The man at the center of one of the worst crimes of the 20th century has finally died right where he belonged all along. Charles Manson, who with his cult conducted a series of gruesome killings in Southern California nearly 50 years ago, expired of natural causes in the prison he has occupied for nearly as long.
At least the parole board won’t have to conduct any more nonsensical hearings for Manson in the future:
Notorious murderer and cult leader Charles Manson died at 83 of natural causes on Sunday evening, according to prison officials in California. …
Manson and three of his followers were convicted in 1971 and sentenced to death, but the death sentences were commuted to life sentences when a California Supreme Court ruling abolished capital punishment in 1972.
Manson was later convicted of two additional murders and spent nearly five decades behind bars since his 1971 conviction. He was housed in a protective unit at a California state prison in Corcoran prior to his death on Sunday. He died in a Kern County hospital.
For nearly five decades, the families of his victims have worked to keep Manson and his fellow “family” members behind bars for the rest of their lives. Debra Tate, the sister of the most famous of the victims, tells ABC News that Manson’s death isn’t really much of a relief, not while the other murderers keep coming up for parole:
Debra Tate, sister of slain actress Sharon Tate, said she wasn’t relieved on Sunday when she heard that Charles Manson, the notorious cult leader and convicted murderer responsible for her sister’s death, had died in prison.
“People are saying that this should be some kind of relief, but oddly enough it really isn’t,” Tate said in a phone interview. “While Charlie may be gone, it’s the ones that are still alive that perpetrate everything and it was up to their imaginations for what brutal things were going to be done. In an odd way I see them as much more dangerous individuals.”
The seven people killed in the two-day murder spree were not the only victims of the Manson cult. Manson and other members have been convicted of at least two other murders, and there may be many more victims that have yet to be identified. Last year, police finally identified a Jane Doe from the autumn of 1969 as a woman who may have spent time with the cult. Reet Jurvetson was stabbed 150 times and dumped off of Mulholland Drive, not too far from where the Tate murders took place, and a caretaker at Spahn Ranch — the cult’s home — told police that he thought she’d been there during the summer using the name “Sherry.”
How many murders the cult committed will almost certainly never be known. The remaining defendants are too busy trying to declare themselves rehabilitated and suitable for parole to want to reveal more crimes for which they might get held responsible. Leslie Van Houten, the youngest of those convicted in the Tate-LaBianca murders, got a thumbs-up from the parole board for her release, but thus far Governor Jerry Brown has not announced whether he’ll approve the recommendation. He rejected a similar ruling for Van Houten last year, and the families continue to resist any release for defendants who only escaped the death penalty because the California Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. (Since “life without parole” did not exist in state law at the time of the murders, all Death Row defendants had their sentences automatically commuted to life, with parole a possibility.)
Since then, there have been more prolific serial killers, in Southern California and elsewhere, but none more notorious than the Manson “family.” The combination of the Summer of Love, drugs, Manson’s grotesque cult leadership, and the group killings put Manson and his group apart from the loners. The Sixties arguably ended that summer and fall, when the truth behind the murders became apparent, even if the mythologization of the Sixties had only gotten started.
Manson died where he belonged. Let the parole board and Governor Brown take that as a victory, and apply that lesson to the other Manson “family” convicts.