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The Manson Family Tree

A guide to the key players in Charles Manson’s orbit

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Charles Manson. Born in 1934, a career criminal — and such an inept one that he'd spent most of his life behind bars, starting from childhood. Paroled in 1967, he collected women, using them as sexual lures to attract male friends who could do him favors. Befriended, among others, Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, guitarist Neil Young, and dealer Tex Watson.

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Charles Manson is without question the most notorious killer in American history, infamous worldwide for the horrific Tate/LaBianca murders. He’s always been America’s favorite metaphor for the dark side of the Sixties, the ultimate evil hippie. And he’s embraced that notoriety.

But the fact that Manson didn’t participate in the murders that bear his name, and wasn’t there when they happened, is an obscure footnote. So are the people who did the actual killing. They don’t fit the metaphor — especially not the clean-cut Tex Watson, a high-school football star. It’s Manson who remains a celebrity: the longhair who killed the Woodstock dream, the law-and-order squad’s favorite proof of how all that freedom didn’t work.

So how did this happen? Why did Nixon’s America turn him into such a superstar? How did this bumbling criminal get the role of the world’s most dangerous man? How did this product of the Fifties come to represent the Sixties? It’s a sad and terrible story. Here are some of the key players in the Manson orbit.

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Mary Brunner

The first woman recruited into the Manson group — in 1967, she was a 23-year-old librarian at Berkeley, originally from Wisconsin. The first of the Family to give birth, though not the last. An accomplice in the Hinman killing.

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