But now, due to the dilligence of an unnamed blog reader, the biographies that Bret had compiled on four of the killers (Bruce Davis, Patricia Krenwinkel, Charles Watson and Susan Atkins) have been recovered. If memory serves me correctly Bret was working on Leslie's bio when he met his untimely demise.
The bios are long, dense and full of great info. Given the length of each, we will present one per week beginning with Bruce Davis.
Rest in peace, Bret. You are sorely missed...
Susan Atkins was born in San Gabriel California on May 7th, 1948, where she lived for the first six months of her life. She grew up in Santa Clara California where she had a difficult childhood. She is the second child of Edward John Atkins and former Jeanette Jett. Susan Atkins was the most deprived of the three Manson girls convicted of murder. Unlike Pat Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten who would be categorized as average American.
Both of her parents were alcoholics, and her mother Jeanette Atkins died of cancer when Atkins was fourteen years old. Susan had two brothers, Michael who is older and Steven who was the youngest.
Up to the age of 15 Susan lived with her two brothers, father Edward John Atkins and mother, the former Jeanette Jet, in a pleasant middle class home in the Cambrian Park area of San Jose, California. She is remembered from those days as a self-conscious quiet girl, a member of her school glee club and the local church choir. One fellow choir member later described her, "She seemed to be able to assert her personality through singing in a way she couldn't in her daily life."
Susan was very unhappy as child and claims she always felt left out because her parents favored her brothers. Her father was especially close to her older brother Michael. Susan claims she was sexually molested repeatedly by her older brother and several of his friends. He later told Susan he did it because he wanted to "teach his friends about girls." Susan also claims she was molested by several of her father's friends and friends of the family.
Then Susan's mother became ill and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Just two weeks before Mrs. Jeanette Atkins made her last way to the hospital, Susan brought along other members of her church choir to sing Christmas carols under her bedroom window. After the death of her mother relatives were called in along with her grandparents to help look after Susan and her two brothers. But Mrs. Atkins' long illness had been financially ruinous to the family and all they were left with was a huge pile of bills and no money to meet them.
Edward Atkins, her father started drinking more heavily and Susan was very upset and their relationship deteriorated. Although her father told a slightly different story: one of a stable home, loving environment and a happy family life. But friends, neighbors, ministers and teachers say Susan was constantly uprooted, changing homes, schools and friends frequently as Mr. Atkins roamed around looking for work.
Mr. Atkins eventually had to sell the house and move to Los Banes, California, where he found work on the San Luis Dam project. He eventually left Susan and her younger brother Steven. Michael had remained in San Jose. Susan was forced to take a job during her junior year in school to support herself and Steven. A next door neighbor later said "Susan was a good kid who just needed some direction and someone who cared. She was left alone. There was no place to turn for help. We never had any trouble with her, although she would get despondent and break down and cry in my house."
Susan had been an average student in Leigh High School in San Jose, but her grades deteriorated when she entered Los Banos High. She decided to drop it and get a full time job to support herself, as her grandparents didn't have room for both her and Steven, and since Steven was younger Susan had to go. Her older brother had previously left home to join the navy. She claims she became an accomplished thief and could steal anything she wanted and discovered that stealing gave her thrills.
During that time she was in high school all Susan wanted out of life was to have fun, by then she had become thirsty for excitement. Her grades deteriorated in spite of her attempts to manipulate her teachers
Atkins dropped out of Los Banos High at eighteen and migrated San Francisco in hope of a better life where she started working for a magazine agency but quit after only two months because of undesirable conditions. She then held various jobs: housecleaning, baby sitting, working as a waitress and just travelling around. Most of the time spent in San Francisco where the she frequented the Haight-Ashbury, Tenderloin and Broadway Districts intermittently.
After arriving in San Francisco she became very lonely and depressed. She was living in a flee-bag-hotel and had virtually no friends to begin with. She would spend her nights bar hopping and going to bed with different men every night. She attempted to bleach out her hair platinum like Jayne Mansfield but it turned out yellow with burned ends. She had to cut her long hair below her ears but decided to stay blond. One night when Susan was at her lowest she took some codeine pills and pretended to kill herself but was really just calling for attention and help. She phoned 911 and left the door open before she played dead.
