Did The Manson Family Really Kill Just To Free One Of Their Members?

Robert Beausoleil, 2016 [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation]

Bobby Beausoleil has been denied parole by the California State Parole Board 18 times. He is imprisoned for the 1969 torture and murder of music teacher Gary Hinman.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey stated that Beausoleil will remain behind bars because of the extreme nature of Hinman’s murder and that the state believes Beausoleil remains a threat to the public.

At the time of the killing, Beausoleil was one of cult leader Charles Manson’s chief associates. He was a handsome, charismatic actor and songwriter whose main function was to recruit young women into the Manson Family. One of Bobby’s other nicknames was “Cupid.” As with everyone else involved in their scene, Beausoleil also had ties to underworld of drugs.

On July 25, 1969, Bobby Beausoleil went to Gary Hinman’s home. Two explanations for the visit exist — one claims that Hinman owed Manson money and Beausoleil was there to collect; another posits that Hinman had manufactured bad hallucinogens which Beausoleil, in turn, had sold to the Straight Satans, a motorcycle gang, and that Beausoleil showed up for a refund.

Either way, Beausoleil and Manson Family members Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner held Hinman inside his apartment for two days, brutalizing him in hope of getting money.

Eventually, on July 27, according to some disputed reports, Manson showed up, sliced off Hinman’s ear with a sword, and ordered Beausoleil to kill their captive. As Hinman recited a Buddhist prayer, Beausoleil reportedly stabbed him to death.

Robert Beausoleil, 1969, Los Angeles Police Department

Robert Beausoleil, 1969 [Los Angeles Police Department]

Afterward, Atkins and Brunner painted the words “Political Piggy” and drew a paw print on a wall in Hinman’s blood. The graffiti was intended to make it look as though the Black Panthers or other African-American revolutionaries had committed the crime.

This strategy was in keeping with Manson’s “Helter Skelter” prediction of an upcoming race war, in which blacks would defeat whites, but only the Manson Family would be qualified to rule over the survivors. Charlie and his followers were doing what they could to get the conflict going.

As noted previously, these people took a lot of drugs.

Police arrested Beausoleil on August 6, after finding him passed out in Hinman’s car. On April 8, 1970, a jury found Beausoleil guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. His sentence was commuted to life in prison two years later, after California outlawed capital punishment.

It must be noted, though, that Bobby was behind bars when members of the Manson Family committed the notorious Tate-LaBianca massacres on August 9 and 10. Susan Atkins, however, did very much participate in those killings.

While much is made of “Helter Skelter,” an alternate theory suggests that the Family slaughtered Hollywood star Sharon Tate and her party guests, along with Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the following night, in order to get Beausoleil’s charges dropped. The idea was to make it look like the same revolutionary group that killed Hinman had moved on and was actively at large.

Beausoleil himself claimed as much in a 1981 interview with esteemed true-crime author Truman Capote.

After Capote proposed the notion to Beausoleil that the Tate-LaBianca murders “were all imitations of the Hinman murder — to prove that you couldn’t have killed Hinman — and thereby get you out of jail,” Beausoleil responded:

“To get me out of jail. (He nods, smiles, sighs — complimented) None of that came out at any of the trials. The girls got on the stand and tried to really tell how it all came down, but nobody would listen. People couldn’t believe anything except what the media said.

The media had them programmed to believe it all happened because we were out to start a race war. That it was mean n—ers going around hurting all these good white folk. Only, it was like you say. 

The media, they called us a ‘family.’ And it was the only true thing they said. We were a family. We were mother, father, brother, sister, daughter, son.

If a member of our family was in jeopardy, we didn’t abandon that person. And so for the love of a brother, a brother who was in jail on a murder rap, all those killings came down.”

By most accounts, Beausoleil still stands by those claims. He briefly said that, in fact, Manson wasn’t there and that Hinman’s ear never got cut off, but he has since put Manson back at the scene.

Beausoleil can apply for parole again in 2019. In the meantime, he continues to sell his music and artwork online, with permission from Oregon prison authorities (Bobby was jailed in Oregon for numerous years before being transferred back to California).

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Read more: ABC, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Dangerous Minds, Biography, Time, CNN, Manson Direct, Bobby Beausoleil

Main photo: Robert Beausoleil, 2016 [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation]



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