Monday, July 10, 2017

A Look At the Evidence #4: The Rope

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

On the morning of August 10, 1969 as law enforcement swarmed over 10050 Cielo Drive they discovered, among other things, a rope that was looped twice around Sharon Tate’s neck. The rope then ran over to the body of Jay Sebring and around his neck. One end trailed off from Jay Sebring on the floor. The other end ran from Sharon Tate over one of the beams in the living room.

One end of this rope led to the press and the official narrative to claim Sharon Tate was hung. The other end is one of the more curious aspects of the crime scene.

Officer Joseph Granado described what he saw when he arrived at the scene and even drew a diagram of the scene, which became People’s Exhibit 196.

Bugliosi: I am referring to People’s 194 for identification and also People’s 41 for identification. What type of rope is it?
A: That is three major strand.
Q: It has three strands?
A: Yes.
Q: What material?
A: I found it to be nylon.
Q: So it is three-strand nylon rope; is that correct?
A: Yes.
Q: Now, when that rope was in one piece, and you say it was 43 feet some inches, could you describe the manner in which the rope was tied around Jay Sebring and Sharon Tate?
A: I brought some rope from the laboratory to try to show this.
The rope around Sharon Tate was looped a couple of time around her neck in this manner.
This end here was tied, and it went toward the direction of Sebring.
This end was over a beam, with the end of the rope just touching the floor of the residence.
The other part of the rope that went from Sharon Tate to Sebring went around Sebring’s neck twice, and then wound inward thusly, forming a type of knot that was holding tight onto the neck of Jay Sebring.

Unfortunately, we do not have the benefit of Granado’s demonstration or Exhibit 196.

One End of the Rope: Sharon Tate and the Rope

The first homicide report says:

“There was dried blood smeared over the entire body. It appeared to investigating officers that someone had handled the victim, as in moving her from one location to another and the blood from the stab wounds had been smeared over other parts of the body.”
(Tate First Homicide Investigation Progress Report)

This means the collective opinion of decades of police experience told the detectives viewing the scene that Sharon Tate’s body had moved. There is more then one way that could have happened. One possibility is that after she had passed her body moved, perhaps a result of a rope?

Thomas Naguchi, the coroner to the stars had already made a name for himself in the death of Marilyn Monroe and the assassination of Robert Kennedy. He was present at the scene.

Q : So, part of your opinion that Sharon Marie Polanski was hanged prior to her death is based on your observations at the scene?
A: Yes.
Q: Are you able to answer my question whether or not, in your opinion, Sharon Polanski was suspended by a rope with her full body weight before death?
A: I believe I would be able to answer your question.
Q: Would you please? What is your opinion?
A: I would be glad to.

I believe, based on the wound findings on the left side of the cheek and the way the rope was tied at the scene that I personally observed, the way the rope was placed over the beam of the living room, I would form the opinion that Miss Sharon Tate had been suspended, perhaps not too long a period, but perhaps a partial suspension for a short time.

As to whether or not this was caused after death or before death—it is of a light reddish, and I believe that the suspension was caused during the agonal stage.

Q: I didn’t hear that last word.
A: Agonal stage; during the dying process.
Q: All right. Continue, please. Finish if that is not the conclusion.
A: I might elaborate further.
Q: Would you please?
A: My opinion of a possible short time suspension was based on the lack of severe constriction of the ligature or rope mark, only a mere rope burn, and the rope burn was placed in such a manner it shows around the curvature of the left cheek bone, which gives the impression that the friction was caused by pulling upward; that is, upward in the sense if the decedent’s body were placed in a standing position.

[Aside: who do you think asked these questions?]
Q: Do you have a medical opinion as to how these two rope burns were caused?
A: Yes, I do have an opinion.
Q: What is that opinion?
A: In my opinion, from the appearance of the abrasion, the decedent must have been—the appearance of the abrasions is totally consistent with the rope, a contacting the left cheek—and it is my opinion that the rope was contacted firmly, giving a great deal of traction and it is quite consistent in my opinion that that the decedent was hanged.
Q: That what was hanged?
Mr. Kanarek: Your Honor, I ask that be stricken because at this point there is no foundation in the evidence for this particular opinion.
Mr. Bugliosi: Your Honor, he is giving a medical opinion. I don’t know who else is more qualified than the Coroner.
Mr. Kanarek: Because he said it is consistent. It could be consistent with other hypotheses. It must be in the record.
Court: Sustained.

