRosa called in, reporting five deaths and a suspect incustody. While Burbridge remained behind at the residence, awaiting thearrival of the investigating officers, DeRosa and Whisenhunt drove Garretsonto the West Los Angeles police station for questioning. Another officer tookMrs. Chapman there also, but she was so hysterical she had to be driven to theUCLA Medical Center and given sedation.
In response to DeRosa's call, four West Los Angeles detectives weredispatched to the scene. Lieutenant R. C. Madlock, Lieutenant J. J. Gregoire,Sergeant F. Gravante, and Sergeant T. L. Rogers would all arrive within thenext hour. By the time the last pulled up, the first reporters were alreadyoutside the gate.
Monitoring the police radio bands, they had picked up the report of fivedeaths. It was hot and dry in Los Angeles, and fire was a constant concern,especially in the hills, where within minutes lives and property could vanishin an inferno. Someone apparently presumed the five people had been killed ina fire. Jay Sebring's name must have been mentioned in one of the policecalls, because a reporter phoned his residence and asked his butler, AmosRussell, if he knew anything about "the deaths by fire." Russell called JohnMadden, president of Sebring International, and told him about the call.Madden was concerned: neither he nor Sebring's secretary had heard from thehair stylist since late the previous afternoon. Madden placed a call to SharonTate's mother in San Francisco. Sharon's father, a colonel in ArmyIntelligence, was stationed at nearby Fort Baker and Mrs. Tate was visitinghim. No, she hadn't heard from Sharon. Or Jay, who was due in San Franciscosometime that same day.
Prior to her marriage to Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate had lived with JaySebring. Though thrown over for the Polish film director, Sebring hadremained friends with Sharon's parents, as well as Sharon and Roman, andwhenever he was in San Francisco he usually called Colonel Tate.
When Madden hung up, Mrs. Tate called Sharon's number. The phone rang andrang, but there was no answer.
It was quiet inside the house. Though anyone who called got a ringingsignal, the phones were still out. Officer Joe Granado, a forensic chemistwith SID, the Scientific Investigation Division of LAPD, was already at work,having arrived about 10 A.M. It was Granado's job to take samples fromwherever there appeared to be blood. Usually, on a murder case, Granado wouldbe done in a hour or two. Not today. Not at 10050 Cielo Drive.
Mrs. Tate called Sandy Tennant, a close friend of Sharon's and the wife ofWilliam Tennant, Roman Polanski's business manager. No, neither she nor Billhad heard from Sharon since late the previous afternoon. At that time Sharonhad said that she, Gibby (Abigail Folger), and Voytek (Frykowski) were stayingin that night. Jay had said he'd be dropping over later, and she invited Sandyto join them. No party was planned, just a quiet evening at home. Sandy, justover the chicken pox, had declined. Like Mrs. Tate, she had tried to callSharon that morning but had received no answer.
Sandy assured Mrs. Tate that there was probably no connection between thereport of the fire and 10050 Cielo Drive. However, just as soon as Mrs. Tatehung up, Sandy put in a call to her husband's tennis club and had him paged.It was important, she said.
Sometime between 10 and 11 A.M., Raymond Kilgrow, a telephone companyrepresentative, climbed the pole outside the gate to 10050 Cielo Drive andfound that four phone wires had been cut. The cuts were close to theattachment on the pole, indicating that the person responsible had probablyclimbed the pole too. Kilgrow repaired two of the wires, leaving the othersfor the detectives to examine.
Police cars were arriving every few minutes now. And as more officersvisited the scene, that scene changed.
The horn-rimmed glasses, first observed by DeRosa, Whisenhunt, andBurbridge near the two trunks, had somehow moved six feet away, to the top ofthe desk.
Two pieces of gun grip, first seen near the entryway, were now under achair in the living room. As stated in the official LAPD report: "They wereapparently kicked under the chair by one of the original officers on thescene; however, no one is copping out."
A third piece of gun grip, smaller than the others, was later found on thefront porch.
And one or more officers tracked blood from inside the residence onto thefront porch and walk, adding several more bloody footprints to those alreadythere. In an attempt to identify and eliminate the later additions, it wouldbe necessary to interview all the personnel who had visited the scene, askingeach if he had been wearing boots, shoes with smooth or rippled soles, and soon.
