Charles Manson, the infamous cult leader who orchestrated a string of barbaric murders in the late 1960s, has died in prison aged 83. Manson died of natural causes at Bakersfield hospital in California on Sunday after being incarcerated for more than 40 years.
Manson’s followers, known as the so-called ‘Family’, killed the actress Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanski, at her home in Los Angeles while she was almost nine months pregnant in 1969.
Four other people at the property, Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski were also tied up and stabbed to death. The word “pig” was written across the door in Tate’s blood.
The depraved massacre was followed by a double-murder of a supermarket executive and his wife the next evening. The two-day rampage would become known as the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Two other people were brutally killed by Manson’s followers in separate murders: Hollywood stuntman Donald Shea and music teacher Gary Hinman.
Manson was born Charles Milles Maddox to a 16-year-old mother who struggled with drug addiction and spent much of his early life in various homes, foster care and in and out of prison.
In 1955, he married a waitress, who later divorced him, and carried out a series of thefts. In 1967, he was released after being jailed for forgery – despite his pleas to remain behind bars – and moved to San Francisco.
He moved in with a library assistant, Mary Brunner, and they soon began sharing a home with at least 18 other women. The killings which horrified America began in 1969. Manson, who showed no remorse, was denied parole 12 times.
Manson positioned himself as a guru and saviour figure at the head of the so-called Manson Family commune, convincing followers he was Jesus Christ.
There were reportedly up to 100 male and female members at its peak, a number of whom were young women from middle-class families. Cult members said Manson would give them the hallucinogenic drug LSD, re-enact the crucifixion and hold orgies.
The Family would live in isolated compounds until they relocated to a dilapidated ranch in 1968, where he became obsessed with Helter Skelter on the Beatles’ White Album.
Prosecutors said Manson wanted to engender a race war with the murders. Followers copied Manson in carving an ‘X’ on their forehead ahead of the trial. Manson later covered his X with a swastika.
Manson and four followers were convicted and received the death penalty in 1971. Three of those followers, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, were pictured smiling, hand in hand, as they arrived in court. Atkins died of brain cancer in 2009,
Krenwinkel and Houten remain behind bars. Atkins claimed the murders were committed to spark “the last war on the face of the earth. It would be all the wars that have ever been fought built on top of the other.”
The death sentence was abolished in California a year later and their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
Manson in quotes 1969: Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case (AP Photo, File)
“I see blood in here every day … I’ve lived it all my life, woman. That don’t wrinkle up my forehead.
“You could pile up 100 dead bodies in front of my cell and it don’t set me to do nothing.” – Speaking to journalist Diane Sawyer for a documentary. “When I stand on the mountain and I say do it! It gets done …”
“My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system. I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.” – Manson at the witness stand.
“I’m special. I’m not like the average inmate. … I have put five people in the grave. I am a very dangerous man.” – Manson as quoted by a prison psychiatrist. Additional reporting by agencies