[Aside: The second quoted testimony is by Bugliosi on direct examination. When the court rules during Bugliosi’s direct examination there is no evidence before the jury that Sharon Tate was hung. None. The evidence has been stricken. And Bugliosi never goes back to the subject in his direct examination.

The detailed questions, first, above, are by Fitzgerald on cross examination. What was Fitzgerald thinking? One can only imagine the look on Bugliosi’s face when Fitzgerald headed off down this road and placed squarely before the jury that Sharon Tate was hung by the defendants and that she was hung while she was dying.

One might also ask what happened to Kanarek? He obviously wanted to keep this out on direct examination . Why isn’t he leaping up to object? How about Shinn? His client was there. Hughes? Fitzgerald just managed to tell the jury his client tried to hang Sharon Tate as she was dying.]

Naguchi didn’t say this happened when he was before the Grand Jury.

Q: Doctor, when you first saw the body of the person depicted in Exhibit 23 did it have that rope around the neck as shown in that photograph?
A: Yes.
Q: Did you examine that rope to determine the tightness of the rope?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did it appear to cause any type of strangulation? Was there any abrasion about the neck or any scarring from the rope?
A: On the neck there was no indication of strangulation, no, sir.

Naguchi during his testimony frequently only answers what he is asked (look at the testimony at the top). He is very careful. He avoids offering anything. At the Grand Jury he doesn’t answer whether there was an abrasion on Sharon Tate’s neck. He answers the first question. He also wasn’t asked whether he thought she had been hung.

Naguchi’s opinion is based upon two things (1.) her appearance at the scene (including the rope) and (2.) the appearance of the abrasions.

At the Watson trial Naguchi is somewhat clearer in his testimony but is still relying on the appearance of the abrasions on Sharon Tate’s neck.

Buglisoi: What is that opinion?
A: In my opinion, since the interrupted dark, red abrasion are around the left cheekbone and following the curvature of the cheekbone back to the ear, and the second abrasion was close to the abrasion I explained to you, II would say that it is totally consistent, these abrasions to be cuased by constriction and suspension.
Q: You are saying, then, that these two abrasions, these two rope burns, are consistent with the conclusion that Sharon Tate was, in fact, suspended in the air—
A: Yes.
Q: --for a period of time?
A: Yes.
Q: But there was a period, in your opinion, when her body actually left the ground?
A: Oh, yes.

And on cross examination Naguchi stops short of saying the incident occurred while Sharon Tate was dying.

A: ---I shouldn’t say underneath, but below the cheekbone and the abrasion is a dark red. That means it occurred while the person was alive, that the blood oozes out after the scraping of the skin is completed and the position of the rope is consistent with the abrasions that are shown in the picture.

Of course, Sharon Tate being hung while she was dying is contradicted by the eyewitnesses.


ATKINS: *****And I went into Sharon Tate’s room and told them to go out in the living room. And the three of them were pretty much terrified by what was going on. And Tex took the rope and tied it to Sebring and Tate together and put the rope over the —
PAUL CARUSO: What did he throw over the beam? Did he throw the rope over the beam and then tie them?
SUSAN ATKINS: No, he tied them up and then pulled it tight, and then threw it over so they couldn’t move either way.
RICHARD CABALLERO: What did they pull over her head?
SUSAN ATKINS: They didn’t put anything over their heads. They didn’t have anything over their heads when we left, except Sharon Tate – I threw a towel over her head.
RICHARD CABALLERO: When you threw the towel over her head, was her head near Sebring’s?
SUSAN ATKINS: Sebring and Sharon Folger —
SUSAN ATKINS: Sharon Tate was laying curled up near the couch and Sebring was coming out this way from the fireplace and their heads were probably close together.
RICHARD CABALLERO: I know the incident about the towel that you were relating to Mr. Caruso, but what I want to ask you is when you did so —
SUSAN ATKINS: I didn’t even look – I just threw it.
RICHARD CABALLERO: So, could it have fallen therefore over Jay Sebring’s head as well?
(Atkins Interview by Caballero and Caruso, December 1, 1969- thanks to

A: And then he tied up Jay Sebring.
Q: “He” you are talking about….
A: Tex tied up Jay Sebring and Abigail Folger and Sharon Tate.
Q: What part of the body did he tie?
A: The neck.
Q: What did he tie them up with?
A: A rope.
Q: This was the rope that was in the car?
A: Yes.
Q: And then after he tied up Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring and Abigail Folger with the rope around their necks did he do anything with the rope?
A: Yes, he threw it over a high beam which he pulled which made Sharon and Abigail stand up so that they wouldn’t be choked to death and then—
(Susan Atkins’ Grand Jury Testimony from

