Charles Tex Watson

Charles Tex Watson, a former member of the infamous Manson Family, was convicted on seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Watson received the death penalty, which was later converted to life imprisonment.

Charles Watson, aka Tex Watson, was born in Dallas, Texas, on December 2, 1945. He was the youngest of three children. He grew up in Copeville, about 35 miles north of Dallas, where he attended the Methodist church and took part in church activities. His parents ran a gas station, where Watson also helped out. He did well in school and took part in several school sports, including football and basketball.

He changed when he entered North Texas State University in 1964. He was more interested in girls than studying, and experimented with different drugs. During his senior year, Watson visited a frat brother in California. He had such a good time there that he decided to stay in California.

Meeting Manson

One day, Watson was driving down Sunset Boulevard in an old 1935 Dodge pickup truck when he ran into a hitchhiker. The traveler introduced himself, Dennis Wilson, Beach Boys drummer. Wilson told Watson that his Ferrari and Rolls-Royce were both wrecked and that’s why he was hitchhiking.

When they arrived at Wilson’s house, Wilson invited him in. As they entered the kitchen, Watson saw a balding fellow with a long gray beard sitting at the kitchen table, along with several girls. The man introduced himself, ‘Dean Moorehouse’. Dean was the father of Manson Clan member Ruth Ann Moorehouse. They started talking, Dean told Watson about Manson. He said that taking acid opened him up and that through Charlie Manson he found true faith, and that Manson was the reincarnation of the Son of God.

Dean introduced Watson to Manson. Manson was sitting on the floor of Wilson’s living room, surrounded by several young women, with a guitar in his hands. Watson, Wilson, Moorehouse and Manson smoked some Lebanese hash and Charlie started playing the guitar. Watson felt right at home. A little later, the girls brought the men some sandwiches, topped with sprouts, avocado and cheese, all organic. Watson had a great night. As he headed home, Wilson smiled at him and told him he was always welcome. Source: Will you die for me?

The beginning: a fake drug deal, Black Panthers and a murder gone wrong

June, 1969. Looking for cash, Manson asked Watson if he had any leads. Watson called his ex-girlfriend, Luella, and asked her for money. She refused. In July, Watson came up with a plan. He told Luella that the Family had $100 and wanted to buy a kilo of grass, but his connection would only sell them 25 kilos a throw, for $2,500. Watson explained to Luella that she could move the rest for $125 a kilo, and make a cool buck. Since grass was scarce at the time, Luella couldn't resist. Little did she know, Watson didn't intend to actually buy grass.

Watson set up a fake drug deal. He intended to take Luella to an apartment where the supposed transaction would take place, tell her to wait outside, go out through the backdoor, where TJ, a Manson Family member, would wait in a car with the engine running, and speed off with the money.

But things didn't go according to plan.

Luella showed up with Bernard “Lotsapoppa” Crowe, a black dope dealer, and two of his associates. Crowe fronted the money and insisted that he and his guys come along to the drug deal. They drove to the apartment, and after some back and forth, Watson convinced Luella and the men to wait outside. Crowe warned Watson, that if something funny would happen, he would hurt Luella. Watson took Crowe's money, went into the apartment, and ran out through the backdoor, hopped in the car with TJ, and sped off.

When they arrived back at Spahn Ranch, Watson showed Manson the Cash. Just then, the phone rang. It was Bernard Crowe; he was furious, and he wanted his money back. He threatened to kill everyone at the Ranch. Manson stated to Crowe that Watson had left the Ranch several weeks ago, and that he had nothing to do with the drug deal. Crowe didn't believe him.

Manson sent Watson up into the hills with a sleeping bag, and told him he would take care of it. Manson and TJ went to Crowe. Manson shot and killed Crowe. At least, that's what he thought. Crowe actually played dead. Manson would not find out Crowe was still alive until the Tate/Labianca trial, when Crowe walked into the courtroom.

The day after the supposed murder, a report came on the news saying someone had dumped the body of a Black Panther near U.C.L.A. Manson assumed this was the body of Crowe. Rumors started spreading that Crowe was a member of the Panthers, and thinking he had killed Crowe, Manson was in fear of retalliation.

Around this time, a suspicious amount of black people showed up at Spahn Ranch, the Manson Clan hangout, and Manson stepped up his Helter Skelter race war theory. Not much later the first Manson Family murder would take place; Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil killed Gary Hinman, and left a bloody paw print on a wall along with the words 'Political Piggy', written in Hinman's blood. The Black Panthers used phrases like 'political pig', and by leaving this slogan on the wall, Manson and his Clan hoped the police would suspect the Panthers of the crime.

Tate and LaBianca Murders

On August 9, 1969, Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkel murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people at 10050 Cielo Drive. The next night, Watson participated in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Watson was also involved in the murder of Donald Shea. According to several Manson Family members, one of the motives for the Tate and LaBianca murders, was to get Beausoleil out of jail by committing copycat murders.

In October 1969, Watson fled from Spahn Ranch, the Manson Family hangout, and returned to his home state, Texas. On November 30, 1969, Watson was arrested for the Tate/LaBianca murders. Watson fought his extradition to California for nine months.

Watson Stopped Talking and Eating

After his extradition to California, Watson went into shock. He seemed to realize what he had done and what punishment he could receive for his actions. Watson stopped talking and eating, lost 55 pounds (ca. 25 kg) [image], and slipped into a catatonic state. Watson was admitted to the State Hospital to see if he was mentally competent to stand trial. In February 1971, they decided that Watson was mentally fit to appear in court. Watson was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. His death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Prison Life: Conjugal visits, Children, and a Stabbing

After several years in prison, Watson converted to Christianity. Like many killers, Watson received fan mail and met a woman named Kristin Joan Svege. Watson and Svege married in 1979 and had four children. Despite being responsible for the death of a pregnant woman, Watson received conjugal visits in jail.

In 2013, a fellow inmate stabbed Watson. Watson was washing his clothes when the inmate walked up to him, holding a rolled-up magazine. The inmate stabbed Watson with a sharpened paint brush. He tried to throw Watson over the fourth floor railing, but Watson turned out to be stronger. Watson suffered minor injuries from the incident.

The Tex Watson Tapes

The Tex Watson tapes are recordings made by Watson and his attorney, in which Watson tells his story about the Manson murders. The recordings, consisting of about 20 hours of interviews, were recorded on Nov. 29, 1969, and are the earliest uncensored and uninfluenced documented account of the Manson Family homicides.

According to Bill Boyd, attorney for Tex Watson, Watson tells about murders committed by the Manson Clan that hadn’t been discovered or linked to the Family. The tapes were stored in Watson’s lawyer’s safe for decades and were never made public.

After the death of Watson’s attorney, the tapes were handed over to the LAPD. Several attempts have been made to make the tapes public, including by Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten and her lawyer, but without success. According to the D.A.’s office, the tapes would jeopardize ongoing investigations.

LaBiancas Daughter Supports Watson

Suzan LaBerge, Rosemary LaBiancas daughter, has been one of Tex Watson’s closest friends behind bars after bonding over their shared beliefs as born-again Christians. She visits, writes and has even advocated for his release.

LaBiancas Granddaughter Murdered in Bed

In 2020, Suzan LaBerge’s daughter, Ariana Wolk, was found murdered in her bed. She was lying in a pool of blood and had been repeatedly stabbed in the neck. A post-mortem also found Wolk with several defensive stab wounds to her arms and hands. Jose Sandoval-Romero, 24, has been charged with her murder.

A Visual Guide to the Tate Murders