The Young Charles Manson

The Young Charles Manson

Manson took to a life of crime early on in life. He spent 17 years in jails, reformatories and prisons for various crimes, such as forging government checks, stealing and violent acts.


Wilson Opened His Home to Manson’s Family…

As Dennis begun sharing his property to Manson, Manson began sharing Dennis’s hospitality to the 20-30 female companions and group members that were involved with Charles. Inititally, Dennis didn’t really care. Rock N Roll icons were accustomed to hitchhikers, squatters, and all the partying that came with that sort of career. Besides, Manson was also a musician, so they had quite a lot in common. Dennis basked in Manson’s unusual ideas of how the world operated. He also basked in the LSD that was shared, and the women that always came by.

Manson, at the time, was looking to land a record deal. So Wilson took it upon himself to introduce Charles to his musical friends and industry leaders. Neil Young quotes him as an improvisational genius, and talent agents wanted to start a documentary about Manson and his “family.”


10 Tragic Stories From The Childhood Of Charles Manson

In August 1969, Charles Manson&rsquos Family brutally murdered nine people as part of an insane plan to bring about a race war. The fame of his victims, the horrific way they were killed, and Manson&rsquos own unique brand of madness have left him imprinted in history as one of the most horrible killers of all time.

No monster, though, is born from nothingness. Charles Manson was a child once, and that childhood was littered with tragic moments. No one would claim that these stories are sad enough to justify what he did, but they might shed light on how monsters are formed.


What Was Charles Manson's Childhood Like? 'Young Charlie' Explores the Early Life of the Killer and Cult Leader

Three days before he ran away from Boy's Town, a juvenile facility in Omaha, Nebraska, Charles Manson poses in a suit and tie. Photo: Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

What Was Charles Manson's Childhood Like? 'Young Charlie' Explores the Early Life of the Killer and Cult Leader

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What Was Charles Manson's Childhood Like? 'Young Charlie' Explores the Early Life of the Killer and Cult Leader

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Infamous cult leader and self-proclaimed �vil” Charles Manson—who died on November 19, 2017 at age 83—was more than just a deranged power-tripper with a penchant for swastikas and young female followers. He was the mastermind behind 1969’s history-shifting murder spree of 8-months-pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others at the home Tate shared with director Roman Polanski. Manson’s followers in his commune, known as the �mily,” tortured and killed two more people the following night: a couple named Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Though Charles Manson didn’t kill any of these victims himself—he asked his followers to commit the murders on his behalf as part of a plot to incite a race war—he was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and spent the rest of his life behind bars. (He and Susan Atkins, then 22 Patricia Krenwinkel, 23 Leslie Van Houten, 21, and Charles “Tex” Watson were originally sentenced to death, but their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment after the death penalty was abolished in California.)

With Manson’s recent death, the timing of the new podcast “Young Charlie” feels apt. The series, an offshoot of the popular “Hollywood & Crime” podcast, was written by Larry Brand, scribe of hit Hollywood films like Girl on the Train and Halloween: Resurrection. The podcast has been a repeat contender in the No.1 spot on Apple Podcasts, and reveals new information about Manson’s childhood, home life and psychology. A&E Real Crime talks to Brand about misconceptions about Manson’s early years.

How do you feel about Manson’s passing?
I feel the same way that most people do. He was [almost] 50 years on from the crime and he had become kind of an irrelevancy. His crimes will live on, but he was almost beside the point. He’s not a sympathetic figure. I’m not a proponent of the death penalty, and I think he got what he deserved [in prison].

Why do you think Manson has been a figure of such enduring public interest for nearly 50 years?
I think the reason he captured the imagination of so many people is that his followers seemed indistinguishable from any of the thousands of other hippies in San Francisco in 1967. It was not so much that he was a sociopath, but the fact that he could infect these minds to the point where they would commit murder in the most vile, brutal, sadistic [way].

My job [on the podcast] was to [translate his psychology] for those who find it inexplicable. By the end, I think I got into his head sufficiently and understood his ability to manipulate others and [suck] them into his web. This was something he was doing at 5 years old he had this ability to use words to ensnare people.

