Charles Manson is one of the most famous criminals in American history, but what did he do? It was Aug. 9, 1969 when five people were murdered in film director and producer Roman Polanski's rented home in Beverly Hills: actress and Romanski’s wife Sharon Tate, coffee bean heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring and house-caretaker Steven Parent. The next night, two more were killed: supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary.

The murders were brutal. Tate, who was pregnant, apparently pleaded for her life while she was repeatedly stabbed in the stomach 16 times.

Parent was the first fatality. He was shot by the murderers who broke into the house. The remaining victims in the home were tied up, and Sebring was shot while Frykowski and Folger were stabbed. One of the murderers wrote “pig” in a victim’s blood on the walls and on a front door, as well as the phrase “Helter Skelter.”

Manson allegedly never took part in the killings himself but was eventually convicted of first-degree murder on the grounds of directing the deaths. Members of Manson’s cult following called “The Family” were convicted of acting out the crimes: Charles “Tex” Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian.

"The Family" was essentially a group of followers that were wildly influenced by Manson: They saw Manson as a Jesus figure prepared to lead a race war.

Manson has been in prison since 1971 and was initially sentenced to death along with three of the conspirators – Watson was tried separately – but the death penalty was abolished in 1972 before anyone was executed. Now 82, he was reportedly rushed to the hospital in the beginning of January because of an unknown ailment but has returned to prison, drawing new interest to his story. 

Reuters Charles Manson spoke during an interview August 25, 1989. Photo: (REUTERS/File Photo)