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Aging Charles Manson captured in prison photo

March 18, 2009 |  5:18 pm

Charles_manson1968_2009_2

California corrections officials released a photograph taken today of aging convicted mass murderer Charles Manson, replete with receding hairline, fading forehead Swastika carving and a thick, heavily graying beard.

The photograph of the 74-year-old cult leader was taken at Corcoran State Prison, where he is serving a life sentence and is part of periodic updates of inmate images by prison officials, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

This August marks the 40th anniversary of the Manson killings, which stunned the nation and effectively marked the end of the counter-culture, "flower power" era of the 1960s.

Manson and other members of his so-called family were convicted of killing actress Sharon Tate and six other people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area during two August nights in 1969. Prosecutors said that Manson and his followers were trying to incite a race war that he believed was prophesied in the Beatles' song "Helter Skelter."

Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, was 8 1/2 months' pregnant when she was killed at her hilltop home in Benedict Canyon on Aug. 9, 1969. Besides Tate, four others were stabbed and shot to death including Jay Sebring, 35; Voytek Frykowski, 32; Abigail Folger, 25, a coffee heiress; and Steven Parent, 18, a friend of Tate's caretaker.  The word "Pig" was written on the front door in blood.

The next night, Manson rode along with his so-called family members to the Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, then left three of them to commit the murders. "Death to pigs" was written on a wall, and "Healter Skelter," which was misspelled, on the refrigerator door.

Manson was also convicted of the earlier murder of musician Gary Hinman in his Topanga Canyon home, and the slaying of former stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea at the Spahn movie ranch in Chatsworth, where Manson had his commune.

Manson initially was sentenced to death. A 1972 ruling by the California Supreme Court found the state's death penalty law at the time unconstitutional and his death sentence was changed in 1977 to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The septuagenarian has made 11 failed bids for parole since 1978, the last in 2007 when he was ordered to continue serving life sentences. Manson's next parole hearing is scheduled for 2012.

--Andrew Blankstein

Photos: Charles Manson in a 1968 booking photo, left, and a photo taken today at Corcoran State Prison. Credits: Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

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