Charles Manson was the infamous cult leader of the Manson Family. He, along with his predominantly female followers, caused a series of horrifying homicides in California, including the murder of actress Sharon Tate.
A Life Spent in Prison
Manson was born on November 12, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Growing up with a neglectful mother, Kathleen Maddox, he had a history of theft and truancy from a young age. From age 12 on, Manson was shuffled between reform schools and prisons for a variety of crimes, ranging from forging checks to armed robbery. While on release from one of his prison stays, he married a hospital waitress who had his son, though eventually she drifted away — she got a decree of divorce the same year that Manson was released on parole in September 1958.
His second imprisonment was in 1960 for violating the Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of females for immoral purposes. In Manson’s case, it was prostitution. During his time at the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington, Manson took guitar lessons from an incarcerated gang leader, sparking his interest in music.
The Manson Family Murders
After his release in 1968, Manson began amassing an intimate following of mostly young women from around California. He had become lovers with young library assistant Mary Brunner, who is now known for being the first member of the Manson Family, and the two lived together along with a growing number of women throughout the LA area.
The murder of Gary Hinman marked the first of the infamous Manson Family murders. Hinman was a music teacher and friend of the Manson Family, but a dispute over money and drugs led to him being held hostage for two days before his murder by Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil, who was under the direct instruction of Manson himself. Manson ensured that a panther paw was tagged at the murder scene in order to make it seem as though this had been the work of the Black Panthers. Manson was, after all, anticipating a race war thanks to his own bizarre interpretation of the 1968 Beatles album, “White Album.”
The crime spree escalated. On August 8 to 9, 1969, a group of his followers cruelly murdered five people at the home of director Roman Polanski. The most notable victim was Polanski’s wife, actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant at the time. The following day, Manson gave special instructions for the murder of a supermarket executive and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
The Family continued to carry out other violent crimes even after Manson’s capture, including an assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford.
Final Imprisonment and Death
In 1971, Manson was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. In the following year, the death penalty was abolished in California, and so Manson and other Family members were sentenced to life in prison instead, including Leslie Van Houten, the youngest family member that had been involved with the crimes; she had been only 19 during the first murder. Some members were let free for various reasons, from gaining immunity in exchange for testimony to simply never being implicated in the murders in the first place.
Though parole was possible, Manson was denied 12 times due to his accumulation of more than 100 disciplinary violations since his 1971 sentencing. He also showed no signs of remorse. Manson died at the age of 83 in 2017 at California State Prison due to cardiac arrest that had resulted from respiratory failure and colon cancer. Manson’s grandson, Jason Freeman, was granted possession of Manson’s remains.
Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” is based on the Manson family and Sharon Tate, and is set to premiere July 26, 2019.