We romanticize the 1960s as an era of peace and love, and many people of that time did try to live out those ideals. That sunny outlook, however, set for good after the most infamous murders in American history closed out the decade.

Even all these years later, people are still talking about the gruesome nature and motivations behind these killings. Less-than-credible Roman Polanski, one of the few survivors, shared his own thoughts on the crime, with a theory so shocking that the authorities couldn’t believe what they were hearing.

Following their 1968 marriage, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski were among the hottest couples in Hollywood. The bombshell actress and acclaimed director thought they had all the time in the world to make their dreams come true. Sadly, they were mistaken.

But for a couple years, they had it all — film careers, a ritzy mansion on Cielo Drive, and a circle of famous friends. Notably, this group included martial arts maestro Bruce Lee. He had both personal and professional ties to Sharon and Roman.

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On the set of The Wrecking Crew, Bruce trained Sharon for her fight scenes, and the two of them soon became fast friends. It wasn’t long before the action star also became Roman’s kung fu instructor, not to mention a regular visitor on Cielo Drive.

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In fact, Bruce was one of many close friends to congratulate the newlyweds on their big news. As 1969 arrived, Sharon told her husband that they’d be expecting a child late that summer. They couldn’t have been happier.

Eight months into her pregnancy, Sharon couldn’t do much besides rest. Roman, meanwhile, had to keep up with his work. He left to scout out filming locations in London, while planning to be back in time for the birth — or so he thought.

But on August 9th, Los Angeles police urgently called Roman back home. They’d come across something horrific in his home. There was some kind of attack, or maybe a type of terrible ritual. They didn’t know what to call it.

The Hollywood Reporter

The previous night, Sharon invited three friends over to their house. At some point an intruder got inside and brutally murdered everyone present — including Sharon and their unborn son. It was a nightmare.

Still not quite able to grasp that his family was gone, Roman returned to Cielo Drive. He couldn’t believe what his home had turned into. Puddles of blood stained the carpet and cryptic messages covered the walls.

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The frenzied press coverage only heightened Roman’s distress. Unable to pinpoint a culprit, reporters speculated that Sharon got involved with a Satanist cult or an acid trip gone wrong. The director couldn’t stand to see them drag her name through the mud.

He took it upon himself to find a killer, and everybody was a suspect. Was it possible that a friend, under the guise of a late-night visit, was responsible? Roman drove all over L.A. trying to find a connection, with one particular clue on his mind.

The paranoid director couldn’t stop thinking about a pair of horned-rim glasses found at the scene of the crime. Authorities didn’t believe they belonged to any of the victims. This could be his only hope.

Although his private investigation took over his every waking moment, Roman tried to keep up some semblance of his former routine. Weeks after the murder, he met up with Bruce for a kung fu lesson. That session almost gave him a panic attack.

Inverse

Amid a bit of small talk, Bruce mentioned he recently lost his glasses. Roman tried to contain himself. Did the specs at the murder scene belong to the martial arts maestro? The director offered to take Bruce to the optician and buy him a new pair.

Unaware of any suspicion, Bruce accepted the director’s generous proposal. Roman couldn’t stop thinking of more reasons of Lee’s guilt on the car ride over. Besides the glasses, Bruce was one of the few people who had the skills to hurt that many people at once.

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Once they reached the optician, however, Roman’s grand theory fell apart. Bruce used a totally different prescription than the glasses found on Cielo Drive. Overwhelmed with guilt about suspecting his pal, Roman was ready to give up.

But just days later, investigators found the missing piece of the puzzle. They arrested members of a nearby hippie commune for car theft only to find that these so-called peaceniks were implicated in a string of grisly murders around the city.

History

As we all know, this discovery led to the conviction of Charles Manson, one of the most infamous figures of the 20th century. It turned out he didn’t even send his followers to take out Sharon in particular.

Los Angeles Times

Manson only targeted the Cielo Drive home because it used to be the residence of Terry Melcer, a record producer who spurned him in the past. Roman, realizing he never could’ve figured out this obscure connection, wondered if he should apologize to Bruce about his paranoia.

Tragically, the director never got the chance. Bruce Lee died in 1973, just weeks prior to the premiere of Enter the Dragon. Roman would have to carry that guilt for the rest of his life, though that was far from his only regret.

