But though history is full of what-might-have-happened forks in the road, Manson, a career criminal who had spent half of his young life in jail for various offenses and who had an additional chip firmly lodged on his shoulder due for many reasons starting in childhood, did indeed hold sway over a flock of impressionable young people, mostly women, who were looking for something and found it in him.
The cops had been back and forth to Spahn Ranch, a dusty, abandoned Western-themed movie set where the Manson Family was squatting when the murders were committed, for various other crimes—an Aug. 16, 1969, raid turned up a massive weapons cache—but it was a bout of bragging that did them all in.
Susan Atkins had been arrested along with Manson and 22 others in early October 1969 when Inyo County authorities conducted a three-day raid on the latest Manson hangout, Barker Ranch, located in the desert near Death Valley, on suspicion of a host of charges including arson and grand theft. (Manson had also been arrested during the Spahn raid.) During that time, two girls who had been hiding in the bushes a few miles away from the ranch approached officers and said they needed help, that they were trying to flee.
L.A. authorities had been looking for one of the girls, Kitty Lutesinger, because she was the girlfriend of Bobby Beausoleil, their main suspect in the July 25, 1969, murder of music teacher Gary Hinman. Beausoleil had disappeared from Spahn Ranch and Lutesinger, who was 5 months pregnant when she made contact with police, had no idea he was in jail on suspicion of murder.