One night after being out on the town drinking with a gay neighbour she met was walking up Market Street when she met two sailors who invited her to their hotel. There she was introduced to marijuana for the first time. She liked the pleasant effect and would take anything that would give her satisfaction and relieve her from her grey existence. A few days later the same sailors gave her some LSD and "Crazy Sadie" was born.
She became involved with two escaped convicts Clifton Talefero and Al Sund, she was in love with one of them and the three committed armed robberies along the west coast. When caught by an Oregon State Trooper while trying to flee over the Oregon boarder, Atkins was carrying a loaded firearm. When she was arrested she reportedly told the state trooper, "I should have killed you." She did three months in County jail and was then paroled to San Francisco where she took up topless dancing and selling drugs to support herself.
Susan started making new friends through new escapades through dope and LSD, she supported herself as a topless dancer and later by selling narcotics, but she never made it beyond the seedy Go-Go Halls where she made a decent living as an amateur topless Go-Go dancer. She was very flexible and had a voluptuous figure. She had brooding dark eyes and a serious oval face... her dusky complexion gave her a sensuous Latin look said a former boyfriend who lived with her in San Francisco.
Through her go-go dancing she also briefly worked for Church of Satan founder Anton Szandor LaVey as a stage actress in a production which featured her as a vampire. In her dance routine she pretended to be a member of the audience who would all of a sudden start taking of her clothes and head for the stage.
Susan moved in with a new guy to a big Victorian style house on Lyon Street in Haight Ashbury. He was living there with several people and together they sold large amounts of dope and narcotics. At this house Atkins met Charles Manson who was seated in the living room and playing his guitar. Captivated by his music, she decided to leave her man and began to travel with him and some of his female followers in a school bus they painted all black.
She was given the nickname "Sadie Mae Glutz" by Manson and a man who was creating a fake ID for her at the time. The growing Family settled at the Spahn Ranch located in Chatsworth near the San Fernando Valley in Southern California.
On October 7, 1968, she bore a son whom Manson named Zezozece Zadfrack Glutz. The father was a young man named Bruce White, a college student from the University of New Mexico who was studying physiology. She had met him in New Mexico when she and other members of the Family were traveling through in 1967. White joined them and lived with them in the Topanga Canyon area for a month. He left shortly before the Family settled down at the Spahn Movie Ranch.
Atkins parental rights were terminated once she was convicted and he was adopted, and she has had no contact with her son since her incarceration in 1969, although her attorney Debra Frasier in 1990 tried to locate him without success. Her son was adopted by a couple in medicine and renamed "Paul".
Detailed account of Susan's life with Manson and the girls can be found in Susan's own words in her 1977 autobiography "Child of Satan, Child of God" and her 1969 account in "The Killing of Sharon Tate."
Atkins was present at both the Hinman and Tate residence. According to Mary Brunner's testimony at Bobby Beausoleil's trial, it was Bobby who stabbed and killed Hinman while Brunner and Atkins were watching from the kitchen. Brunner denied having seen Atkins put a pillow over Hinman's face. The only person to support that story was Atkins herself when she was trying to out gross two cell mates.
At the Tate house, Atkins helped tie up the victims and as a result got into a violent struggle with Voytek Frykowski and stabbed him several times in the legs. She held Sharon Tate down while waiting for Watson. According Watson's testimony it was him alone who stabbed Sharon Tate. Although Susan did not kill Sharon, she stabbed frykowski and she entered the residence with the intention that everyone would be killed before they left. She helped struggle with the victims in an attempt to keep them from escaping so her role is a little more serious than she wants to admit today. She claims she only "participated" by being present and not stopping the senseless slaughter.
In October 1969, the Barker Ranch in Death Valley was raided and family members were arrested for arson. While at the prison, Kathryn Lutesinger implicated Atkins in the Hinman murder. Atkins was transferred to another prison. It was there that she bragged to cell mates Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham about the family's involvement in the Tate, LaBianca murders. The information was turned over to the police and Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel were arrested and a warrant was issued for Kasabian whose whereabouts were unknown.
Atkins testified before a Los Angeles Grand Jury, hoping to avoid the death penalty. She said Charles Manson sent them to the house to kill everyone on the premises. It was to cause panic terror. She said they wore their creepy-crawly outfits, sent by Manson and hell bent on murder. She gleefully described every gruesome detail of the murders
She revealed how she held down Sharon Tate as she pleaded for her and the baby's life. She recounted how she told Tate, "Look, bitch, I don't care a about you. I don't care if you're going to have a baby or not. You're going to die and I don't feel anything about it." Unlike the confessions to Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham, she denied killing Sharon. She claimed she stood by as Watson stabbed her repeatedly. She also claimed she stabbed Voytek Frykowski several times in the legs.
