In the summer of 1969, Charles Manson, a scruffy ex-convict with a magnetic hold on young women, sent disciples into the night to carry out a series of gruesome killings in Los Angeles. Manson, the hippie cult leader who died of natural causes Sunday at 83 after nearly half a century behind bars, orchestrated the slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people, butchered at two homes on successive nights by intruders who scrawled “Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” in the victims’ blood, the Associated Press reports. Despite overwhelming evidence, he maintained his innocence. “I have killed no one, and I have ordered no one to be killed,” Manson said.
He and three women were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Another defendant, Charles “Tex” Watson, was convicted later. All were spared execution and given life sentences when the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972. Manson also was convicted in the killings of stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea and musician Gary Hinman. Manson and his female followers appeared sporadically at parole hearings where their bids for freedom were repeatedly rejected. Michele Hanisee of Los Angeles’ Association of Deputy District Attorneys said, “Manson’s victims are the ones who should be remembered and mourned on the occasion of his death.” She quoted Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Manson, as calling him “an evil, sophisticated con man with twisted and warped moral values.”