Vincent Bugliosi, Manson Prosecutor and ‘Helter Skelter’ Author, Dies at 80

Helter Skelter author Vincent Bugliosi
Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images

Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Charles Manson and went on to co-write bestseller “Helter Skelter” about the trial, died Saturday at 80.

A 1976 TV movie was based on the book “Helter Skelter,” which he co-wrote with Curt Gentry, with another TV version in 2004. Bugliosi also wrote the book “The Prosecution of the American President” on which the 2013 film “Parkland” was based. His books “And the Sea Will Tell” and “Till Death Us Do Part” were also made into TV movies.

He successfully prosecuted Charles Manson and four others accused of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, using circumstantial evidence to show that Manson ordered the killings although he did not physically commit the murders at Sharon Tate’s house.

His son, Vincent Bugliosi, Jr., told NBC News “He was a workaholic. What was remarkable was he always found time for everyone who needed work. Every fan letter he received, he responded to everyone.”

Bugliosi was born in Minnesota and earned a law degree in UCLA, then worked in the L.A. County District Attorney’s office. After entering private practice in 1972, he went on to write or co-write 12 books including “Outrage: The Five Reasons Why OJ Simpson Got Away With Murder.”

He is survived by his wife Gail and two children, Wendy and Vincent Jr.

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  1. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    THE PROSECUTION OF GEORGE W. BUSH and THE DIVINITY OF DOUBT seem like very interesting works.

  2. Mike M says:

    PARKLAND was based on Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, not The Prosecution of the American President.

  3. Thank you Mr. Bugliosi for your outstanding work.
    You set a lot of records straight and you will always be the example of true justice.
    You will be missed, but always admired.

    George Vreeland Hill

  4. rhughsirius says:

    Bugsy Bugliosi was a windbag, blowing criminals off the stand. He was better than his “legal/illegal” cohorts and therefore should be applauded.

  5. Mona Talk says:

    I had the immense pleasure of hearing Mr. Bugliosi as well as Gerry Spence speak at a weeklong forum on justice in March 1982. I was amazed by both, Gerry for his flamboyant cowboy style and Vincent for his deadly refinement as he spoke about Charles Manson and the trial and outcome. The one thing they both agreed on: there is no justice in the criminal justice system. I agree.
    Perhaps there will be justice in the next world, where you can practice your craft and always know the outcome will be fair and just. God bless you, Vincent!

  6. Mel Ayton says:

    Vincent Bugliosi was a great American, a great writer, and the man who finally put to rest the bogus JFK conspiracy theories. Read his 1600 page book Reclaiming History if you still have doubts.

  7. Francis Kenny, ASC says:

    I knew Vince. He was a great man. A kind brilliant man. When he met my 10 year old daughter he was so impressed with her he wrote a recommendation letter to the school she now attends. Tomorrow she graduates from that Middle School and is entering High School. She is getting a great education because of a kindhearted man. Vincent was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He was a great American and an honor to know him.

  8. Frank says:

    You sure his cause of death wasn’t from watching Duchovny’s new show?

    • Ken says:

      I can’t speak for the late Mr. Bugliosi, who was a great prosecutor and writer, but I certainly have found the NBC series “Aquarius” to be rather exploitative and trashy – especially in view that victims of Manson and “Family” still have surviving relatives. What’s next for the network? “Touring America With Henry Lee Lucas”? “The Gacy Chronicles”? Mr. Bugliosi would have hated the fictionalization of Manson for ongoing entertainment purposes. His book “Helter Skelter” remains, after 40+ years, a fascinating and insightful look at an unspeakable series of demented crimes; Bugliosi can be considered something of a diligent, hard-working hero.

      My condolences to his wife Gail, their family and colleagues.

    • flipper says:

      You sure the cause of your stupidity wasn’t your genes?

  9. Doug says:

    Met Mr. Bugliosi at a college speaking event in 1984. He was an intellectual force, and a very passionate man. Several of his books are considered true crime classics. He was compelling as a TV and radio show guest. He will be missed.

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