After Studying Manson Murders for 20 Years, a Different Take

Tom O'Neill and Dan Piepenbring are out with a new book on the murders
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2019 12:13 PM CDT
Updated Aug 3, 2019 11:00 AM CDT
He Had 3 Months to Research Manson Killings, Took 20 Years
In this 1969 file photo, Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case.   (AP Photo, File)

The Charles Manson murders have never really left the public eye, but they've gotten a boost with Quentin Tarantino's new film Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood. But Tarantino isn't the only one out with a Manson-related project. Tom O'Neill and Dan Piepenbring are out with the new book Chaos: Charles Manson, the C.I.A., and the Secret History of the Sixties, and as the New York Times explains, there's nothing new about the Manson beat for O'Neill. In 1999 the journalist took on a 3-month assignment with Premiere magazine to explore the murders' effect on Hollywood. "He missed that deadline—by 20 years," writes Alex Williams, who interviewed O'Neill about what he found. The conversation starts with O'Neill saying the narrative we all accept isn't one he's buying.

"We've spent the past 50 years thinking the murders were all about sparking a race war," says O'Neill. What he turned up led him in another direction. Well, many others. "The Manson family intersected with a multitude of shady characters at so many levels—law enforcement, drug trafficking, even the government, all wiped from the record—that I found good reason to doubt that the Helter Skelter motive was the full story, or even the real story," he says. One key piece of evidence he cites: an arrest warrant for Manson that was supposedly misdated, leading to Manson and his followers being arrested a week after the murders but then released over the goof. O'Neill says he got his hands on the warrant and it was correct. (Read the full interview for more on that and more, including O'Neill's not-so-complimentary opinion of lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi.)

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