You’re primarily a film director and writer. Why do a podcast on Manson?
My producing partners, Rebecca Reynolds and Jim Carpenter, had a series on Wondery called “Hollywood & Crime.”  [We decided] to do a [special series] focused on Manson, and the idea of “Young Charlie” just popped into my brain. I thought, why not come at this from a different perspective? How about not just retelling the Helter Skelter story, but also focusing on what got him to that point?

The series has two timelines: One begins on the morning that the bodies are discovered, and the other�gins when he’s 5 and ends the night he sends his followers out to commit those murders. I [wanted to explore] how this 5-year-old kid grew into this monster that has haunted our national psyche for almost 50 years.

What were some of his foundational childhood experiences?
When we’re introduced to him [on the show], he’s 4 or 5 years old and watching his mom get carted off to prison for armed robbery. His mother, Kathleen, and his Uncle Luther had stuck up a guy with a ketchup bottle, pretending it was a gun.

He was not raised in optimal circumstances. But unlike what Manson claimed, his mother was not a prostitute she was an unwed teenage mother and she got married to give him a name. That [robbery] was a one-off event she was essentially talked into by her older brother. Charlie had a rough childhood, but he grew up in the Depression. There were millions of people that grew up under the same, if not worse, circumstances.

Although Manson wasn’t technically a serial killer—he was a spree killer—is there anything from his early years that we could compare to what we know are typical childhood traits for serial killers?
Interestingly, Charlie had an affection for animals. He worked in a stable for a while and loved the horses. He would rather kill a person than kill an animal. He didn’t follow the pattern of the serial killer, who is generally a sexual sadist who takes pleasure in other people’s misery.

There’s certainly a sadistic component to Charlie, and he would often beat his followers, but he doesn’t really qualify as a sexual sadist. He did not torture or murder women as a sexual exercise. He was more of a pure sociopath. He did not have a moral compass. All that mattered was Charlie.

There is one instance when he was an adolescent due out on parole [from a reformatory]. It was in his interest to behave. But he saw this vulnerable young kid and he subdued him and raped him, with a razor held to the kid’s throat.

You mentioned earlier that he lied about his mom being a prostitute. Why?
If a lie would get him what he wanted, he would lie. It was all about the moment. There was also a continuing center of self-pity. He was the center of the world, the child of sorrow. So he would elaborate and make everything his own hardship. This is very typical of sociopaths. They don’t feel your pain. They feel their own. Whether it is lying as a 10 year old, or murdering as a 35-year-old𠅎verything comes from this little ball of ego, desire and sense of victimhood.

Did you learn anything during your research that surprised you?
I didn’t know he considered himself a Scientologist. I don’t think the Scientologists would consider him a Scientologist, though, if for no other reason than he couldn’t afford the program.

He was also very influenced by Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” which I think has almost a darkly comical aspect to it. One of the principles of Carnegie’s book is…to make the other guy believe the idea is his, and Charlie really had that ability. For 50 years he’s been claiming he was innocent because he…wasn’t physically present for the murders. He actually was there and tied up the LaBiancas, but…I [believe] he thought he was wrongly convicted.

Any misconceptions you see out there about Manson?
There’s this notion I hear a lot: ‘Well, we don’t know what we would’ve done if we were there,’ like you don’t know what you would have done if you𠆝 been in Hitler Germany or in Stalinist Russia.

[For the Manson case], there’s this sense that were it for time and place, almost any hippie could have been vulnerable to his con. I think that’s profoundly wrong. There were people who ran as soon as they heard he was talking about initiating Helter Skelter. There were kids who grew disaffected and escaped. There were kids who were there but refused to participate, like Linda Kasabian. What’s entered the national psyche is this kind of generic feeling of ‘Oh my god, look what people are capable of.’ I think the answer is to look at what some people are capable of.


The song Neil Young wrote about the infamous murderer Charles Manson

Neil Young and Charles Manson have a bizarrely intertwined history. The two men once shared a jam session at a time when Manson was an up and coming talent, one that had started to make waves in California and caught Young’s attention. Their paths then diverted, as Young became one of the most revered artists on the planet and Manson became the world’s most notorious cult leader. Manson would then later become the muse for Young’s track, ‘Revolution Blues’.

