LOS ANGELES • Charles Manson, the psychopathic guru who masterminded a savage killing spree in the United States in the late 1960s that shocked the world, has died, aged 83, California prison officials said.
Manson "died of natural causes at 8.13pm on Sunday" at a hospital in Kern County, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a brief statement.
Ms Debra Tate - the sister of Manson's most famous victim, actress Sharon Tate - told celebrity website TMZ that she received a call from prison officials notifying her of Manson's death.
Manson was earlier moved from the Corcoran State Prison to a hospital in the city of Bakersfield, in Kern County, to be treated for an unspecified illness, US media reported.
In the late 1960s, Manson headed an apocalyptic cult that committed random murders in upscale mostly white neighbourhoods of Los Angeles - unleashing a wave of panic in the city and beyond. The aim was for African-Americans to be blamed, in the hope of sparking what he believed to be an impending and apocalyptic race war.
His "Family" disciples committed at least nine murders, but it was the horrific killing spree of seven people on Aug 9-10, 1969 - known as the Tate-LaBianca murders, including the killing of 26-year-old actress Tate as well as a wealthy grocer named Leno LaBianca and his wife - that sealed Manson's notoriety and earned him life in prison.
Tate, the eight-month pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, had pleaded for the life of her unborn child before she was stabbed to death. Manson was not present, but ordered the killings.
One of his followers, Susan Atkins, carried out Tate's murder, after which she tasted the actress' blood and wrote "PIG" with it on the home's front door.
Manson was sentenced to death in 1971 along with four of his disciples for having led the killings of the seven people. The sentences were later commuted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty.
To the end of his life, Manson denied having ordered the Tate-LaBianca murders. Nor, as he replied to a question he was often asked, did he feel remorse. He said as much in 1986 in a prison interview with television journalist Charlie Rose.
"So you didn't care?" Rose asked, invoking Tate and her unborn child.
"Care?" Manson said. "What the hell does that mean, 'care'?"
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES