Charles Manson Dead: Murderer and Cult Leader Dies at 83

Charles Manson, the cult leader who masterminded a series of grisly killings in 1969, died of natural causes at a hospital in Kern County, California, on Sunday, November 19, the California Department of Corrections confirms to Us Weekly. He was 83.

As previously reported, Manson was taken from Corcoran State Prison to a Bakersfield hospital back in January, seriously ill with gastrointestinal issues. He was recently readmitted just days before his death.

Charles Manson
Charles Manson is escorted by guards to court in Los Angeles to be informed of his death sentence at the end of a 10-month murder trial on March 31, 1971. Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Manson was sentenced to multiple life sentences in January 1971 after being found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people, including Tate, who was 8-and-a-half months pregnant at the time with her first child with her husband, film director Roman Polanski.

Born to an unmarried teen mother in Cincinnati, Ohio, Manson was placed in his aunt and uncle’s home after his mother and her brother were sentenced to jail for robbing a gas station. At 13, he was sent to a school for boys in Indiana but fled and went on to commit a string of burglaries, armed robberies, break-ins and car thefts. He was first jailed at the age of 17.

Manson wed at the age of 21 and welcomed a son after the couple moved to California, where Manson was imprisoned for violating probation. His wife, Rosalie, was granted a divorce in 1958, and he later wed a woman named Leona who had an arrest record for prostitution and testified on Manson’s behalf in court when he was charged with attempting to cash a forged U.S. Treasury check.

In 1961, he was imprisoned again and learned to play the guitar while he was locked up, writing songs that were later recorded by other artists including the Beach Boys and Guns N’ Roses. He was released in March 1967 and attracted a band of followers who were nicknamed the Manson Family. He lectured his followers about “Helter Skelter,” his theory about an apocalyptic war that would come from rising racial tensions between whites and blacks. (The title came from The Beatles’ song of the same name.)

On August 9, 1969, the Manson Family murdered Tate and four others in her home — celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, filmmaker Voityck Frykowksi and teenager Steven Parent. All of the victims were shot or stabbed multiple times and the killers used Tate’s blood to write the word “pig” on the front door.

The following night, Manson’s followers killed grocers Rosemary and Leno LaBianca in their Los Feliz home and wrote the words “Healter Skelter,” misspelled, on a refrigerator with the couple’s blood.

Manson, who did not participate in the grisly murders, and four of his followers were sentenced to death, but their sentences were commuted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty in 1972. He was denied parole 12 times and accumulated more than 100 serious disciplinary violations while in prison, including threatening police officers and possession of weapons.

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