Manson was infamously the mastermind behind the Tate–LaBianca murders—of which Quentin Tarantino based his wildly successful film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on—a mass murder conducted by members of the Manson Family in 1969. Four members of the ‘family’ broke into the home of actress Sharon Tate and husband Roman Polanski and brutally murdered Tate and her three friends who were visiting at the time. Tate was also eight-and-a-half months pregnant when her life ended on Manson’s demand.

Prior to this moment, the cult leader had started to make a name for himself in Los Angeles and built up connections across the music industry. A career break would come when Manson struck up a friendship with Beach Boys member and co-founder Dennis Wilson who regularly invited Manson into his home—a hangout spot that Neil Young would often find himself in.

The result, somewhat bizarrely, meant that Young had not only been in the same room as Manson but jammed with the killer, helped write new music, gifted him a motorcycle and even tried to help the future murderer secure a professional record deal.

In Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography, the brushes the musician had with Manson are noted: “At some point in 1968 he encountered Charles Manson a few times (curiously, Young and Manson share a November 12 birthdate). The two men were brought together through mutual friend Dennis Wilson, an ally of Young’s since the Beach Boyos tours. Manson lusted after a recording career. ‘Helter Skelter’ was months away.

“This meeting of the minds provided much fodder for interviews, with Young telling journalist Nick Kent that Manson was ‘great, he was unreal… I mean, if he had a band like Dylan had on Subterranean Homesick Blues.'”

In a 1985 interview with NME, Young praisingly said: “I can see these things in other people. You can see it and feel it. Manson would sing a song and just make it up as he went along, for three or four minutes, and he never would repeat one word, and it all made perfect sense, and it shook you up to listen to it. It was so good that it scared you.”

Neil Young recalled the time he spent mixing with the Manson Family to The Observer Music Monthly October 2008: “Spooky times. I knew Charlie Manson. A few people were at this house on Sunset Boulevard, and the people were different. I didn’t know what it was I was meeting them, and he was not a happy guy, but he seemed to have a hold on girls. It was the ugly side of the Maharishi. You know, there’s one side of the light, nice flowers and white robes and everything, and then there’s something that looks a lot like it but just isn’t it at all.”

The track ‘Revolution Blues’ appeared on his 1974 album, On The Beach, rather than being a scathing song about the hideous acts that Manson demanded his followers carry out on his behalf — it is written from the perspective of the cult leader. The track does paint Manson in an evil light, but, it also humanises his actions with the lines: “But I’m still not happy, I feel like there’s something wrong, I got the revolution blues, I see bloody fountains.”

‘Revolution Blues’ isn’t a cartoonish caricature of a villain. Instead Young tries to tell a nuanced tale that explains why the cult leader carries out the heinous activities he does and how it’s all an attempt to make him feel something, rather than having a divine inclination to be evil.


Charles Manson: Master Manipulator, Even As A Child

In the summer of 1969, all eyes were on Los Angeles, where nine people had been murdered. Among the dead was Sharon Tate, a movie star and wife of movie director Roman Polanski. Police said a cult called "The Family" was responsible.

The leader of The Family was the charismatic, ruthless and manipulative Charles Manson. America was captivated by him, and by the young women who, under his spell, had snuck into two houses in Los Angeles to murder people they had never met. The trial was nationally broadcast, and Manson became a household name.

More than four decades after the murders, Manson is still a fascination for many, though much about his life remains murky. Writer Jeff Guinn has spent many years digging into Manson's past, getting access to family members and photos never reported on before. His new biography is called Manson: The Life And Times of Charles Manson.

Even from an early age, Manson gave signals of trouble ahead, Guinn tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered. A cousin of Manson's told Guinn, "There was never anything happy about him. Never anything good about him."

Interview Highlights

On how young Charles Manson resembled the man he would become

"It was amazing how the patterns of his later life were evident right away. Six years old first grade he's talking the girls in his class into beating up boys he doesn't like. Then when the principal comes to ask Charlie, 'Why did you do that?' Charlie's response is, 'It wasn't me they were doing what they wanted. You can't blame me for that.' The exact same defense he uses all those years later in the Tate-LaBianca trial."