Granado was still taking blood samples. Later, in the police lab, he wouldgive them the Ouchterlony test, to determine if the blood was animal or human.If human, other tests would be applied to determine the blood type--A, B, AB,or O--and the subtype. There are some thirty blood subtypes; however, if theblood is already dry when the sample is taken, it is only possible todetermine whether it is one of three -- M, N, or MN. It had been a warm night,and it was already turning into another hot day. By the time Granado got towork, most of the blood, except for the pools near the bodies inside, hadalready dried.
Within the next several days Granado would obtain from the Coroner's Officea blood sample from each of the victims, and would attempt to match these withthe samples he'd already collected. In an ordinary murder case the presence oftwo blood types at the crime scene might indicate that the killer, as well asthe victim, had been wounded, information which could be an important clue tothe killer's identity.
But this was no ordinary murder. Instead of one body, there were five.
There was so much blood, in fact, that Granado overlooked some spots. Onthe right side of the front porch, as approached from the walk, there wereseveral large pools of blood. Granado took a sample from only one spot,presuming, he later said, all were the same. Just to the right of the porch,the shrubbery appeared broken, as if someone had fallen into the bushes. Bloodsplatters there seemed to bear this out. Granado missed these. Nor did hetake samples from the pools of blood in the immediate vicinity of the twobodies in the living room, or from the stains near the two bodies on the lawn,presuming, he'd later testify, that they belonged to the nearest victims, andhe'd be getting samples from the coroner anyway.
Granado took a total of forty-five blood samples. However, for some reasonnever explained, he didn't run subtypes on twenty-one of them. If this is notdone a week or two after collection, the components of the blood break down.
Later, when an attempt was made to re-create the murders, these omissionswould cause many problems.
Just before noon William Tennant arrived, still dressed in tennis clothes,and was escorted through the gate by the police. It was like being led througha nightmare, as he was taken first to one body, then another. He didn'trecognize the young man in the automobile. But he identified the man on thelawn as Voytek Frykowski, the woman as Abigail Folger, and the two bodies inthe living room as Sharon Tate Polanski and, tentatively, Jay Sebring. Whenthe police lifted the bloody towel, the man's face was so badly contusedTennant couldn't be sure. Then he went outside and was sick.
When the police photographer finished his work, another officer got sheetsfrom the linen closet and covered the bodies.
Beyond the gate the reporters and photographers now numbered in the dozens,with more arriving every few minutes. Police and press cars so hopelesslyjammed Cielo Drive that several officers were detailed to try and untanglethem. As Tennant pushed through the crowd, clutching his stomach and sobbing,the reporters hurled questions at him: "Is Sharon dead?" "Were they murdered?""Has anyone informed Roman Polanski?" He ignored them, but they read theanswers on his face.
Not everyone who visited the scene was as reluctant to talk. "It's like abattlefield up there," police sergeant Stanley Klorman told reporters, hisfeatures grim with the shock of what he had seen. Another officer,unidentified, said, "It looked ritualistic," this single remark providing thebasis for an incredible amount of bizarre speculation.
Like the shock waves from an earthquake, news of the murders spread.
"FIVE SLAIN IN BEL AIR," read the headline on the first AP wire story.Though sent out before the identity of the victims had become known, itcorrectly reported the location of the bodies; that the telephone lines hadbeen cut; and the arrest of an unnamed suspect. There were errors: one, to bemuch repeated, that "one victim had a hood over his head ..."
LAPD notified the Tates, John Madden, who in turn notified Sebring'sparents, and Peter Folger, Abigail's father. Abigail's socially prominentparents were divorced. Her father, chairman of the board of the A. J. FolgerCoffee Company, lived in Woodside, her mother, Inez Mijia Folger, in SanFrancisco. However, Mrs. Folger was not at home but in Connecticut, visitingfriends following a Mediterranean cruise, and Mr. Folger reached her there.She couldn't believe it; she had talked to Abigail at about ten the previousnight. Both mother and daughter had planned to fly to San Francisco today, fora reunion, Abigail having made a reservation on the 10 A.M. United flight.
