San Francisco Chronicle
December 2, 1969 - front page

Actress' Death
     Bizarre 'Nomads'
   Held in Slaying

                         United Press

Los Angeles
    A man and two women described as members of a nomadic desert commune were identified yesterday as suspects in the bizarre murders of actress Sharon Tate and four other persons August 9.
    Police Chief Edward Davis told newsmen that the suspects were part of a "roving band of hippies" who also allegedly killed a middle-aged couple one day later across town from the luxurious home of Miss Tate in Benedict Canyon.
    Warrants were issued for Charles D. Watson, 24, now in custody in McKinney, Tex., and two women suspects. Patricia Kernwinkel, 21, was arrested yesterday in Mobile, Ala., and Linda Kasabian, age unknown, is being hunted in New Mexico.
    Watson was taken into custody Sunday night. Sheriff Tom Montgomery of Collin county at McKinney said, "You could kinda say he walked in and gave himself up." The suspect was described in Texas as clean-shaven and neat, although Los Angeles police said he was long-haired and bearded while living in the desert commune.
    Davis said it is expected that four or five other persons will be indicted for the murders next week.
    The other suspects are said to be in custody in Inyo county, where 26 young men and women accused of living a roving life of thievery were rounded up by a sheriff's posse.
    Davis confirmed that the Tate murders were linked to the slayings of a wealthy owner of a small grocery chain and his wife in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles a day later.
    There were gruesome similarities between the two cases. The word "pig" was smeared in blood on the front door of the Tate residence. The words "death to pigs" were written in blood on a refrigerator door at the home of Leon and Rosemary La Bianca. The word "war" was carved on La Bianca's chest.
    Davis said members of the commune were living at the Spawn movie ranch, and abandoned movie set northwest of Los Angeles, at the time of the murders. Then they moved to the Barker ranch in Death Valley.


     Deputies said the group seemed to operate as an updated Indian-type raiding party — traveling in dune buggies, living in abandoned mining shacks, stealing as they went.
     They roamed by night and posted lookouts equipped with walkie-talkies during the day. The men wore shoulder-length hair. At the time of the raids, some of the girls were clad only in bikini bottoms and others were nude.
     Sheriff's deputies, guided by a spotter plane, picked up 15 youths near Badwater October 10. Six more women and five more men were arrested October 12 in a raid on the same camp.
     Two babies were taken to Inyo county hospital for treatment for malnutrition. At the time, the suspects were booked on suspicion of auto theft, receiving stolen property, possession of a sawed-off shotgun and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
     Davis said the names of additional suspects in custody in Inyo county, site of Death Valley, will be given to the county grand jury sometime before December 9.


     The motive for the slayings remains a mystery. Davis said the victims did not know the suspects, although evidence indicated that the killers had visited the home leased by Miss Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski, before the killings.
     "It had all the earmarks of premeditation," Davis said.
     He said all the suspects were members of what could be called a "commune," and the group might have been a religious one, "depending on your definition of religion."
     The Tate slayings appeared to be the outcome of a weird religious rite, police investigators said during the initial stages of the investigation. Later, they dropped that theory.
     In addition to Miss Tate, 26, who was eight months pregnant, the victims were Abigail Folger, 26, San Francisco, heiress to the Folger coffee fortune; Jay Sebring, 35, Hollywood innovator of hair styling for men and once Miss Tate's fiance; Voityck Frokowsky, 37, who worked with Polanski in Polish films, and Steven Earl Parent, 18, of suburban El Monte, who had been visiting a caretaker at the estate.