Though the Manson Family’s savage murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others permanently etched the group into pop cultural consciousness, the August 1969 massacre was not its first brush with violence.
In reality, Charles Manson and his followers’ first foray into murder happened one month prior to the massacre at the Benedict Canyon home Tate shared with director Roman Polanski, when a devoted Manson Family member butchered a man he once called a friend at Manson’s behest.
The murder of Gary Hinman by Bobby Beausoleil forever changed the course of the now-infamous cult; at one time sold to followers as the embodiment of free love, the incident set Manson’s cult on a path for the unparalleled brutality and violence that continues to captivate the world nearly 50 years after the fact.
New murder minutiae
Just this week, new details about the murder that started it all emerged from the confessed killer himself as part of a two-hour Fox special “Inside the Manson Cult: The Lost Tapes.”
As part of the jailhouse interview, Beausoleil detailed Hinman's relationship to the Family, the circumstances around the 34-year-old musician's death, and why Beausoleil felt he "had no way out" other than going forward with his brutal act.
"Fear is not a rational emotion and when it sets in. Things get out of control—as they certainly did with Charlie and me," he said during the special.
Hinman, a talented piano player who once played at Carnegie Hall, was described by his cousin as a "lost artistic soul,” according to People magazine—one who would wind up falling in with the wrong crowd and befriending the Manson Family.
"Gary was a friend. He didn't do anything to deserve what happened to him and I am responsible for that," Beausoleil said from the California Medical Facility, a male prison, where he's serving a life sentence.
According to Dianne Lake, who also participated in the TV special to discuss her time as a Manson devotee, Family members had been to Hinman's house several times before his murder. Beausoleil had purchased drugs from Hinman during the summer of 1969. He sold them to another person, who then complained about their quality, causing Beausoleil to need his money back.
"Bobby was driven over there to make it right with two girls that knew Gary very well. In fact, I think he had slept with both of them: Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner," former follower Catherine "Gypsy" Share said during the special.
But Hinman didn't have the money. After Beausoleil, an aspiring actor and musician, roughed Gary up a bit, they called Manson, who decided to come to the house with a samurai sword.
When he arrived, Manson took the sword and made a swipe across Hinman's face from his ear down his cheek.
"It was bleeding a lot," John Douglas, a retired FBI agent who later interviewed Manson, said in the special.
Beausoleil asked Manson why he had cut the man's face.
"He said, 'To show you how to be a man.' His exact words," Beausoleil said. "I will never forget that."
According to Beausoleil, who at one time was given the nickname "Cupid" for his good looks, he tried to patch the wound up and "make things right."
Hinman, however, insisted on receiving medical attention—which is when things took a fatal turn.
"I knew if I took him, I'd end up going to prison. Gary would tell on me, for sure, and he would tell on Charlie and everyone else," Beausoleil said in the interview "It was at that point I realized I had no way out."
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Hinman was tortured over three days before he was killed. Beausoleil, for his part, admitted to stabbing Hinman twice in the chest.
The family reportedly used Hinman’s blood to scribble the words “Political Piggy” on the wall after the murder, according to CBS News, and also included a panther paw to try and pin the slaying on the Black Panthers (Manson was known for his desire to incite a race war).
Beausoleil, along with Bruce Davis, was later arrested for the murder.
Welcome to violence
The murder catapulted the Manson family into a new level of violence. Although they had been training and preparing for a supposed race war for some time at Spahn Ranch, they had now become the aggressors and instigators of violence.
"This is when things start getting really dire, I mean really murderous," Lake said during the Fox program.
Several weeks later, Manson Family followers would go on to murder Tate, writer Wojciech Frykowski, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent, who had come to visit the gardener on Polanski’s property.
The next night, the group would break into the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and kill the couple.
Beausoleil was sentenced to death for his role in Hinman’s murder, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
He's been denied parole 18 times since being incarcerated, according to Rolling Stone, and he is expected to face a parole board again in 2019 at the age of 71.
As he sat in his cell and reflected on his past crime, Beausoleil told the team behind the Fox special that he is filled with regret over the death of his one-time friend.
"What I've wished a thousand times is that I had faced the music,” he said. “Instead, I killed him.”
[Photos: Associated Press]
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