What Did Charles Manson Do?

Charles Manson was a cult leader in the 1960s and, in August 1969, ordered four of his followers to commit a series of murders in Hollywood. Victims included the actress Sharon Tate (also known as the wife of film director Roman Polanski), a wealthy couple named Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the writer Wojciech Frykowski, coffee bean heiress Abigail Folger and celebrity stylist Jay Sebring.

Those responsible for carrying out the murders represented the inner circle of Manson's self-described "family." They were Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Kenwinkel.

Manson's motive for ordering the killings was his belief in an impending apocalyptic race war, which he referred to as "Helter Skelter." Manson believed that he could hasten the coming of this race war by framing black people for the murders of prominent white people (specifically by discarding victims' wallets in African-American neighborhoods). He and his followers, he believed, would be safe in an underground world.

Manson's behavior during his trial was erratic from the outset. He was eventually forbidden from representing himself, prompting him to carve an 'X' into his own forehead in protest. At another point, he launched himself at the judge and shouted threats.

Originally sentenced to death, a California Supreme Court ruling in 1972 commuted Charles Manson's sentence to life in prison.