Born in California in 1950, Paul Watkins met Charles Manson in Topanga Canyon in the late 1960s and became fascinated with him. Watkins moved in and out of the "Manson Family" over a yearlong period, building a close connection with Manson while also harboring a great deal of unease regarding Manson's "Helter Skelter" prophecy. After the infamous Tate/LaBianca murders, Watkins provided information to police about Manson and the murders, and in October 1970, Watkins testified and provided key evidence about Manson's motives. He died of leukemia in 1990, in Los Angeles, California.
Born in Oxnard, California, on January 25, 1950, Paul Watkins met Charles Manson and his followers in California's Topanga Canyon in the late 1960s as both were drifting around the area, becoming a part of the hippie counterculture movement prevalent at the time. A few months after they first met, Watkins was spotted by several women in the Manson "Family" on a street corner, and they picked him up and brought him to Spahn Ranch, Manson's home base at the time.
Over the next year, Watkins and Manson became close, and Watkins became fascinated by both Manson's eerie hold on his followers and by his musical abilities. Manson's worldview soon changed from one of peace and self-discovery to one of violence and apocalyptic prophesy, and Watkins became uneasy and eventually fearful of what was on the horizon for Manson and the Family.
Watkins left the ranch in the spring of 1969 and went to the Family's "hideout" in Death Valley, where he stopped using drugs and began examining his life and current position. The Tate/LaBianca murders occurred while Watkins was at the Death Valley property, and Manson and his followers were arrested on an unrelated charge in October 1969. Their involvement in the Tate/LaBianca murders was soon discovered, and Watkins gave police information about Manson and the Family. In early 1970, Watkins split from the remaining Manson followers and agreed to testify against Manson in court.
His testimony, chiefly related to Manson's vision of "Helter Skelter," was key in establishing Manson's bizarre motive for both the Tate and LaBianca murders, which involved the Beatles, the Bible and a race war that he believed would usher in the apocalypse. After the trial, Watkins gave lectures on the effects of drugs and cults. He succumbed to leukemia in 1990, in Los Angeles, California.