The whole world was watching. As she came out of the court room, every newspaper, magazine and television station in the US was waiting. The world press, AP, UP, Reuters and the whole world. The media exposure from day one was unprecedented and incredible. On December 2, 1969, there was hardly a person in the United States and Europe who didn't know her name.
She had betrayed her own people and Manson and the others never forgave her for what she did.
Atkins, returning to her role as a devoted Mansonite, was tried with Manson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten for first-degree murder for the Tate-LaBianca massacres. The girls carved an X on their foreheads and shaved their heads to show their solidarity and constantly disrupted the courtroom. In March of 1971, the group was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Atkins was then tried again for the murder of Gary Hinman; she confessed to everything and received another death penalty.
After Susan was sentenced to death the state of California took the parental custody away from her and her two-year-old son so the courts granted temporary custody to a foster home. The foster parents went to the courts and asked that his name be changed to Paul. Later, Susan was very grateful to learn that his name was changed to a decent name.
The child was adopted when he was between four and five years old. It took the courts approximately two-and-a-half to three years to find a home that would take him. He was adopted by a family in medicine. Susan does not know where he is and has never heard from him.
Atkins was received by the Department of Corrections on April 23rd, 1971, from Los Angeles County for the offence of Murder first degree, seven counts, and Conspiracy to commit murder first, and an additional count, number eight.
Pat and Leslie had been sent together to the California Institution for Women at Frontera, California while Susan Atkins was on trial for the Hinman case. A special death row housing unit was built for the three Manson women at CIW and Susan joined them in April of 1971. They were totally isolated from the whole world and from other prisoners. The only people they would interact with were the guards and correctional people.
Since Susan was the snitch, Pat and Leslie refused to talk to her and ignored her for many years. Especially Leslie. There was nothing to do except watch television and listen to the radio. They were allowed to go outside for one hour during the day in a special concrete patio with barbed wire. Susan went through extreme depression and for a while lost all motivation for life.
On February 18, 1972, The United States Supreme Court struck down capital punishment and Susan and the others appeared in court where a judge reversed the death sentence for each count. This meant life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. The minimum eligible parole date on October 7th 1976.
Although the death penalty had been reversed, the three girls remained in the special housing unit for several years and later that year Catherine Share and Mary Brunner joined them at SHU. They had been convicted of the Hawthorne gun store robbery and shoot out with the police. Share and Brunner tried two escapes. Susan assisted them in their earlier attempt and was offered refuge on the outside if she wanted to join them but she declined.
At SHU the three women were offered many educational programs and Susan decided she would try everything she could to reform herself and work towards a successful re-entry to society on parole. In 1973 Susan had a short fling with a young prison guard that worked at the special housing unit. She decided to let her hair grow back and was beginning to identify more with the correctional people than with Manson philosophy. The transition was easier for Susan because the girls had cut all ties with her so she really didn't have anything to loose.
In 1974, Susan started corresponding with Bruce Davis. Davis was convicted of the murders of Gary Hinman and Shorty Shae and was incarcerated at Folsom prison. He had recently become born again Christian and introduced Susan to various scriptures and the new testament. Susan fell in love with him and started reading the bible. One day, however, the correspondence stopped after Davis's mother had interjected.
Later that year, Susan became a born-again-Christian in a grand manner. She made sure everybody knew about it and gave a bunch of interviews to the media. In one memorable interview in 1975, she gleefully tells reporter Stan Atkinson "I've been completely, mentally, spiritually and almost physically born again." She broke down and cried and said she finally now felt remorse for the victims. Susan was baptized in large tub on prison grounds by fellow inmates and people from Prison Outreach Ministries.
In 1975, Pat and Leslie were transferred to the "yard" or the general prison population but were still on close custody which meant they were only allowed to be on the yard during certain hours and were not allowed to participate in evening activities. Susan however was transferred to the psychiatric unit which is located within the maximum security area. This was not because she was under psychiatric care but because of security reasons. According to Susan the administrators still regarded her as a risk but according to others there was concern that others would attack her.