On the truth about Manson's mother

"Manson has lied about everything in his childhood, every opportunity that he's had, and no one's ever really challenged him on it, though the record was there if you wanted to look far enough. He always claimed he was the child of an unwed teenage prostitute who tried to sell her baby once for a pitcher of beer.

Jeff Guinn's previous books include The Last Gunfight and Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde. Jill Johnson/Courtesy Simon & Schuster hide caption

Jeff Guinn's previous books include The Last Gunfight and Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde.

Jill Johnson/Courtesy Simon & Schuster

"In no way is that true. His mother was an incompetent robber who went to prison when Charlie was 5 for a couple years for a spectacularly bungled attempted robbery. But there is no record anywhere that she was ever a prostitute, ever arrested. Thanks to finding Charlie's sister, we now know the mother's side. She tried desperately to help him, to keep him in school. She loved him and to the end of her life, her heart ached for things he did."

On how Manson learned to manipulate people in prison

"The Dale Carnegie courses [on leadership and self-improvement] are being taught to prisoners to help them adjust to the outside world. Later in life and in his trial, in his testimony, you hear people say over and over, 'Oh, it was like he could read my mind. He came and talked to me, and it was like he was immediately the friend I'd wanted and had never had.' Every line he used, almost word for word, comes from a Dale Carnegie textbook in a class, How to Win Friends and Influence People [1936]."

On Manson's desire to become a music sensation

"Charlie Manson had nothing that would make you notice him as a musician. He had great personality, he had charisma, but in a recording studio where the music has to carry you, it wasn't there."

On Manson's place in American consciousness

"I think Charlie would be modestly remembered but mostly forgotten now if he'd been executed, as was his original sentence. But the California courts overturned the death penalty."


The Real Charles Manson

The 50th anniversary of the Manson family slayings have inspired a rash of new essays and retrospectives, and almost ubiquitous among them is the same basic premise: that the seven murders committed by Charles Manson’s cultists in August 1969 marked not just the “death of the ’60s” but the indefinite deferral of the dream they contained. From the very titles of the works exploring the family’s crimes to a new summer blockbuster starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, this notion continues to dominate the public imagination.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion writes in her seminal essay, “The White Album,” imposing “a narrative line upon disparate images” so as to adduce some clear moral or lesson from our experiences. In Didion’s recollection of the ’60s, memory may be kaleidoscopic, and events cannot be put in a linear order.

What is clear for Didion is that the gruesome violence of the Tate-LaBianca tragedy denoted the end point of the decade, the wages of a strange, unhinged time. Her recounting of the era centers upon the Manson slayings as the grim culmination of all that messy campus activism, dissolute rock musicians, black nationalism and strange new communes popping up like dandelions. In Didion’s telling, “no one was surprised” that five people had been slaughtered in Roman Polanski’s Benedict Canyon mansion—a curious note to strike about a crime that continues to shock to this day.

In the decades since its publication, the basic thesis of “The White Album” has become consensus. Manson, who died in prison in 2017, lives on as an Antichrist come to Los Angeles—the ultimate boogeyman to warn against the freak lifestyle of his time and place.

But this narrative doesn’t merely do a grave disservice to the Manson family’s victims by minimizing their suffering as the mere collateral of history. Conflating the likes of Tex Watson and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme with the wider cultural revolutions of the era is itself a highly pernicious and dubious proposition, serving a largely reactionary interpretation of the crimes. Such a view not only does little to advance a meaningful understanding of the murders but validates a widespread hostility, then and now, toward the counterculture, as though it was the exclusive domain of a single, nightmarish guru.

This transformation of Manson, a barely literate career criminal, into the malevolent force responsible for ending an epoch, rests on a curious contradiction. In this version of events, Manson is a uniquely evil, ultraviolent force whose exploitation of the counterculture’s naivete ultimately destroyed a time of peaceful idealism and brotherly love. This is the case made in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which revels in the innocence those murders allegedly destroyed.

