Dateline Episode Featuring PEOPLE’s Elaine Aradillas Explores: How Did Charles Manson Become a Serial Killer?

The two-day killing spree in 1969 perpetrated by Charles Manson and his murderous “family” that left seven people dead in Los Angeles continues to horrify the American public.

In a rare, in-depth interview featured in a new Dateline special on Friday, Manson’s former parole officer Roger Smith tells NBC’s Keith Morrison that Manson’s failed music career drove him to find new ways to control his cult followers, dubbed The Manson Family. (The special airs Aug. 4, airing at  at 10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 p.m. CT.)

“Charlie was in serious danger of losing ‘The Family,’ ” says Smith. “He did something that, you know, politicians are masterful at, and that is he creates this horrible thing out there. That there’s going to be a race war.” 

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PEOPLE crime reporter Elaine Aradillas, who has covered the story extensively, is interviewed in the special and discusses Manson’s ability to lure vulnerable young women — as well as the horrific murders.

“These were brutal crime scenes,” Aradillas says, “things the police had never seen before.”

In the one-hour episode, Morrison reports on the mind and myth of Charles Manson. The one-hour special features rarely-seen video of Manson, as well as interviews with Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate‘s sister, Debra Tate. 

Dateline NBC: The Summer of Manson, airs Friday, August 4 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 p.m. CT.



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