Charles Manson, the cult leader who ordered seven people killed in August 1969 as part of an unhinged plot to start an apocalyptic race war, has died.
He was 83.
Manson was serving several life sentences at Corcoran State Prison in California when he fell ill and was moved to a Bakersfield hospital for treatment. Officials at the state’s Department of Corrections said he died at 8:13 p.m. Sunday of natural causes.
Instantly recognizable for the crude, self-carved swastika on his forehead, the notorious mass murderer was a wannabe musician and unemployed felon before unleashing his bloody rampage as the twisted Messiah of a mostly female group of acolytes known as the Manson Family.
On the night of August 9, 1969, Manson directed Charles Watson — whom he met through Beach Boys co-founder Dennis Wilson – to take followers Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel to a tony house in the Benedict Canyon hills above Sunset Boulevard and slaughter everyone there.
The Manson Family members brutally butchered movie director Roman Polanski’s heavily pregnant wife Sharon Tate, 26, along with celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, 35, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 25, writer Wojciech Frykowski, 32, and visiting teen Steven Parent, 18.
Tate begged for her life before she was stabbed 16 times, Atkins recalled later.
Atkins used her blood to scrawl “pig” on the front door before the group fled the scene.
Polanski was out of town, shooting a movie in London.
The next night, Manson joined the same four followers along with Leslie Van Houten and Steve “Clem” Grogan as they broke into the Los Feliz home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary.
Manson reportedly wanted to show the group the correct way to execute and ordered the LaBiancas bound with lamp cords and their heads covered by pillowcases before the savage stabbing started.
The vicious Manson killings stunned Los Angeles and caused a worldwide sensation.
Manson was tried for the horrific murders and sentenced to death along with several members of his psychopathic gypsy cult. The sentences were commuted to life when the death penalty was briefly outlawed in 1972.
Prosecutors said Manson and his followers were trying to incite an Armageddon-like race war named after the Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter.”
To that end, Manson swiped the wallet of Rosemary LaBianca with the intention of planting it in a predominantly black neighborhood after the killings, authorities said.
In a powerful letter opposing parole for Van Houten last year, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Mason “intended that an African-American person would find the wallet, use the credit cards contained therein and subsequently be blamed for the murders.”
Manson and his disciples “believed the African-American race would prevail in the bloody conflict, but after winning, they would not be able to govern the world,” Lacey said.
After the war, the Manson Family planned to “emerge from hiding in the desert to take control of the world,” she wrote.
Lacey said Van Houten and her fellow followers considered Manson larger than life.
“I wish he had been a myth. All of them were all too real,” LaBianca’s daughter Cory LaBianca told the Daily News last year after reading Lacey’s letter.
The daughter gave a rare interview to oppose Van Houten’s release on parole.
“My parents’ lives were taken. We can’t go back to having them here with us,” Cory LaBianca told The News.
Manson was born to an unwed teen mother in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1934.
An alcoholic prostitute, his mom sold him once for a pitcher of beer to a childless waitress, according the 1998 tome “Manson In His Own Words: The Shocking Confessions of ‘The Most Dangerous Man Alive,” written by Manson and Nuel Emmons.
He was shipped off to a boy’s school at one point but later ran away and ended up living on the streets, supporting himself with petty crime.
He married a waitress in 1955 and moved to California in a stolen car. They had a son together but broke up while Manson was back in jail.
A subsequent marriage to a prostitute Manson was pimping also ended in divorce.
He studied Scientology and learned to play guitar in prison, and after a release in 1967, Manson moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and supported himself with panhandling during the so-called Summer of Love.
He emerged as a guru of the legendary Haight-Ashbury scene and gained adherents who shared his love of hallucinogenic drugs and self-aggrandizing religious philosophy.
Manson got to know Wilson through followers who met the famous musician while hitchhiking. The association led Manson to fantasize about a professional music career and his obsession with record producer Terry Melcher.
Melcher, the son of Doris Day, expressed some early interested in Mason’s music but ultimately declined to sign with him and severed ties.
At the time, the producer was living with his actress girlfriend Candice Bergen in the rented house that would become the backdrop for the Tate murders.
Family members would later claim Manson targeted the house, and its new inhabitants, because it represented his rejection by the entertainment establishment.
During his bizarre trial for the Tate-LaBianca murders, Manson’s followers smiled and sang songs as they provided a chilling window into life as a member of the deeply demented group.
Behind bars since 1971, Manson was denied parole a dozen times and had his next hearing scheduled for 2027.