On reaching home, William Tennant made what was, for him, the mostdifficult call. He was not only Polanski's business manager but a closefriend. Tennant checked his watch, automatically adding nine hours to getLondon time. Though it would be late in the evening, he guessed that Polanskimight still be working, trying to tie up his various film projects beforereturning home the following Tuesday, and he tried the number of his townhouse. He guessed right. Polanski and several associates were going over ascene in the script of The Day of the Dolphin when the telephone rang.
Polanski would remember the conversation as follows:
"Roman, there's been a disaster in a house."
"Your house." Then, in a rush, "Sharon is dead, and Voytek and Gibby andJay."
"No, no, no, no!" Surely there was a mistake. Both men now crying, Tennantreiterated that it was true; he had gone to the house himself.
"How?" Polanski asked. He was thinking, he later said, not of fire but alandslide, a not uncommon thing in the Los Angeles hills, especially afterheavy rains; sometimes whole houses were buried, which meant that perhaps theycould still be alive. Only then did Tennant tell him that they had beenmurdered.
Voytek Frykowski, LAPD learned, had a son in Poland but no relatives in theUnited States. The youth in the Rambler remained unidentified, but was nolonger nameless; he had been designated John Doe 85.
The news spread quickly--and with it the rumors. Rudi Altobelli, owner ofthe Cielo property and business manager for a number of show-businesspersonalities was in Rome. One of his clients, a young actress, called andtold him that Sharon and four others had been murdered in his house and thatGarretson, the caretaker he had hired, had confessed.
Garretson hadn't, but Altobelli would not learn this until after hereturned to the United States.
The specialists had begun arriving about noon.
Officers Jerrome A. Boen and D. L. Girt, Latent Prints Section, ScientificInvestigation Division, LAPD, dusted the main residence and the guest housefor prints.
After dusting a print with powder ("developing the print"), a clearadhesive tape was placed over it; the tape, with the print showing, would thenbe "lifted" and placed on a card with a contrasting background. Location,date, time, officer's initials were noted on the back.
One such "lift" card, prepared by Boen, read: "8-9-69/10050 Cielo/1400/JAB/Inside door frame of left French door/ from master bedroom to pool area/handle side."
Another lift, taken about the same time, was from the "Outside front door/handle side/above handle."
It took six hours to cover both residences. Later that afternoon the pairwere joined by officer D. E. Dorman and Wendell Clements, the latter acivilian fingerprint expert, who concentrated on the four vehicles.
Contrary to popular opinion, a readable print is more rare than common.Many surfaces, such as clothing and fabrics, do not lend themselves toimpressions. Even when the surface is such that it will take a print, oneusually touches it with only a portion of the finger, leaving a fragmentaryridge, which is useless for comparison. If the finger is moved, the result isan unreadable smudge. And, as officer DeRosa demonstrated with the gatebutton, one print placed atop another creates a superimposure, also uselessfor identification purposes. Thus, at any crime scene, the number of clear,readable prints, with enough points for comparison, is usually surprisinglysmall.
Not counting those prints later eliminated as belonging to LAPD personnelat the scene, a total of fifty lifts were taken from the residence, guesthouse, and vehicles at 10050 Cielo Drive. Of these, seven were eliminated asbelonging to William Garretson (all were from the guest house; none ofGarretson's prints were found in the main house or on the vehicles); anadditional fifteen were eliminated as belonging to the victims; and three werenot clear enough for comparison. This left a total of twenty-five unmatchedlatent prints, any of which might--or might not--belong to the killer orkillers.
It was 1:30 P.M. before the first homicide detectives arrived. On verifyingthat the deaths were not accidental or self-inflicted, Lieutenant Madlock hadrequested that the investigation be reassigned to the Robbery-HomicideDivision. Lieutenant Robert J. Helder, supervisor of investigations, wasplaced in charge. He in turn assigned Sergeants Michael J. McGann and JessBuckles to the case. (McGann's regular partner, Sergeant Robert Calkins, wason vacation and would replace Buckles when he returned.) Three additionalofficers, Sergeants E. Henderson, Dudley Varney, and Danny Galindo, were toassist them.
