Charles Manson was born Charles Milles Maddox on November 12, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father was rarely at home and his mother was both an alcoholic and a prostitute. When he was thirteen, his mother tried to have him placed in a foster home, but was unsuccessful. Instead, he was sent to Gibault School for Boys in Indiana, a reform school.
After a year, he escaped and returned to his mother's home in Cincinnati, but she kicked him out. He ended up roaming the streets and stealing to feed himself, graduating to more serious crimes. He was caught numerous times and spent most of his life in prison between 1947 and 1955. In 1951, he was sent to federal prison for taking a stolen car across state lines and released in 1954.
In January of 1955, he married a seventeen year old girl named Rosalie Jean Willis and the couple moved to California. Charles was arrested for stealing a car that same year and Rosalie became pregnant in April. His parole was revoked in 1956 after he missed a court date and sent back to prison and his wife gave birth to Charles Manson Jr. shortly after.
While Charles was in prison, his wife skipped town with a truck driver and divorced him. He was paroled in 1958 after serving two years, but managed to get arrested in 1959 for forging checks. He was given probation, but it was revoked after nine months. During his probation, he met a woman named Crystal Gosser and married her. Unfortunately, it turned out that she was a serial killer and she was thrown in an asylum while he was in prison.
After his release, he had an affair with a woman named Leona who gave birth to his second son, Charles Luther Manson. On June 1, 1960, he was arrested yet again for soliciting prostitution and sentenced to ten years at McNeil Island Prison in Washington. He was released on March 21, 1967 despite the fact that he asked to remain in prison.
Manson moved to San Francisco in late 1967, where he began to assemble a group of loyal followers whom he referred to as "The Family". They started a commune and strived to abandon all existing moral concepts. The commune was first located in Haight-Ashbury, but later moved to the Spahn Ranch in San Fernando Valley.
Manson preached to his followers that he was Jesus and had died two thousand years earlier. He dabbled in several religions during that time, including Scientology, the Process Church, and the Church of Satan.
The family's size grew quickly, reaching a peak of about one hundred people, although only thirty were totally loyal to Manson. On August 9, 1969, Manson ordered members of the Family to kill people and Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins decided to target Beverly Hills. They broke into the home of director Roman Polanski and killed his wife, Sharon Tate. As they entered the home, they killed Steven Parent, a friend of Tate's gardener, and gathered everyone inside into a room.
Jay Sebring, a hairstylist, attempted to defend Sharon, but was shot in the process. Two others, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger, attempted to escape, but were beat to death on the front lawn. Tate, still alone in the living room, begged for the life of her and her baby, but Atkins coldly replied, "I have no mercy for you. You're going to die." Following that statement, Atkins stabbed Tate to death and wrote "PIG" on the front door in Tate's blood.
The next night, Manson again called for murder and three more members of the Family murdered Leno LaBianca and Rosemary LaBianca in their home. Manson decided to join in this time and tied up the victims before departing and telling the Family members to kill them.
These were not the only homicides conducted by the Manson family, they later claimed responsibility for 35 different murders. Manson and members of his Family were arrested in late 1969 and charged with the murders.
The murders were the basis of two separate cases prosecuted by different teams of lawyers. Ronald Hughes was chosen to defend Van Houten and attempted to show that Manson had influenced Van Houten to participate in the murders. In late November of 1970, Hughes disappeared and his body was found four months later. It is suspected that Manson ordered the killing in retaliation for being implicated in court.
On March 6, 1970, Manson released a music album entitled "Lie" to fund his defense. During the trial, Manson carved an "x" into his forehead with a knife, taking advantage of the media attention. His followers did the same, creating a creepy cult appearance. He eventually turned it into a swastika, which eventually became a permanent scar on his forehead.
Although Manson was did not directly participate in the murders, he was convicted of first degree murder on January 25, 1971. On March 29, 1971 he was sentenced to death, but this sentence was changed to life in prison after a trial resulted in the invalidation of all death sentences in California.
Manson is still in prison at Corcoran State Prison in California after numerous failed attempts at getting parole. He has received more mail than any other prisoner and reportedly receives more than 60,000 letters a year.