Only the good die young: Susan Atkins finally expires

She was 61.
Such a shame. I’m making a big sweet tator casserole for the funeral.

Hey, her diet works pretty well.

(Better make that casserole just meat and proteins.)

I wonder if Roman Polanski will kill off a good, old bottle of red (or two) tonight.

Oh heck, he probably does that every night anyway. :wink:

Atkins spent 40 years in prison, and died in prison. I believe that qualifies as having paid her debt to society.

With praline nut strudel on top?!?

Horse puckey.


Yeah, we had a big debate in here some time ago about whether she deserved to be paroled or not. I remain on the “If the court says ‘Life with possibility of parole,’ they should stick to that promise—or don’t offer it in the first place” train of thought. Apparently she wrote the following, given some of the errors in it.
But on the other side, it bares pointing out that Mary Brunner and I were the only women at Spahn Ranch with babies. (Linda Kasabian hadn’t arrived with her daughter yet.) This can not have been a mistake either. That these children were kept away from us and guarded was well known, as was Manson’s penchant for using them to persuade us to do “what’s best for you and the children.” That Mary and I wouldn’t flee the Family or talk no matter what happened at Gary’s was assured as long as Manson had our children.

I don’t know if she said whatever she needed to say in court to protect her child. But as much as I can trust that California courts did what they could with the evidence presented, I also think if they gave her life with the possibility of parole, much of the following is of interest. This could be a skewed, selective view here but it looks like she made many genuine attempts at bettering herself over the years.

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.

I have to salute that symbolic act. Really, what difference would it have made if California had paroled her? She would have died in bed at home instead of dying in bed in prison. I don’t think she anticipated any great benefit from it other than some small measure of forgiveness.

Why forgive a person who brutally murdered a woman and her unborn baby?

'Cause she felt really really bad n all? She admits she said “no mercy bitch” remember? I’m not buying the whole regret and sorrow thing. Some events regret and sorrow can’t wipe out. I hope they all die in prison.

1977: *Program Administrator states that “If Susan continues with this attitude and behavior demonstrated during the past year, she should be able to live a crime-free life once she is paroled and released to the community.” *

1979: *Susan’s Counselor, in his Report to the Parole Board, states “over all adjustment in PTU has been viewed as excellent.” “Prognosis… If Susan continues in her present attitude/behavior, she could function as a productive member of the community upon her release to parole.” *

1980 “IMPRESSION: …Remarkable mobilization of mental and emotional assets while incarcerated. …shows excellent judgment, positive value system, and truly presents a transformation through finding the positive elements in the present environment. This young woman appears to have undergone a permanent change such that she would no longer constitute a danger to the community.”

And there’s more.
I’m still reading her story, from this cite:

I’m about halfway through. She claims that she didn’t kill Sharon…she was bragging about it because some women were coming on to her with lesbian intentions.

*I had been implicated in the crimes because I’d told two women in Jail I had killed Sharon Tate. That had been so shocking to them they had eventually contacted the police. Now I was told I had to tell the police the truth or I’d be tried and executed. But the two were not the same.

So I told Mr. Bugliosi the truth. I hadn’t killed Sharon Tate.*

And there’s more. I don’t know how much of it I believe, but that’s not what I’m talking about anyway.

  1. If what she did were so heinous and unforgivable, why did they allow for the possibility of parole? Either it wasn’t so heinous and unforgivable, or they shouldn’t have allowed a possibility they would later dismiss without genuine consideration. If they had sentenced her to life without the possibility of parole, I would have no complaints.

OTOH even some of the Nazi war criminals were released from prison for ill health.

He was released (ill health) 26 September 1955 and died 6 November 1960.
2) Someone once said that you can judge a society by how it treats its least desirable members. Some, like carnivorousplant, still aren’t satisfied. She’s dead…what more punishment can she serve? Drag the corpse behind a car?

Richard Speck and Susan Atkins are the two bright points in the criminal justice system.

As guilty as she is, for some reason I’m more disturbed by the fact that some people won’t learn from it. From here, where she describes what happened in '86 when some people living on a commune wrote to her to tell her how cool they thought the murders were.

Can a murderer be rehabilitated? Possibly. Or at least it’s clear to me that Atkins was a bit farther along in the moral stakes, at the time of that writing, than the people on that commune. It amazes me how inane the killing spree was (I’m reading Helter Skelter as I write this). The victim before Tate et al., Gary Hinman, was a music teacher living in Topanga Canyon. So they had to kill him, labeling him a “political piggie”? What does a non-famous, probably not very successful, musician have to do to become a “political piggie”? And those people in Colorado seemed to have been celebrating that.

In March of 1971, she and her 3 co-defendants were sentenced to death at the hands of the California Penal System.

In 1972, the California Supreme Court retroactively invalidated all death sentences and commuted them to life in prison. Even though California voters passed a constitutional amendment later that year, the commuted sentences could not be reverted.

According to Bobby Beausoleil, the “political piggie” thing was an attempt to throw the authorities off track. Hinman apparently had become a bigtime believer in communism and his house was full of communist literature. That was the inspiration for their writing “political piggie” on the wall. Cite

I recall reading sometime ago (maybe somewhere on the same site or perhaps somewhere on the site Beausoleil and his wife maintain, I don’t remember which) that Manson was very devoted to Beausoleil and that the Tate-LaBianca murders were actually staged not to spark a race war as has been claimed, but to make the authorities think that whoever had killed Hinman was still on the loose, thus convincing them that they had the wrong man and securing Beausoleil’s release from custody.