On being notified of the homicides, Los Angeles County Coroner ThomasNoguchi asked the police not to touch the bodies until a representative of hisoffice had examined them. Deputy Coroner John Finken arrived about 1:45, laterto be joined by Noguchi himself. Finken made the official determination ofdeath; took liver and environmental temperatures (by 2 P.M. it was 94 degreeson the lawn, 83 degrees inside the house); and severed the rope connectingTate and Sebring, portions of which were given to the detectives so that theycould try to determine where it had been manufactured and sold. It was white,three-strand nylon, its total length 43 feet 8 inches. Granado took bloodsamples from the rope, but didn't take subtypes, again presuming. Finken alsoremoved the personal property from the bodies of the victims. Sharon TatePolanski: yellow metal wedding band, earrings. Jay Sebring: Cartierwristwatch, later determined to be worth in excess of $1,500. John Doe 85:Lucerne wristwatch, wallet with various papers but no ID. Abigail Folger andVoytek Frykowski: no property on persons. After plastic bags had been placedover the hands of the victims, to preserve any hair or skin that might havebecome lodged under the nails during a struggle, Finken assisted in coveringand placing the bodies on stretcher carts, to be wheeled to ambulances andtaken to the Coroner's Office, Hall of Justice, downtown Los Angeles.
Besieged by reporters at the gate, Dr. Noguchi announced he would have nocomment until making public the autopsy results at noon the following day.
Both Noguchi and Finken, however, privately had already given thedetectives their initial findings.
There was no evidence of sexual molestation or mutilation.
Three of the victims--the John Doe, Sebring, and Frykowski--had been shot.Aside from a defensive slash wound on his left hand, which also severed theband of his wristwatch, John Doe had not been stabbed. But the other fourhad--many, many times. In addition, Sebring had been hit in the face at leastonce, and Frykowski had been struck over the head repeatedly with a bluntobject.
Though exact findings would have to await the autopsies, the coronersconcluded from the size of the bullet holes that the gun used had probablybeen .22 caliber. The police had already suspected this. In searching theRambler, Sergeant Varney had found four bullet fragments between theupholstery and the exterior metal of the door on the passenger side. Alsofound, on the cushion of the rear seat, was part of a slug. Though all were toosmall for comparison purposes, they appeared to be .22 caliber.
As for the stab wounds, someone suggested that the wound pattern was notdissimilar to that made by a bayonet. In their official report the detectivescarried this a step further, concluding, "the knife that inflicted the stabwounds was probably a bayonet." This not only eliminated a number of otherpossibilities, it also presumed that only one knife had been used.
The depth of the wounds (many in excess of 5 inches), their width (between1 and 11/2 inches), and their thickness (1/8 to 1/4 inch) ruled out either akitchen or a regular pocketknife.
Coincidentally, the only two knives found in the house were a kitchen knifeand a pocketknife.
A steak knife had been found in the kitchen sink. Granado got a positivebenzidine reaction, indicating blood, but a negative Ouchterlony, indicatingit was animal, not human. Boen dusted it for prints, but got only fragmentaryridges. Mrs. Chapman later identified the knife as one of a set of steakknives that belonged to the Polanskis, and she located all the others in adrawer. But even before this, the police had eliminated it because of itsdimensions, in particular its thinness. The stabbings were so savage that sucha blade would have broken.
Granado found the second knife in the living room, less than three feetfrom Sharon Tate's body. It was wedged behind the cushion in one of thechairs, with the blade sticking up. A Buck brand clasp-type pocketknife, itsblade was 3/4 inch in diameter, 3 13/16 inches in length, making it too smallto have caused most of the wounds. Noticing a spot on the side of the blade,Granado tested it for blood: negative. Girt dusted it for prints: an unreadablesmudge.
Mrs. Chapman could not recall ever having seen this particular knife. This,plus the odd place where it was found, indicated that it might have been leftby the killer(s).
In literature a murder scene is often likened to a picture puzzle. If oneis patient and keeps trying, eventually all the pieces will fit into place.
