Monday, December 5, 2016

A Look At the Evidence #3: The Death of Steven Parent (Who told it best?)

Other Posts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

The official narrative says that Charles Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian arrived at Cielo Drive at approximately midnight on August 9, 1969. Watson cut the telephone line and then the murderers drove their car back down Cielo Drive, parked and walked back up to the gate of the Polanski residence.

The Testimony

Here is what the witnesses have to say about the events that followed.


Bugliosi: What happened next?
Atkins: Then he told us to get our changes of clothes and we all walked back up the hill and walked to this fence.
Q: Now, when you say "this fence," I see the word "gate" on the diagram. Did you walk up to the gate?
A: We walked up to the gate but we didn't want to touch it or go over it because we thought there may be an alarm system or electricity running through it.
Q: Is there a fence adjacent to this gate?
A: Yes, there is.
Q: On the left and right? 
A: Left.
Q: Left of where I am pointing now but it would have been to your right?
A: That is correct.
Q: South on this diagram; is that correct, assuming that this is north?
A: Uh-huh.
Q: What happened after you approached the fence?
A: I was told to go over first so I threw my changes of clothes over the fence and held the knife between my teeth and climbed over and got my pants caught on part of the fence and had to kind of boost myself up and lift from where I was caught off of the fence and fell into bushes on the other side of the fence and I was followed by the other three people.
Q: You say "other three people," you mean Tex, Patricia Krenwinkel  and Linda Kasabian?
A: Right.
Q: What happened next?
A: Then we were going to move forward in this direction.
Q: Toward the residence?
A: Toward the residence, and we saw lights coming from, apparently, this car.
Q: You say "this car." Are you referring to a little rectangle here that has "Parent's two-door Rambler, MPX 308"?
A: Right.
Q: Was this car in motion, would you say?
A: I didn't actually see the car, I just saw the headlights.
Q: Did the car appear to be in motion? 
A: Yes, it did.
Q: What happened next?
A: Tex told us girls to lie down and be still and not make a sound. He went out of sight.
Q: Did all three of you girls lie down and stay silent?
A: Yes.
Q: What happened next?
A: Tex went out of my sight and I heard him say, "Halt."
Q: Did you hear any voice other than that?
A: Yes, I heard a voice say –
Q: Was it a male voice?
A: Yes, it was. 
Q: Man or boy?
A: It was a male voice.
Q: What did the male voice say?
A: "Please don't hurt me, I won't say anything." And I heard a gunshot and I heard another gunshot and another one and another one.
Q: You heard four gunshots?
A: Yes.
Q: What happened next?
A: Tex came back to us and told us to come on. I saw him go to the car, which was not parked here. At the time, it was over here. [Referring to a diagram.]
Q: It was parked closer to the gate than it is right now on the diagram?
A: Yes, he reached inside, turned off the lights, and then proceeded to push the car to where it is parked here.
Q: On the diagram?
A: Yes. Susan Atkins Grand Jury Testimony (Kindle Locations 411-414). Kindle Edition.

Kasabian at Tate/LaBianca:

Q. What happened after you, Katie, Sadie, and Tex walked up the hill?
A. We climbed over --- we climbed over a fence and then a light started coming towards us and Tex told us to get back and sit down.

MR.KANAREK: Your Honor, I must object to what Tex said as to Mr. Manson, your Honor.
THE COURT: Overruled, subject to the same conditions as I have indicated previously. Are you able to go on, Mrs. Kasabian?

A. Yes I am. And a car pulled up in front of us and Tex leaped forward with a gun in his hand and stuck his hand with the gun at the man's head. And the man said, "Please don't hurt me, I won't say anything." And Tex shot him 4 times.
Q. Linda, you say when you saw the headlights coming, this was after you climbed over the fence?
A. Yes.
Q. And Tex told you to keep down when the headlights were coming?
A. Yes.

MR.KANAREK: Leading and suggestive, your Honor. [He’s actually wrong yet again. It is leading but not objectionable. Why?]
MR.BUGLIOSI: This is for clarification, your Honor. I believe she already testified to this. [He’s right.]
THE COURT: Overruled.

