17-Year-Old Kitty Lutesinger Helped Police Nab The Manson Family For The Tate Murders

Published July 4, 2019
Published July 4, 2019

Kathryn "Kitty" Lutesinger told the police about a fellow Manson Family member who bragged about stabbing someone. That someone? A murder victim at Sharon Tate's house.

Kitty Lutesinger Sewing During Manson Trial

Sue Terry/Los Angeles Public LibraryKitty Lutesinger sewing on Temple Street during Manson’s trial for the Tate-LaBianca murders.

The Manson Family was many things: brainwashed, impassioned, misguided, violent. Another thing it was, was numerous. The core group numbered around 30, sometimes drifting into the hundreds. The goal was to reach 150,000 members — all the better to control the world after the supposed race riots.

With all that, a scared, pregnant 17-year-old easily slipped through the cracks. But that same pregnant teenager — Kathryn “Kitty” Lutesinger — helped bring the Manson Family to justice for their violent crimes.

Kitty Lutesinger At Spahn Ranch

Though she’d later be party to helping break down Manson’s stronghold, Lutesinger spent a fair amount of time at the nexus of the Manson Family: Spahn Ranch.

Here, there were no rules — other than what Manson said. Children were the arbiters of action (the hierarchy went: male children, then female children, then men, then women), allowed to try drugs if they so chose.

In the cult’s heyday, there were more than a dozen children living at Spahn Ranch. According to Jeff Guinn’s Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, Manson’s goal was 144,000, to match the number given in Revelations of the “little flock” of king-priests to inherit the world after the race wars he predicted culminated.

Manson Family At Spahn Ranch

Michael Haering/Los Angeles Public LibraryMembers of the Manson Family at the group’s makeshift home at Spahn Ranch outside of Los Angeles.

The adults participated in libertine sex, though often to Manson’s directive, with orgies a regular order.
Lutesinger didn’t feel she wholly belonged. She hated the desert heat, distrusted the earnestness of the Manson Family, and felt targeted by Manson for her relationship with another Family member that wasn’t the leader.

According to one account, Lutesinger fell asleep during one of Manson’s speeches, and she woke up to him punching her in the face.

She ran away back to her parents’ horse farm in San Carlos for a time, but drifted back to Spahn Ranch.

Bobby Beausoleil And Kitty Lutesinger

Lutesinger got lost in the fold of more famous Manson Family members, like Squeaky Fromme or Manson himself. She seemed to mostly get wrapped up in her boyfriend Bobby Beausoleil, the former actor and Manson hanger-on. Lutesinger was carrying his baby when he was arrested for the July 1969 murder of Gary Hinman.

Headshot Manson Member Beausoleil Young

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesManson Family member Robert “Bobby” Beausoleil arrested for the murder of Gary Hinman at the request of Charles Manson on Aug. 7, 1969.

In an interview with Oui Magazine in the 1980s, Beausoleil described the immediate aftermath of the Hinman killing:

“I took that vehicle and started traveling north. I had ideas that I would go see one of my girlfriends, who was pregnant with my baby. It was a vague idea—like I’ve said, I just really felt like I needed to run. I got into that old beat-up car, and I headed north on Highway 101. The engine modification that had been done on the car wasn’t very good, and the brake line went across the engine block. This had worn a hole into the brake line, so as I was going downhill on one of the grades near San Luis Obispo, the brake fluid went all over the engine and choked the engine out. So I was stalled along the side of the highway, and that’s where the police found me, beside a smoking car. At that point they had discovered Gary’s body, and there was a bulletin out for the cars.”

Presumably, Beausoleil had been en route to visit Lutesinger, driving the car of the man he just killed.

The Missing Link To The Tate-LaBianca Killings

Lutesinger was still at her parents’ place when Beausoleil was taken into custody, and she noticed the radio silence. Phoning Spahn Ranch, her former “family” members told her that Beausoleil had been arrested, but played it off as trivial. Manson told her he’d be out in a couple of days.

