Quiet and secluded is just what the young movie star wanted. The canyons above Beverly Hills were far enough away from the noisy glitz of Hollywood to afford some privacy and space. Sharon Tate loved this place on Cielo Drive. To her it meant romance - romance with the man of her dreams and the father of her child, director Roman Polanski.
It was cooler up there too, which was especially refreshing on that hot muggy Saturday night, the 9th of August 1969. The beautiful young woman kept herself company with her attractive and sophisticated friends: Abigail Folger, the coffee heiress and her boyfriend Voytek Frykowski, and an internationally known hair stylist Jay Sebring.
Sharon was eight months pregnant and very lonely for her husband who was away in Europe working on a film. Impromptu gatherings like this one on a weekend night were not at all unusual.
The house was deliberately secluded but not completely insecure. Approximately 100 feet from the house was a locked gate and on the property was a guesthouse inhabited by an able-bodied young caretaker.
That night the Kotts, Sharon’s nearest neighbors who lived about 100 yards away, thought they heard a few gunshots coming from the direction of Sharon’s property sometime between 12:30 and 1 A.M. But since they heard nothing else, they went to bed.
Around the same time, Tim Ireland who was supervising a camp-out less than a mile away heard a chilling scream: "Oh, God, no, please don’t! Oh, God, no, don’t, don’t…"
He drove around the area, but found nothing unusual.
Nearby Emmett Steele’s dogs went into a barking frenzy somewhere between 2 and 3 A.M. He got out of bed and looked around, but found nothing amiss and went back to bed.
Robert Bullington, a member of a private security patrol hired by some of the wealthy property owners, thought he heard several gunshots a little after 4 A.M. and called his headquarters. Headquarters, in turn, called Los Angeles Police Department, known as LAPD, to report the disturbance. The LAPD officer said: "I hope we don’t have a murder; we just had a woman-screaming call in that area."
Winifred Chapman, Sharon Tate’s housekeeper, got to the main gate of the house a little after 8 A.M. She noticed what looked like a fallen telephone wire hanging over the gate. She pushed the gate control mechanism and it swung open. As she walked up to the house, she saw an unfamiliar white Rambler parked in the driveway.
When she got to the house, she took the housekey from its hiding place and unlocked the back door. Once inside the kitchen, she picked up the telephone and confirmed that it was a telephone wire that had fallen, completely knocking out all phone service. As she made her way toward the living room, she noticed that the front door was open and that there were splashes of red everywhere. Looking out the front door, she saw a couple of pools of blood and what appeared to be a body on the lawn.
She shrieked and ran back through the house and down the driveway, passing close enough to the Rambler to see that there was yet another body inside the car. She ran over to the Kotts and banged on the door, but they were not home, so she ran to the next house and did the same thing, screaming hysterically.
LAPD Officer Jerry DeRosa arrived first. He walked up to the Rambler and found a young man slumped toward the passenger side, drenched in blood. At this point, Officer William Whisenhunt joined DeRosa. The two officers, with guns drawn searched the other automobiles and the garage, while a third officer Robert Burbridge caught up with them.
There on the beautifully manicured lawn with its magnificent panorama of Los Angeles lay two bodies. One was a white man that appeared to be in his thirties. Someone had battered in his head and face, while savagely puncturing the rest of his body with dozens of wounds.
The other body was that of a young woman with long brown hair lying in a full-length nightgown with multiple stab wounds.
The three officers cautiously approached the house. No telling what or who may be waiting in there for them. It would have been foolhardy for all of them to enter through the front door. However, as they went near the front door, they saw that one of the front window screens had been removed. Whisenhunt found an open window on the side of the house where he and Burbridge made their entry.
Once the other two officers were inside, DeRosa approached the front door. On the lower half of the door, he saw scrawled in blood the word "PIG." In the hallway they found two large steamer trunks, a pair of horned rimmed glasses and pieces of a broken gun grip.
Then when they reached the couch, they were in for a real shock. A young blond woman, very pregnant, was lying on the floor, smeared all over with blood, a rope around her neck that extended over a rafter in the ceiling. The other end of the rope was around the neck of a man lying nearby, also drenched in blood.
As they looked through the rest of the house they heard a man’s voice and the sound of a dog. It was William Garretson the caretaker. The officers handcuffed him and put him under arrest.
Later that Saturday night, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and Susan Struthers, Rosemary's 21-year-old daughter, drove back from vacation trailering their boat. They dropped off Susan at her apartment and drove home to 3301 Waverly Drive in the Los Feliz area of L.A. They stopped to pick up a newspaper between 1 and 2 A.M.
It wasn't until the next day that anybody came to the house to see them. Frank Struthers, Rosemary's son by a previous marriage, got a ride home. Around 8:30 P.M., as he carried his camping equipment up the driveway, he noticed things that worried him. First the speedboat was still in the driveway. It was very unlike his stepfather not to put the boat in the garage. Then Frank noticed that all the window shades were down -- something his parents never did.
He knocked on the door, but got no answer, so he went to a pay phone and called, but again with no response. He finally got in touch with his sister, who came with her boyfriend to their parents’ house.
Frank and the boyfriend found the back door open. They left Susan in the kitchen until they had a chance to look around. When the two young men walked into the living room, they saw Leno in his pajamas, lying with a pillow over his head and a cord around his neck. Something was sticking out from his stomach
They rushed out of the house, dragging Susan with them and called the police at the neighbors’ house.
Soon an ambulance and police cars arrived. Leno was found with a blood-drenched pillowcase over his head and the cord of a large lamp tied tightly around his neck. His hands had been tied behind him with a leather thong. A carving fork protruded from his stomach and the word "WAR" had been carved in his flesh.
In the master bedroom, they found his wife Rosemary lying on the floor, her nightgown up over her head. She too had a pillowcase over her head and a lamp cord tied tightly around her neck.
In three places in the house, there was writing which appeared to be in the victims’ blood: on the living room wall, "DEATH TO PIGS;" on another wall in the living room, the single word "RISE;" and in the refrigerator door, "HEALTHER SKELTER," misspelled.