Q. Did you actually see Tex point the gun inside the window of the car and shoot the man?
A. Yes, I saw it clearly.
Q. About how far away were you from Tex at the time he shot the driver of the car?
A. Just a few feet.
Q. Was the driver's side of the car --- were you on the driver's side of the car or were you on the passenger side of the car?
A. The driver's side.
Q. Did you notice anyone else in the car other than the driver?
A. No.
Q. Did you see the driver?
A. Yes.
Q. After Tex shot the driver 4-times, what was the next thing that happened?
A. The man just slumped over. I saw that, and then Tex put his head in the car and turned the ignition off.
Q. Did the man slump to his left or to his right, if you recall?
A. Towards the passenger side to his right.
Q. Okay, what is the next thing that happened?
A. Tex put his hand in the car and turned the ignition off. He may have taken the keys out, I don't know. And then he pushed the car back a few feet and then we all proceeded towards the house.

Q. Now, did you climb directly over the gate, or how did you get over the gate?
A. We climbed a small embankment.
Q. You climbed over the embankment to the right of the gate?
A. Yes.
Q. All four of you?
A: Yes

Kasabian at Watson:

Q: What is the next thing that happened?
A: Let's see, we climbed up a small embankment, climbed through some barbed wire which was part of a fence, part of the gate.

Q: Once you, Tex, Katie and Sadie went over the front gate of the Tate residence, what is the next thing that happened?
A: Almost immediately after we all got through the fence some headlights started coming toward us and Tex sort of said, you know, "Get down," which we did and the car came right up to us and Tex had a gun in his hand and there was a man in the car and I saw his face, he wore glasses, and he said something about, "Please don't hurt me. I won't say anything." And Tex just shot him in the head four times.
Q: Where were you in relation to this car?
A: Right there, right -- the car was right here and I was five feet from it or something.
Q: Was the driver of the car fairly close to you?
A: Yeah.
Q: You were on the driver's side of the car then?
A: Yes.
Q: Just a couple of feet away?
A: Yes.
Q: And you saw Tex shoot this man?
A: Yes.
THE COURT: I think she said five feet away; is that right?
THE WITNESS: I don't know the exact feet.
MR. BUGLIOSI: I think I said a few feet away.

What does the physical evidence tell us?

The Embankment

Although Atkins’ testimony is a little confusing, the embankment is to the right of the gate. The image above shows the embankment the killers climbed to scale the fence. You can see, here, why they chose to climb the embankment. It is higher then the fence.

This image is the view from the embankment just at the fence looking directly towards the gate button inside the gate. The button is barely visible on the edge of the wall extending from the light pole near the pillar at the end of the wall. The gate is to the left, out of the picture. This is a pretty good representation of what Atkins and Kasabian could have seen (of course it was dark) immediately after crossing the fence from the embankment.

(This image was taken well after the crimes when barbed wire was added to the top of the gate.)

The view reveals two important pieces of information relevent to the event. The wall that ends at the gate button extends some distance from the embankment (to the right) out into the drive. The traffic lane is quite narrow here. It is a ‘choke point’ and the perfect location for an ambush. The wall appears to be at least ten feet in length given the width of the traffic lane. It appears to be about five feet tall at least at the pillar given the position of the gate button. If the foliage was present that night Steven Parent’s car would have been completely obscurred by the wall from this location unless he actually reached the gate button as the killers reached this location. We know that didn’t happen.

The wall can be seen in this image as well.

The wall is located just behind the gate and appears as a solid dark area ending at the lighter vertical line (the pillar). This image suggests that the area in front of the wall from this angle is the logical ‘landing zone’ after the killers climbed the fence. It provides perfect cover and is the ‘natural’ path.

This is another view of the wall, this time from inside the gate looking out. The car to the right suggests the width of the traffic lane at this point. The figures suggest the height of the wall and again it appears to be about ten feet in length. The wall is past the debre where four of the six figures are standing. (One has to wonder what these guys, except the one on the wall, are doing.)

