Friday, September 25, 2009

Into The Valley of Death

Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins dies
By LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch, Ap Special Correspondent Fri Sep 25, 8:26 am ET

LOS ANGELES – Susan Atkins, a follower of cult leader Charles Manson whose remorseless witness stand confession to killing pregnant actress Sharon Tate in 1969 shocked the world, has died. She was 61 and had been suffering from brain cancer.

Atkins' death comes less than a month after a parole board turned down the terminally ill woman's last chance at freedom on Sept. 2. She was brought to the hearing on a gurney and slept through most of it.

California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said that Atkins died late Thursday night. She had been diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008, had a leg amputated and was given only a few months to live.

She underwent brain surgery, and in her last months was paralyzed and had difficulty speaking. But she managed to speak briefly at the Sept. 2 hearing, reciting religious verse with the help of her husband, attorney James Whitehouse.

She had been transferred to a skilled nursing facility at the California Central Women's Facility at Chowchilla exactly one year before she died.

Tate, the 26-year-old actress who appeared in the movie "Valley of the Dolls" and was the wife of famed director Roman Polanski, was one of seven murdered in two Los Angeles homes during the Manson cult's bloody rampage in August 1969.

Atkins was the first of the convicted killers to die. Manson and three others involved in the murders — Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Charles "Tex" Watson — remain imprisoned under life sentences. Thornton said that at the time of Atkins death she had been in prison longer than any woman currently incarcerated in California.

Atkins, who confessed from the witness stand during her trial, had apologized for her acts numerous times over the years. But 40 years after the murders, she learned that few had forgotten or forgiven what she and other members of the cult had done.

Debra Tate, the slain actress's younger sister, told the parole commissioners Sept. 2 that she "will pray for (Atkins') soul when she draws her last breath, but until then I think she should remain in this controlled situation." Debra Tate noted that she would have a 40-year-old nephew if her sister had lived.

Atkins' prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, had spoken out earlier in favor of release, saying the mercy requested was "minuscule" because Atkins was on her deathbed.

Atkins and her co-defendants were originally sentenced to death but their sentences were reduced to life in prison when capital punishment was briefly outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970s.

During the sensational 10-month trial, Atkins, Manson and co-defendants Krenwinkel and Van Houten maintained their innocence. But once they were convicted, the so-called "Manson girls" confessed in graphic detail.

They tried to absolve Manson, the ex-convict who had gathered a "family" of dropouts and runaways to a ranch outside Los Angeles, where he cast himself as the Messiah and led them in an aberrant lifestyle fueled by drugs and communal sex.

Watson had a separate trial and was convicted.

One night in August 1969, Manson dispatched Atkins and others to a wealthy residential section of Los Angeles, telling them, as they recalled, to "do something witchy."

They went to the home of Tate and her husband. He was not home, but Tate, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and four others were killed. "Pigs" was scrawled on a door in blood.

The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife were found stabbed to death in their home across town. "Helter Skelter" was written in blood on the refrigerator.

"I was stoned, man, stoned on acid," Atkins testified during the trial's penalty phase.

"I don't know how many times I stabbed (Tate) and I don't know why I stabbed her," she said. "She kept begging and pleading and begging and pleading and I got sick of listening to it, so I stabbed her."

She said she felt "no guilt for what I've done. It was right then and I still believe it was right." Asked how it could be right to kill, she replied in a dreamy voice, "How can it not be right when it's done with love?"

The matronly, gray-haired Atkins who appeared before a parole board in 2000 cut a far different figure than that of the cocky young defendant some 30 years earlier.

"I don't have to just make amends to the victims and families," she said softly. "I have to make amends to society. I sinned against God and everything this country stands for." She said she had found redemption in Christianity.

The last words she spoke in public at the September hearing were to say in unison with her husband: "My God is an amazing God."

She spent 37 years in the California Institution for Women at Frontera. When she fell ill, she was moved to a medical unit at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. She died there.

