This time, it’s true. Charles Manson, the infamous cult leader who orchestrated the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in August of 1969, has died in a hospital in Bakersfield, California. He was 83.
Manson’s death was confirmed by Tate’s sister Debra, who said she got a call from California State Prison-Corcoran around 8:30 p.m., TMZ first reported. His death comes after multiple trips in and out of the hospital for intestinal bleeding, though officials at California’s Department of Corrections said he died at 8:13 p.m. of natural causes.
Born to a mother who tried to swap him for a pitcher of beer, Manson’s life began miserably and only escalated in insanity as the years went by. Though his career as a criminal kicked off in childhood, Manson was nevertheless possessed of a magnetic personality that allowed him to amass a dedicated following, mostly of vulnerable young women. Manson did not personally lay a finger on any of the seven victims killed in August of 1969; he didn’t have to. So total was his power over his acolytes that they carried out the murders for him. From CNN:
The brutal killings began on August 9, 1969, at the home of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, famed movie director Roman Polanski. He was out of the country at the time. The first set of victims were Tate, who was eight months’ pregnant; a celebrity hairstylist named Jay Sebring; coffee fortune heiress Abigail Folger; writer Wojciech Frykowski; and Steven Parent, a friend of the family’s caretaker.
The next evening, another set of murders took place. Supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, were killed at their home.
The murders were particularly gruesome, with authorities counting 169 stab wounds and seven gunshots distributed among the victims, in addition to to the words “pig” and “Helter Skelter” written in blood throughout the homes.
The brutality of the deaths stunned the nation when trials began for Manson and three of his followers, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten; a yearlong episode chronicled in detail by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in his book Helter Skelter. Manson was eventually found guilty and sentenced to death, though it was commuted merely to life in prison once California outlawed the death penalty in 1972.
True to form, Manson did not serve his time quietly. A report in the Los Angeles Times from January noted that he’d incurred more than 100 rules violations since he was jailed in 1971, and that over the years, he’d been cited for assault, repeated possession of a weapon, threatening staff and possessing a cellphone.
“Suffice it to say that he cannot be described as a model prisoner,” a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections said at the time.
Meanwhile, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel continue to serve life sentences. Susan Atkins died in 2009.