“Tex took the rope he had brought and tied it around the necks of all three. He threw the end over one of the living room beams and pulled it tight, forcing each of them to stand erect or choke.
Suddenly Frykowski, still tied about the neck, but free of the towel around his hands, grabbed me and we began to struggle. Apparently the rope over the beam pulled loose and we fell to the floor, rolling and twisting.”
(Slosser, Bob; Atkins, Susan. Child of Satan, Child of God (p. 140). Menelorelin Dorenay’s Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

“I had already tied Frykowski's hands behind him with one end of the rope we'd brought and now I dragged the rope over to Sebring and tied him, while Sadie tied a towel around Frykowski's wrists according to my instructions. I wrapped the rope around Sebring's neck and then slung it up over one of the rafters that ran across the room and supported a loft above the fireplace. When I started to tie the rope around Sharon's neck, Sebring struggled forward in the chair he was seated in beside the fireplace, shouting for me to be careful of her.
(Will You Die For Me by Charles Watson as told to Chaplain Ray Hoekstra)

Q: Did you carry a rope up the hill or into the house?
A: No, I did not.
Q: Did you tie any people up in that house?
A: No, I did not.
Q: Did you throw a rope over a rafter or anything of that nature?
A: No, I did not.
(Watson’s trial testimony- of course we know we can’t rely upon anything he said at the trial, which really renders anything he ever says- suspect.)

If we assume the eyewitnesses are correct their story should be corroborated by the Sharon Tate and Abigail Folger’s autopsy reports.

In Folger’s autopsy report the following is noted:

“On the right neck about mid-lateral is a series of three bluish swollen contusions one measuring about 1 inch, one about 1-1/2 inch and the other about 1-1/4 inches in maximum diameter.”

These appear to be three distinct bruises and not the type of wound (abrasion) a rope would cause on the right side of her neck. If the rope went over the beam between them and Abigail was to Sharon’s right facing the fireplace this might make sense but is inconsistent with Abigail’s movements when chaos ensued- moving to her left towards the bedrooms, which would cause her to pass in front of Sharon. And the wound is wrong, meaning it is unlikely this incident, as described by our eyewitnesses is accurate.

Sharon Tate’s autopsy report contains the following information, which formed the basis for Naguchi’s opinion.

“The left side of the face discloses a somewhat linear but slightly curved interrupted slightly irregular abrasion, associated with ecchymosis.

Two abrasions are situated in a horizontal fashion. The upper abrasion measures 2-1/2 inches and the lower 1-1/2 inches. A careful examination of the abrasions reveal interrupted dark red superficial recent loss of epidermis. The upper abrasion extends from the left naris to the lower edge of the zygomatic bone. The abrasion extends slightly upward along the curvature of the posterior aspect of the zygomatic bone. The lower abrasion is on a level of the left side of the maxillary. The left side of the neck shows a faint superficial abrasion, measuring 3 inches across the lateral aspect of the neck to the occipital area. This abrasion shows minute irregular skin peeling, suggesting this may be caused by fingernail scraping.”

[Aside: ecchymosis- Bleeding into the skin can occur from broken blood vessels that form tiny red dots (called petechiae). Blood also can collect under the tissue in larger flat areas (called purpura), or in a very large bruised area (called an ecchymosis). A serious wound others have seen as a cut or 'gash' to her face.]

Could Naguchi actually conclude that the injury occurred during the agonal stage (while Sharon Tate

was dying)?

Was there time? Naguchi testified at the Grand Jury that Sharon Tate may have survived her fatal wounds by 10-15 minutes. In relation to other victims he repeated this estimate at the trial. So it could have occurred.

But could he actually determine the timing?

One think that bothers me is not knowing whether Naguchi was aware of Susan Atkins’ story. If he wasn’t he could easily conclude that Sharon Tate had been hung  from the injuries and the crime scene. But that doesn’t answer the ultimate question. This incident is significant because the claim, repeated at parole hearings is that an attempt was made to hang Sharon Tate while she was dying.

From the research I have done I believe the answer is ‘No’.

