Manson had been drawn to San Francisco in 1967 as the city was swept up in the year of its Summer of Love. By that point, he had already served time. He quickly began to amass a following, a group of people who trailed him to Los Angeles the next year.
In mid-1969, the group moved to Death Valley where, as TIME put it, “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.” Though locals reported clashes with their unpleasant new neighbors, it was clear that the people who had followed Manson saw him differently. As one of his followers told TIME, “He gave off a lot of magic.” That woman, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, would be better known within a few years for her attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford.
It was that December when Manson and his “family” made that first appearance in the pages of TIME Magazine, in the wake of the 1969 killings that made Manson a figure of global infamy. At that point, though the “Demon of Death Valley” headline clearly referred to him, Manson was still an unknown quantity:
At the time, Manson was in police custody in connection with a different crime (auto theft) but police were hoping to bring charges against him for conspiracy and murder in these cases. They did so shortly after, and Manson was found guilty of those crimes in early 1971. He was serving a life sentence at the time of his death.