Charles Manson Reign of Terror: 40 Years Later

It's been 40 years since actress Sharon Tate and four others were slaughtered in a posh Los Angeles canyon mansion. It's been 40 years ago that a couple's children found the bodies of their parents Leno and Rosemary LaBianca savagely slashed to ribbons.

Forty years after that carnage the man responsible for the two-day murderous rampage in Southern California remains a household name synonymous with evil, hatred, even the devil.

Now 74, Charles Manson, whose reign of terror once represented the end of the swinging '60s, has been relegated to a dark place in pop culture.

Several of the "Manson women" who supported him with the devotion of acolytes are now gray-haired, completing lengthy prison terms and have a chance to be released in the coming years.

CLICK HERE to read more about Charles Manson and his followers and to watch video of their court appearances.

Manson himself never carried out any of the killings but was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for commanding the Aug. 9, 1969, murders of Tate, who was more than eight months pregnant at the time, and houseguests Jay Sebring, a hairstylist, heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski and teenager Steven Parent. The convictions include the LaBianca killings Aug. 10, 1969.

Also attributed to Manson and his cultish Family was the death of Gary Hinman, killed July 25, 1969.

The death sentences of Manson and his lethal Family were commuted to life sentences when a California Supreme Court ruling abolished capital punishment in 1972. While some of his followers have already been paroled, with others possibly to follow, it seems certain Manson will die behind bars.

Vincent Bugliosi, the Los Angeles prosecutor in the 1970 trial, said Manson represented a special brand of evil and that's why he remains so intriguing to this day.

"The very name Manson has become a metaphor for evil," he told ABCNews.com in an interview from his Los Angeles-area home.

Manson's motivation, Bugliosi said, was a "passion for death, blood and murder."

Bugliosi, now 74, called Manson "extremely bright" and said that while other serial killers were frightening, Manson reached a whole other level of terror by figuring out how to get seemingly respectful young women from middle-class families to kill at his command.

Manson has lived in the protective housing unit, or PHU, at California State Prison, Corcoran, since 1989. He has an 8-by-12-foot cell to himself and spends the token monetary gifts he receives from supporters at the prison commissary.

His neighbors in the PHU, designed for prisoners whose safety may be in jeopardy in the general population, include Robert F. Kennedy assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, serial killer Juan Corona and gang members who have turned state's evidence. Unlike in the general population, for which fellow inmates prepare the meals, all food in the PHU is made by the staff to prevent poisonings.

"[Manson] interacts with the other inmates in that unit," Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told ABCNews.com.

The unit's prisoners eat a hot breakfast and dinner in the dayroom. Lunch comes in a sack. They are allowed several hours of free time each day, which can be taken in a day room, an outside yard or in their cells.

Thornton said that Manson sometimes plays his guitar in his cell during these periods, occasionally bringing his performances to the prison yard.

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