Vincent Bugliosi, the Hibbing native famous for his prosecution of cult leader and serial killer Charles Manson, has died at the age of 80.
The Los Angeles Times reports Bugliosi died in an L.A. hospital Saturday having suffered from poor health in recent years, including the return of the cancer he had overcome three years ago.
As well as being a successful prosecutor, the newspaper notes he was a best-selling true crime writer, co-authoring a dozen books including "Outrage: The Five Reasons Why OJ Simpson Got Away With Murder," and "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy."
NBC Los Angeles reports he had an illustrious career at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, securing convictions in 105 out of 106 felony jury trials – 21 of which were murder cases – before moving into private practice in 1972.
The Manson case
But it was his prosecution of cult leader Charles Manson and three of his followers over the 1969 murders of a pregnant Sharon Tate (the wife of film director Roman Polanski) and six others that made his name, NBC notes.
According to FOX News, the "intense and ambitious" Bugliosi became the lead prosecutor after senior prosecutor Aaron Stovitz was removed following a dispute with his boss, giving the Minnesota native "the role of a lifetime."
During the trial, he denounced Manson as "a murderous cult leader" while describing the three women defendants as "robots" and "zombies" manipulated by him. He called 84 witnesses during the trial – many of them members of "The Manson Family" – and introduced 290 pieces of evidence.
He wrote the book "Helter Skelter" about the trial, a reference to Manson's "Helter Skelter" plan to trigger a race war, and told the LA Times in 1994, "No matter what I do, I'll be forever known as the Manson prosecutor."
According to the Duluth News Tribune, Bugliosi grew up in Hibbing in the upstairs of the grocery store his father operated across from the Memorial Building.
He was a keen tennis player, winning the Minnesota state high school singles tennis championship in 1951 – with his subsequent appearance on the front page of the Hibbing Daily Tribune described as his "favorite boyhood memory."
It was because of his athleticism that he left Hibbing for California, the newspaper notes, transferring to Hollywood High School to spend more time on the court, though he has returned to his hometown on several occasions since.
"I still feel very close to the Iron Range, but the weather, particularly for someone like me who plays tennis, it’s too cold up there," he said in an interview last year with the News Tribune. "I have fond memories. I tell people from Minnesota that if I had a choice, I’d live among them as opposed to where I’m living in now in L.A. It’s the weather that keeps me away."