Charles Manson, whose cult slayings horrified world, dies

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.

Posted: Nov 20, 2017 7:35 AM

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.

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.

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."

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.

"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."

___

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.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 33558

Reported Deaths: 2110
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9616571
Lake3538185
Cass15897
Allen145168
St. Joseph124834
Elkhart116328
Hendricks116171
Hamilton115693
Johnson1093108
Madison58559
Porter51627
Bartholomew50034
Clark49241
LaPorte42423
Howard39526
Tippecanoe3903
Jackson3791
Delaware37736
Shelby36822
Hancock32728
Floyd31839
Boone30935
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2652
Montgomery23517
White2318
Decatur22431
Clinton2231
Noble21121
Grant20621
Harrison19221
Dubois1923
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16612
Warrick16628
Dearborn16621
Vigo1648
Lawrence15423
Miami1411
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Orange12522
Scott1193
Kosciusko1111
Franklin1098
Ripley1086
Carroll922
Marshall901
Daviess8516
Steuben812
Newton7710
Wayne776
Fayette767
Wabash762
LaGrange712
Jasper651
Washington521
Jay500
Fulton481
Clay471
Rush462
Randolph463
Pulaski460
Jefferson431
Whitley393
Starke363
Sullivan341
Owen341
Brown331
DeKalb331
Perry310
Benton300
Knox290
Wells280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Crawford240
Blackford242
Fountain202
Switzerland200
Spencer191
Parke170
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0164

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 117455

Reported Deaths: 5270
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook762663570
Lake8063287
DuPage7543362
Kane6188170
Will5442269
Winnebago215654
McHenry151471
St. Clair109179
Kankakee87144
Kendall76919
Rock Island64624
Champaign6177
Madison56558
Boone42817
DeKalb3924
Sangamon34629
Jackson26810
Randolph2674
McLean21713
Peoria2128
Ogle2023
Stephenson1992
Macon19519
Clinton18117
Union1519
LaSalle14713
Whiteside13512
Iroquois1314
Coles12514
Unassigned1250
Out of IL1191
Warren1130
Jefferson10116
Knox970
Grundy952
Monroe9411
McDonough878
Lee791
Cass710
Tazewell714
Henry680
Williamson642
Pulaski510
Marion500
Jasper457
Macoupin452
Adams441
Perry420
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan351
Christian334
Jo Daviess320
Livingston322
Douglas260
Menard210
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Woodford192
Mason180
Washington180
Mercer170
Hancock160
Shelby161
Bureau151
Carroll142
Bond121
Franklin120
Piatt120
Schuyler120
Clark110
Crawford110
Fulton110
Moultrie110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Effingham71
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Edgar10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Terre Haute
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 72°
Robinson
Scattered Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 74°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 70°
Rockville
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 69°
Casey
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 73°
Brazil
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 72°
Marshall
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 72°
A wonderful Saturday with sunshine expected!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events