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‘It Felt Like I Got Kicked In The Gut’: How Victims’ Families Still Struggle To Cope With The Manson Family Murders

“Unless every one of the victims get out of their graves and live the 50 years they should have lived with us and all of their friends who loved them, there is no closure,” Jay Sebring's nephew said.

By Jill Sederstrom
Sharon Tate And Jay Sebring G

Five decades after Charles Manson’s followers committed the heinous murders that shocked a nation, the family members of the victims continue to be haunted by the crimes.

“Unless every one of the victims get out of their graves and live the 50 years they should have lived with us and all of their friends who loved them, there is no closure,” Anthony DiMaria, the nephew of Jay Sebring told People.

Sebring, a celebrity hairstylist, was killed along with pregnant actress Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Voytek Fryowski and Steven Parent on Aug. 9, 1969 at Tate’s Benedict Canyon home. Tate, her houseguests and 18-year-old Parent—who had been visiting a caretaker on the grounds—were viciously slaughtered by a group of Manson’s followers who snuck into the home before butchering everyone inside.

The following night, Manson directed his followers to kill wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary LaBianca.

Those responsible for the crimes have spent most of their lives behind bars—but even after 50 years the public continues to be fascinated by the grisly murders. The savage murders were the focus of Quentin Tarantino’s recent “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” with Margot Robbie playing the role of Tate; Hilary Duff portrayed Tate in another film, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” earlier this year.

The continued fascination with the crimes has brought unwanted attention to the families of the victims—who must relive the acts each time the crimes are revisited.  

Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, told People that just before the 50th anniversary of the murders a man walked up to her door and asked if she was related to the slain actress. The man told her he had a message from Manson, prompting Debra Tate to grab a nearby shotgun and scare him away.

“I have death threats on Facebook, I have people breaching my gate, I’ve got weirdos on my own personal site,” she said. “It’s very alarming and I would be a fool if I didn’t pay attention to it and treat it as credible.”

Debra—who was 10 years younger than her famous sister—has dedicated her life to ensuring that her sister’s killers remain behind bars, speaking at countless parole hearings and running the website No Parole for Manson Family.

Last year, Debra told Fox News that she and her sister had shared a “loving and nurturing” relationship.

“Sharon was a special human being,” she said, adding that because of the significant age difference between the pair there was never any sibling rivalry.

Instead, Debra recalled Sharon taking care of her as a child and offering advice as Debra got older.

“We continued to have a very strong bond as I got older,” she said. “Her friends were my friends. I socialized in her social circle. … I have memories of us walking down Melrose and playing dress up. … We made each other complete.”

Jay Sebring’s family has also been impacted by the public’s continued fascination with the murders.

His niece Mishele DiMaria said she went to the concert of her favorite band and saw the lead singer sporting a T-shirt that said “Charlie’s Angels.” The shirt had the face of Manson and three of his female followers emblazoned on it.  

“I felt like I got kicked in the gut,” she said. “The happiness ripped right out of me. To know that I had unknowingly supported someone who supports the killers of my uncle Jay made me physically ill. The scar was ripped open."

Anthony DiMaria plans to honor his uncle with a documentary about the celebrity hairstylist’s life as a businessman.

But while the families of Tate and Sebring continue to find ways to honor their loved ones who lost their lives that bloody weekend, it will never fully replace the devastating loss.