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In 1977, the director was caught sexually assaulting a 13-year-old. After pleading guilty to initial charges, he fled to Europe before the courts could sentence him. His reputation forever tarnished, he could never return to the United States.

In the ensuing years, Roman’s Cielo Drive home was demolished while Charles Manson received a life sentence. Until he passed away in 2017, the bloodthirsty cult leader influenced countless lives — almost all for the worse.

Before she met Manson, beachfront homes and the excitement of Los Angeles was the childhood backdrop for young Lynette Fromme. The daughter of an aeronautical engineer, she grew up enjoying the Santa Monica sun. But in the blink of an eye that would all change.

San Francisco Gate

At first, she had other ambitions. Her school nights were spent perfecting routines with her traveling dance team, the Westchester Lariats. They had grander ambitions than your average community ballet class.

With her team, Lynette glided her way on to television screens for the first time, appearing on the Lawrence Welk Show. Once, they even received an invitation to perform at the White House!

Welk Musical Family

But, somewhere along the way, Lynette leaned away from traditional pursuits. The Fromme family points to their move to Redondo Beach, California, when she was 14 years old. That’s when they noticed her behavior changing.

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In her new town, Lynette’s abrupt shift concerned her parents. They spouted the common line, that Lynette took up with “wrong crowd.” Drinking and drugs became routine. By her first year of college, they’d kicked her out of the home.

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Lynette, homeless, head brimming with her family’s criticism, sat on the beach to mull things over. Enter at stage right a wild-eyed, stringy-haired man who sat on the sand beside her and listened to her troubles — Charles Manson.

Biography

From that first interaction, Lynette was starry-eyed for Manson. He told her to forget about normal structured life: “don’t want and you’re free,” he said. “The want ties you up. Be where you are, you got to start someplace.” These nonsensical encouragements struck a cord. Lynette joined the Manson Family.

RXSTR

Following their ex-con leader, Lynette joined the ranks of Manson’s other devotees, Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner. She was one of the many young women with middle-class roots to fall into the web of hallucinogenic drugs, theft, and eventually murder.

In 1968, the large band of Manson Family members found a new home base at the Spahn Movie Ranch. Foregoing rent payments, the cult compensated the 80-year-old landlord, George Spahn, via sexual arrangements with his pick of any of Manson’s many “wives.”

Curbed LA

It was Spahn who christened Lynette with her new name, Squeaky, after the sound she made when he unexpectedly pinched her thighs. Later in life, she remembered fondly her contribution as unofficial wife to the ranch’s owner, all to benefit the family.

LA Magazine

But like most cults, the honeymoon stage didn’t last. In 1969, Manson was arrested for the Tate Labianca murders. This time, Lynette wasn’t connected to the crimes. She was free to stand guard outside the courthouse during the trial and support her homicidal leader.

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The most devoted of the Manson Family wore their loyalty literally on their foreheads. Carving a small X into the skin, similar to the hateful Nazi swastika that Charles Manson revered, showed their symbolic allegiance to the murderer.

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Many Manson Family members took Charles’ incarceration as a lucky pass back into society. Lynette was one of the few still that remained loyal. After his death sentence, which was overturned to a life sentence after California nixed capital punishment, Manson was transferred to Folsom Prison.

Rolling Stone

When Manson moved, so did the family. Squeaky and Sandra Good moved to Sacramento to be closer to Charles. During this period, Squeaky penned an early draft of a memoir detailing her life as a member of the Manson Family.

Manson Blog

Taken from a draft of the unpublished memoir, she described her teenage longing to “[shed] all the guilt feelings…to find something exciting and do something that felt good…I didn’t, I wouldn’t, adjust to society and the reality of things…I’ve made my own world…It may sound like an Alice in Wonderland world, but it makes sense.”

WBUR

After listening to the advice of another convicted Mason Family murderer, Steve “Clem” Grogan, Lynette agreed her memoir was potentially incriminating. So, she shelved it, for a few decades at least. Besides, she had other things on her mind…

NY Post

By the skin of her teeth, Squeaky avoided a murder conviction in Sonoma County, California, with other Manson affiliates. You see, the bodies of James and Lauren Willett were found on the premises of a group of Manson Family and Aryan Brothers members.

