Sharon Tate’s Pleas for Mercy Told to Manson Trial Jurors
Saturday, October 10th, 1970
SAYS MISS ATKINS TOLD HER OF KILLING SHARON TATE: Mrs. Virginia Castro, 37, talks to photographers as she waits to testify in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial in Los Angeles Friday. Mrs. Castro, who says she has used several other names including Virginia Graham, said Miss Atkins once admitted she was the killer of Sharon Tate and said “it was quite a thrill.” Mrs. Castro said the long-haired brunette defendant confessed to her while they were in jail together last year.
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 10 – “Look, you might as well face it now, you’re going to die…”
These were the last words actress Sharon Tate heard in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 1969, a prosecution witness said as she related a story which she claimed was told her by 22-year-old Susan Atkins.
Virginia Graham, a 37-year-old attractive redhead, sat calmly on the witness stand at the Tate-LaBianca murder trial and told other things which she said Miss Atkins related to her nearly three months after the murders.
Miss Atkins, Miss Graham said, claimed that she killed Sharon Tate as the pregnant blonde actress cried: “Please, please, don’t kill me. I just want to have my baby.”
Miss Graham’s testimony was introduced only after lengthy arguments over its admissibility by attorneys for Miss Atkins, hippie chief Charles Manson and two other female defendants on trial for the killings.
Trial Judge Charles H. Older only moments before had denied a defense motion to sever Miss Atkins’ trial on the basis that Miss Graham’s testimony would prejudice the jury against the other defendants.
The jurist, instead, told the seven men and five women trying Manson and the others that the testimony could only be considered against Miss Atkins and was not to be used in any regard toward the other defendants.
Manson, Miss Atkins and the other defendants were not present in court to listen to the testimony although they heard it by loud speaker as they sat in their rooms elsewhere in the Hall of Justice.
The defendants had been excluded from the courtroom every day last week following Manson’s lunge at Judge Older on Monday.
Miss Graham said Miss Atkins was “reliving” the murders as she told her story in fact, the witness testified, Miss Atkins seemed to be “enjoying it.”
The witness also testified that Miss Atkins told her that she had blood on her hands after the murders, which occurred at Miss Tate’s rented Benedict Canyon estate.
She testified that Miss Atkins said she tasted the blood on her hands and claimed: “To taste death and still give life, wow, what a trip.”
Miss Graham continued that the accused murderess added that she “wanted to take out their (the victims) eyes and squash them against the wall and cut off their fingers,” but she didn’t have time.
Miss Atkins also said, the witness claimed, that when she thrust a knife into the victims it “felt soft and it was quite a thrill.”
Miss Graham, who was quite calm as she told the gory story, said Miss Atkins related to her that she did not know anyone at the house.
However, the witness added that Miss Atkins told her that the actress was the last to die.
She testified that Miss Atkins said after the murders: “She was tired, but she felt elated and at peace with herself.”
Miss Graham said she asked the young woman if she was concerned about relating this story.
“She said she knew how to play crazy and how to act like a little girl and she had an alibi anyway,” the witness added
Miss Graham said there was “absolutely no remorse — nothing” when Miss Atkins told her the story.
Manson, Miss Atkins and codefendant Patricia Krenwinkel are on trial for the Aug. 9, 1969, slayings of Miss Tate and five others and the murders the next day of market owner Leno LaBianca and his wife.
The remaining codefendant Leslie Van Houten, is charged only with the LaBianca slayings, although she has been accused with conspiracy in connection with all the murders.
Later, Miss Atkins was brought into the courtroom so Miss Graham could identify her as the woman she had spoken with last November at Sybil Brand Institute. Miss Atkins was jailed there a few days before in connection with another homicide case.
Miss Graham identified Miss Atkins, wearing prison blues, as the person who told her the story of the murders.
“Why don’t you take off your wig and put on your face?” Miss Atkins shouted at the startled witness.
Miss Graham mumbled something in response as the accused murderess was being led back out of the courtroom, but it was inaudible to spectators.
