Judge orders Manson Family tapes turned over to police

LOS ANGELES Tue May 29, 2012 6:12pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. bankruptcy judge on Tuesday ordered that Los Angeles police detectives be given audio tapes of discussions between a Manson Family member and his former lawyer, which they believe could help solve murders committed by the infamous cult.

Judge Brenda Rhoades' ruling means Los Angeles Police Department detectives can review some eight hours of recordings made more than 40 years ago by late Texas attorney Bill Boyd and convicted killer Charles "Tex" Watson.

The tapes were subject to a case in federal bankruptcy court in Texas involving Boyd's now-defunct law firm, which represented Watson following his 1969 arrest for murders carried out at the direction of cult leader Charles Manson.

Detectives had no access to the recordings until Watson, now 66 and serving a life prison term in California, waived his attorney-client privilege so they could be sold to satisfy unpaid legal fees. Boyd died in 2009.

In a letter to a U.S. Department of Justice trustee, published online by local KNBC-TV, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the LAPD "has information that Mr. Watson discussed additional unsolved murders committed by followers of Charles Manson."

A Los Angeles police spokesman called the ruling "good news" for detectives. It was not immediately clear when the tapes would be turned over to the LAPD.

Manson, an ex-convict, attracted a group of runaways and outcasts amid the hippie culture of the 1960s. In the summer of 1969, he directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people in what prosecutors said was part of a plan to incite a race war.

Among the victims was actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was stabbed 16 times by members of the cult in the early morning hours of August 9, 1969.

Four other people were also stabbed or shot to death at Tate's home that night by the Manson followers, who scrawled the word "Pig" in blood on the front door before leaving.

The following night, Manson's group stabbed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca to death, using their blood to write "Rise," "Death to Pigs" and "Healter Skelter" - a misspelled reference to a Beatles song - on the walls and refrigerator door.

Manson, now 77, is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison in California for those seven slayings and the murder of an acquaintance, Gary Hinman, who was stabbed to death in July 1969. He was denied parole for the 12th time in April.

(Additional reporting by Judy Wiley in Texas; Editing by Paul Simao)

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