Charles Manson, leader of murderous cult, dies at 83
Los Angeles: Charles Manson, one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century, who was very likely the most culturally persistent and perhaps also the most inscrutable, died on Sunday in Kern County, Calif. He was 83 and had been behind bars for most of his life.
He died of natural causes in a hospital, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a news release.
Manson was a semiliterate habitual criminal and failed musician before he came to irrevocable attention in the late 1960s as the wild-eyed leader of the Manson family, a murderous band of young drifters in California. Convicted of nine murders in all, Mr. Manson was known in particular for the seven brutal killings collectively called the Tate-LaBianca murders, committed by his followers on two consecutive August nights in 1969.
The most famous of the victims was Sharon Tate, an actress who was married to the film director Roman Polanski. Eight and a half months pregnant, she was killed with four other people at her Benedict Canyon home. 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.
It has also been the subject of many nonfiction books, most famously "Helter Skelter" (1974), by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. Mr. Bugliosi was the lead prosecutor at the Tate-LaBianca trial. The Manson family came to renewed attention in 2008, when officials in California, responding to long speculation that there were victims still unaccounted for, searched a stretch of desert in Death Valley. There, in a derelict place known as the Barker Ranch, Mr. Manson and his followers had lived for a time in the late '60s. The search turned up no human remains.
It was a measure of Manson's hold over his followers, mostly young women who had fled middle-class homes, that he was not physically present at the precise moment that any one of the Tate-LaBianca victims was killed. AGENCIES