Manson Blog

Never wavering, Squeaky insisted she was innocent. In what the group called a tragic misfire due to a Russian roulette style game, they claimed no responsibility. All the others connected to the deaths were convicted, but it wasn’t Squeaky’s time.

Hollywood Life

Police accepted her alibi that at the time of the murders she’d been on the road, traveling to visit Manson in prison. They let her go reluctantly after 2-and-a-half months in county jail. She fled back to Sacramento, right into the arms of Manson Family member Sandra Good.

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Distance and iron bars only strengthened their faith in Manson. One major sign of their increased retreat from the rational world was when they changed their names. Red, for Squeaky’s beloved California Redwood trees, and Blue, for Sandra’s connection the ocean.

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Flipping through channels one afternoon, Squeaky stopped on a news program. Her ears perked up at the mention of the California state capitol. President Gerald Ford would be speaking there, and at that moment, all the newly christened Red saw… was red.

National Geographic

At the time, President Ford requested Congress rollback provisions of the Clean Air Act, which was unpopular among environmentalists and hippies like Squeaky. The news listed the date, September 5th, 1975, and conveniently, the state capitol grounds were just a short ride down the road.

Green Peace

Cloaked in her trademark red hood with a red dress to match, Squeaky arrived in the crowd gathered outside on the 5th of September. Concealed on her left leg was an antique .45 caliber Colt pistol left leg.

Hollywood Life

The red-caped Squeaky pushed through the onlookers until she found herself face to face with the man himself. Seconds ticked by and without emotion, she pulled the gun from her leg holster and pointed it right at Gerald Ford’s stomach.

Coloradoan

Reports can’t confirm it, but witnesses claim to have heard the faint click of a finger pulling a trigger. What they were certain of was Squeaky’s confused muttering of “it didn’t go off” as Secret Service agents threw her to the ground.

CBS News

After years of lurking on the fringes of awful crimes, Squeaky was marched off in handcuffs. Immediate inspection of her weapon showed the gun was loaded with 4 rounds, but no bullet was in the chamber. Manson’s most loyal follower had botched her plan from the outset.

Chicago Tribune

For Ford, the attempt on his life didn’t have a visible effect. Most people confronted with def might be a tad rattled, but not Jerry. He continued on with the meeting, remarking after, “I thought I’d better get on with my day’s schedule.”

CBS News

The justice system jumped into action, holding the trial less than two months after Squeaky’s attempted assassination of a U.S. President. Ford himself submitted a videotaped witness testimony, marking the only time in history where a sitting U.S. president testified in a criminal trial.

Prosecutors made quick business of convincing a jury. She was caught red-handed and her courtroom etiquette didn’t help her case; at one point she angrily threw an apple at attorney Dwayne Keyes.

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Squeaky refused to cooperate at every level. She wouldn’t walk, so U.S. Marshalls were forced to carry her into the courtroom each day. This behavior just fueled the flames, and her guilty verdict was delivered on November 19th, 1975.

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Handed a sentence of life in prison, you’d think that would close the book on Squeaky’s criminal plots. But in 1987 she managed to escape, attempting to visit Manson after his testicular cancer diagnosis. She was captured after 2 days on the run.

Tons of Facts

The stunt resulted in added time to her sentence; somehow she maintained eligibility for parole. So, after 34 years in prison, Squeaky reentered society as a free woman in 2009. Along with her boyfriend, another convicted felon, she retreated to the quiet town of Marcy in Upstate New York.

Radar Online

Since then, she’s kept a low profile. She’s been spotted about town with her boyfriend, a man who plead guilty to manslaughter in 1988, Robert Valdner. Though she did end up publishing that long-awaited potentially incriminating memoir in 2018, titled Reflexion.

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In 2019, the ABC documentary series 1969 interviewed Squeaky for their episode titled “Manson Girls.” In her first statement in decades, she confirmed her allegiance remains strong, “Was I in love with Charlie? Yeah,” “Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh, still am. Still, am. I don’t think you fall out of love.”

Jezebel

Neighbors say they keep to themselves, but still, the cars from curious passersby idle by and whisper about the woman who through murder, prison, and ample time to reconsider, still loves Charles Manson.

National Enquirer