The Manson Family Murders are arguably the most fascinating series of organized cult murders in California’s history. Carried out by a strange collection of Manson-obsessed, hallucinogenic-addicted oddballs in 1960s California, these crimes captivated the nation and struck fear into the entire population of Hollywood. While some of the murders are more memorable than others, such as the brutal slaying of actress Sharon Tate, a lesser-known crime was committed by one of the more interesting members of the Manson Family: a man named Bobby Beausoleil. But who exactly was the musician, actor, and porn star who committed the first murder in the string of Manson Family Murders?

The beginning for Bobby Beausoleil

Bobby Beausoleil (whose name translates to “beautiful sun”) was born in 1947. Like many of the infamous murderers that he would later associate with, his childhood was far from obscure. His Catholic father worked as a milkman for Petan Dairy Farms in Santa Barbara to support Beausoleil, his four younger siblings, and his mother. Beausoleil described his childhood as more than adequate, having “loving parents” and “a good family.” However, just because Beausoleil’s childhood was simple didn’t mean it was trouble-free. Beausoleil was rebellious, frequently committing minor crimes and splitting from his home. This eventually landed him in Los Prietos Boys Camp, a residential reform school for young boys, for 10 months. The spirited young man remained a handful for his parents and his grandmother, yet he began to develop an interest in positive hobbies.

As a young child, he was gifted a drum set for Christmas, which he beat until each side of the instrument was raw. Beausoleil began to develop a deep fascination for music. While at Los Prietos Boys Camp, one of his greatest escapes from the strict environment was playing guitar whenever he got the chance. The residential center also asked the boys to put out raging California fires during the hot season and paid them cash for the job. When he got out, Beausoleil used the $300 in funds he earned obliterating fires to buy a nice guitar for himself. As he grew up, his passion to become a musician only peaked, as well as his interest in acting and film. After a falling out with several members of his family, Beausoleil decided that he wanted to move out to Hollywood and try to make it as a performer. He didn’t realize that the fame he was seeking would eventually lead him to become a celebrity member of the infamous murdering cult that permanently shattered Hollywood’s hippie movement.

Charmed by Charles Manson

In the 1960s, Beausoleil moved to San Fransisco and roomed with Kenneth Anger, a filmmaker, who helped Beausoleil get his foot in the door in the film industry. He kicked off his film career by acting in and working on a series of pornographic films. However, within a short time, he began to score roles in fictional films and quirky documentaries, often participating in movies that explored odd and macabre subjects that deviated from the norms of society. On the set of one such strange film, “Mondo Hollywood,” Beausoleil worked with a stylist named Jay Sebring, who would eventually become a victim of murder at the hands of the Manson Family. Around this same time, Beausoleil had his first exposure to who would eventually crumble his life in around him: Charles Manson.

For Beausoleil, Charles Manson was like a lighthouse in a storm. Fresh out of prison and ready to take the world by storm, the charismatic criminal and cult leader charmed Beausoleil into associating with him. Beausoleil, who was still struggling rise to fame as a performer, decided to stick with Manson’s confident persona, joining a cult spearheaded by Manson that was later entitled the Manson Family. Joining the cult (which started as a collection of misfits, felons, and poor people camping out at an isolated garbage dump called Spahn Ranch) helped give Beausoleil a sense of security and joy. He began to spend more time at Manson’s home at Spahn Ranch, which was blissfully overrun with sexual deviance, hallucinogenic drug use, and a disorderly, “helter-skelter” atmosphere. However, Manson made his chaos seem stunning to Beausoleil, who was manipulated through music, women, and opportunities to view Manson as fascinating instead of freaky. Unfortunately, the charming stranger that roped Beausoleil into a cult also dragged him into a world of violence and greed that would cost him his freedom.

The murder that ended an era

The murder of 34-year-old Gary Hinman wasn’t anticipated… not even by Beausoleil himself. Beausoleil wasn’t close with Hinman, yet he was a regular associate of the Manson Family, being both a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA and a part-time musician and drug-dealer. Beausoleil crashed at Hinman’s place for a short while during a financially tumultuous time, so he, along with the other Manson Family members that he welcomed into his home, owed him quite a bit of gratitude. Instead, Hinman made himself into an enemy of both Bobby Beausoleil and Charles Manson due to debts which he was believed to have owed the Manson Family. While it was rumored that Hinman collected a hearty inheritance surpassing $20,000 that Manson felt he was owed a portion of, the reason that Beausoleil killed him was likely less drastic: a debt of $1,000. Hinman had sold Beausoleil 1,000 tabs of mescaline, a psychedelic drug. When he tried to resell them to a gang of bikers, Beausoleil received numerous complaints about their quality, soon realizing that the mescaline was a bad batch. So, he rolled up to Hinman’s house, and, according to him, was only there for repayment of his money; not to murder the poor guy.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. After a scuffle involving Manson and a samurai sword that resulted in Hinman getting injured and threatening to go to the police, Beausoleil decided that his only way out of the scenario was to murder Gary Hinman. Hinman was found nearly a week later with stab wounds through his heart and the words “Political Piggy” written on his walls with his very own blood. This brutal slaying would become the first of several gruesome Manson murders that would haunt California. In the era of hippies and love, the Manson Family Murders were an abrupt interruption to the vibe of peace and wellbeing in Hollywood. Before the murder of Hinman, the Manson Family was known for being creepy and racist, yet, following his death, they became a sensational group of murdering, violence-addicted cult members. While Charles Manson is the name that most people remember from that awful era, it’s clear that Bobby Beausoleil’s involvement in the killings was just as essential, kicking off the series of slayings that shook the Hollywood hills.