“If the wound was obviously inflicted on a living individual, the injured tissues,
mainly skin, will show the typical inflammatory response as summarized by Legrand du Saulle
in the past century (3) (Table 1). Conversely, if the wound was inflicted on a deceased
individual, these macroscopic features will be absent due to the absence of a vital reaction. If the
wound was inflicted close to the moment of death, it can be difficult to make such a diagnosis.
It is well established that there is no exact boundary between life and death. The period between
life and cellular death is variable and depends on factors such as the cause of death, individual
susceptibility, and duration of pain, among others. Furthermore, different tissues die at different
rates depending on their ability to support anoxia. If, during the period between life and cellular
death, the body suffers any insult, a vital-like reaction may be seen, although usually it is of
reduced intensity. This reaction has been called an "agony reaction" or "intermediate reaction."
It is indicative of the lack of precision of the tissue reaction and results in uncertainty as to the
diagnosis of wound vitality. For this reason, it is difficult to differentiate between the vital or
postmortem origin of injuries sustained close to the moment of death. Tourdes (1-3) described
an "uncertainty period" of approximately 6 hours around the time of death in which it is not
possible to establish the vital or postmortem origin of a wound.
The goal of many forensic researchers has been to shorten this period. Many new techniques
have been applied during the last century. After using macroscopic methods exclusively, optic
microscopy was applied to allow recognition of early vital reaction changes, especially those
derived from a cellular response during the acute inflammatory reaction.
These studies have significantly contributed to reduction of the "uncertainty period" described
by Tourdes. Development of immunochemistry, histochemistry, enzymology, and biochemistry
techniques and the application of these methods since the 1960s are responsible for the present
status of diagnostic ability. The uncertainty period has been reduced to minutes.”

Hernández-Cueto, Claudio M.D., Ph.D.; Girela, Eloy M.D., Ph.D.; Sweet, David J. D.M.D., Ph.D., Advances in the Diagnosis of Wound Vitality: A Review. American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology, April 2000)

The problem is Naguchi didn’t perform any of the techniques identified in the article above. He relied solely upon what he observed. That methodology for dating wounds has been largely discredited. Multiple studies have arrived at vastly different conclusions regarding the appearance of abrasions and bruises that occur ante-mortem, during the agonal stage and post mortem. In fact, those studies even suggest that the whole notion of post mortem injury identification is not reliable without special techniques noting that physiological changes that one would expect only ante-mortem can continue for up to six hours after death. (Dr. P. Vanezis, “Interpreting Bruising at Necropsy”, Journal of Clinical Pathology, Volumne 54, Issue 5, 2001)

That is why the scientific techniques referenced in the 'Hernandez' article have been developed: because observation is unreliable in dating wounds.

Despite all that what I have learned is that the abrasions to Sharon Tate’s neck and cheek are not consistent with the eyewitness statements.  If Sharon and Abigail were both forced to stand to avoid being choked they should both have similar marks and they would not be the more severe abrasion identified by Naguchi- their ability to stand would have prevented ecchymosis.

Conclusion: There is no reliable evidence that the killers attempted to hang Sharon Tate 'while she was dying'. There is, however, reliable evidence and it is highly probable that she was, indeed, suspended off the ground by the rope for some period of time despite the fact no eyewitness admits this happened, whether this occurred ante or post mortem is unknown. 

[Aside: it is interesting that during his 1978 parole hearing Watson does not refute Kay saying they hung Sharon Tate after she was dying. He corrects other parts of Kay’s recitation but not that event, an event in a parole hearing, that is fairly shocking.

The Other End of the Rope: Jay Sebring and the Rope.

In my opinion, the rope around Jay Sebring is one of the more intriguing aspects of the physical evidence.

As stated I am not going to post crime scene photos of the victims. However, if you review the one ‘whited out’ in Helter Skelter and the grainy black and what photo of Sebring with the towel pulled back (taken at the scene) you will see with your own eyes that the following witnesses are absolutely correct.


A: This rope was over a towel which was over his head.
Q : Mr. Sebring’s head had a towel over it?
A: Yes, Covering his face.
Q: And then the rope was on top of the towel?
A: That is correct.
Q: This towel which was around Jay Sebring’s head when you first arrived on the scene, did it completely cover his face?
A: Yes.
Q: Did it completely cover his head?
A: Yes.


