Charles Manson has passed away at age 83. He was a cult leader who orchestrated a series of murders in 1969.
A spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told NBC News that Manson died at 8:13 p.m. PT Sunday from natural causes. It had long been rumored that Manson was ill.
According to NPR, Manson was pulled from Corcoran State Prison for health reasons earlier this month. He was serving nine life sentences inside the institution.
Manson’s cult, known as the “Manson Family” or “The Family,” beat, shot, and stabbed seven people to death in Los Angeles.
Rolling Stone reports that on August 9, 1969, Manson sent four members of his cult to the home of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski, with the directive to kill everyone inside.
Tate and four other people were killed in the attack, including Folger coffee heiress Abigail Folger, screenwriter Voytek Frykowski, hairstylist Jay Sebring, and an 18-year-old passerby Steven Earl Parent.
The following evening, Manson sent five people to a different house to kill grocery store owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
The BBC reports that Manson family members left behind clues at both crime scenes to try to make it appear as if the Black Panthers had committed the crime. They also wrote words in blood such as “helter skelter,” “piggies,” and “rise.”
As earlier reported by Rolling Stone, Manson tried to convince his followers that there would be an apocalyptic race war and that it was being foretold by songs written by the Beatles.
Paul McCartney wrote in “The Beatles Anthology” that he was shocked when he learned about his influence on the cult leader:
“Charles Manson interpreted that ‘Helter Skelter’ was something to do with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse […] I haven’t read it so I wouldn’t know. But he interpreted the whole thing […] and arrived at having to go out and kill everyone […] It was frightening, because you don’t write songs for those reasons.”
NBC News reported that a series of clues eventually led investigators back to Manson. He and three of his followers — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten — were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1971.
During the trial, Manson carved an “x” in his forehead as a symbol of mistreatment by the justice system. His followers soon did the same. He later changed his into a swastika.
He also showed up with a shaved head during the trial and told the courts, “I am the devil, and the devil always has a bald head.”
In 1972, California found the death penalty to be unconstitutional. Manson and his followers were sentenced to life in prison. He gave several interviews from prison, including one with Diane Sawyer.
Debra Tate, the sister of victim Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed, told People that she said a “prayer for his soul” when she heard he had passed away.
The youngest member of the Manson Family, Dianne Lake, recently told “Good Morning America” that Manson made “you feel really special.” Lake was 14 years old at the time. She believed that Manson was the second messiah, but said she didn’t see the “evil” coming.
After Manson was incarcerated, his cultural influence continued. He was once named by Rolling Stone magazine as the “Most Dangerous Person Alive.”
A professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, David Wilson, told BBC that Manson’s crimes represented the dark side of drug culture:
“He is iconic because he was the person who brought the swinging sixties to an end. His strange and bizarre thinking appeared perfectly in tune with the damaged side of drug culture. It wasn’t flower power any more. Youth culture was far darker and more disturbing than people had previously thought.”
The Manson Family lived together in a commune at the Spahn Ranch, an abandoned ranch where old Western movies had been filmed. At the ranch, the Manson Family members took drugs and swapped sexual partners, NBC News reported.
Manson was originally named Charles Miller Maddox. He was born to an alcoholic mother in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 12, 1934. When he was 9 years old, he started committing his first crimes. He spent more than 43 years of his life in prison.
Watch Manson’s interview with NBC News below.