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Case Study: Charles Manson

Charles Manson has been in the news this past week after he was reportedly moved from his prison cell to a hospital for a few days. TIME reports that Manson has since been returned to his prison cell to continue serving his nine concurrent life sentence for the 1969 Tate Murders. Charles Manson is certainly a name some of the older Soulless readers may know, but for the younger crowd who may not be aware of the crazy whirlwind that is Manson - let me throw this at you. Charles Manson is serving a life sentence and he wasn't even convicted of actually committing a murder himself? How could that be? You guessed it - conspiracy, and the cult known as the Manson Family.

Charles Manson was born in 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio - and by the time he was 13 years old, Manson already found himself in a series of trouble after robbing stores and stealing cars. Up until 1967, Manson wound up spending more than half of his 32 years of his life in the prison system for various offenses. But none of his prior offenses would come close to where his life turned to next, as the leader of the Manson Family cult.

Charles Manson picked up followers of what would become his "family" in various ways over time. His presence in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco - origin of the hippie culture - helped Manson to meet and gain followers as he preached his way around the area. After seemingly overtaking the household of Dennis Wilson (of Beach Boys fame) and eventually being evicted by Wilsons' manager, Manson and his followers settled in Spahn's Movie Ranch, which would become the home base for the Manson Family. By having members of the Family help out around the dying out ranch, as well as having the women of the group have sex with the owner of the ranch, the Family was provided residence at the ranch free of charge. After establishing two more alternate headquarters in Death Valley, Manson was soon after introduced to the White Album by the Beatles - the album which contained the infamous track "Helter Skelter."

Charles Manson had told his followers that the album spoke to him. He was quoted as telling them, "They're [The Beatles] speaking to me." He claimed that the song "Helter Skelter" was telling him that a race war was brewing between in the United States, and that the end of the world was near. He told them that they needed to escape into the desert and escape the war that was beginning to rise. Charles "Tex" Watson, one of the followers who participated in the Tate murders, was quoted as saying "It was violent death, physical death that he meant when he told us that death was beautiful, because it was the thing people feared the most. Yet, he said, death was nothing but an illusion in the mind anyway, so killing a human being was merely destroying a fantasy. He kept repeating that the spirit, the soul, can never be killed; it is one and eternal - the illusion of physical death merely opens the resistant spirit to realization of its essential oneness with all that is."

On July 25, 1969, Manson sent Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner, and Susan Atkins to the house of Gary Hinman. Manson was under the impression that Hinman had inherited some money, and Manson wanted it. The group held Hinman hostage for two days before Manson showed up and cut Hinmans' ear with a sword, before apparently instructing Beausoleil to stab Hinman to death.

Two weeks later, on the night of August 9th, Manson directed "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to go to the home of Terry Melcher - with whom Manson had previous shady encounters with - and kill every body there. It was that night that the Family proceeded to kill Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and Steven Parent - five deaths at the hand of the Manson Family and the leader Charles didn't have to lift a finger. Steven Parent was found shot dead in his car in the driveway of the house. On the front lawn were the bodies of Folger and Frykowski with stab wounds. Sharon Tate was found with sixteen stab wounds, with 5 of the wounds fatal themselves.

The following night, the four Family members from the previous night, along with Leslie Van Houten and Steve Grogan committed another 2 murders. Manson joined the group that night, where they broke into the house of Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. The group tied the couple up before Manson left, leaving Watson to kill Leno LaBianca with a bayonet, with which he stabbed LaBianca in the throat before returning and stabbing him another 12 times. Watson returned to the room where Rosemary was tied up and found Patricia Krenwinkel stabbing her with a knife. Manson had told Watson to ensure that every woman played a part, Watson ordered Leslie Van Houten to stab Rosemary also, which she did, approximately sixteen times. Rosemary was found with 41 stab wounds.

Summary of Sentences for the Manson Family:

  • Bobby Beausoleil: Guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death, later to be commuted to life imprisonment.

  • Mary Brunner: Recieved immunity from prosecution for testimony against Beausoleil and Atkins.

  • Patricia Krenwinkel: Found guilty and sentenced to death, later to be commuted to life imprisonment.

  • Leslie Van Houten: Guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death, later to be commuted to life imprisonment.

  • Steve Grogan: Sentenced to death, overturned to life imprisonment by Judge James Kolts, who said Grogan was "too stupid and too hopped on drugs to decide anything on his own" and that Manson essentially was responsible for Grogan's actions. He was released in 1985.

  • Susan Atkins: Found guilty and sentenced to death, later to be commuted to life imprisonment. She died after 40 years in prison.

  • "Tex" Watson: Convicted and found guilty of seven counts of first degree murder, convicted one count consipracy to murder. Still incarcerated today.

  • Charles Manson: Guilty of conspiracy and murder and sentenced to death, later to be commuted to life imprisonment. Still alive and incarcerated today.

There are numerous books, interviews, and media surrounding this case for those still interested. This case study is just a brief overview of the main story in the case, but things get pretty dark and crazy with the Manson Family case. Feel free to share any comments or findings with us!


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