When Darrell Grey was a young senior officer specialist at the federal prison on McNeil Island in 1961 one of the prisoners there was a convicted car thief named Charles Manson.
“Charlie was in the cell house that I was running at the time, and he was really no trouble,” Grey said during an interview at his home in Lakewood.
Grey remembers Manson playing his banjo or guitar in the cell block, and while he wasn't a trouble maker, he says Manson, who was around 27 years old at the time, had a reputation among the guards at McNeil Island.
“He was more of a kind of pest more than anything else,” said Grey. “Just a complainer. Always complaining and usually about the same thing for days on end.”
Manson was transferred from McNeil Island to Terminal Island federal prison in Los Angeles and released several years later. His was arrest for the brutal Tate-Labianca murders in Los Angeles in 1969 was something Grey said he never expected from the petty criminal he knew.
“He had the old convict ability to coordinate things like that, but that surprised me,” Grey said.
Manson spent most of his life in juvenile detention facilities or prison. He was repeatedly denied parole for masterminding the series of gruesome murders in the late 60s. Grey says he's not surprised that prison is where Charles Manson finally died.
“He was just a kid that fell into crime early in life and never got out of it.”
Grey built a career with the federal prison system and was the last federal warden on McNeil Island when the Washington state Department of Corrections took over operation of the facility in 1981, housing prisoners convicted on state charges. The DOC shutdown the prison in 2011.
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