Charles Manson dead at 83; here’s why his health crisis was shrouded in secrecy


Mass killer Charles Manson died of natural causes Sunday evening at a Kern County hospital, authorities said.

The 83-year-old cult leader died at 8:13 p.m., according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Michele Hanisee, president of the Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys, issued a statement Sunday saying that Vincent Bugliosi, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Manson, “provided the most accurate summation: ‘Manson was an evil, sophisticated con man with twisted and warped moral values.’

“Today, Manson's victims are the ones who should be remembered and mourned on the occasion of his death,” Hanisee said.

Why was so little information released?

Local law enforcement in Bakersfield confirmed Wednesday that he had been hospitalized, but state prison officials had declined to comment on his condition, citing federal and state medical privacy laws that preclude the agency “from commenting on protected health information for any inmate in our custody.”

This marked the second time Manson, an inmate at Corcoran State Prison, was hospitalized this year. In January, he spent several days in a Bakersfield hospital. The prison system would not comment on his condition, but sources at the time said he had a “serious” illness.

The most recent image of Manson, taken in August.
(California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

How does California deal with sick inmates?

Though officials did not comment on where specifically Manson was being treated or why, the corrections department’s regulations provide a glimpse of how tightly coordinated the process must be.

“They remain under CDCR custody and 24-hour supervision during this time,” said Vicky Waters, a department spokeswoman. “CDCR also notifies and works with hospital security and law enforcement.”

Inmates are “routinely” taken to outside hospitals for medical care ranging from scheduled surgeries to emergency trauma, she said. The department’s protocol provides up to four levels of review by a medical services committee for cases in which an inmate receives emergency care outside the prison walls.

California Correctional Health Care Services has contracted with several Central California hospitals to provide services to prisoners, including Adventist Medical Center Hanford, Bakersfield Memorial Hospital and Mercy Hospital Bakersfield.

No Bakersfield hospital would comment. But some reporters in Bakersfield last week saw a prison department van parked in front of Mercy Hospital.

What did we know about security measures for Manson?

Given Manson’s crimes and his numerous problems as a prisoner, it was likely significant security measures were employed. But officials would not comment. When Manson was hospitalized in January, several prison officials were seen at the the hospital.

Manson incurred more than 100 rules violations since 1971, when he and other members of his so-called family were convicted of killing pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area during two August nights in 1969.

Over the years, he was cited for assault, repeated possession of a weapon, threatening staff, and possessing a cellphone.

Officials have said over the years that he spat in guards’ faces, threw hot coffee at a prison staffer, started fights, tried to cause a flood and set his mattress ablaze.

In 2014, Manson and Afton Elaine Burton, a 26-year-old Manson devotee, were granted a marriage license, but it expired before the two could marry. She had faithfully visited him in prison for seven years.

Manson’s next parole hearing had been scheduled for 2027.


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