Manson was serving a life sentence for his connection to the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate, who was weeks from giving birth, and six others. Tate was married to Hollywood director Roman Polanski.
In the late 1960s, Manson started a cult known as The Family. In a trial that dominated the media for weeks, he was convicted of manipulating members into murdering others on his behalf.
Manson was born to a 16-year-old runaway. He developed a drinking habit early in life and spent time in jail during his youth.
He spent his formative years at different family members’ houses, special reform schools and boys homes.
Manson started stealing by age 9 and spent much of his young life in and out of prison. By age 22 he was into pimping, stealing checks from mailboxes and conning young women out of money.
Manson moved to San Francisco and began building a following in 1967, the period known as the "Summer of Love." He established himself as a guru in the Height-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, the epicenter of the hippie movement. The group eventually became the cult known as The Manson Family and established a compound at a 500-acre, abandoned movie set in Los Angeles County called the Spahn Ranch.
Manson was a master of manipulating people and took pieces from various religions to form his own philosophy, which he wielded as a means of control over his followers.
He believed that the Beatles’ song Helter Skelter predicted an upcoming race war.
In 1969, Manson told four of his followers to go to a house in Los Angeles and kill the people inside. The house originally belonged to a man who wouldn’t help him with his music career but no longer lived there.
Instead on Aug. 9, Manson’s followers murdered Tate, her unborn baby and four others who were visiting her.
The following night, the followers killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their home located in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles.
In 1970, Manson was found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. On March 29, 1971, Manson was sentenced to death.
Manson was reprieved from the death penalty in 1972 when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional, a ruling that was later reversed.