Q: Was a towel around the male’s neck or face when you arrived at the scene?
A: Yes, it was at the time.
Q: Covering his whole face?
A: Yes, it was, yes.
The Court: May I see that? [People’s Exhibit 107- picture of Sebring]

The rope was over the towel. The towel was wrapped completely around Jay Sebring’s head. This could not be an amazing towel toss by Atkins. Someone ‘staged’ this and no witness admits it. Look at the eyewitness statements above. There is no mention of this scenario- a rope over the towel around Sebring’s head. For me this fact, which is not contradicted by anything I have ever seen, conveys three things.

Notice that it is Sebring and Tate that were together on the rope. As far as any one of the murderers knew those two were ‘together’. They were sitting together in a fairly intimate setting (on the bed, Sharon less then fully clothed) talking together when they were discovered. And Sebring sought to defend Sharon. Is it a stretch to conclude the killers would tie them together and then, perhaps try to hang them from the rafters?

Bugliosi thought so and Danny DeCarlo said so and testified to it.

“One question remained unanswered. Why, on the night of the Tate murders, did the killers bring along 43 feet 8 inches of rope? To tie up the victims? Manson accomplished this the next night with a single leather thong. I obtained a glimpse of a possible answer during one of my interviews with DeCarlo. According to Danny, in late July of 1969, Manson had told him that the establishment pigs “ought to have their throats cut and be hung up by their feet.” This would really throw the fear into people, Manson said. The logical inference, I felt, was that the killers brought along the rope intending to hang their victims. It was only a guess, but I suspected it was correct.”

Bugliosi, Vincent; Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (p. 329). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Second, to me it is obvious, the killers spent more time ‘staging the scene’ then they admit. I am aware some will argue ‘Manson came back to the scene’. My response is three-fold (1.) there wasn’t time (that has been covered elsewhere) (2.) why would Manson connect Tate with Sebring? He wasn’t there during the murders and (3.) Manson’s explanation of the glasses is scientifically impossible and is key to his explanation.

The glasses are usually an integral part of the ‘Manson returned’ storyline because Manson said somewhere that his ‘partner’ had some glasses they used to start fires at the ranch and they left them there. The problem, Charlie, is that it’s the wrong kind of glasses.

There are two main types of corrective lenses: Converging lenses and diverging lenses. Diverging lenses, which are used to correct nearsightedness, bend the light further away from the focal point, while converging lenses, which correct farsightedness, bend the light towards the focal point.

As a result, if you are nearsighted, your glasses won't help you start a fire, because they are actually dispersing the light instead of focusing it.

“On 9-4-69, officers also contacted the Los Angeles County Optometric Society, 2411 West 8th Street, Doctor Wayne W. Hoeft, president (Office 5554 Santa Monica Boulevard). Doctor Hoeft gave permission for investigators to send him approximately 1300 Los Angeles Police Department bulletins describing the physical makeup and description of the glasses found at the crime scene. Additionally, he personally examined these glasses and verified investigators' earlier information as to the type of lens and frame of the glasses. He stated he personally felt, because of the curve of the ear pieces, that the owner of the glasses had a small round head and probably the left ear was approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch higher on the head than the right ear. The doctor further stated that the concerned individual was myopic and very definitely needed the glasses in his possession to see normally.”
(Second (Tate) Homicide Investigation Progress Report)

‘Myopic’ means ‘nearsighted’. Sorry Charlie.

Third, I believe the staging of Sebring shoots a pretty fatal hole in the copycat and drug burn motives. Ask yourself: under which motive would staging a hanging or even staging Sebring make sense regardless of who did it?

Why bring 43 feet of rope? Why not cut it into 5 foot sections if you want to tie someone up? Even if you don’t know how many people are in the house how does one strand of 43 feet help you? And notice, they didn’t tie anyone up with the rope, they used towels. So what was the rope for? I believe Bugliosi is correct, the rope was intended to be a ‘prop’ and used precisely how it was used- to stage hangings- and that to me says Helter Skelter.

Copycat: there was no rope, let alone a hanging scenario at Hinman and Manson knew that and so did Atkins. She was at Hinman the whole time and present at Cielo. Far from furthering a connection to Hinman the rope and the ‘hooded’ towel scream: ‘different crime’. Not even these guys under Manson's leadership could be that stupid. Right? I mean 'no rope' at Hinman.

Drug burn: well, someone who follows this one will have to explain how putting the rope around Sebring’s neck, over the towel can have any connection to a drug burn because I can’t imagine one especially if my two ‘dealers’ are Sebring and Frykowski: why include Sharon? Why set it up like a hood and then wrap the rope around the towel?

Answer: Helter Skelter and hanging 'pigs' from the rafters. 

Pax Vobiscum