• Religion Has ‘Freed’ Him, Watson Says

Religion Has ‘Freed’ Him, Watson Says

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Apr. 30 — Charles “Tex” Watson says he spent the first 23 years of his life chasing the all-American dream and the next five chasing after the devil.

Now Watson — the former Texas farm boy and high school football star who joined Charles Manson’s crazed family and then shot, stabbed and beat the seven victims of the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969 — has another pursuit now.

“I’m free in Jesus,” Watson, 32, said in an interview in the assistant pastor’s office behind the chancel of Plazaview Chapel at the California Men’s Colony.

“The Spirit of God has broken the bondage of my life to sin and now I’m free to rejoice and share his goodness and love with others.

“My life now is working for the lord and being used for the Lord.”

He says years went by after the killings before he felt any remorse over his bloody deeds. Now, with religion, he says there is remorse, and he suggests that out of the same Christian belief there should be forgiveness for him from the public.

“People are going to have to forgive,” he said. “Whether the Tates or Labiancas or whoever, the families have to forgive not only me, but everybody, or they’re not going to be forgiven.

“I don’t want to make too much out of telling the public to forgive me or else, but I feel that if you’re going to be a Christian you’ve got to forgive your Christian brother.”

Watson, his speech sprinkled with Biblical references and Christian colloquialisms, spends his time in the maximum security prison in coastal hills about 175 miles north of Los Angeles.

His office — a cubicle stacked with Bible commentaries, sermon tapes and Jesus posters – is his base for preparing sermons, counseling other inmates and directing witness and worship programs at the unusual prison church built around Chaplain Stanley McGuire’s conviction that convicts have the same spiritual needs and abilities as any other Christians.

“I feel the Lord has started a revival here,” Watson said. He says Baptist-styled chapel services are attended with enthusiasm in a world confined by walls and controlled by guards.

Watson, who was raised in a small Methodist church but was not religious to his youth, counts himself a chief part of that revival.

His enthusiasm was evident at a Thursday night praise and prayer meeting, when he preached an extemporaneous sermon to a group of 50 who had spent nearly an hour singing, clapping hands and praying together in the wood paneled chapel fronted by a mural of the Lord’s Supper painted by another inmate last December.

“I’m always going to be Tex Watson that murderer in the eyes of society,” he said in a down-home pulpit voice that rose in intensity with each phrase.

“But to God I’m going to be a child of the King.” He paused momentarily for a few Amens that increased in number and volume as he continued:

“I’m a child of the King and I’m headed to Gloryland. That’s where I’m headed – Praise God!”

Earlier that day, Watson gave a similar but quieter appraisal of his past and future.

One of the first things that changed after his conversion experience three years ago – “when I just repented of my sins and gave my life to the Lord” – was his consuming drive to get out of jail.

“If I sit here and want to get out and work to get out and do this and that and connive to get out,” he explained, “I think I’d just get out of the will of God.

“Of course I’d like to get out of prison, but that’s not my No. 1 priority any more. Now the lord is No. 1 and getting to know Him better.

“If God wants to use me here, then I want him to use me here. If he wants to use me on the outside, then He’ll use me on the outside.

“But someday I believe God will put me out in the streets again, and when He does I will continue to live in the will of God and witness. Once I do get out I just want to be able to testify for the Lord.”

Watson has written a book recounting his life with the Manson Family and his role in the Tate Murders, that went on sale this month.

The book’s title, “Will You Die for Me?” is the question Manson asked him several months before the grisly slayings while holding a knife to his throat at the Spahn Movie Ranch.

“Sure, Charlie, you can kill me,” Watson replied.

He meant it, he insists, because he had completely given over his emotions and his actions to Manson’s control. He also suggests that the man he once idolized was, and may still be, possessed by demons.

“I feel Manson was possessed,” Watson said, “and I think I was possessed by the same spirit that Charles Manson was possessed by.

“The psychiatrists call it a shared madness. That is, we were all one in the devil. And we did what the devil said to do.

“I’m not blaming it on him, of course, or on evil spirits. I yielded myself to it so I take the blame. I was giving myself completely to him and doing what he wanted me to do. And the result of that was death – all those murders, and I got destroyed as well.

“At the time I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was doing it for a cause that would lead to peace and happiness in the bottomless pit – eternal life.”

Watson, who felt himself strangely drawn to Manson for sometime after the slayings, says he is no longer attracted or terrified by the man he once followed slavishly.

“As the Spirit leads me,” he adds, “I pray for Charles Manson.”

Watson says he has no direct contact with former family members, though he does receive a form letter sent out by Susan Atkins, another born-again family member who has written a similar book, “Child of Satan, Child of God.”

Watson realizes there are doubts about his new religious convictions.

“I find that people have to be with me and get to know me, so The Spirit can bear witness that were Christians,” he says.


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4 Responses to Religion Has ‘Freed’ Him, Watson Says

  1. Sean K. says:

    I find it appalling that a mass murderer would come out nine years after his horrifying rampage, and just three years after his conversion to Christianity, to demand forgiveness from society. A bit presumptuous wouldn’t you say? Would you want to be led in worship by a man who looked into the terrified and pleading eyes of a pregnant woman and then mercilessly stabbed her to death as she screamed for her mother? Not to mention his six other victims. Would you invite Jack the Ripper to dinner?

  2. Joe D says:

    Dont believe a WORD he says !!!

    This man should never walk free EVER AGAIN……

  3. Ericosa says:

    He went from one shared madness to another one.

  4. Rebecca O. says:

    As a former worker as a correctional officer, this is typical of almost ALL inmates. Why you ask? Because there is nothing better to do with all that time BUT get into the Bible and religion. Just a phase. He is a lowlife as Manson was and the rest of the murderers.

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