Charles Manson, the mass-murderer and leader of the "drug-induced flock of followers " known as the Manson family died aged 83 of natural causes at 8.13pm on Sunday night.
Although his followers committed the seven “Tate-La Bianca” murders in the summer of 1969, Manson was convicted of murder for directing them and was sentenced to death in 1971. He was spared when the death penalty was abolished in California following a supreme court ruling in 1972. Footage of Manson and his female followers in the Manson family have surfaced a number of times over the years as their bids to be released were repeatedly rejected at parole hearings. During a parole hearing in 2012, John Peck, a member of the parole panel, quoted Manson as saying to one of his prison psychologists.
“I’m special. I’m not like the average inmate. I have spent my life in prison. I have put five people in the grave. I am a very dangerous man.”
Following Manson’s death, a statement was released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation which contained the most recent photo.
From the Associated Press.
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.
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.
The rationale for Manson’ murder spree has been much discussed in the intervening 48 years. The most colourful explanation is that he believed that the lyrics in the Beatles’ White Album, notably the song “Helter Skelter”, were directing him to start a race war in America. Helter Skelter is also the name of the best-selling book about the Manson family murders written by his prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. An alternative explanation is that he was angry with society when, unlike the Beatles, he was denied a recording contract. Manson’s background was undoubtedly a contributing factor as AP continues:
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.
Manson’s wild-eyed stare and the brutality of the murders have sustained a morbid fascination for people in the US and around the world. This is from the New York Times.
The Tate-LaBianca killings and the seven-month trial that followed were the subjects of fevered news coverage. To a frightened, mesmerized public, the murders, with their undercurrents of sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and Satanism, seemed the depraved logical extension of the anti-establishment, do-your-own-thing ethos that helped define the ’60s. Since then, the Manson family has occupied a dark, persistent place in American culture — and American commerce. It has inspired, among other things, pop songs, an opera, films, a host of internet fan sites, T-shirts, children’s wear and half the stage name of the rock musician Marilyn Manson.
This is AP’s take on the same issue.
“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.”
We suspect that now he’s dead, the fascination with Charles Manson and the “Tate-La Bianca” killings is not going to diminish, far from it. At its heart, people still want an answer to the question “why?”.
The New York Times summed it up this way: "Throughout the decades since, Mr. Manson has remained an enigma. Was he a paranoid schizophrenic, as some observers have suggested? Was he a sociopath, devoid of human feeling? Was he a charismatic guru, as his followers once believed and his fans seemingly still do? Or was he simply flotsam, a man whose life, The New York Times wrote in 1970, “stands as a monument to parental neglect and the failure of the public correctional system."