Charles Manson, whose cult slayings horrified world, dies

In this 1969 AP file photo, Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case. Authorities say Manson, cult leader and mastermind behind 1969 deaths of actress Sharon Tate and several others, died on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. He was 83. | AP Photo, File, St. George News

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In the summer of 1969, a scruffy ex-convict with a magnetic hold on young women sent some of his disciples into the night to carry out a series of gruesome killings in Los Angeles. In so doing, Charles Manson became the leering face of evil on front pages across America and rewrote the history of an era.

This Oct. 8, 2014, photo provided by the California Department of Corrections shows Charles Manson. He died on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. He was 83. | Photo courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP, File, St. George News

Manson, the hippie cult leader who died of natural causes Sunday at age 83 after nearly half a century behind bars, orchestrated the slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people, butchered at two homes on successive August nights by intruders who scrawled “Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” (sic) in the victims’ blood.

The slaughter horrified the world. To many, the collateral damage included the era of peace, love and flower power.

The Manson Family killings, along with the bloodshed later that year during a Rolling Stones concert at California’s Altamont Speedway, seemed to expose the violent and drug-riddled underside of the counterculture and sent a shiver of fear through America.

“Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969,” author Joan Didion wrote in her 1979 book “The White Album.”

Manson was every parent’s worst nightmare. The short, shaggy-haired man with hypnotic eyes was a charismatic figure with a talent for turning middle-class youngsters into mass murderers.

In this June 25, 1970, AP file photo, Charles Manson sticks his tongue out at photographers as he appears in a Santa Monica, Calif., courtroom, charged with the slaying of musician Gary Hinman. Manson died on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. He was 83. | AP File Photo, St. George News

At a former movie ranch outside Los Angeles, he and his devotees — many of them young runaways who likened him to Jesus Christ — lived commune-style, using drugs and taking part in orgies. Children from privileged backgrounds ate garbage from supermarket trash.

“These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them; I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up,” he said in a courtroom soliloquy.

It was the summer of the first moon landing. War raged in Vietnam. Hippies flooded the streets of San Francisco and gathered in upstate New York for the Woodstock music festival. But many remember the time for Los Angeles’ most shocking celebrity murders.

Fear swept the city after a maid reporting for work ran screaming from the elegant home where Tate lived with her husband, “Rosemary’s Baby” director Roman Polanski. Scattered around the estate were blood-soaked bodies.

The beautiful 26-year-old actress, who was 8½ months pregnant, was stabbed and hung from a rafter in her living room. Also killed were Abigail Folger, heiress to a coffee fortune; Polish film director Voityck Frykowksi; Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker; and celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, killed by Manson follower Charles “Tex” Watson, who announced his arrival by saying: “I am the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work.”

In this Feb. 4, 1986, AP file photo, convicted mass murder Charles Manson reads a rambling statement at his parole hearing in San Quentin, Calif. Manson, who is serving life in prison for the murder of actress Sharon Tate and five others, said he would go to Libya, Iran, South America or France if released. Manson died on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. He was 83. | AP Photo by Eric Risberg, File, St. George News

The next night, wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, were stabbed to death in their home in another neighborhood.

Manson was arrested three months later.

Why he ordered the killing of strangers remained a mystery. Prosecutors said Manson wanted to foment a race war, an idea he supposedly got from a twisted reading of the hard-rocking Beatles song “Helter Skelter.” Others said he was getting even because music producer Terry Melcher, who once lived in the house Tate later occupied, had refused to record Manson’s music.

Manson’s childhood was a blueprint for a life of crime. He was born in Cincinnati on Nov. 12, 1934, to a teenager, possibly a prostitute. When he was 5, his mother went to prison for armed robbery. By the time he was 8, he was in reform school. He spent years in and out of penal institutions.

“My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system,” he said in a monologue on the witness stand. “I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.”

Manson’s chaotic trial in 1970 transformed a courtroom into a theater of the absurd.

He and three female followers, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, sang and chanted, and Manson at one point launched himself across the counsel table at the judge. Many of his followers camped outside the courthouse, threatening to immolate themselves if he was convicted.

