Charles Manson's tumultuous childhood and time in prison

By the time Manson was 13, he was involved in auto theft and armed robbery and was sent to Boys Town.
9:27 | 03/18/17

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Transcript for Charles Manson's tumultuous childhood and time in prison
Five were killed. The Tate slaying. When you kill someone, you're killing yourself. The incredible brutality of these savage nightmarish murders. These murders were necessary. Fear was Charlie's game. I've been walking living murder all my life. Charles Manson converted intelligent middle class kids into petty live zombies. The jurcould only come to one verdict -- guilty. To explain Manson could not be done in words. The most famous murder in the history of Los Angeles. Sharon Tate was a young actress, stunning even by movie-star standards. Three friends were staying with her that night. The windows were open, a cool breeze was blowing. It's simply going to be a quiet, comfortable night. And of course, it turned out not to be. Reporter: Charles Manson was a rock star wannabe. A madman. He could literally get his followers to kill for him. Reporter: Everybody wondered -- how did he turn these all-American women into monsters? I knew that people would die. I knew there would be killing. Reporter: He controlled them and they did what he wanted. They were so young. Reporter: And what he wanted was murder. If it don't get done, well, then I'll move on it. And that's the last thing in the world you want me to do. Reporter: We're about to see what evil looks like in the face of Charles Manson. One, to 15. Ready? Yeah, we're ready. Well, I'm a sound man. I'm a sound recordist. And I was working production for ABC news and we were headed off for Corcoran prison to interview this man. The plan was, we -- we'd set up the room. And the very last thing to do would be to send me out into the hallway to put a microphone on Charles Manson. Okay, come on, Charlie. Come on, Charlie. You're set. They're gonna call us when you're done, we're gonna come and get you. And as I'm putting the microphone on, he looks me in the eye and he says, "Where are you from, boy?" And the hair on the back of my neck stood up. And I said, "I -- I'm from Los Angeles, sir." And he said, "Los Angeles. Yeah, I've been waitin' a long time for a bus to come pick me up and take me on back." Hello. Watch your step. There was tension in the room. Can you see yourself in there? I can see myself in there. They don't have mirrors where I'm at. Oh, really? So you never see yourself? Well, yeah, they got funny little things, so you can get a close look. A little bit there. Beard's getting long. How you doing? His hands were handcuffed together, chained together, and then they were chained to his waist. Reporter: Here's the key thing to remember -- this figure who walks into the room to talk to Diane sawyer who looks like he's been, you know, worn out and hung up wet for so long, do not confuse that guy with the Manson of the late '60s. Footage of him from that era tells a very different story. He is commanding, he is somewhat magnetic. He is a much more commanding and really a much more malevolent force. Manson had cut into his forehead just above his, the bridge of his nose an X. Then Charlie turns the X into a swastika. Reporter: He understood the iconography of evil and he embraced it. Everybody likes that evil character they created you know. You know, that, that guy with the eyes. You got to realize, man, all those guys you've been creating are not really real in real life, man. Reporter: And you're trying to take him in and he is presenting himself to you as he wishes. So you all from New York? Or some guys from L.A. Here, right? L.A., L.A. Reporter: A psychopath is born, you know, to do wrong, I suppose. And a sociopath is transformed by his upbringing and surroundings into this person who does terrible things. So which was Manson? It almost depends on your point of view. I just can't seem to adjust to your society, because, uh, no matter what I do is wrong. If I were interviewing Charlie Manson today, one of the questions I would have for Charlie, because I'm fascinated how he ended up like he did, was, "Start at the beginning, Charlie. Tell me what happened as a kid." Reporter: Roosevelt was nine months into his presidency, unemployment was still high, depression still deep. But a newsreel of the time reflected -- Charles Manson was born on November 11, 1934. He just turned 82 on his last birthday. His mother, Kathleen, gave birth to him when she was 15. His father was a man who left soon afterward. I am a street child. I am a runaway little girl, at 15 years old, out of Kentucky, named Kathleen Maddox. And she went to Cincinnati and had a guy named Charlie Manson. When he's 4 1/2, his mother and his uncle are sent to prison for a botched attempt at armed robbery. And she went to prison, and I used to visit her in the prison visiting room. The only thing my mother taught me was that everything she said was a lie. And I learned never to believe anyone about anything. There's a boy in class Charlie doesn't like. And at recess, a bunch of the girls jumped this boy and beat him up. The principal steps in. And the girls say, "Well, Charlie told us to do it." Manson's defense, 6 years old, "It wasn't me. They were doing what they wanted to do. You can't blame me for what other people do." The incident took place basically had nothing to do with me personally. By the time he's 13, he's involved in auto theft and armed robbery. And the judge sends Charlie to boys town. It ran in the "Indianapolis star" the idea that, you know, we have young people who get in trouble, but we have kind judges who will send them to places where they can learn to become productive members of society. Charlie lasted four days. And he and some buddies stole a car and set out. And they got all the way to Utah before they were captured. Charlie was a con artist even as a child. 1944, I went to juvenile hall. I didn't get out 'til 1954. I turned 21 years old in the L.A. County jail. I wasn't out but a hot second. I've been to jail all my life. But while he's in prison, he hears the beatles. And the beatles, you have to remember, 1964, late '64, '65, suddenly they are everywhere. They are permeating our culture. 3,000 screaming teenagers are at New York's airport to greet, you guessed it, the beatles. And they come to represent to Charlie Manson what he wants most -- fame, power, women throwing themselves, all the money you could imagine. Reporter: Maybe because he knew what was going on out there he picked up a little guitar. And he started to play and to write some of his own songs in prison. There's certainly evidence that he picked up quite a few skills, you might say, in prison. He learned from the pimps. He learned from Dale Carnegie classes. Remember if you want to be liked instantly, do as a puppy does. Take on genuine interested in other people and show it. He learned from the scientologists. Scientology means knowledge or truth, study of. Manson used his time in prison to prepare himself to thrive as a criminal after his release. See, I never realized people outside are much different from the people inside. The people inside, if you lie, you get punched. And when I got out all your children would come to me, because they never had anybody tell them the truth. At the last minute when Manson learns he is going to be rather R paroled, he said, don't send me out. I don't think I can make it. But that one moment he's being honest, "If you let me out, I think I'm gonna do the same things that I've been doing or even more." The city of Los Angeles has had another multiple murder, shot and stabbed to death, another bizarre murder. 8 murders without reason. Brutally cut by a whip. Charles Manson, the cult leader accused of murder. Wish they'd listened to him.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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