This diagram was constructed by me from an arial view of the property probably taken either late on the 9th of August or perhaps even on the 10th or later. One police car stands guard. Steven Parent’s car has been removed and the investigators are gone. My ‘car’ symbol may be a little small given the size of the police car but its close enough for what I am trying to illustrate.

I assumed Steven Parent parked his car at location #1. It made sense to me. He would have been largely ‘out of view’ of the main house at that location and still in the common parking area with the other cars. Those cars likely would have drawn him to that location. It also seemed to line up with the damaged fence (where the blue lines meet the fence) on a fairly natural arc. He could have parked more to the left and next to the Firebird. He also could have parked at car location #6 and backed straight back into the fence. This location (#6) would also put his car completely out of sight from the house.

The other blue lines represent two paths Steven Parent could have taken to the gate. Again, precision is not necessary although the lines are probably pretty close.

The red lines represent two possible paths the killers took after crossing the fence reflecting the fact they either had to enter the driveway in front of the wall (between the gate and the wall) or behind the wall. 

“XXX” is the general area where Watson and the rest would have been had they immediately seen SP’s headlights after climbing over the fence as Kasabian claimed at the Watson trial. That is about the location in the picture above that looks towards the wall. This is clearly more then a ‘few feet’ from any possible location for Steven Parent's car. Therefore, if Kasabian is right about the distance, they were not at XXX.

“X” and “XX” mark two other locations where Atkins, Kasabian and Krenwinkel could have been located when Watson confronted Steven Parent. From these you can identify a myriad of other locations along the two routes. These locations (“X” and “XX”) however, put the three women close to Watson’s possible location. 

The yellow triangle is a representation of SP’s headlights and the yellow arc shows how they would have moved from top to bottom as he made his turn towards the gate. In order to avoid being exposed by the headlights Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins and Kasabian had to be somewhere in front of the wall near “X”.

Car location #2 places Steven Parent at the gate button. I believe the physical evidence makes it unlikely he was there when Watson confronted him. Why? Looking at the photo above from (thank you, by the way) from inside the gate looking out and the first photo, above, there doesn’t appear to be any room for Watson to stand next to the driver’s side door and attack Parent. The wall is higher and wider at the end where it forms the pillar about 5-6 feet tall and about two to three feet wide. The button is beyond the pillar closer to the gate but near the pillar. His car would be at most about 1-1.5 feet from the button (if not closer) and the pillar so he could reach it without getting out of the car. The pillar and the gate button, then would largely block access to the driver’s side window unless Parent was further from the wall and planned to exit the car to open the gate. Steven Parent would have also been stopped at that point rendering the command ‘Halt!’ rather meaningless.

Car loacation #3 assumes Watson stopped Steven Parent just before he approached the gate button. Watson would be at “A” approaching either from the “XX” or “X”. Location #3 seems to be the most likely scenario, especially if he approached from the cover of the wall from “X”. Steven Parent would have seen nothing until Watson stepped out from behind the wall. He would not have reached the button (and thus it would also be harder to push the button really fast and 'run'). An approach from “XX” would have exposed Watson to Steven Parent’s lights well before he reached the car.

Car loaction #4 assumes Watson intercepted Parent before he reached the button by an alternative route. This second route was chosen because it is as close as Parent can be to the retaining wall, bushes and trees along the drive to the right. The image from shows there were garbage cans and other debre (a wagon wheel?) lined and piled up behind the wall along that side of the drive. These are also visible in the diagram. The witnesses do not mention these items or climbing through or around them in their testimony. This suggests they were not in area “XX”.

Location #4 is actually close to where Steven Parent's Rambler was found the next morning. Given location #4 is also blocked from view from the street by the wall it is unlikely this was the route Steven Parent took if the killers (or Watson) did, in fact, push the car back up the drive and behind the wall out of sight where it came to rest. They wouldn’t have had to do that if he approached by this route. The configuration of the car’s wheels could suggest someone pushed the car and turned the wheels sharply to the left to steer it back behind the wall.