Tarantino’s film prompts the question: Just how innocent was the age that preceded the Tate-LaBianca murders? Even the most cursory examination of the decade indicates that it was incredibly, unceasingly violent. For an essay purportedly about the ’60s, Didion’s “The White Album” ignores the most murderous Californian of the time, Richard Nixon. There is no mention of the Vietnam War and the wider savagery visited upon Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, she portrays the campus activists of the era as faintly ridiculous dead-enders engaged in “industrious self-delusion,” their ultimate motives seemingly unworthy of exploration.

Race riots, horrific carpet-bombing, the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and the Kennedys—these are just the period’s most recognizable acts of carnage. Brutality was the status quo, and most of it originated not from the panoply of militant activists associated with the ’60s but from a mainstream acting in the name of law and order. Police and security service action against the counterculture was endemic from spying to dirty tricks to assaults on such activists as Abbie Hoffman, such efforts involved prominent, powerful reactionaries, including those in the White House.

Dark conspiracies were afoot. As journalist Tom O’Neill reveals in his new book, “Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties,” FBI COINTELPRO agents had successfully engineered the murders of two Black Panthers on the UCLA campus in 1969, using informants to prod a rival black nationalist group into the crimes. In May of that year, the California Highway Patrol, operating under then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, fired shotguns at dozens of students at the University of California at Berkeley, killing one and blinding another. That December, Black Panther leaders Mark Clark and Fred Hampton were killed in a Chicago police raid, with a wealth of evidence pointing to their extrajudicial murder.

By making the Manson family murders the fulcrum of her essay, Didion didn’t merely depoliticize the era she recast history, however eloquently, to conform with her cultural beliefs as a stalwart Barry Goldwater voter. So if the popular understanding of the California cult has often been a cynical one, deployed selectively to sully the ’60s counterculture as inherently sinister, what can we learn from the tragedy? And what is the best way of understanding the seemingly incomprehensible events of August 1969?

The answers likely hold crucial lessons for 2019. Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s description of Manson as a “right-wing hippie” in his best-selling account of the case, “Helter Skelter,” is largely accurate. Manson, a grifting former pimp, had no political ethos beyond perhaps his white supremacism, which only grew more pronounced after he was incarcerated. Indeed, the entire hippie phenomenon of 1969 was hardly as political as popular memory leads us to believe. As Hunter S. Thompson reported in his 1967 essay on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, hippies were not the student activists who had roiled campuses around the country in the years before they were apolitical waifs who retreated from the kind of confrontation the activism of the day entailed.

Manson once called himself “The Gardener” because he collected flower children. The nickname was unfortunately apt, as he largely preyed on teenage girls, some as much as 15 years younger than himself. More than the savage violence for which it’s remembered, this was perhaps the defining feature of the Manson family. Its cult leader systematically exploited the psychological vulnerabilities of extremely young women, already alienated from their middle-class families of origin, and “love-bombed” them to make them feel special, valued and unique.

Reading the accounts of his manipulation, Manson emerges not as a mysterious Svengali with a unique gift for mind control but as a more conventional domestic abuser, alternating between threats and inducements. On Spahn Ranch, his disciples were completely isolated from all external influences. They weren’t even allowed to own wristwatches.

Tragically for Manson’s first victims, the desires he exploited to such disastrous effect were pervasive to women of the era. “I seemed to want more out of life than what was expected of young girls at that time,” recounted convicted killer Leslie Van Houten during an interview from prison with Diane Sawyer in 1993. “Drugs, sex. Y’know, breaking away from the norm.”

Van Houten was hardly alone. By 1969, countless women were peacefully raising their children on communal estates like the Hog Farm, away from mainstream society. Yet it was Van Houten who helped stab Rosemary LaBianca to death.

The crimes of the Manson family were singularly horrific, but it is equal parts dangerous and irresponsible to paint them as the inevitable result of an alternative lifestyle. Indeed, the greed, racism and fame-seeking, which defined and animated Manson, remain as common to American life today as they were then. It is the misogyny of his crimes—embodied most awfully with the death of an eight-and-a-half-months-pregnant Sharon Tate—that seems most striking now.