Veteran policemen know otherwise. A much better analogy would be twopicture puzzles, or three, or more, no one of which is in itself complete.Even after a solution emerges--if one does--there will be leftover pieces,evidence that just doesn't fit. And some pieces will always be missing.
There was the American flag, its presence adding still another bizarretouch to a scene already horribly macabre. The possibilities it suggestedranged from one end of the political spectrum to the other--until WinifredChapman told the police that it had been in the residence several weeks.
Few pieces of evidence were so easily eliminated. There were the bloodyletters on the front door. In recent years the word "pig" had taken on a newmeaning, one all too familiar to the police. But what did it mean printedhere?
There was the rope. Mrs. Chapman flatly stated that she had never seen sucha rope anywhere on the premises. Had the killer(s) brought it? If so, why?
What significance was there in the fact that the two victims bound togetherby the rope, Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring, were former lovers? Or was "former"the right word? What was Sebring doing there, with Polanski away? It was aquestion that many of the newspapers would also ask.
The horn-rimmed glasses--negative for both prints and blood--did theybelong to a victim, a killer, or someone totally unconnected with the crime?Or--with each question the possibilities proliferated--had they been leftbehind as a false clue?
The two trunks in the entryway. The maid said they hadn't been there whenshe left at 4:30 the previous afternoon. Who delivered them, and when, and hadthis person seen anything?
Why would the killer(s) go to the trouble of slitting and removing a screenwhen other windows, those in the newly painted room that was to be the nurseryfor the Polanskis' unborn child, were open and screenless?
John Doe 85, the youth in the Rambler. Chapman, Garretson, and Tennant hadfailed to identify him. Who was he and what was he doing at 10050 Cielo Drive?Had he witnessed the other murders, or had he been killed before they tookplace? If before, wouldn't the others have heard the shots? On the seat nextto him was a Sony AM-FM Digimatic clock radio. The time at which it hadstopped was 12:15 A.M. Coincidence or significant?
As for the time of the murders, the reports of gunshots and other soundsranged from shortly after midnight to 4:10 A.M.
Not all of the evidence was as inconclusive. Some of the pieces fitted. Noshell casings were found anywhere on the property, indicating that the gun wasprobably a revolver, which does not eject its spent shells, as contrasted toan automatic, which does.
Placed together, the three pieces of black wood formed the right-hand sideof a gun grip. The police therefore knew the gun they were looking for wasprobably a .22 caliber revolver that was minus a right grip. From the piecesit might be possible to determine both make and model. Though there was humanblood on all three pieces, only one had enough for analysis. It tested O-MN.Of the five victims, only Sebring had O-MN, indicating that the butt of therevolver could have been the blunt object used to strike him in the face.
The bloody letters on the front door tested O-M. Again, only one of thevictims had this type and subtype. The word PIG had been printed in SharonTate's blood.
There were four vehicles in the driveway, but one which should have beenthere wasn't--Sharon Tate's red Ferrari. It was possible that the killer(s)had used the sports car to escape, and a "want" was broadcast for it.
Long after the bodies had been removed, the detectives remained on thescene, looking for meaningful patterns.
They found several which appeared significant.
There were no indications of ransacking or robbery. McGann found Sebring'swallet in his jacket, which was hanging over the back of a chair in the livingroom. It contained $80. John Doe had $9 in his wallet, Frykowski $2.44 in hiswallet and pants pocket, Folger $9.64 in her purse. On the nightstand next toSharon Tate's bed, in plain view, were a ten, a five, and three ones.Obviously expensive items--a videotape machine, TV sets, stereo, Sebring'swristwatch, his Porsche--had not been taken. Several days later the policewould bring Winifred Chapman back to 10050 Cielo to see if she could determineif anything was missing. The only item she couldn't locate was a cameratripod, which had been kept in the hall closet. These five incredibly savagemurders were obviously not committed for a camera tripod. In all probabilityit had been lent to someone or lost.
While this didn't completely eliminate the possibility that the murders hadoccurred during a residential burglary--the victims surprising the burglar(s)while at work--it certainly put it way down the list.
Other discoveries provided a much more likely direction.
