Notorious Serial Killer Has Roots In Ohio Valley - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

SPECIAL REPORT: Notorious Serial Killer Has Roots In Ohio Valley, Childhood Friends Recall

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His name became synonymous with insanity, violence and death.

Charles Manson has none of the folk hero charm of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Bonnie and Clyde.

He is a living symbol of the dark side.

Yet before he was a serial killer, he was a little boy growing up in McMechen.

Charles Manson is 77 years old, serving a life sentence in a California prison.

But this fanatical cult leader and mass murderer was once a little boy, growing up in McMechen.

At age five, he came to the home of his uncle and aunt when his mother went to prison.

"When he was with us, he was Chuck," said Dorothy Bartlett of McMechen, "We didn't know him as Charlie. He was Chuck Manson. There was nothing that I saw in him that was any different from the other boys. It seemed she took good care of him. He played with us. He got dirty just like we did."

They say he went to church a lot, had strange reddish-brown eyes and ran faster than anybody else.

He would show up and play with the other kids on the street.

"We would play outdoor games like normal kids did back then," Bartlett recalls. "We spent a lot of time outdoors. And we would play hide and seek and I think there was a game called "Run Sheepie Run."

They say he was clean cut, good looking, almost pretty.

And they say he was quiet.

"He was a very quiet young boy," says Bartlett. "He was a nice looking young fellow. He really was just like the rest of us at that time."

While his schoolmates were shocked at the way this quiet little boy turned out, mental health professionals are not.

"I think he probably was a very quiet child," says Dr. Tricia Bailey, clinical psychologist in Wheeling. "Maybe he learned not to speak up at that young age for a number of reasons."

The other children had no idea of his horrific family life.

"His mother was only 16 years old when she had given birth to Charles Manson," says Dr. Bailey. "And from the information that we have at hand, we know that she was an alcoholic and that she had a difficult life herself. Shortly after that, she tried to sell her son to a waitress in a place for a pitcher of beer. And then it took an uncle several days to go out and find Charlie and bring him back home."

Despite a high IQ of 121, in Center McMechen school, he was a mediocre student, quiet and unnoticed.

He eventually was passed from one relative to another.

He started stealing, got in trouble with the law, and ended up in reformatories and jails.

"At this point he becomes extremely violent himself," relates Dr. Bailey. "There is one account of him taking a razor blade to another boy's throat while he's sodomizing him in that facility."

More crimes and jail terms followed.

In August 1969, the news came out about the Sharon Tate and LaBianca murders and the Manson Family cult.

In McMechen, Dorothy Bartlett read the paper that day, but didn't make the connection.

"I laid the paper down and didn't think a thing about it until my mother called me and asked what I thought about the trouble my buddy had gotten into," recalled Bartlett. "I told her I didn't know what she was referring to. She asked me if I had read the paper, and I said yes. Then she said 'Chuck Manson.' "

Manson turned out to be charismatic, manipulative, remorseless and evil.

Dorothy Bartlett says with a smile that she'd really rather have had some other claim to fame than having grown up with Charles Manson.

Manson, on the other hand, must have liked his Marshall County roots.

It is said that he once wrote a letter, requesting to be transferred to the West Virginia Penitentiary to live out his sentence there.

The authorities said no, but legend has it that they framed the letter.

His schoolmates wonder sometimes if he could have been rehabilitated.

Dr. Bailey is emphatic about that.

"He expresses not on iota of remorse, guilt or shame for what he has done to other people," she said. "It's almost as though they deserved it in his eyes. There's no medication, there's no psychotherapy, in my opinion, that would help him."

In California, Manson was recently turned down for parole again.

He'll be 92 when he can reapply.