In the early 70's Susan's father, Edward started visiting her regularly and they finally became close friends. He had re-married to a woman that Susan remains very close to this day. Susan younger brother Steven also started contacting her and they became very good friends. He had gone through a lot of trouble in his life. Susan helped him get back on his feet and introduced him to the bible. Susan's older brother Michael was arrested in Santa Clara in 1978 for rape. The charges were eventually dropped. Susan also became close to her grandmother and to her two nieces.
Through Prison Ministries, Susan formed her own prison ministry and had over 200 persons throughout the United States on her mailing list who received her newsletter once a month. In them Susan reports of achievements within the prison, the results of her ministrations, and the appeals to the readers for prayers. She is not one of those people who quietly have converted and lead their lives guided by the Bible's Christian principles. She made it clear from the moment she embraced Christ that she regards herself as a leader, a person endowed with great spiritual qualities who is to preach the Word and minister to others. She does not hesitate to compare herself with great biblical figures. Some people have said that Susan does not worship God, but herself. However, with the passage of time, Susan has matured considerably and she seeks attention and approval in more appropriate ways.
In 1976, Susan Atkins was engaged to be married to a Lorrie White. They had remained friends for over 11 years. They had met on new years eve, December 31st 1968 and Susan spent four days at his house in Topanga Canyon. He was a college student at the time, at the University of Los Angeles. Susan wanted him to come with her to Spahn Ranch but he declined and said he was only interested in her. After Susan was incarcerated Lorrie White started writing her and made frequent trips to CIW to visit. They fell in love and were engaged to be married. However, shortly before they were to get married he met another woman whom he married moved with to Hawaii.
On October 7th, 1976, Susan had her first parole hearing. The Board had her undergo a series of psychiatric tests and her IQ measured at 117.
In 1977, Susan completed her autobiography with Bob Slosser, Child of Satan, Child of God and it was released internationally and promoted by Logos International. All proceeds from the book were to go to New Life Foundation. An organisation Susan wanted to build to help young women get off the streets and get their life together. However, the organisation was never built.
Susan claims she was conned by a man named John Work whom she met through the Christian community. He had promised to build the New Life Foundation from the royalties of the book and buy a halfway house. She claims he stole all the money and ran off. After the publisher from Logos International contacted her to tell her Mr. Work was gone. Susan claims she then signed the rest of the proceeds to the publishing company. A few years later the company went bankrupt. The proceeds of the book were a little over 14 million dollars. People have suggested that Susan herself had someone deposit the money somewhere so she wouldn't be broke when she would be released on parole. 14 million is a lot of money. However, the CDC did investigate the matter at one point and never found anything suspicious. In 1989, Susan was asked why she didn't give the royalties to the family members of her murder victims and she said "I never thought of it."
In 1978 Susan was invited to speak at the Believers Fellowship in Forth Lake Worth in Florida and the West Palm Beach Sheriff's Department even agreed to supply security for the trip but the CDC wouldn't allow it. That same year Susan saved a fellow inmate's life after she had cut her wrists and was bleeding profusely. Susan used towels as pressure bandages and saved her life. The warden at prison commended her for the job.
In October of 1978 Susan was again engaged to be married, this time to a man named John Daiberl who was from Chicago. He started writing her in 1976 and they became very close. Susan broke off the engagement, claiming it wasn't fair on him having to wait a lifetime for her to get out. She also claimed she wasn't ready for marriage at the time.
In 1979, Susan was engaged to be married for the third time. His name was Michael Holbrook. After they were engaged she evidently got to know him and learned he was very unstable. She became afraid of him and broke off the engagement and all contact with him. He became angry and persisted in attempting to gain contact with her and she had to ask the institution to stop his mail and phone calls.
On November 30th, 1980, Susan Atkins switched beliefs from being a Born-Again-Christian to being a Roman Catholic. She was chastised at one point for baptizing inmates in the pool, which is not a Catholic ritual.
On Sept 3, 1981, at the instruction of her attorney Robert Moss, Susan took a polygraph test to discredit her earlier confessions to the murders. Susan passed the test and results indicated that Susan did not stab any of the Tate-LaBianca victims. This was done in preparation for her December 1981 parole hearing.
