Vincent Bugliosi, Manson Prosecutor, Dies at 80

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Vincent Bugliosi, 80, who prosecuted mass murderer Charles Manson and his female adherents for the savage murders of actress Sharon Tate and six other people on August 8-9, 1969, died of cancer in Los Angeles Saturday night.

Bugliosi rose to fame as an author after the trial, writing Helter Skelter, his account detailing the actions of the Manson family and the subsequent murders of Hollywood celebrities, including Tate, who was married to director Roman Polanski and two weeks away from delivering her child; hairdresser Jay Sebring; coffee heiress Abigail Folger; and director Voytek Frykowksi. The Manson family also killed Steven Parent, an eighteen-year-old boy, as well as grocers Rosemary and Leno LaBianca in a separate incident the next day.

Vincent Bugliosi, Jr., informed the Associated Press of his father’s death, stating that his father had “an unflagging dedication to justice.”

Bugliosi was not the lead prosecutor initially; that job was held by Aaron Stovitz. Bugliosi was named second-in-command of the prosecution team. But Stovitz was removed after making a comment to the media that infuriated his boss, and Bugliosi took over. Bugliosi’s closing statement stated:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Sharon Tate … Abagail Folder … Voytek Frykowski … Jay Sebring … Steven Parent … Leno LaBianca … Rosemary LaBianca … are not here with us now in this courtroom, but from their graves they cry out for justice. Justice can only be served by coming back to this courtroom with a verdict of guilty. Under the laws of this state and nation these defendants were entitled to have their day in court. They got that. They were also entitled to have a fair trial by an impartial jury. They also got that. That is all that they are entitled to. Since they committed these seven savage, senseless murders, the people of the state of California are entitled to a guilty verdict.

The trial, which began June 15, 1970, lasted until January 25, 1971, when Manson and his cohorts, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins received guilty verdicts for each of the 27 separate counts against them. On March 29, 1971, the jury returned verdicts of death. On April 19, 1971, Judge Older sentenced the four to death.

During the trial, Bugliosi called Manson a cult leader and his followers “robots” and “zombies” controlled by Manson, a “a dictatorial maharajah of a tribe of bootlicking slaves.” He called 84 witnesses, many of them youths who had been attracted by Manson and then grew disenchanted. He brought 290 pieces of evidence.

Bugliosi, born in 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota, was a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles law school. After writing Helter Skelter with Curtis Gentry, which became an international bestseller, he wrote a dozen more books, including Till Death Do Us PartAnd the Sea Will Tell; Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder; and The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. His Reclaiming History, a 2000-page tome about the Kennedy assassination, took 20 years to write; his son said his father was proudest of that book.

Bugliosi was married to his wife Gail for 59 years; they have two children, Wendy and Vince, Jr.


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