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USF Criminology Expert Featured in Charles Manson Documentary

USF Assistant Professor Bryanna Fox, Department of Criminology

Nearly 50 years since Charles Manson formed the Manson Family cult, fascination continues about their murderous crime spree and the evil behind it. The historical case is detailed in the book “Helter Skelter” by Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and inspired USF assistant criminology professor Bryanna Fox, PhD, to pursue her career.

“Reading about the case, it was hard to comprehend the heinous nature of the Manson family’s actions, and what led the followers to kill just because Charlie told them to do so,” said Fox. “This motivated me to try to understand why people would engage in such extreme and violent behavior, and use that knowledge to help prevent these crimes from happening in the future.”

Charles Manson – Credit: State of California, San Quentin Prison

Fox was featured in the documentary “Inside the Mansion Cult: The Lost Tapes,” which aired on the FOX cable network. She was selected based upon her research at USF, and for her experience working for the FBI, most recently as a FBI Special Agent and researcher in the Behavioral Science Unit where she studied serial killers and the psychology behind their heinous crimes.

“When Charlie was released from prison, he had spent over half his life in jail. So he had no family,” Fox stated in the documentary. “For him, recruiting followers was creating the family he never had.”

In 1969, Manson directed his followers to commit nine murders in California, including the stabbing death of actress Sharon Tate. He often referenced the term “helter skelter” the title of a Beatles song, in describing how racial tensions are leading to an apocalyptic war. This inspired the title of what’s now the best-selling true crime book of all time.

“Despite the violence and brutality of these murders, people that had committed them that was following were very proud of what they’ve done. For them, it was their way of saying look at what I did, this is how loyal I am for Charlie.”

Fox’s expertise in profiling criminals is utilized across the country. She’s now training police agencies how to narrow down their list of burglary suspects. She’s also served as a consultant on other current serial killer cases.

“It can be a scary thing to get inside the mind of these offenders, but doing that allows us to better understand why they commit these horrific crimes, and ultimately, to learn new ways for police to catch them or prevent the crimes from ever happening.”

Charles Manson died in prison in November 2017 at the age of 83.

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