On September 9, 1981 Susan married Texan Donald Lee La$uire. Lasiure at the time had been married 34 times and claimed to be a multi-millionaire. Through correspondence, he had made promises to get her out of prison by paying off the Governor. For a person serving a life sentence this was a golden opportunity...if only it were true. After having met him and married him she realized she had made a terrible mistake and sent him packing. Lasiure claimed Fidel Castro sent them a wedding present and said he was going to build a 48-bedroom mansion next to the prison to be close to his bride. Lasiure too, was unstable. People from his home town of Ontario in Texas claimed he lived in a one bedroom apartment and had no visible means of support. Some described him as the "town joke."
Susan was criticized heavily for bad judgment at her 1981 parole board hearing. Board members were not happy with the circumstances surrounding the marriage. Petite Atkins, her long brown hair slightly curled, was wearing a conservative beige skirt and blazer, told the board she lied when she confessed to brutal killings at the penalty phase of her trial, a decade ago. She also said she "felt guilty" for not stabbing the seven victims. "Between 1968 and 1969 I was told over and over that human life had no value," she said, "I was literarily being programmed to kill." Susan was still married to Donald Lasiure and told the board, "my husband at this point doesn't want me to work," she added, "he does not want me in the working class." In spite of a fairly good psychiatric evaluation and the polygraph test, Susan was denied parole for one year.
The marriage to Lasiure was annulled a few months later, although Lasiure claims he went to Cuba to get a divorce. Later, before Lasiure married his 37th bride, he went on a media rampage, giving interviews with anyone who would listen. He said Susan was psychotic and she stabbed him during their honeymoon in a jealous rage at the administration building. Their honeymoon was not at the administration building. It is closed to inmates. Their honeymoon was at the family living unit apartments, according to Susan, he kept her awake for 68 hours. This stabbing incident has never been proven and was just some revenge stragedy on Laisure's part.
Susan had remained in the Psychiatric Unit for almost six years. It was the decision of the Superintendent to keep Susan in that maximum security area. Every ninety days, Susan would request that she be transferred to the general population. In 1981, that particular Superintendent left the institution and it was then that Susan was finally transferred to general population on a medium security level. She had conducted herself well in prison and the administrators decided to give her a chance. But during that time in the psychiatric unit she would work as a gardener and also did some clerical work. She also spent a lot of her time ministering to many of the sick and unstable women in her unit.
Susan's father, Edward John Atkins died in late 1981. Susan took it hard because they had become very close in the last few years.
The transition to the general population was fairly smooth, although she was attacked shortly after she came on the yard by another inmate. Now Susan could take advantage of all the educational programs and work full time. She enlisted herself in school and in 1982 finished her Associate of Arts degree in general education. She started working full time as a Procurement Clerk for the Prison Industry Authorities, Textile Operation for the Production Manager in the institution. Susan claims she got seriously depressed shortly before her December 1982 parole hearing.
Susan appeared before the Board of Prison Terms for the 4th time on December 16, 1982. She spent hours getting ready and was undoubtedly nervous because a new law had been passed in California which allowed the media and television cameras to be present at high profile criminal trials and parole hearings. In television footage from the hearing, Susan is seen sitting poker faced in front of the parole board with heavy neon-purple eye make-up and her hair all dolled up. With the added pressures of TV cameras and reporters, the atmosphere gets tense. She was denied parole for 3 years.
Just before the 82 hearing, Susan had completed a vocation in data processing. She had always been interested in computers and needed a special vocation to maintain a good job upon her eventual release. It was also by far the most advanced vocational program in the institution at the time. Through her work in the institution, she was paid 65 cents an hour and generated between 90 and 105 dollars a month, average.
In 1982 and 83, according to prosecutor Steven Kay, Susan had a thriving manicure business in the prison where she would get paid by doing the nails of her fellow inmates. It was illegal and a prison guard caught Susan with a $ 20 bill when she was coming from the visiting room. It was found during a standard body search. Carrying any kind of currency is a serious offence in prison and she received a serious CDC 115 violation report which goes into her prison record. Susan claimed the money was for buying acrylic nail supplies. At her parole hearing she said it was the first and only time she ever had any cash in her hands after arriving at CIW.
Shortly after that incident, Susan committed another serious prison violation. During a standard search of her prison cell, the guards found a bottle containing yeast, (alcohol) which is serious contraband. Prisoners have no access to alcohol so it was believed to have been either brewed somewhere in the prison or smuggled. Like always, Susan had an explanation for it; she claimed she was walking to her cottage when she found a sealed package and picked it up without opening it. She said she put it in her cell and completely forgot it was there and had no idea it was actually yeast. The authorities didn't buy the story and she received a serious CDC 115 violation report and lost all her privileges.