Under any scenario, there is, however, no location where Atkins and Kasabian could have been within 'a few feet' of Watson and actually observed the murder of Steven Parent from cover. To be within a few feet they have to be standing or crouching right next to Watson at either “A” or “B”.

The logical place for Atkins, Kasabian and Krenwinkel to have been located is either behind the wall at “X” or up on the embankment “XXX”. The problem with both of these locations is you likely can’t see the confrontation from either location, if you are crouching or ‘sitting down’, especially at night.

Between “XXX” and “X” I believe the better location is at “X”-behind the wall. At “XXX” they would not have seen Steven Parent’s car, especially at night. They also may not have been able to hear anything spoken unless one or both participants spoke loudly. Steven Parent, at least, did not, by witness testimony.

Conversely, if the three murderesses were sitting or crouched down near “X” and Watson confronted Steven Parent at “A” (car location #3) they still would not have been able to see him attack Steven Parent with a knife or stick the gun in the window and fire four times. At “X” they likely would have heard a good deal but would have seen very little.

……which is precisely what one of our two witnesses claimed.

Kasabian places herself within ‘a few feet’ of Watson and actually sees the attack. Even thenher testimony is not accurate. She doesn’t see the knife blow.

A:Tex told us girls to lie down and be still and not make a sound. He went out of sight.
Q: Did all three of you girls lie down and stay silent?
A: Yes.
Q: What happened next?
A: Tex went out of my sight and I heard him say, "Halt."
A: *****And I heard a gunshot and I heard another gunshot and another one and another one.
Q: You heard four gunshots?
A: Yes.
Q: What happened next?
A: Tex came back to us and told us to come on.

Atkins saw nothing, including the use of a knife but she heard the gunshots and the conversation. Her story makes sense based upon the physical evidence. It describes precisely what she could see and hear from near location “X” if she was hiding as instructed and Watson confronted Steven Parent at location #3 or “A”. In the midst of the attack Steven Parent may have cried out after being slashed with the knife if he had time but there would likely be no telltale sound that would alert Atkins to a knife attack.

Kasabian TLB:
Q. Did you actually see Tex point the gun inside the window of the car and shoot the man?
A. Yes, I saw it clearly.
Q. About how far away were you from Tex at the time he shot the driver of the car?
A. Just a few feet.

Kasabian at Watson:
Q: You were on the driver's side of the car then?
A: Yes.
Q: Just a couple of feet away?
A: Yes.
Q: And you saw Tex shoot this man?
A: Yes.

Kasabian claims she saw the whole thing from ‘a few feet away’. Then why didn’t she see Watson attack Steven Parent with a knife? The logical answer is that she, like Atkins, can’t describe that event because she didn't see it. How could she have later testified that she saw the young man wearing glasses in the car, slumped to the passenger side? The same way Atkins did. When she came up next to the car either before or when Watson (maybe with her help) pushed it backwards. This is the same way Atkins saw and coldly decribed Steven Parent’s body in her testimony.

That fence…..

Steven’s car caused the damage to the fence pictured below. The police concluded that the damage occurred as Steven was fleeing the scene trying to escape his attackers.

First Tate Homocide Investigation Progress Report:
Officers noted that the split-rail fence which runs to the north of the garage area was broken, and that scrape marks appeared, on the curb directly in front of the split-rail fence. The scrape marks and the break in the split-rail fence appeared fresh. A search of the undercarriage of Parent's car revealed similar scrape marks and concrete transfer. The rear bumper of the car also showed white paint transfer similar to that as on the split-rail fence.
The second theory is that as Parent left the Garretson residence he observed either part or all of the above-described crimes. He ran for his car, which was parked somewhere in the paved parking area of the property. He entered the car, backed it up at a high rate of speed, struck the curb and knocked down the split-rail fence previously described. He then turned the car in a westerly direction, and in an attempt to evade his pursuers turned the car at an odd angle toward the gate. At this point, he was caught and killed.”

