It was 43 years ago this week that Charles Manson,the wild-eyed leader of a local cult of drug-addled killers, was convicted of the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others and sentenced to death. This five-foot-two pied piper of mayhem had L.A. in a panic as his hand-picked killers were sent out to commit a string of random murders, from the Los Feliz district to then-placid Benedict Canyon, where residents reacted by installing burglar alarms and hiring private security patrols.
After Manson and his cohorts were caught they were booked into the old County Hall of Justice, where they remained during court proceedings. For several years Manson had presided over a commune of about 60 young followers; many of them runaway teens. I remember there was a trio of teenaged girls – Charlie's adoring followers – who each day sat on a platform at the corner of the county building, keeping a vigil in support of their leader. At one point in the trial, Manson arrived in court with a freshly-carved swastika on his forehead. The next day, Charlie's girls showed up with their foreheads etched in a similar fashion. Such was the hold this pint-sized Svengali had over his loyal minions.
Manson's death sentence was overturned in 1972 when the state's death penalty law was ruled unconstitutional. Today he is inmate #B 33920 at Corcoran State Prison, south of Visalia. Other infamous prisoners there include serial killer Juan Corona , Jaycee Dugard's kidnapper Phillip Garrido and Mikhail Markhasev, who murdered Bill Cosby's son, Ennis in 1997.
I've always wondered, however, what became of those loyal Manson girls who hung out in front of the Hall of Justice on Charlie's behalf nearly a half century ago.