A gram of cocaine was found in Sebring's Porsche, plus 6.3 grams ofmarijuana and a two-inch "roach," slang for a partially smoked marijuanacigarette.
There were 6.9 grams of marijuana in a plastic bag in a cabinet in theliving room of the main residence. In the nightstand in the bedroom used byFrykowski and Folger were 30 grams of hashish, plus ten capsules which, lateranalyzed, proved to be a relatively new drug known as MDA. There was alsomarijuana residue in the ashtray on the stand next to Sharon Tate's bed, amarijuana cigarette on the desk near the front door, and two more in the guesthouse.
Had a drug party been in progress, one of the participants "freaking out"and slaying everyone there? The police put this at the top of their list ofpossible reasons for the murders, though well aware this theory had severalweaknesses, chief among them the presumption that there was a single killer,wielding a gun in one hand, a bayonet in the other, at the same time carrying43 feet of rope, all of which, conveniently, he just happened to bring along.Also, there were the wires. If they had been cut before the murders, thisindicated premeditation, not a spontaneous flare-up. If cut after, why?
Or could the murders have been the result of a drug "burn," the killer(s)arriving to make a delivery or buy, an argument over money or bad drugserupting into violence? This was the second, and in many ways the most likely,of the five theories the detectives would list in their first investigativereport.
The third theory was a variation of the second, the killer(s) deciding tokeep both the money and the drugs.
The fourth was the residential burglary theory.
The fifth, that these were "deaths by hire," the killer(s) being sent tothe house to eliminate one or more of the victims, then, in order to escapeidentification, finding it necessary to kill all. But would a hired killerchoose as one of his weapons something as large, conspicuous, and unwieldy asa bayonet? And would he keep stabbing and stabbing and stabbing in a madfrenzy, as so obviously had been done in this case?
The drug theories seemed to make the most sense. In the investigation thatfollowed, as the police interviewed acquaintances of the victims, and thevictims' habits and life styles emerged into clearer focus, the possibilitythat drugs were in some way linked to the motive became in some minds such acertainty that when given a clue which could have solved the case, theyrefused even to consider it.
The police were not the only ones to think of drugs.
On hearing of the deaths, actor Steve McQueen, long-time friend of JaySebring, suggested that the hair stylist's home should be rid of narcotics toprotect his family and business. Though McQueen did not himself participate inthe "housecleaning," by the time LAPD got around to searching Sebring'sresidence, anything embarrassing had been removed.
Others developed instant paranoia. No one was sure who the police wouldquestion, or when. An unidentified film figure told a Life reporter: "Toiletsare flushing all over Beverly Hills; the entire Los Angeles sewer system isstoned."
FILM STAR, 4 OTHERS DEAD IN BLOOD ORGY
Sharon Tate Victim In "Ritual" Murders
The headlines dominated the front pages of the afternoon papers, became thebig news on radio and TV. The bizarre nature of the crime, the number ofvictims, and their prominence--a beautiful movie star, the heiress to a coffeefortune, her jet-set playboy paramour, an internationally known hairstylist--would combine to make this probably the most publicized murder casein history, excepting only the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.Even the staid New York Times, which rarely reports crime on its front page,did so the next day, and many days thereafter.
The accounts that day and the next were notable for the unusual amount ofdetail they contained. So much information had been given out, in fact, thatthe detectives would have difficulty finding "polygraph keys" for questioningsuspects.
In any homicide, it is standard practice to withhold certain informationwhich presumably only the police and the killer(s) know. If a suspectconfesses, or agrees to a polygraph examination, these keys can then be usedto determine if he is telling the truth.
Owing to the many leaks, the detectives assigned to the "Tate case," as thepress was already calling the murders, could only come up with five: (1) Thatthe knife used was probably a bayonet. (2) That the gun was probably a .22caliber revolver. (3) The exact dimensions of the rope, as well as the way itwas looped and tied. And (4) and (5), that a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and aBuck knife had been found.
