Charles Manson, the cult leader who spent nearly 50 years behind bars for the murder of nine people, including actress Sharon Tate, died Sunday of natural causes. He was 83.
Manson, who was admitted to a hospital in Bakersfield, California, earlier this month, instructed his followers to commit a murder spree in July and August 1969, which included the slaughter of the 26-year-old pregnant actress at the Los Angeles home she shared with husband Roman Polanski, the filmmaker.
Also killed at the house were Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and Steven Parent. Tate was stabbed to death and her blood was used to scrawl “pig” on the front door.
The following night, Manson’s followers murdered Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. This followed the July killings of Donald Shea and Gary Hinman.
Though Manson did not participate in the killings himself, he was convicted of murder in 1971 for ordering his followers — known as the Manson Family — to carry out the brutal slayings.
He was initially sentenced to death, but when capital punishment was temporarily banned, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He served nine concurrent life sentences and was denied bail on 12 occasions.
Manson came to epitomize the darker side of 1960s counterculture. He used his charismatic personality to draw followers, espousing a belief that a race war was imminent in America.
He hoped the murders would be pinned on the Black Panther movement, hastening the war that would allow Manson to emerge as the leader of a new social order — a vision he nicknamed “Helter Skelter,” after the Beatles song.