LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles police detectives are seeking to review old audio tapes of conversations between Manson Family member Charles “Tex” Watson and his former lawyer, hoping they will shed light on any additional murders the cult may have committed.
The eight hours of recorded discussions between Watson and attorney Bill Boyd were made more than 40 years ago and have surfaced as a part of a bankruptcy case involving Boyd’s now-defunct Texas law firm.
“We are trying to get our hands on a copy of those recordings,” Los Angeles police commander Andrew Smith told Reuters on Friday. “We are doing this to be extraordinarily thorough. We think it’s good police work to continue to pay attention to these cases.”
Smith said the recordings were made in 1969 or 1970, following Watson’s arrest for murders carried out at the direction of Charles Manson that were among the 20th century’s most infamous crimes.
But detectives had no access to the tapes until Watson, now 66 and serving a life prison term in California, waived his attorney-client privilege so that they could be sold to satisfy unpaid legal fees. Boyd died in 2009.
In a letter to a U.S. Department of Justice trustee obtained by local KNBC-TV, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck requested that the recordings be given to his detectives.
“The LAPD has information that Mr. Watson discussed additional unsolved murders committed by followers of Charles Manson,” Beck said in the March 19 letter.
A bankruptcy court hearing has been scheduled for next week in Plano, Texas, to determine if the tapes should be handed over to Los Angeles police investigators.
Manson, an ex-convict, gathered a collection of runaways and outcasts known as the Manson Family 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 twisted 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 also were stabbed or shot to death in 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.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Mary Slosson and Xavier Briand