Committed Accused Tate Slayer Was Texas Town Hero in ’64
Sunday, November 1st, 1970
McKINNEY, Tex., Nov. 1 – There he stood on the jailhouse steps, his darkness-accustomed eyes blinking at the bright sunlight he hadn’t seen in months.
This was Charles Watson, football hero, basketball hero, track star, “most versatile student” of 1964.
It was Sept. 12 and the 6 foot 4 Watson was flanked by two Los Angeles homicide officers preparing to take him back to California.
In that state, the All-America boy type is accused of being the hatchet man in the Tate-LaBianca murders that shocked the nation. A witness testified he killed six of the seven victims for whose deaths hippie leader Charles Manson and three women are on trial.
Friday they put Watson away – his mind gone, a human vegetable near death.
Watson is 24 years old.
Last Sept. 12 a hundred or so bystanders gathered to watch officers take him away.
Watson appeared nervous as he stood in his new blue blazer, gray trousers, striped shirt and maroon tie. His black shoes neatly polished, Watson shuffled his feet slightly as the officers paused for the photographers clustered around the steps.
A wry smile crossed his face as someone in the crowd exclaimed softly, “Look! there he is!”
Except for brief appearances in the nearby county courthouse, Watson had spent all his time in the jail since he was arrested last December in the bizarre slayings of Miss Sharon Tate and six others in August 1969.
His lawyer, Bill Boyd, waged a lengthy battle against extradition, contending the youth could not get a fair trial in California because of public exposure to the facts.
Boyd took the appeal all the way to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, who rejected Watson’s plea.
Superior Court Judge George Dell on Friday ordered Watson committed to a California institution and said the young Texan would not stand trial unless he regains sanity.
Dr. Marcus Craham told the judge that Watson “is literally becoming a vegetable. He is being fed by nasal tube. He is rapidly reverting to a fetal state…which would be rapidly fatal.”
After he arrived in Los Angeles, Watson lost weight – from 160 to 110 pounds – jail officials said, and added, “There is a serious possibility he could die from malnutrition.”
Watson spent his time quietly in the double cell in the Collin County jail, McKinney authorities recalled.
“He never had much to say,” a jailer said the day Watson was moved to California. “He watched television and read the newspaper. I think he paid more attention to the sports pages.”
“This boy was raised in the church house,” said Sheriff Tom Montgomery, who is Watson’s second cousin. “Why, his mother and dad are the finest people you’ll ever meet. It’s awful hard for people around here to think he could ever have done the stuff he’s accused of doing.”
Montgomery said Watson was a good prisoner in McKinney.
“Sometimes I think he didn’t know he was there,” the sheriff added.
When Watson and the Los Angeles detectives began walking down the steps to a patrol car, a young girl thrust a bouquet of flowers toward the prisoner.
One of the detectives blocked the flowers with his elbow and a briefcase.
Watson crawled into the car and was driven away perhaps forever from the scene of youthful triumphs.