Manson Family: Where Are They Now? - Rolling Stone
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Manson Family: Where Are They Now?

Their terror brought a halt to the peace and love of the 1960s, but many members of the most infamous cult in American history live on

Charles Manson, the psychopathic career criminal who inspired a murderous cult following and brought a grisly end to the utopian dreams of the 1960s, has spent the past 47 years locked up in California. Manson, born Charles Milles Maddox in 1934 to a 16-year-old mother, had already spent half his life in jail when he orchestrated one of the most infamous crimes of the 20th Century.

According to biographer Jeff Guinn, Manson had been a talented manipulator since grade school, convincing classmates – mostly girls – to attack people he didn’t like. He managed to escape blame for their actions, and while he would sometimes turn violent himself, it was a 1947 theft that initially sent him into reform school. He was in and out of incarceration for the next 20 years for everything from pimping to false checks.

When Manson was released from prison for the last time in 1967, he had learned to play guitar, and was intent on making his way as a musician. After a stint in San Francisco, where he witnessed first-hand the Summer of Love, Manson made his way down to Southern California, installing his budding “Family” in various temporary homes – including that of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson – before landing in the Spahn Ranch, an unused Western movie set.

It was while living there that Manson convinced his followers to help him start “Helter Skelter,” a race-war that was foretold on a Beatles’ White Album track, which would end in apocalypse and eventual Manson world domination. He sent them out to commit a series of crimes that culminated with the murders of Sharon Tate, the eight-month pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and four companions at her home on August 9th, 1969, and the killing of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the following night.

Manson was arrested in October 1969 on unrelated charges, but hasn’t been freed since. In 1971 he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death, which was commuted to life in prison after California temporarily banned capital punishment in 1972. He’s periodically spoken to the media – including to Rolling Stone in 1970 and 2013 – and has been denied parole 12 times, most recently in 2012. Currently 81 years old, he’s next up for parole in 2027

FILE - In this Nov. 25, 1975 file photo, Lynette Fromme sits in a U.S. Marshal's auto in Sacramento, Calif. Frome, the Charles Manson follower convicted of trying to assassinate President Gerald Ford, was released Friday, Aug. 14, 2009 from a Texas prison hospital after more than three decades behind bars, a prison official said. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski, Pool)

Lynette Fromme sits in a U.S. Marshal's auto in Sacramento, California, November 25, 1975.

Walt Zeboski/AP

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme

While she didn't participate in the Tate – La Bianca murders, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a former child performer who was living in Venice Beach when she met Manson, was one of the most consistent presences outside the courthouse during the trials, supporting the family members by camping out there while they were on trial. But she got her own chance at court justice after her 1975 attempt on President Gerald Ford's life – which didn’t get past her pulling a gun on him during a public event. Fromme was sentenced to life in prison and, despite a brief 1987 escape, she was released in 2009

FILE - In this March 12, 2014 photo provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabiltation, Bruce Davis is shown. A Los Angeles judge has denied parole for the former Charles Manson follower who has been imprisoned for more than 40 years for two murders. Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, upheld the governor's reversal of a parole board decision last year to release Davis. Davis was convicted in the 1969 slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea. (Department of Corrections and Rehabiltation via AP)

Bruce Davis, March 12, 2014, while incarcerated in California.


Bruce Davis

Bruce Davis came to the cult of Manson by way of Scientology, a new religion in which Manson himself had dabbled. Davis met the family when they were in Oregon in 1968, and proceeded to spend the next year or so in England working for the Scientologists before being kicked out for his drug use and heading back to California in April 1969. David became one of the most powerful people on Spahn Ranch, in charge of the fake IDs and stolen credit cards that allowed the cult to function. Davis wasn't present for the Tate or La Bianca murders; instead, his role seems to have been that of enforcer, and he was the muscle behind the Gary Hinman and Shorty Shea slayings that same summer. Davis was convicted of those murders in 1972 and was sentenced to life in prison. In the years since, he's been married, become a father, found Jesus and earned a PhD in philosophy, but was still denied parole by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year, citing the "horror of the murders committed by the Manson family in 1969 and the fear they instilled in the public [that] will never be forgotten."

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