Charles Manson, the wild-eyed 1960s cult leader whose followers committed heinous murders that terrorized Los Angeles and shocked the nation, died Sunday, according to the California Department of Corrections. He was 83.
Before Charles Manson was a convicted mass murderer, the leader of a cult and one of the most infamous names in the history of American crime, he was a 14-year-old kid living in Indianapolis.
Born in Cincinnati, Manson was sent to a boy's school in Terre Haute, Indiana after he was caught stealing, but how and why he left is still unclear. The Indianapolis News reported that his mother quit paying for his care, but other reports show that he escaped after a few days.
In a hearing at Juvenile Court on March 7, 1949, the 14-year-old Manson discussed his life with Judge Joseph O. Hoffman. The hearing resulted in Manson being sent to "Boys Town," a refuge center near Omaha, Nebraska.
"I think I could be happy working around cows and horses," Manson said of Boys Town. "I like animals."
Judge Hoffman seemed optimistic about Manson's future at Boys Town. "Maybe you'll have that farm yet and be a real farmer, son." Hoffman said, patting Manson on the shoulder. "You just try hard to learn the things they teach."
Manson was at Boys Town for three days. He didn't even make it out of orientation.
A 1949 Indianapolis News article was sympathetic to Manson's difficult childhood, with no inkling of the crimes he would commit in the late 1960s.
Manson's mother, Kathleen Maddox, would tell him to "get out of the house" while she entertained a "boy friend (sic)," The Indianapolis News reported. He hated living with his mother so much, he got a job and rented a room for himself downtown.
The diminutive and charismatic Manson orchestrated a wave of violence in August 1969 that took the lives of seven people, spawned headlines worldwide and landed him and his "Manson Family" of followers in prison for most of the remainder of their lives.
Manson served nine life terms in California prisons and was denied parole 12 times. His notoriety, boosted by popular books and films, made him a cult figure to those fascinated by his dark apocalyptic visions.
"He was the dictatorial ruler of the (Manson) family, the king, the Maharaja. And the members of the family were slavishly obedient to him," former prosecutor Victor Bugliosi told CNN in 2015.
To the point they would kill for him.
The brutal killings began on August 9, 1969, at the home of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, famed movie director Roman Polanski. He was out of the country at the time. The first set of victims were Tate, who was eight months' pregnant; a celebrity hairstylist named Jay Sebring; coffee fortune heiress Abigail Folger; writer Wojciech Frykowski; and Steven Parent, a friend of the family's caretaker.
The next evening, another set of murders took place. Supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, were killed at their home.
Although Manson ordered the killings, he didn't participate.
Over the course of two nights, the killers took the lives of seven people, inflicting 169 stab wounds and seven .22-caliber gunshot wounds. Both crime scenes revealed horrifying details. And a few details linked the two crime scenes.
The word pig was written in victim blood on the walls of one home and the front door of another. There was also another phrase apparently scrawled in blood: Helter Skelter (it was misspelled Healter). The reason for the disturbing writings, the prosecutor argued, was because Manson wanted to start a race war and had hoped the Black Panthers would be blamed for the killings.
On June 16, 1970, Manson and three of his followers -- Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten -- went on trial in Los Angeles.
All of those details came tumbling out in the trial that both mesmerized and horrified the nation. During the trial, Manson and his followers created a circus-like atmosphere in the court with singing, giggling, angry outbursts and even carving X's in their foreheads.
The charges came after a major break in the case when Atkins, who was already in jail on another charge, bragged to a fellow inmate about the Tate murders. She said they did it "because we wanted to do a crime that would shock the world. ..."
Manson was originally sentenced to death but the death penalty was briefly abolished in the state and his concurrent sentences were commuted to life in prison.
He also was convicted in the connection with the killings of Gary Hinman, a musician, and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea in 1969.