Charles Manson, the cult leader who masterminded the brutal killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in the summer of 1969, died Sunday at Kern County Hospital of natural causes, the California Department of Corrections reported. He was 83.
Manson was an amateur musician and career criminal before becoming the leader of the Manson family, as his followers were called. He was convicted of nine murders, but known best for the two-day killing spree in August 1969, which his followers committed, on his orders. The gruesome murders were inspired by Manson’s own racist interpretation of the Beatles White Album and its song “Helter Skelter,” which he believed was about a coming apocalyptic race war. Manson’s killers scrawled “Death to Pigs” and “Healter Skealter,” misspelled, in blood on the walls at the crime scenes.
He was originally sentenced to death, but he later received life without parole when California eliminated the death penalty in 1972. His wild-eyed appearance and dark apocalyptic notions elevated his status in pop culture.
Manson was taken earlier this month from Corcoran State prison to a Bakersfield, California hospital for an undisclosed medical issue, according to Rolling Stone. It’s unclear if Manson will have a funeral or what will happen to his body.