Others have explained the fence by assuming Steven Parent was either a little tipsy from his one beer or just careless and backed into the fence while leaving. I even read one comment somewhere where the author suggested Steven and Garretson must have smoked some pot together. You can’t, however, explain the fence with just this assumtion. You have to make other assumptions. 

You have to assume Steven Parent decided not to go back and tell Garretson. You have to assume this happened either because Steven figured either he’d never see him again or that Steven would call him the next day and explain. But he’s 100’ feet away. Why not just stroll on back and fess up?

You also have to assume Steven failed to tell the people in the house because he wanted to avoid a confrontation or was intimidated like any teenager. This one I can buy and clearly he didn’t because no one was ‘alert’ when Watson entered the home.

There is another possibility but it also requires a lot of assumptions. If Steven’s car was parked at either location #1 or #6 and he was attacked while starting his car and trying to escape (by someone wielding a knife) it may have happened exactly like the Homocide Report states. But again, you have to make assumptions. Neither witness describes the attack on Steven Parent happening this way and no one subsequent to the trials did either. It is an intriguing idea, however-especially given the blood evidence- Watson runs out of the house to help someone stop Steven Parent from getting away, everyone counts heads and makes a dash for the doors when the guy with the gun is gone. This scenario does make the use of the gun, contrary to Manson's orders more of a panic situation. But this scenario has to assume everything in the official narrative is wrong. Atkins lied and Kasabian simply parroted Atkins.  As we will see, the later part of this assumption is possible.

Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

The fence, to me remains a mystery. I see no simple explanation that does not involve a host of assumptions. 

And about that knife….

Watson attacked Steven Parent with a knife. The autopsy report confirms a defensive wound.  Remember, neither witness saw this incident happen. We know it did but where did Watson get the knife?

Kasabian TLB:

Q. Were there any knives or guns in the car, Linda?
A. Yes, there was.
Q. How many knives and how many guns?
A. There were 3 knives and one gun.
Q. Did Tex then drive off?
A. Yes.
Q. Were there any knives in the car at that point?
A. Yes.
Q. How many?
A. Two knives and the gun.
Q. What about the knife which you brought to the ranch, the folding Buck knife?
A. That wasn't there. That was the knife Katie --- excuse me, Sadie --- left behind.
Q. You may continue, Linda. You drove off and what happened?
A. Then Tex told me to wipe off the prints from the knives.
Q. The two knives?
A. From the knives, the two knives. Yes.

Kasabian Watson:
Q: Were there any knives or guns in the car?
A: Yes.
Q: How many knives were in the car?
A: Three.
Q: One was the knife that you had; is that correct?
A: Yes.
Q: And there were two other knives in the car?
A: Yes.
Q: And who had those two knives?
A: Sadie and Katie.
Q: Did you see any knife on Tex's person?
A: No.
Q: What is the next thing that happened?
A: I don't know, we were driving up hills, up and down, winding, and then he told me to throw the knives out and I did.
Q: You say the knives. Are you referring to the two knives that were in the car?
A: Yes.
Q: You started out with three knives that night.
A: Yes.
Q: And you ended up with two knives?
A: Right.

Kasabian consistently says there were three knives when they arrived at Cielo Drive and two knives when they left. She reports throwing two knives out of the car. There is no fourth knife and Watson does not have a knife.

A fourth knife doesn’t make sense. Why would Watson order two of three murder weapons wiped for prints and thrown out the window and keep his own knife? In case the police pulled them over? A keepsake? 

Q: Did you and the others take anything with you when you left the Spahn Ranch on the evening of August the 8th, 1969?
A: There was a rope in the back seat of the car when I got in there. There was a set of bolt cutters in the back seat of the car. Tex had a gun. I had a knife.  Linda had a knife. Katie had a knife, and to my best knowledge I believe Tex had a knife. You will see why I am not sure whether he had or not, but it makes sense that he did.
Q: All three of you girls had a knife; is that correct?
A: Yes. 

