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Manson is presently in custody on car-theft charges in Independence, Calif. Los Angeles police are seeking conspiracy and murder indictments against him. The case began to break several weeks ago when Miss Atkins, a former acid-dropper and topless dancer, began to blurt out pieces of her gruesome tale in jail, and another prisoner informed police. Also, Daniel De Carlo, 25, who heads a motorcycle gang, told police that Manson invited him to join in one of the murder excursions.
Commando Forays. Manson is a drifter with a five-page criminal record stretching back 20 years. Born in 1934, to a teen-age mother, he never saw his father. His prostitute parent was often in jail, and young Manson was shifted around from relatives to foster parents to reformatories. As he grew up, he turned to petty crimes, mainly car theft. His education never went beyond the seventh grade. It was during these years that he apparently developed his hatred of the affluent and a loathing for women. In and out of prison, Manson became interested in music and the occult, and when he was last released in 1967, he headed for San Francisco as a "roving minstrel."
Manson began to gather followers in Haight-Ashbury in 1966, and in 1968 he moved his retinue by bus to Los Angeles to further his music-writing ambitions. Last winter, Manson moved his clan to the Spahn Ranch in western Los Angeles County, and it was from there that they made their alleged commando forays against their affluent victims. Manson busied himself converting stolen cars into dune buggies, and after the ranch was raided in August, he led his followers to their own hell in the inhospitable depths of Death Valley.
Among the greasewood and rattlesnakes, they holed up in run-down cabins and led an indolent, almost savage existence, singing Manson's songs, dancing, swimming in a small pool, stealing cars for cash and picking through garbage for food. Miners in the area reported being chased away by amazons wielding knives. Manson reportedly held an almost hypnotic spell over his followers, who called him "God" and "Satan." His women lolled harem-like around the commune nude or barebreasted, catering to his every whim. One chagrined ranchhand relates discussing business with Manson while one of Manson's girls performed a sex act upon the "guru." But women in the "family" saw him in a different light. "He gave off a lot of magic," said one, Lynn Fromme. "To me, to us, he was everything," added another, Sandy Good Pugh.
A fellow ex-convict from the McNeil Island penitentiary in Washington State said that Manson was a strangely passive person who would sulk if attacked rather than strike back. He tried with considerable success to get others to do his bidding: "He had a certain smile that would always get to people. He tried to hypnotize them. He always got other people to supply him with the necessities."