Coffee Heiress Abigail Folger Was Slaughtered By The Manson Family, Then Overshadowed By Sharon Tate

Published November 28, 2018
Updated June 19, 2019
Published November 28, 2018
Updated June 19, 2019

Abigail Folger was one of the five victims of the Manson family's "Tate Murders."

Abigail Folger

SF WeeklyAbigail Folger was heiress to a massive fortune.

25-year-old Abigail Anne Folger might never have been at 10050 Cielo Drive at all if not for her boyfriend, Wojciech Frykowski.

He was an acquaintance of star-studded film director Roman Polanski’s from back in Poland. But although it was Frykowski who brought Abigail Folger into the Hollywood circle, Folger was already a famous persona in her own right: she was the daughter of Peter Folger, who was chairman of the Folger Coffee Company, and she was the heiress to his fortune.

The violent murder of a prominent heiress at the hands of the crazed Charles Manson cult would surely have been enough to fill the front pages for weeks on its own. However, such was the fame of the other victims that Folger’s own story was nearly totally eclipsed.

The Murder Of Abigail Folger

Abigail Folger was born on Aug. 11, 1943, and would die almost exactly on her 26th birthday. Born into an uber-wealthy and Catholic family, Folger’s early life was one of tradition and high-society training. She was a debutante and a model student who matriculated into Harvard University.

She worked in magazines and in books and it was in this circle that she met Wojciech Frykowski, who was new to America. He was an aspiring writer. The two communicated mostly in French as his English was not good.

But Folger and Frykowski had a tempestuous relationship, and it was believed that Folger was even preparing to leave. Perhaps this was because, in exchange for introducing her to his film-star friends, Frykowski siphoned off some of the Folger millions for himself. The official police report even stated that “he had no means of support and lived off Folger’s fortune.”

But Abigail Folger went with him anyway on Aug. 8, 1969, to the LA home of none other than Hollywood royalty Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski.

Roman Polanski himself was away in Europe at the time, but his eight-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, movie star Sharon Tate, had stayed home.

Around 10:00 P.M., Folger phoned her mother in Connecticut to let her know she had booked a flight to San Francisco the next morning. Shortly after, Folger put on her nightgown and started to read in of the guest’s rooms. Frykowski fell asleep on the couch.

Frykowski was then startled awake by a strange man pointing a gun into his face. He asked who the man was to which the stranger replied: “I am the Devil and I’m here to do the Devil’s business.”

Abigail Folger Dead

Police Handout Abigail Folger lay dead in Tate’s backyard, her boyfriend visible in the background.

The morning after Abigail Folger arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive, the Polanski’s housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, ran screaming from the house. “Murder! Death! Bodies! Blood!” she cried as she pounded on the neighbors’ doors.

When the police arrived, they found that the Hollywood home had been turned into a human slaughterhouse. 18-year-old Steven Parent, who was visiting the property’s caretaker, was slumped over the front seat of his car at the entrance of the property, shot.

Police were further horrified to find the word “pig” written in the victims’ blood on the front door.

Inside lay the bodies of Sharon Tate and her friend Jay Sebring. Tate had evidently been stabbed at least 15 times. A rope was tied around her neck, slung over a rafter, and the other end of the same rope attached to Jay Sebring’s neck. Tate was in her pajamas.

Sebring had been stabbed and beaten over the head. Out on the lawn was Abigail Folger. She had been attempting to flee when she was cut down. The nightgown she was wearing was so soaked in blood that it was nearly impossible to tell the now-crimson garment had originally been white. The five-foot-five girl had been stabbed 28 times.

Frykowski, further out on the lawn, had numerous head wounds. He was also stabbed and shot repeatedly.

An investigator on the scene recalled: “I’d worked homicide for five years and seen a lot of violence. This was the worst.”

The Manson Family

Manson Murders

Police HandoutA body of one of the five victims is wheeled out of the Tate home.

It would be months before the LAPD were finally able to catch the murderers who went on to kill another couple, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the very night after murdering Abigail Folger.

The LA police remained baffled and the community terrified as the killers remained on the loose. The case finally broke when in October of 1969 police raided the Manson family’s ranch in Death Valley and arrested several of its members for auto theft and possession of stolen property.

Among those arrested was a Susan Atkins, who, while imprisoned, bragged to one of her cellmates about murdering Sharon Tate. Atkins told her cellmate how “[Folger] looked at me and smiled and I looked at her and smiled” right before Watson stabbed her in the stomach. The cellmate recalled how “There was not a shred of sympathy on [Atkins’s] part for the victims,” and went to prison authorities, who in turn alerted the police.

It turned out that although Manson claimed the Tate murders were intended to instigate an apocalyptic race war he prophesied to his followers, the supposed reality was that they were little more than the bloody end of a petty grudge.

A failed musician, Manson was bitter about not receiving a record deal from producer Terry Melcher, who had previously lived at 10050 Cielo. Manson family members Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel were dispatched with the order to “Go to the former home of Terry Melcher and kill everyone on the premises.” The orders were blindly and bloodily carried out.

Manson Family

Bettmann/GettyManson family members and murder suspects Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Leslie van Houton.

For many, Charles Manson represented the embodiment of the counterculture’s worst excesses. The disturbingly charismatic man recruited young men and women — usually from relatively privileged families — who were drawn to the hippie ideals of the 1960s, then “manipulated and completely overpowered them, forcing them to partake in group sex, drugs, and ultimately, slaughter.”

The Manson name is now, as prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi once stated, “a metaphor for evil.”

Charles Manson's Mugshot

Hulton Archive / Stringer1969 Police mug shot of American cult leader and murderer Charles Manson.

Abigail’s Legacy

The People vs. Charles Manson began in June 1970 and concluded in January of 1971 when the jury determined Manson and family members Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten guilty of murder.

Although all four defendants were originally sentenced to death, the sentence was later commuted to life in prison. Manson spent the rest of his days behind bars and died in November 2017 at the age of 83.

As for Abigail Folger, her body was returned to San Francisco and her funeral was held on the morning of Aug. 13, 1969, at a church that had been built by her grandparents. Following a Catholic mass, Abigail was entombed inside the Main Mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.

After this look at the tragic fate of Abigail Folger, read up on some of the most grisly and famous murders of all time. Then, check out the sordid true story of LA’s haunted Cecil Hotel.

Gina Dimuro
Gina Dimuro is a New York-based writer and translator.