Atkins wrote,

The truth is Charles Manson said whatever he had to to whomever he had to to get them to do what he wanted them to do. To some he insisted the motive was Helter Skelter. That was what they responded to. For the more militant members of the Family the motive became revolution![48] To some he made it sound like a religious trial – a bloodletting that had to be borne. The most ridiculous story to date is the one he told Sandra Good and Lynette Fromme, and which (incredibly) they still defend – that all the murders were committed as some sort of militant environmental protest![49]

She says that the trial had begun and Bugliosi couldn’t change directions for fear of losing it.

I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. When they changed it to life in prison, didn’t they have a choice between “Life without the possibility of parole” and “Life with the possibility of parole”? If you’re saying that they could have proceeded with the original execution and she wouldn’t have lived at all beyond that, sure. But I’d like to know why they gave her the possibility.

According to Susan Atkins, Manson believed that Hinman had inherited $20K and they went to steal it.

I imagine Manson had suggested Bobby go to get the money from Gary because Charles Manson knew if push came to shove he could remind Beausoliel that he, Manson, had already killed someone in the name of the Family. That Bobby had been beat over the head all week long about how only Charles Manson had the guts to take care of Bernard Crowe can easily be imagined. After challenging and shaming Beausoliel for the better part of a week, Manson sent him off to Gary’s.

(same source)

Atkins says Charlie thought that shooting Bernard Crowe, a black drug dealer, was going to cause the Black Panthers to come after him. He and Beausoleil were vying for power in the family and when Beausoleil was arrested, Charlie was afraid he’d roll over, Manson would be in prison, and the Black Panthers would execute him there.

Within a week he was arrested in San Jose (San Luis Obispo?) when police found him sleeping in the car on the side of the road and ran the license number. That Bobby had the registration slip signed over to him might have saved him, but in his haste to leave the Ranch he’d driven off with not only his bloody clothes in the trunk, but the knife he’d used to kill Gary as well.

According to Atkins, Beausoleil tried to make the police suspicious of the Black Panthers with some staging after the crime:

A vaguely revolutionary statement was left on the wall in Gary’s own blood – “Political Piggy.” And for the final touch Bobby Beausoliel made a bloody palm print on the wall in the form of a panther paw.

Interestingly enough the police didn’t find the body for a couple days, Beausoleil realized that his prints were left in the form of the paw print, and he went back to wipe them them but couldn’t.

The later references in Tate/LaBianca were a continuation of that.

Here’s something (I’m a practical sort, I wonder about these things) - if she was released to “die at home” - where WAS home? Did her family, her elderly parents if still alive, want this monster released and living with them, dying or not? Brothers or sisters, living their own lives, maybe hiding their relationship to her? I wouldn’t want to take a cancer patient, after spending 40 years in prison, dropped into my lap. Not to mention the media knocking on my door asking for comments or interviews or pictures. I’d frankly be relieved she died in prison.

If she was paroled and didn’t have cancer, I could see Susan Atkins eaking out a living of sorts with book offers, showing up on Larry King or some talk shows (if she didn’t fade into obscurity and try to live a quiet life like Squeaky Fromme is doing a few miles from my city). That would be different, and I’m sure she would have made out fairly well. (Good for her, if that happened, I’m in favor of people gainfully employed. My college educated daughter can’t find a job in her field and is having a hard time finding a VOLUNTEER position, but she’s a dull moral sort who can’t find it in her heart to go the Susan Atkins route.)

After 40 years, did she get any measure of forgiveness, from anyone? I think she deserved every minute of her time in prison, and dying there was appropriate. Good riddance, and good luck in the next world, Sue.

She was married, so I guess that’s where she wanted to be paroled to.

Atkins’ brain cancer was diagnosed in March 2008, Whitehouse wrote on his Web site. On May 15, 2008, doctors predicted she would live less than six months. But she passed that deadline, he wrote, and celebrated her 21st wedding anniversary on December 7.

IIRC one of the sites I read said that Bugliosi wasn’t opposed to her release. He said her medical treatment had cost the state $1M+.

Married 21 years? Wow. I guess when you find the right one, you just hold on to her for the duration.

A sentence of life without the possibility of parole did not exist in California at that time. Now, mind you, it doesn’t bother me that Atkins died in prison. “The possibility of parole” does not mean “the certainty of parole.”

But she spent 40 years in prison, and died in prison, and apparently turned into a better person, and apparently did as good works as can be done from prison. I think that’s about as much as society can expect in such a case.

That was what I wanted to know; thanks. Fascinating…one day a court decides that they’re very certain a defendant needs to be put to death. The next, they won’t take away the possibility of releasing them. :confused:

Of course not. I wondered if they were dangling a false carrot in front of her.

I agree. Many people in her situation might have figured, “It isn’t going to do me any good anyway,” kicked back and done their time. OTOH she did marry (twice) in prison, so she had a life waiting for her on the outside. Whatever the reason, it seems she really did do a lot to improve.

I read most of her explanation and found parts of it interesting. It seems more likely that Manson sold the plan differently to different people, for instance. I mean, finding that many people to believe in “helter skelter” seems more difficult. And the drugs, threats, etc. making many of them go along with it, sure I believe that. Not that her words totally exonerate her—but they do illuminate some things I never thought were explained plausibly. Maybe that’s just my short attention span talking.

IMO it’s impossible to know what really happened during the murders unless you were there. Forensics weren’t what they are now, for one thing. Then you’ve got the tangled testimony of those who were there, trying to beat the charge, sometimes possibly colored by deals they cut (Kasabian). Ugh.

1969:* District Attorney states that without Susan’s testimony to the Grand Jury, their case against Manson would be non-existent.*

Had she taken the fifth, who knows?

At the end, IIRC she’d already had a leg amputated and lost 85% of the function of her muscles.