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In this June 10, 1981 file photo, convicted murderer Charles Manson is photographed during an interview with television talk show host Tom Snyder in a medical facility in Vacaville, Calif. Authorities say Manson, cult leader and mastermind behind 1969 deaths of actress Sharon Tate and several others, died on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. He was 83. (Photo: AP/File)

Charles Manson, the cult leader who directed an infamous 1969 crime spree and lived to an old age after California struck down its death penalty, died Sunday of natural causes.

Manson, 83, died at a local hospital outside the prison walls, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced shortly after the notorious prisoner died Sunday night.

Manson and his “Family”—a group of mostly young women who engaged in psychedelic drugs and orgies from their communal home in the California desert—were convicted in a spree of gruesome killings that they believed would bring about an apocalyptic race war called “Helter Skelter,” based on a Beatles song.

But the series of seven killings over two shocking nights in August 1969 instead is widely perceived as bringing the “peace and love” hippie ethos to an abrupt, and bloody, end.

Four Manson Family members entered the Beverly Hills home of director Roman Polanski on Aug. 8, 1969 and killed five people, including Sharon Tate, a rising movie star and wife of Polanski who was eight months pregnant at the time she was stabbed to death. The other victims were Abigail Folger (an heiress to the coffee fortune), hair stylist Jay Sebring, movie director Voityck Frykowski, and Steven Parent.

The next night, a half-dozen Family members entered the Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, and killed the unarmed couple.

Manson reportedly was not present at the time of the Tate home killings—but he drove the Family members to the LaBianca house.

The killers left messages written in the victims’ blood at the two crime scenes: “PIG,” “Death to Pigs,” and “Healter Skelter” (sic).

Manson and his followers were arrested two months after the back-to-back nights of murders on suspicion of auto theft. The Tate and LaBianca massacres were solved when Manson Family member Susan Atkins bragged about the slayings to a fellow inmate in late 1969.

After a more than year-long, headline-grabbing trial, Manson and three of his female “Family” members were sentenced to die: Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten.

Manson was sentenced to seven counts of first-degree murder on April 22, 1971. Two more first-degree murder convictions followed in December 1971, for the deaths of Gary Hinman and Donald Shea.

Manson and his three female acolytes were spared execution when California overturned its death penalty in 1972. (A fifth convicted Manson Family member, Charles “Tex” Watson, was caught in Texas and was later also convicted of the murders.)

Atkins died of natural causes in prison in 2009. Krenwinkel, Van Houten and Watson all remain behind bars.

“I only did what Charlie wanted,” Krenwinkel told Diane Sawyer in 1994.

“I never told anybody to do anything other than what they wanted to do,” Manson countered, by that time still sporting the infamous swastika carved into his forehead. “I’m a convict; I’m an outlaw; I’m a rebel; I’m not a Sunday school teacher.”

Van Houten, however, was recommended for parole in September—and a final decision on her possible release is pending. She and her attorney are also seeking recordings made by Watson (the “Tex Watson Tapes”) shortly after the bloody crime spree, which may yet shed more light on the Manson Family’s criminal activities in 1969, and earlier.

Manson was denied parole 12 times between 1978 and 2012.

Manson was born to a teenage mother in Cincinnati in 1934. His mother also had a criminal record, and he never knew who his biological father was at the time. Manson was in a reform school by the age of 8, and he was in and out of the corrections system by his mid-30s, when he started recruiting for his “Family.”

California corrections told The Associated Press that Manson had no known next of kin. If they are not contacted by a relative or legal representative in the next 10 days, the department will decide whether to cremate or bury Manson’s body.

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