Susan Denise Atkins was born May 7, 1948, in the Los Angeles suburb of San Gabriel. Her mother was stricken with cancer and died when she was 15. Her father, reportedly an alcoholic, sent her and her brother to live with relatives.

While still in her teens, she ran away to San Francisco where she wound up dancing in a topless bar and using drugs. She moved into a commune in the Haight Ashbury district and it was there that she met Manson.

He gave her a cult name, Sadie Mae Glutz, and, when she became pregnant by a "family" member, he helped deliver the baby boy, naming it Zezozoze Zadfrack. His whereabouts are unknown.

The Manson slayings remained unsolved for three months, until Atkins confessed to a cellmate following her arrest on an unrelated charge. Police found Manson and other cult members living in a ranch commune in Death Valley, outside Los Angeles.

Besides Tate, their other victims were celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, filmmaker Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of Tate's caretaker; and grocery owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Atkins also was convicted with Manson of still another murder, of musician Gary Hinman, in July 1969.

Atkins married twice while in prison. Her first husband, Donald Lee Laisure, purported to be an eccentric Texas millionaire. They quickly divorced. Whitehouse, her second husband, is a Harvard Law School graduate and had recently served as one of her attorneys.



Anonymous said...

Well, finally that's over with.

Pristash said...

Hmmm, interesting...
Director Polanski in Swiss custody, festival says
Associated Press

4:32 AM PDT, September 27, 2009

ZURICH — Director Roman Polanski has been taken into custody by Swiss police on a 31-year-old U.S. arrest warrant, organizers of the Zurich Film Festival said today.

The organizers said in a statement that Polanski was detained by police Saturday in relation to a 1978 U.S. request, without giving details.

Zurich police spokesman Stefan Oberlin confirmed Polanski's arrest, but refused to provide more details because he said it was a matter for the Swiss Justice Ministry.

Ministry spokesman Guido Balmer declined to comment.

Polanski fled the United States in 1978, a year after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl.

The 76-year-old director of such classic films as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" recently sought dismissal of his case on grounds of misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it.

Polanski has lived for the past three decades in France, where his career has continued to flourish. He received a directing Oscar in absentia for the 2002 movie "The Pianist."

Festival organizers said Polanski traveled to Switzerland to receive an award for his lifetime of work as a director.

They said Polanski's detention had caused "shock and dismay," but that they would go ahead with today's planned retrospective of the director's work.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Pristash said...

I haven't been able to find a video online yet, but this morning on a commercial plugging the new Joy Behar show, they had her doing a commentary about how alot of good people have died of late and that the death of Susan Atkins has reminded her that Charles Manson is still alive. She questions why: A healthy prison lifestyle? Is he a vegan? Does he do pilates? etc...etc...

A.C. Fisher Aldag said...

Wrote her a letter; we'll see where that goes. Media and truth seem to be mutually exclusive.

Pristash said...

AC, you wrote Joy Behar a letter? Do you mean an email?

Perhaps she will respond on her show....

Pristash said...

As promised:

A.C. Fisher Aldag said...

Yes, an e-mail, and I sent it to her staff at the View. So, snowball's chance...

Pristash said...


Try her at CNN, that is where her new show is based...

Pristash said...

Debra has weighed in ... defending Roman and speaking about Sadie too. Fodder enough for sure for all you Debra haters out there.

Debra starts about 3:25 in...

A.C. Fisher Aldag said...

There is a sidebar in this week's "People" magazine about Roman Polanski's arrest, concerning Susan Atkins dying. I was bored in the check-out lane.

angeLos said...

Here is an interesting SA view that put CM psychology in light for those of you that did not allready read it.

angeLos said...

In SA book (CofSCofG) SA say's something interesting....
once she devoted her life to "JC" (in 1974)the first visit she had in prison was from....SS...Stefanie ...maybe not ...."the" SS...
or the last "girl friend" of CM...
but what a coincidence with the name !!!
3 children , married ... in 1974-5