Charles Manson, a psychopathic career criminal, still breeds terror in the minds of people all over the world. His Manson Family murder cult went on an unapologetic crime spree, successfully murdering many people including actress Sharon Tate.
Now, one of the murderers is walking free. So let's revisit the (extremely condensed) history of the Manson Family Murders.
Who Is Charles Manson?
Growing up, Manson already had a talent for manipulation. According to biographer Jeff Guinn, Manson was able to get into the minds of classmates, mainly girls, and convince them to attack other students he didn't like. The budding criminal never was punished for their actions, and escaped blame for many years. In 1947, a theft is what finally sent Manson to a reform school. For 20 years after that, Manson was in and out of the prison system. He was booked for many things ranging from pimping out young girls to fraudulent checks.
Manson was deemed illiterate throughout his schooling, and a caseworker deemed him "aggressively anti-social." Many times after his arrest, he was subjected to psychiatric evaluation.
While in a federal reformatory after his first arrest, Manson was heralded with good work ethic and became a model resident. He raised his grades and eventually earned parole in 1954.
Manson moved in with his mother, which broke his parole conditions, and eventually met his future wife Rosalie Jean Willis. The two lived a happy life, with Manson supporting their family through small crime and auto theft.
Rosalie became pregnant, and the two headed to Los Angeles in a stolen car. Manson was charged with a federal crime, as crossing state lines with a stolen vehicle is a serious offense.
Manson went to prison, and Rosalie gave birth while he was incarcerated. After some time, Rosalie stopped visiting her husband in prison. Many believed this is what prompted Manson to begin his prostitution ring after being released from prison.
It was many more years of federal crime before Manson was released from prison for the final time in 1967.
But his previous criminal record would be nothing compared to what he was about to rack up.
When he was released from prison, Manson met a woman named Mary Brunner, a 23-year-old graduate who was working as a library assistant. Manson moved in with Brunner, and despite her hesitation to having other women live with them, soon there were 18 other women residing in the apartment.
Manson identified himself as a Scientologist on a prison form, though he built his cult around implying he himself was Christ. He developed a group of followers, which became known as the Manson Family. Manson taught his followers that they were the reincarnation of the original Christians, and went by Charles Willis Manson ("Charles' Will Is Man's Son").
Manson often told his 'family members' about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war arising from racial tensions. Their plan was to trigger this war and end with Manson dominating the world. At the height of their crime, the family recorded an album with songs that included messages about the war. They invited America's white youth to join the family, hoping to build up their 'side' in what they believe was an inevitable war between the races.
Manson enlisted his 'family' to murder whoever he pleased, and they happily obliged. On July 25, 1969 he sent member Bobby Beausoleil, along with Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins to the house of Gary Hinman with the intentions of killing him. Manson believed Hinman had inherited a lot of money, and Manson wanted to take it.
The three family members took Hinman hostage for two days, after which Beausoleil stabbed him to death under the instruction of Charles Manson. One of the women used Hinman's blood to write "political piggy" on the wall.
On August 9, 1969, Manson directed, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to go to Terry Melcher's (a fellow family member) home and to kill everyone there. They did as followed, killing five people: actress Sharon Tate (who was 8 months pregnant), Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowsk, and Stephen Parent.
The word "PIG" was written on the door in blood, and the murders ended up creating a nationwide sensation. Atkins, Manson, and Krenwinkel were all found guilty and sentenced to death. Watson was also found guilty in a separate trial and sentenced to death. All the death penalties were commuted to life in prison once the death penalty was abolished in California.
This would not be the end of the crime spree.
The night after the Tate murder, the family was back in action. The four members from the night before, along with Leslie Van Houten and Steve 'Clem' Grogan, set out once again on Manson's orders. Manson accompanied the group to "show them how to do it." They went to the home of the LaBianca family, who owned a supermarket near a party Manson attended once.
The LaBiancas were brutally murdered, with Mrs. LaBiance being stabbed 41 times post-mortem. "Helter Skelter" was written on the well, and Susan Atkins defecated in the stairwell.
It took a lot of hard work and investigation, but finally the LAPD gathered enough evidence to send the family members to trial.
Manson was admitted to state prison in 1971 for seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Manson has been in prison ever since, being denied parole multiple times.
Before his trial, Manson marked his forehead with the letter X, because he was "considered inadequate and incompetent to speak or defend [him]self" – and had "X'd [him]self from [the establishment's] world."
Most family members also carved the X as a sign of solidarity. Manson is still in prison, and has since changed the X to a swastika, which he re-carves into his head every day.
But now, almost 50 years after conviction, one of the convicted Manson family murderers will be walking free.
Leslie Van Houten
When she was just 19, Leslie Van Houten was a member of the Manson Family and was convicted of murder. She's seen as the least blameworthy member of the group, being portrayed as a misguided teen under the influence of LSD when she committed murder.
Van Houten was given a life sentence for her involvement in the crimes, and the 68-year-old is now set to walk free.
After 20 unsuccessful attempts at parole, commissioners have found the convicted murdered suitable for release.
“She’s very thankful and relieved,” said Van Houten’s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer. “She’s going home. There’s no question she’s going home. The only question is when.”
"I feel absolutely horrible about it, and I have spent most of my life trying to find ways to live with it," Van Houten told the panel. "To tell you the truth, the older I get, the harder it is to deal with all of this, to know what I did, how it happened."
Obviously, not everyone is thrilled about the Manson family member's release.
“Their intentions were to start a race war. That's very pertinent at this point in our history. It's a very volatile time right now. We need to focus on what we all share. People like this, we can't afford to have them out in our free society,” Debra Tate, Sharon's sister, said.“(Van Houten) couldn't even quote a definition of remorse."
Parole was recommended for Van Houten, and if California Governor Jerry Brown affirms the decision, she could be walking free in 120 days.
Charles Manson, along with the other Manson family members, all remain incarcerated.