Were Drugs to Blame for the Tate-LaBianca Murders?

Before Charles Manson entered the picture, investigators focused on the “narcotic aspects” of the murder of Sharon Tate

Scott A. Weiss
3 min readMar 9, 2022
Headline from the August 18, 1969 issue of the “Valley Times” newspaper

The following is an excerpt from “The Manson Murders: Torn From the Headlines of the Valley Times and Hollywood Citizen-News” available now from Headliner Books.

Narcotics Link Probed in Five Canyon Murders

Homicide detectives today concentrated on the ‘‘narcotic aspects” of the grisly stabbing and shooting deaths of actress Sharon Tate and four guests at her estate.

Police would neither confirm nor deny a report drugs were found in the 1966 black Porsche owned by men’s hair stylist Jay Sebring, one of the five victims.

The Los Angeles Times said today narcotics were found in his expensive sports car parked outside the Benedict Canyon home leased by Miss Tate and her husband, film director Roman Polanski.

“Narcotics aspects are under investigation,’’ was all a police spokesman would say. The head of the 19-detective force on the case said Sunday that no narcotics had been found “in the house.”

Chief Coroner-Medical Examiner Thomas T. Noguchi said his office was conducting tests on the victims to determine if any had been using drugs. Results were not expected for several days.

‘Freakout’ Discounted

The theory that the macabre murders might have been carried out by someone “freaked out” on narcotics, however, seemed untenable because police said the three telephone lines into the estate, 18 feet above the ground, had been severed.

Killed with Miss Tate, 26, and Sebring, 35, were coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 26; Polish film producer Voityck Frokowsky, 37, and Steven Parent, 18.

Parent, found shot to death in his car, was a casual friend of the caretaker, William Garretson, 19, arrested by police and then released for lack of evidence after undergoing lie detector test.

Detectives also were not ruling out a possible link between the Tate case and the double murder two days later of a middle-aged couple a dozen miles across town, The feeling, however, was that the second murder was done by a “copycat,” not connected with the Tate case.

‘Tremendous Footwork’

“Now it is a matter of tremendous footwork,” said a police spokesman. “The victims had so many friends in so many areas. We have to reach these people and question them. Some of them, it turns out, were pretty weird. Hundreds of names are involved.”

The victims were members of the Hollywood set of “rich hippies.” And Garretson was known to entertain casual acquaintances, such as hitchhikers he had met, at the guest house on the grounds of the estate where he lived.

Funeral arrangements have been made for all of the victims except Frokowsky. Miss Tate’s funeral was expected to be held today and was private. Services will be held in San Francisco for Miss Folger and in El Monte for Parent. Funeral services for Sebring were held today at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.



Scott A. Weiss

Author, freelance writer and self-employed recruiter. Bylines in the Daily Beast, Seattle Times, Classic Rock Magazine, LouderSound.