Miss Graham testified that she is married and her married name is Mrs. Virginia Castro. She works as a clerk in an attorney’s office.
The witness said she was sent to Sybil Brand in October 1969 on a petty theft charge and later went to the California Institute for Women in Corona because she had had a prior conviction.
She is on parole.
Miss Graham said she first talked to Miss Atkins, whom she knew at that time as “Sadie Glutz,” on Nov. 2, 1969.
She said she and Miss Atkins delivered messages for authorities at Sybil Brand and lived in a 60-bed dormitory at the institute.
The witness testified that she felt sorry for Miss Atkins because other inmates would laugh at her and make fun of her name.
She said the accused murderess was “singing and dancing all the time…and didn’t seem to fit a place like that.”
Miss Graham said the conversation about the Tate murders was preceded by a discussion she and Miss Atkins had concerning LSD, a psychedelic drug.
All of a sudden, Miss Graham said, Miss Atkins told her that police were on the “wrong track” in the Tate case.
“You know who did it, don’t you? Well, you’re looking at her,” Miss Graham claims she was told.
The witness had said earlier that she first told her story to authorities on Nov 26, 1969, after she got to Corona.
Miss Atkins also allegedly told another Sybil Brand inmate about the murders and she, too, was expected to testify. The second woman, Ronnie Howard, 31, reportedly told authorities about Miss Atkins’ conversation prior to Miss Graham.
It was the story from the two women about the discussion which led police to arrest members of Manson’s cult the first of December.
Manson and the others were indicted by the County Grand Jury a few days later — after Miss Atkins testified.
Miss Graham’s testimony had been carefully edited by the judge and all attorneys involved so as to delete references to the other defendants.
The deletions were made on the basis of Supreme Court rulings which allow such a procedure.
Earlier, a newspaper story which claimed that the Manson family had planned the torture murder of many famous persons prompted a bitter attack on the journalism profession by lawyers for the cult chief and his three female followers.
“I think it was one of the most incredible, irresponsible pieces of journalism in the history of this city,” said defense lawyer Paul J. Fitzgerald as he discussed the article, which appeared Friday in the Herald-Examiner.
It was learned that Fitzgerald in chambers Friday morning moved for a mistrial based on the prejudicial nature of the Herald-Examiner story. The motion was denied, however, sources disclosed.
In the copyrighted story, it was claimed that a planned prosecution witness at the Tate-LaBianca murder trial had told authorities that codefendant Miss Atkins told her of the planned murders of Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Steve McQueen and other celebrities
Fitzgerald, who said he was “shocked” at the article, noted since the story dealt with some of the most famous persons in the world, it would be carried in the international media.
He expressed the belief the story would be “leaked” to the jury through headlines or by word of mouth.
The seven-man, five-woman trial jury has been sequestered since being impaneled in July, but jurors are allowed week end visits by their spouses.
“So as a matter of conversation, it is almost impossible to insulate the jury from prejudice,” said Fitzgerald.
He pointed out the story allegedly told by Miss Atkins to Miss Graham was a “vicious” account of torture.
He said the story would “repulse anyone who reads it.”
As a matter of fact, Fitzgerald added, ”some of the lawyers are worried about their own safety” as a result of publication of the article.
Fitzgerald said he was not surprised at the Herald-Examiner story because on Dec. 14. 1969, the Los Angeles Times published Miss Atkins’ alleged “confession,” a story which she later recanted.
The defense attorney was of the opinion that Los Angeles County had a “total disregard” that Manson and the others should receive a fair trial.
Trial Judge Older on Thursday talked to the reporter in chambers in a reported attempt to persuade the newsman to stop publication of the article.
It also was believed the judge asked the newsman to reveal his source, but the reporter refused, citing a state statute which protects a newsman from revealing his source.
It was believed the newspaper had not planned to release the story until after Miss Graham finished her stint on the witness stand, but made the last-minute decision as a result of the alleged pressure from the court.
By SANDI METTETAL