Ironically, Manson and his Family were arrested not on suspicion of the murders but simply on the belief that they had vandalised a portion of the Death Valley National Park while they were hiding out in the Mojave Desert. In 1969, the local county sheriff had them in custody not realising that he had murder suspects on their hands. But it was the confessions of Susan Atkins, while held in detention on suspicion of murdering Gary Hinman, that led detectives to realise that Manson and his followers were involved in the Tate/La Bianca killings.
Various motivations were examined during the course of the trial. The most feasible being that Manson’s pathological ego, insanity and belief in Armageddon were influences that led him to carry out a trail of destruction.
Manson believed that he was the new Messiah and that after a ‘nuclear attack’ he and his followers would be saved by hiding in a secret world under the desert. His prophetic visions included a belief that after the race war ‘blacks’ would triumph. Manson along with his ‘Family’ members would have to mentor the black community as they would ‘lack experience’ to run the planet.
As Manson and the Family were to be the beneficiaries of the race war, he told his followers that they had to help initiate it. According to defence witness and killer Van Houten, this was the primary reason why they murdered the LaBiancas. Manson had taken the wallet of murdered Rosemary Bianca with the intention that he would deposit it in a section of LA, where a person of ethnic origin might find it, use it and then possibly have the murders pinned on them.
Later in court Van Houten, who was just nineteen when she took part in the LaBianca killings, alleged that Manson had taken advantage of her vulnerability and dislike for her mother. She believed, like the other members, that he was a man of vision.
Thirty years later during a parole board she was to say that she was horrified by what she had done that night and desperately wanted to redeem herself. Van Houten’s next parole board was in 2006.
Susan Atkins, possibly the most disturbed of all the killers, admitted in initial confessions to fellow prisoners that she had wanted to cut out Tate’s unborn baby, but didn’t have the time. Other grisly and macabre acts were to be perpetrated against the victims. Atkins also revealed that a list of other high profile Hollywood stars were on a list to be killed and mutilated. These included Elizabeth Taylor and husband Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and Tom Jones. When asked why they wanted to kill such people, Atkins replied that they (Manson and Family) wanted to commit murders that would shock the world and make people take notice.