Charles “Tex” Watson

While serving a life sentence for participating in the slaughter of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, California inmate Charles “Tex” Watson has married, fathered four children, and founded a prison-cell ministry. Watson enjoyed repeated conjugal visits (now forbidden to the state’s lifers) with his wife, Kristin, at California’s Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, where the 55-year-old has so far served thirty years. Watson was Charles Manson’s right-hand man. On August 9, 1969, with the help of three other Manson family members, he shot and stabbed Tate, a fellow Dallas native; her three houseguests; and a teenager who had stopped by. The next day Watson took part in two other brutal murders, those of grocery-store magnate Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. As the criminal investigation intensified, Watson fled to McKinney, where he had relatives, and fought extradition (the Collin County sheriff was a cousin). But eventually he was returned to Los Angeles. After being briefly confined to a mental hospital, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in 1971 (California did away with the death penalty a year later). Soon he professed a newfound devotion to Christ; amazingly enough, his supporters include Rosemary LaBianca’s daughter. In the past decade Watson and his wife have twice been investigated by the California attorney general, for committing Medi-Cal fraud to finance their children’s births and for using funds from their nonprofit organization, Abounding Love Ministries, for personal use. The Christian group’s Web site offers sermonettes about such topics as “the big four killers of this day and age”—identified as alcohol, sex, drugs, and suicide—and offers copies of a Manson-era memoir by Watson, who once told two of his chosen victims, “I am the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s business.”

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