The amount of information unofficially released so bothered LAPD brass thata tight lid was clamped on further disclosures. This didn't please thereporters; also, lacking hard news, many turned to conjecture and speculation.In the days that followed a monumental amount of false information waspublished. It was widely reported, for example, that Sharon Tate's unbornchild had been ripped from her womb; that one or both of her breasts had beenslashed off; that several of the victims had been sexually mutilated. Thetowel over Sebring's face became a white hood (KKK?) or a black hood(satanists?), depending on which paper or magazine you read.
When it came to the man charged with the murders, however, there was apaucity of information. It was presumed, initially, that the police weremaintaining silence to protect Garretson's rights. It was also presumed thatLAPD had to have a strong case against him or they wouldn't have arrested him.
A Pasadena paper, picking up bits and pieces of information, sought to fillthe gap. It stated that when the officers found Garretson, he asked, "When arethe detectives going to see me?" The implication was obvious: Garretson knewwhat had happened. Garretson did ask this, but it was as he was being takenthrough the gate, long after his arrest, and the question was in response toan earlier comment by DeRosa. Quoting unidentified policemen, the paper alsonoted: "They said the slender youth had a rip in one knee of his pants and hisliving quarters in the guest cottage showed signs of a struggle." Damningevidence, unless one were aware that all this happened during, not before,Garretson's arrest.
During the first few days a total of forty-three officers would visit thecrime scene, looking for weapons and other evidence. In searching the loftabove the living room, Sergeant Mike McGann found a film can containing a rollof videotape. Sergeant Ed Henderson took it to the Police Academy, which hadscreening facilities. The film showed Sharon and Roman Polanski making love.With a certain delicacy, the tape was not booked into evidence but wasreturned to the loft where it had been found.
In addition to searching the premises, detectives interviewed neighbors,asking if they had seen any strange people in the area.
Ray Asin recalled that two or three months before there had been a largeparty at 10050 Cielo Drive, the guests arriving in "hippie garb." He got theimpression, however, that they weren't actually hippies, as most arrived inRolls-Royces and Cadillacs.
Emmett Steele, who had been awakened by the barking of his hunting dogs theprevious night, remembered that in recent weeks someone had been racing a dunebuggy up and down the hills late at night, but he never got a close look atthe driver and passengers.
Most of those interviewed, however, claimed they had neither seen nor heardanything out of the ordinary.
The detectives were left with far more questions than answers. However,they were hopeful one person could put the puzzle together for them: WilliamGarretson.
The detectives downtown were less optimistic. Following his arrest, thenineteen-year-old had been taken to West Los Angeles jail and interrogated.The officers found his answers "stuporous and non-responsive," and were of theopinion that he was under the residual effect of some drug. It was alsopossible, as Garretson himself claimed, that he had slept little the previousnight, just a few hours in the morning, and that he was exhausted, and veryscared.
Shortly after this, Garretson retained the services of attorney BarryTarlow. A second interview, with Tarlow present, took place at Parker Center,headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department. As far as the police wereconcerned, it too was unproductive. Garretson claimed that although he livedon the property, he had little contact with the people in the main house. Hesaid that he'd only had one visitor the previous night, a boy named SteveParent, who showed up about 11:45 and left about a half hour later. Questionedabout Parent, Garretson said he didn't know him well. He'd hitched a ride upthe canyon with him one night a couple of weeks ago and, on getting out of thecar at the gate, had told Steve if he was ever in the neighborhood to drop in.Garretson, who lived by himself in the back house, except for the dogs, saidhe'd extended similar invitations to others. When Steve showed up, he wassurprised: no one else ever had. But Steve didn't stay long, leaving afterlearning that Garretson wasn't interested in buying a clock radio Steve hadfor sale.
The police did not at this time connect Garretson's visitor with the youthin the Rambler, possibly because Garretson had earlier failed to identify him.
After conferring with Tarlow, Garretson agreed to take a polygraphexamination, and one was scheduled for the following afternoon.
Twelve hours had passed since the discovery of the bodies. John Doe 85remained unidentified.
Police lieutenant Robert Madlock, who had been in charge of theinvestigation during the several hours before it was assigned to homicide,would later state: "At the time we first found the [victim's] car at thescene, we were going fourteen different directions at once. So many things hadto be done, I guess we just didn't have time to follow up on the carregistration."
