Tom O'Neill Talks Manson Family Murders and New Book, 'Chaos'


On this episode of ZUCKER, ‘Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties’ co-author Tom O’Neill joins host Andrew Zucker to talk about how an initial three-month magazine assignment turned into a twenty-year endeavor.

On why he doubts the ‘race war’ theory behind the Manson Family murders: I do believe that some of his followers believed in the race war that he had prophesied, but as Vince Bugliosi actually has said in interviews, he never believed that Manson did. Unfortunately, in all the hours I spoke to him, he never told me that, and I only found that the couple of instances where he said that after he had threatened to sue me and stopped speaking to me. So I couldn’t ask him, you know, if Manson did not send his followers to kill strangers over two nights in August of ’69 to ignite a race war, then why did he send them? And people who interviewed Bugliosi hadn't asked him the follow-up question.

On how Bugliosi handled the case: His own co-prosecutor, the first one on the case, Aaron Stovitz, told me the ‘Helter Skelter’ motive was fiction, and that Bugliosi made it up, and that he wouldn't prosecute it that way. Other people in law enforcement, almost all the cops, told me that the ‘Helter Skelter’ thing was also fiction and that none of them trusted or believed Bugliosi. And they all thought that it was a slam-dunk case, that Bugliosi revised in his book by making it seem like he was the hero who came in and single handedly was able to get enough evidence to prosecute successfully the killers.