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Cult killer Charles Manson at 77..... grey and miserable

CHARLES Manson, the most notorious mass murderer imprisoned in America, stares glumly as he is photographed.

In the latest photo released by the California Department of Corrections, the 77-year-old Manson is gray-haired and gray-bearded, a shadow of the shaggy haired, wild-eyed killer whose visage glared from the covers of magazines in 1969.

He was a cult leader then, the domineering force behind a rag-tag family of followers who said they killed for him. One thing about Manson has not changed. The swastika he carved in his forehead during his trial is a dark reminder of his past.

Next Wednesday, Manson faces his 12th parole hearing. It could be his last because state law now allows a denial of parole for up to 15 years.

The chances that he will be released are nil and he has told his jailers that he doesn't plan to attend the hearing.

But California jails spokeswoman Terry Thornton said he could still change his mind.

Manson has not attended a parole hearing since 1997, when he rambled on for hours, denying that he had killed anyone and espousing the beliefs that guided his cult.

He was sentenced to death, but his life was spared when California briefly outlawed the death penalty in 1972.