Charles Milles Manson (born November 12, 1934) was an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders, which members of the group carried out at his instruction. Through the joint-responsibility rule of conspiracy, he was convicted of the murders themselves.
Manson is associated with "Helter Skelter," the term he took from the Beatles song of that name and construed as an apocalyptic race war the murders were putatively intended to precipitate. This connection with rock music linked him, from the beginning of his notoriety, with pop culture, in which he became an emblem of insanity, violence, and the macabre. Ultimately, the term was used as the title of the book that prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wrote about the Manson murders.
At the time the Family began to form, Manson was an unemployed ex-convict, who had spent half his life in correctional institutions for a variety of offenses. In the period before the murders, he was a distant fringe member of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly via a chance association with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. After Manson was charged with the crimes, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially. Artists including Guns N' Roses and Marilyn Manson have covered his songs in the decades since.
Manson's death sentence was automatically reduced to life imprisonment when a decision by the Supreme Court of California temporarily eliminated the state's death penalty in 1972. California's eventual reestablishment of capital punishment did not affect Manson, who is an inmate at Corcoran State Prison.