All day Wilfred and Juanita Parent had waited, and worried. Theireighteen-year-old son Steven hadn't come home the previous night. "He didn'tcall didn't leave word. He'd never done anything like that before," JuanitaParent said.
About 8 P.M., aware that his wife was too distraught to cook dinner,Wilfred Parent took her and their three other children to a restaurant. Maybewhen we get back, he told his wife, Steve will be there.
From outside the gate of 10050 Cielo it was possible to make out thelicense number on the white Rambler: ZLR 694. A reporter wrote it down, thenran his own check through the Department of Motor Vehicles, learning that theregistered owner was "Wilfred E. or Juanita D. Parent, 11214 Bryant Drive, ElMonte, California."
By the time he arrived in El Monte, a Los Angeles suburb some twenty-fivemiles from Cielo Drive, he found no one at home. Questioning the neighbors, helearned that the family did have a boy in his late teens; he also learned thename of the family priest, Father Robert Byrne, of the Church of the Nativity,and called on him. Byrne knew the youth and his family well. Though the priestwas sure Steve didn't know any movie stars and that all this was some mistake,he agreed to accompany the reporter to the county morgue. On the way hetalked about Steve. He was a stereo "bug," Father Byrne said; if you everwanted to know anything about phonographs or radios, Steve had the answers.Father Byrne held great hopes for his future.
In the interim, LAPD discovered the identity of the youth through a printand license check. Shortly after the Parents returned home, an El Montepoliceman appeared at the door and handed Wilfred Parent a card with a numberon it and told him to call it. He left without saying anything else.
Parent dialed the number.
"County Coroner's Office," a man answered.
Confused, Parent identified himself and explained about the policeman andthe card.
The call was transferred to a deputy coroner, who told him, "Your son hasapparently been involved in a shooting."
"Is he dead?" Parent asked, stunned. His wife, hearing the question, becamehysterical.
"We have a body down here," the deputy coroner replied, "and we believeit's your son." He then went on to describe physical characteristics. Theymatched.
Parent hung up the phone and began sobbing. Later, understandably bitter,he'd remark, "All I can say is that it was a hell of a way to tell somebodythat their boy was dead."
About this same time, Father Byrne viewed the body and made theidentification. John Doe 85 became Steven Earl Parent, an eighteen-year-oldhi-fi enthusiast from El Monte.
It was 5 A.M. before the Parents went to bed. "The wife and I finally justput the kids in bed with us and the five of us just held on to each other andcried until we went to sleep."
About nine that same Saturday night, August 9, 1969, Leno and RosemaryLaBianca and Suzanne Struthers, Rosemary's twenty-one-year-old daughter by aprevious marriage, left Lake Isabella for the long drive back to Los Angeles.The lake, a popular resort area, was some 150 miles from L.A.
Suzanne's brother, Frank Struthers, Jr., fifteen, had been vacationing atthe lake with a friend, Jim Saffie, whose family had a cabin there. Rosemaryand Leno had driven up the previous Tuesday, to leave their speedboat for theboys to use, then returned Saturday morning to pick up Frank and the boat.However, the boys were having such a good time the LaBiancas agreed to letFrank stay over another day, and they were returning now, without him, drivingtheir 1968 green Thunderbird, towing the speedboat on a trailer behind.
Leno, the president of a chain of Los Angeles supermarkets, was forty-four,Italian, and, at 220 pounds, somewhat overweight. Rosemary, a trim, attractivebrunette of thirty-eight, was a former carhop who, after a series of waitressjobs and a bad marriage, had opened her own dress shop, the Boutique Carriage,on North Figueroa in Los Angeles, and made a big success of it. She and Lenohad been married since 1959.
Because of the boat, they couldn't drive at the speed Leno preferred, andfell behind most of the Saturday night freeway traffic that was speedingtoward Los Angeles and environs. Like many others that night, they had theradio on and heard the news of the Tate murders. According to Suzanne, itseemed particularly to disturb Rosemary, who, a few weeks earlier, had told aclose friend, "Someone is coming in our house while we're away. Things havebeen gone through and the dogs are outside the house when they should beinside."