When Manson carved an “X” in his forehead, his co-defendants did the same, saying they were “Xed out of society.” He later changed his “X” to a swastika.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, he maintained his innocence.

In this Feb. 4, 1986, AP file photo, convicted murderer Charles Manson looks towards the parole board in San Quentin, Calif. Authorities say Manson, cult leader and mastermind behind 1969 deaths of actress Sharon Tate and several others, died on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. He was 83. | AP Photo by Eric Risberg, File, St. George News

“I have killed no one, and I have ordered no one to be killed,” Manson said.

He and the three women were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Another defendant, Charles “Tex” Watson, was convicted later. All were spared execution and given life sentences after the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972. Manson also was convicted in the killings of stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea and musician Gary Hinman.

Manson and his female followers appeared sporadically at parole hearings where their bids for freedom were repeatedly rejected.

At a 2012 parole hearing Manson boycotted, he was quoted as telling a prison psychiatrist: “I’m special. I’m not like the average inmate. … I have put five people in the grave. I am a very dangerous man.” The parole board decided he should stay behind bars for at least 15 more years.

The killings inspired movies and TV shows, and Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wrote a best-selling book about the murders, “Helter Skelter.” Manson’s face has appeared on T-shirts. The macabre shock rocker Marilyn Manson borrowed part of his stage name from the killer.

“The Manson case, to this day, remains one of the most chilling in crime history,” prominent criminal justice reporter Theo Wilson wrote in her 1998 memoir, “Headline Justice: Inside the Courtroom — The Country’s Most Controversial Trials.”

“Even people who were not yet born when the murders took place,” Wilson wrote, “know the name Charles Manson, and shudder.”

Written by JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press. AP writer Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this story. This story contains biographical information compiled by former AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch. Deutsch covered the Tate-La Bianca killings and the Manson trial for The Associated Press and has written about the Manson family for four decades.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • ladybugavenger November 20, 2017 at 6:04 am

    He lived 9 years longer than my mother did. My mother, for the most part, took care of her health, then cancer took her. My point is, im actually surprised prison food didn’t kill him sooner.

    I’ve been waiting for this day, and it finally came…

  • Sedona November 20, 2017 at 8:17 am

    If ANYONE deserved the death penalty, it was Manson.
    But, he was smart enough to commit these crimes in a state with no death penalty.
    Estimates are that California spent over $4 million incarcerating him.

    Ironically, justice could have been carried out with a 75 cent bullet.

    So, if your a criminal, California is your state.

    • An actual Independent November 21, 2017 at 7:17 am

      At least read the story before commenting. California had the death penalty. Manson and his cohorts were sentenced to death. The law was temporarily changed later and their sentences were commuted to life without parole.

  • DRT November 20, 2017 at 9:06 am

    What a shame that California had to house, feed, and care for this piece of human garbage, for so many years.

  • mesaman November 20, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    May he experience the pain and suffering he caused, in hell.

  • utahdiablo November 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Cremate this POS and put his ashes in a unmarked Port a potty…as said before, a .75 cent bullet back in ’69

  • comments November 20, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    if we wanna get real technical with language and what not this is what we called a “bad egg”

  • Whatteverrr November 21, 2017 at 5:28 am

    Shares a lot of characteristics of Trump
    * ego loved attention
    * talk talk talk in circles about nothing, never pausing for even a breath
    * can make people believe his craziness & do his bidding
    * no guilt for own wretched deeds
    * no empathy for other human beings
    * sociopathic tendencies
    * etc.*

    • ladybugavenger November 21, 2017 at 6:45 am

      Since you opened it up to politicians. If say the Clinton’s are a better comparison to manson. We dont even know the extent of how many lives they had someone destroy. Remember, people within their conspiracy, all of a sudden ended up dead

      • comments November 21, 2017 at 9:55 am

        Oh, LBA, you’ve got to come up with a better defense for the donald than “yea, but the clintons are just as bad”.

        • ladybugavenger November 21, 2017 at 12:07 pm

          No, the difference is this: the Clinton’s ares still corrupt liars and everything Hillary says is happening is,exactly what she’s doing. The Trump is actually trying to protect Americans.

  • ladybugavenger November 21, 2017 at 6:46 am

    I’d say not if say

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.