The Blue Curtain Comes Down in Tate Massacre Case; Facts Remain Secret
Sunday, August 24th, 1969
Aug. 24 – There’s the Iron Curtain. Then there’s the Bamboo Curtain. And now there’s the Blue Curtain.
The Blue Curtain is brand new — it is something that has come up between the newspapers and the Los Angeles Police Department.
It is a curtain that goes up when you least expect it, to reveal a lead in the Sharon Tate murder case.
It is a curtain that goes down and closes off the hinted lead to the five grisly murders.
And it is a curtain that sometimes stays down — trying to refute the fact that it was ever up to give a glimpse of one of the Southland’s most horrible crimes.
At first, speaking frankly and freely, police called the brutal murder of five a “ritualistic mass murder.”
For part of a day they described to newsmen some of the circumstances surrounding the brutal murder of actress Sharon Tate, her three jet-set friends and an apparent casual visitor.
Then, a curtain of silence — the heaviest in the history of crime in Los Angeles — fell.
That curtain, impregnable to even veteran police reporters, covers the details of the murders
Aug. 8-9 in the plush Benedict Canyon estate in which the blonde sex symbol and her fim director husband, Roman Polansky, lived.
“Our main object is to get the case solved,” one official remarked. “Getting pats on the back or making people happy is way down on the list of priorities.”
Too much already has been given out about the crime, they feel. Enough to hamper their investigation.
The men in blue two lieutenants and 17 sergeants specifically assigned to the case have been warned not to discuss the details with “outsiders.” Underlings – even those on routine patrol – have been given the same instructions.
Police reporters were banned from squad rooms and detective offices after one overheard – and printed – the fact that the investigation was centering in Canada.
Los Angeles County Coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, a usually reliable source for reporters, refuses to discuss the case, but refers reporters to an aide of the County Supervisors.
The aide, former newsman Robert Baker, can only say that all information must come from the police department.
The murder scene – the $200,000 secluded estate in which the slain actree prepared for her baby’s arrival in two weeks – is out of bounds to newsmen. Despite Polansky’s invitation at a press conference to “see for yourselves the orgy scene,” newsmen were turned back by a guard – hired by the film director.
Other than the facts learned the day the murders were discovered by a maid as she entered the home ready for a day’s work, all is speculation.
Initial facts released by police — before the news blackout — although somewhat skimpy are believed accurate:
Miss Tate, eight and a half months pregnant with what would have been a baby boy, was found in the living room of the home linked by a rope around her neck to the body of her former boyfriend, hair stylist Jay Sebring. She was killed by multiple stab wounds of the chest and back. She wore bikini pants and a brassiere.
Thirty-five year old Sebring, fully clothed, died from stab wounds in the body. The rope linking his neck with that of the blonde actress did not contribute to the cause of death.
Coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 26, died from stab wounds in the chest. Her body dressed in a nightgown, was found on the lawn.
Voityck Frokowsky, a 37-year-old Polish would-be writer and director and boyfriend of the Folger heiress, died of stab wounds of the body and extremities and of a gunshot wound in the back. His body, also fully clothed, was found on the front lawn of the ranch-style home about 20 yards from Miss Folger’s body.
Steve Parent, an 18-year-old El Monte youth and friend of the estate caretaker, William Garretson, was found in his car, dead of multiple gunshot wounds of the chest.
Parent, visiting the caretaker at a guest house behind the main house, had left for home about midnight. Police theorize he was apparently trying to get away after seeing the actual murders or the bodies, but was killed before he could escape. The car’s ignition was off as were the brakes. The transmission was in “drive’.
Telephone lines into the home were cut between 10 p.m., when the phone into the estate was last used, and 5:30 a.m., when the caretaker attempted to place a call out and found the lines dead.
Police were quoted as saying the murders were “ritualistic” and cited the fact that a black hood had been placed over Sebring’s head. Blood had been splattered throughout the living room, on the porch and in a guest room. “Pig” in foot high letters were scrawled on the front door, apparently, police said, with the palm of a hand.
“It looked like a battlefield up there,” one officer said as he came from the guest room. The struggle apparently went on throughout at least the two rooms.
Although no weapon was found at the scene, officers said they found pieces of what was believed to be a pistol grip inside the house.
Initially officers said no narcotics were found in the house, but it is believed some (“enough for an individual’s use or a small party”) were found in Sebring’s auto. Police later confirmed narcotics were found “on the premises.”
Nothing was missing from the home; officers ruled out robbery as a motive.
They termed the killings “motiveless.”
Only one release has been issued by detectives since the killings – and that on orders of the new police chief – which said little.
– None of the bodies had wounds involving the sex organs
– Narcotics were found on the premises
– The word “pig” written in blood was found on the premises.
– There is no evidence to connect the murders with any others.
“We have,” the official released informed, “no further details of the investigation to release at this time,”
The only reason for the release, they added, was “in the interest of accuracy.”
With at least three times as many newsmen as detectives “digging” for information, police problems are compounded.
Reasons for the silence police contend, are many:
– The law warns against releasing evidence which perhaps could prevent a fair trial
– Information about the crime or investigation could “tip” the criminal.
– Information not publicly known is vital to questioning on a polygraph (lie detector).
But to the scores of reporters covering the case, who accept all the police reasons, two things are added: the public’s “right to know,” and facts to still the rumor mills.
And the rumor mills are busy.
Theories, written as fact, link several of the victims with a dope syndicate.
The Mafia has been mentioned.
A killing by “contract” was a popular premise for a time.
A dope party in which an LSD user became a maniacal killer was a theory.
Toxicological test which would determine what, if any, narcotic was being used at the house were concluded this week. The test would even determine what, if anything, the five victims ate during the evening.
But the results aren’t being made known.
Perhaps, say police, only the killer would know what was eaten because he ate with them.
For whoever the killer is, he was a friend enough to find and cut telephone wires in the dark.
By MARY NEISWENDER