NBC - Charles Manson, the sinister hippy cult leader who declared himself "the devil" and dispatched his followers to commit a series of Hollywood murders in 1969, has died.
He was 83 years old. He was at the center of one of the most notorious mass murders in U.S. history. Though he was never found guilty of murder himself.
Charles Manson was convicted in 1971 for ordering his followers to kill seven people over two nights in the Hollywood Hills. The 1969 murders, which included actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, shocked the nation and struck fear in the hearts of the Los Angeles community.
The victims were found bound, shot, and stabbed multiple times with the words "death to pigs" and "Helter Skelter" written on the walls in blood. The investigation led police to Manson where they discovered a cult of followers living in an abandoned movie set and ranch in the desert outside of Los Angeles.
The trial which began in June 1970 for Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten quickly became a spectacle. Manson's followers gathered daily outside of the courtroom. While inside, Manson and his co-defendants shaved their heads and carved 'X's' into their foreheads.
A circus-like atmosphere would continue throughout the trial.
Manson was finally convicted and sentenced to death but eventually got life in prison after the California Supreme Court temporarily abolished the death penalty.
Over the years, he was repeatedly denied parole and often gave rambling, chilling interviews from prison. "Believe me, if I started murdering people, there'd be none of you left," said Manson in one interview.
A morbid curiosity sparked interest in Manson throughout the years, while victims' families have long lamented him being allowed to live. "He's been a curse to our family and to the Tate family and to the Labianca family. I'm sure it would be nice to have that door closed, that Manson would die," said the cousin of a victim, Kay Martley.
They have, finally, gotten their wish.
Manson died in Kern County around 8 p.m. local time, according to a spokeswoman for the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.