Perhaps the least-explored horror of the Manson family murders was the way they reflected, through the broken glass of one struggling songwriter, mainstream American desires. We have a duty to remember this, no matter how comforting it would be to consign such beasts to the shadows. The killer, to echo the famous short story, was calling from inside the house.


Read about the final, missed opportunity to prevent the Manson Family murders

When the Manson Family was tried for the 1969 murders of five people including the pregnant Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, record producer Terry Melcher was a key witness. Melcher had briefly lived in the house on Cielo Drive where the murders took place, and he and The Beach Boys’ drummer, Dennis Wilson, had both encountered Charles Manson in chance meetings as the cult leader pursued the music career he had always wanted. In an extract (below) from his new book, Chaos: Charles Manson, The CIA And The Secret History Of The Sixties (written with Dan Piepenbring), Tom O’Neill details how for a moment it seemed to Manson as though Melcher or Wilson might be his ticket to musical fame – but that moment passed and a rebuffed Manson doubled down on the doomsday theorising that would lead to the most sensational killings in American history.

The story of Manson and Melcher starts with Dennis Wilson. By the summer of 1968, Wilson, then 23, had reached an impasse. He’d become world famous as the drummer for The Beach Boys, helmed by his brother Brian now the band was in decline, edged out by more subversive acts. He and his wife, Carole, had recently divorced for the second time. She wrote in court filings that he had a violent temper, inflicting “severe bodily injury” on her during his “rampages”.

The couple had two young children, but Dennis decided to rusticate as a bachelor. He moved into a lavish, Spanish-style mansion in Pacific Palisades, once a hunting lodge owned by the humorist Will Rogers. The home boasted 31 rooms and a swimming pool in the shape of California. He redecorated in the spirit of the times – zebra-print carpet, abundant bunk beds – and hosted decadent parties, hoping to have as much sex as possible.

One day, Wilson was driving his custom red Ferrari down the Pacific Coast Highway when two hitchhikers, the Family’s Ella Jo Bailey and Patricia Krenwinkel, caught his eye. He gave them a quick lift. When he saw them again soon afterward, he picked them up a second time, taking them back to his place for “milk and cookies”. History hasn’t recorded what kind of cookies they enjoyed, or whether those cookies were in fact sex, but whatever the case, the girls told Manson about the encounter. They weren’t aware of Wilson’s clout in the music industry – but Manson was, and he insisted on going back to the house with them.

After a late recording session, Wilson returned to his estate to find the Family’s big black bus parked outside. His living room was populated with topless girls. Whatever alarm he felt was eased when their short, intense, unwashed leader, Manson, sunk to his knees and kissed Wilson’s feet.

This night ushered in a summer of ceaseless partying for Wilson.

Manson and the Family set up shop in his home, and soon Manson recruited one of the group’s deadliest members, Tex Watson, who picked him up hitchhiking. The Family spent their days smoking dope and listening to Charlie strum the guitar. The girls made the meals, did the laundry and slept with the men on command. Manson prescribed sex seven times a day: before and after all three meals and once in the middle of the night. “It was as if we were kings, just because we were men,” Watson later wrote. Soon Wilson was bragging so much that he landed a headline in Record Mirror: “I Live With 17 Girls”.


Manson's Childhood Was Spent In Juvenile Detention

Born on November 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio to 16-year-old Kathleen Maddox, Charles Manson grew up in a state of near-constant chaos. He once bragged that his mother tried to trade him for a pitcher of beer, and claimed that if he was able to choose his mother he would have lived with Kathleen all over again.

After his mother was sent to prison, Manson was sent to the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana. After multiple escapes, Manson was sent to Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska where he stole a car and once again escaped the detention center. He was caught after four days of freedom and sent to the Indiana Boys School. This is where Manson’s history of being sexually abused began. He says that because he was so small it was easy for inmates to use him how they saw fit. Manson acted in kind, and by the time he was at the Federal Reformatory in Petersburg, Virginia he was regularly committing sexual assaults on younger inmates.

In 1954, at the age of 20 Manson was finally released from the juvenile system and sent to live with his aunt and uncle in West Virginia.


Watch the video: Youngest member of the Manson family says Charles Manson made you feel really special