Q: What happened when you reached Mulholland Drive? 
A: All we did was drive along and all of the weapons except for one weapon, I believe it was my knife, was handed to Linda who was sitting up in the front seat along with the gun and we drove along the road until we came to what looked like an embankment going down like a cliff with a mountain on one side and a cliff on the other.

Q: To your knowledge, then, she threw the bloody clothing –
A: Yes.
Q: -- away?
A: Yes.
Q: And what else, again?
A: All of the weapons except for one  knife.
Q: The gun and the knives?
A: Yes, I knew on the way down the hill that I had lost a knife. Susan Atkins Grand Jury Testimony (Kindle Locations 679-680). Kindle Edition.

Atkins is less clear whether Watson had a knife. She is admittedly unsure and bases her belief on what makes sense- in other words what follows: Watson wields a knife during the crime and she sees it. She does place all of the weapons in Kasabian’s hands before they were thrown from the car but never identifies how many knives Kasabian had before she threw them from the car.

Krenwinkel, per Kasabian, borrows Kasabian’s knife later in the story after the murder of Steven Parent. I suppose you could assume from this that Watson borrowed Krenwinkel’s knife before they climbed over the fence or just after, thus disarming her for some unexplained reason. Perhaps it was in response to seeing the headlights of Steven’s car and Manson’s possible admonition to not use the gun. But then Watson didn’t hesitate to use the gun. And neither witness apparently saw Watson borrow Krenwinkel’s knife.

Borrowing Krenwinkel's knife is only one of two ways Watson could have attacked Steven Parent with a knife. The other is if Watson had a fourth knife and Kasabian is wrong about the number of knives she threw out of the car. (I am relying primarily on the testimony of these two witnesses but in Watson's book, I Will Die For You he also identifies only three knives and never mentions having a fourth or borrowing a knife. He does admit attacking Steven Parent with a knife.)

From the testimony of the witnesses alone Watson didn't and couldn't have attacked Steven Parent with a knife. So who did? Kasabian, perhaps, standing 'a few feet' from Watson? She could see the entire assault if she was standing at "A". And she does go out of her way to disarm herself later in the story.

In the end this event takes another jab at Kasabian's credibility. The physical evidence does not appear to support her statements. Maybe to be more fair I should say the physical evidence more closely supports Atkins' testimony.

Returning a moment to the jury instruction: 

In evaluating a witness's testimony, you may consider anything that reasonably tends to prove or disprove the truth or accuracy of that testimony. Among the factors that you may consider are:

How well could the witness see, hear, or otherwise perceive the things about which the witness testified?

How reasonable is the testimony when you consider all the other evidence in the case?

Did other evidence prove or disprove any fact about which the witness testified?
Has the witness engaged in other conduct that reflects on his or her believability?

Was the witness promised immunity or leniency in exchange for his or her testimony?

Do not automatically reject testimony just because of inconsistencies or conflicts. Consider whether the differences are important or not. People sometimes honestly forget things or make mistakes about what they remember. Also, two people may witness the same event yet see or hear it differently.

 If you decide that a witness deliberately lied about something significant in this case, you should consider not believing anything that witness says. Or, if you think the witness lied about some things, but told the truth about others, you may simply accept the part that you think is true and ignore the rest.

Our natural tendency when confronted with Atkins as a witness is to disbeleive her. We should. She changes her story. Her lack of true remorse or feelings for her victims is readily apparent not only in 1969-71 but in the ways she decribes them in her first book, Child of Satan, Child of God.

Her only concern is for herself. This becomes quite evident in her second book written 40+ years after the crimes, TheMyth of Helter Skelter. Here her goals are clearly to take one last jab at Bugliosi and his book and set out her arguments for the unfairness of her circumstances when compared to Kasabian. By the way in that book she mentions her victims by name a total of 54 times. 49 of these are Sharon Tate. Of course she is also trying to prove she didn’t stab Sharon Tate. Voytek Frykowski gets two mentions and the rest, one.

That said, as to the murder of Steven Parent, Atkins’ testimony is closer to the objective evidence, again, then Kasabian. She tells the tale ‘best’.