Friday, August 10, 2007

August 10

Two days after members of his “family” disposed of the lives of Sharon Tate and three others, Charles Manson tagged along for the last of the murders perpetrated in his name. On August 10, 1969, Manson and his accomplices broke in to the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, whom they killed with a bayonet and steak knives. After the couple were dead, their blood was used to scrawl “death to pigs,” “healter skelter” [sic] and other insanities across the walls and appliances of their home.

Leno LaBianca’s body was scrawled with the word “WAR, ” which presumably referred to the deranged eschatology of the Manson cult. Believing that the Biblical book of Revelation and the Beatles’ White Album offered clues to an impending social catastrophe, Manson insisted that his followers had been called by God to provoke a race war, during which blacks would exterminate all non-racist whites -- only to be ruled in the end by the Manson Family. Needless to say, the plan had its flaws.

Eight years after the LaBianca murders, David Berkowitz, the notorious “Son of Sam,” was arrested in New York City, where over the previous year he had shot a dozen people with a .44 handgun. Six of his victims died. About two months before his capture, Berkowitz wrote a famous letter to New York Daily News reporter Jimmy Breslin, who covered the murders and the hunt for “Sam” throughout the summer of 1977. In the note, Berkowitz mused on the virtues of urban life
Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine, and blood. Hello from the sewer of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks. Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of N.Y.C. and from the ants that dwell in these cracks and feed on the dried blood of the dead that has settled into the cracks.
After confessing to the murders, Berkowitz received six consecutive life sentences; Charles Manson, who had originally been sentenced to die in the gas chambers, eventually received a life sentence as well when the US Supreme Court struck down California’s death penalty statute in 1972.

On the fourth anniversary of Berkowitz’ capture, the head of Adam Walsh -- a six-year-old boy from Hollywood, Florida -- was discovered in a Vero Beach canal. He had been taken from a mall two weeks earlier after his mother left him in a video arcade while she shopped at Sears. The rest of his body was never recovered. Walsh’s father, John, became an advocate for missing children, hosting America’s Most Wanted and urging the passage of harsh criminal statutes to protect “victim’s rights.”

The LaBianca murders, the arrest of Berkowitz, and this discovery of Adam Walsh’s head each took place on the feast of Saint Lawrence; Lawrence was grilled to death by the Romans in the year 258.

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