In October 1969, authorities raided Barker Rancher, another Manson Family compound in California’s Death Valley. Lutesinger and another girl, Stephanie Schram, appeared out of the bushes some miles from the ranch and asked police for protection. They said they were trying to flee the Family and feared for their lives.

Sharon Tate With Baby Clothes

Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images/Getty Images Kitty Lutesinger’s police interview in October 1969 ultimately led them to pin actress Sharon Tate’s murder on the Manson Family.

At this point, according to Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter, investigators suspected the Hinman murder might have been linked to the Tate and LaBianca killings, but they weren’t totally sure.

Lutesinger helped put them on the right path — and that path led to 10050 Cielo Drive.

Officers interviewed her on October 12, 1969. Five months pregnant with Beausoleil’s child, Lutesinger told them that she heard Manson had sent Beausoleil and another Family member, Susan Atkins, to get money from Hinman. According to what Lutesinger heard, an argument ensued and Hinman wound up dead.

Lutesinger’s information brought police to Atkins, who was also rounded up in the Barker raid,. She told police Beausoleil was the sole stabber of Hinman. According to her, Manson wasn’t involved at all.

Kitty Lutesinger Brindle McCann Sandy Good Catherine Gillies

John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes FoundationKathryn “Kitty” Lutesinger (second from right) with fellow Charles Manson Brindle McCan, Sandy Good, and Catherine Gillies, in front of the Manson trial courthouse on January 17, 1971.

One thing didn’t add up for the Los Angeles cops: Lutesinger also told them that Atkins had bragged about stabbing a guy in the leg three or four times. Hinman was stabbed plenty, but not in the legs.

Who was stabbed in the legs? Wojciech “Voytek” Frykowski — one of the Tate murder victims.

The Unraveling Of The Manson Case

Kitty Lutesinger’s interview gave the police a solid lead.

Her implication of Susan Atkins led police to book Atkins for the Gary Hinman murder. While behind bars, she spilled the beans about Hinman and the Tate killings to her fellow inmates, Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham.

Susan Atkins OG

Getty ImagesManson Family member Susan Atkins leaving the Grand Jury room after testifying during the trial of Charles Manson.

“What are you in for?” Graham asked her one day.

“First degree murder,” Atkins said very matter-of-factly.

“Well, did you do it?”

Atkins smiled. “Sure.”

Pretty soon, she was bragging about killing Sharon Tate and her unborn child. And the whole case unraveled.

Lutesinger’s Legacy

Lutesinger’s story trails off as light on details as it began. She gave birth to a baby girl named Jene on February 11, 1970, and was married in 1973. According to Beausoleil, Jene lived with Lutesinger’s parents until the girl was at least 11 years old, and Lutesinger was living with a junkie in Santa Cruz.

She continued her back-and-forth with the Manson Family for a few years: one day she swore off the Manson clan, the next day she was shaving her head and holding a vigil on the sidewalk in protest of her “family” members’ detention.

Kitty Lutesinger And Others Protesting With Shaved Heads

Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public LibraryFollowing announcement of the death penalty for Charles Manson and other members of his “family,” Kitty Lutesinger (back) and other Manson clan members protest with a drawing exhorting the white race to “get theirselves together” because of increasing Chicano and black power. March 30, 1971.

Though she was largely responsible for the Family’s police capture and indictment for the Tate-LaBianca killings, Bugliosi, the case’s lead prosecutor, felt he couldn’t trust her. He didn’t call her as a witness.

One thing is for sure, though: That scared, pregnant 17-year-old helped bring down one of the most infamous cult leaders in history. Whether she regrets it is a different story.


To read more about the women in Manson’s web, check out these stories on his ex-wife Leona “Candy” Stevens’ and one of his most devoted followers, Patricia Krenwinkle, who’s now the longest-incarcerated woman in California history.

Andrew Milne
A foodie, wanderlust victim, professional Francophile, and history nerd, Andrew Milne is a freelance writer who has worked at outlets like Bon Appétit and Food Network, and currently runs content at us.france.fr.