In 1984 she received another violation report after she got into a fight with another inmate. After an investigation, her CDC 115 was reduced to a "non serious" CDC 128B violation because she was considered the victim. She claimed an unknown assailant attacked her.
In September of 1984, Susan was released from close custody and was assigned to the lowest security level available at the prison. That meant more privileges, more visits and was able to participate in evening activities. She started attending AA and NA meetings two nights a week. She was initially told to go by the parole board, as soon as her custody level would change.
She started working the 12 step program and found a sponsor from the outside, a panel member who came in with the meetings. The twelfth step is about service in your community and passing on the program to newcomers and she started sponsoring other inmates and helping them in their recovery. Susan was voted by her peers to facilitate the AA/NA meetings and took on that responsibility for almost two years.
In 1985, Susan was nominated and elected to be on the Women's Advisory Council for her cottage, Barneberg. In essence, that meant she was the trouble-shooter for over 130 women. She was also voted the Chairwoman of the Medical Committee Meeting of the Women's Advisory Council. If the inmates had medical problems or trouble with just about anything she would work with the medical director to fix the problem. She was also on the Committee for the Mail Room, where if there are problems where women were not receiving their mail, or packages, or their people in the free world are not receiving their letters, et cetera, she would resolve those problems.
James Whitehouse, who would later become Susan's second husband, started writing her in 1985 after having read "Helter Skelter" and "Child of Satan Child of God." He came from a religious family and was also Roman Catholic. Susan was very impressed by his letter and they developed a strong friendship and he started visiting her regularly.
Susan went to great lengths in preparation for her December 31st, 1985, parole hearing. Her attorney, Mr Epstein brought in two of the best criminal defence attorney's in the country to see Susan and look into her case. They tried looking at the case from all angles to find some legal flaw or another way to get her free. They had no luck and it looked like Susan was stuck there for good. Her life was in the hands of the California Board of Prison Terms. The attorneys advised her to do everything the Board would ask of her and maintain a spotless prison record and get favourable psychiatric reports.
However, just before the hearing Susan had to undergo a new psychiatric examination with a new psychiatrist at the institution. Dr. Hamner gave Susan a standard psychiatric test called the MMPI which she did terribly on. Dr. Hamner wrote a very unfavourable report and stated that Susan had "questionable judgement" and that her anti social traits remain very strong, she had inadequate personality, was rebellious, immature, self-oriented, gullible and manipulative. "Self-concept is rather low." These were terrible comments for a person trying to be paroled. If there ever was a slightest chance, before this report, that Susan would ever be released on parole; Dr. Hamner certainly nailed the coffin shut.
Although Susan has matured and grown considerably through the years, she has always had problems with the psychiatrists at the institution. Anti-Social Personality Disorder is just a fine word and medical term for sociopaths. It is considered a mental illness and there is no recovery from it. It is usually the basis for criminal behavior. Sociopaths have a hard time relating and feeling empathy with other people, they use people for their own ends without feeling guilty and they can lie without blinking an eye.
At her December 31, 1985 board hearing, Susan faced Doris Tate for the first time. Doris had recently become an outspoken victim's advocate, campaigning to keep the Manson Family behind bars. Susan appeared in a gray business suit, with big eye glasses and short hair. She cried and sobbed through the 5-hour parole hearing and apologized to Doris and the other victims, "I know the pain, and the suffering that I caused Mrs. Tate, Mrs. Frykowski, Mr. Frykowski's son. The Hinman family and the LaBianca family. I know. Nobody has to tell me. I know!"
The Governor of California at the time, Governor George Deukmejian wrote a letter to the parole board and objected to Susan's release on parole and instructed the board to keep her in prison. He said she would be a danger to any community.
In 1986, Susan's job assignment was changed to industry clerk where she did clerical work and typed dispositions, 115's and word processing. She received another disciplinary chrono for excessive display of physical behavior with her new boyfriend, James Whitehouse who was visiting her regularly at the time. Whitehouse who was 25 years old and fifteen years younger than Susan who was 40 at the time. He had plans to become a lawyer and help his future wife earn parole.
In 1986 and 87, Susan attended many group therapy groups and received very good work reports. She completed her study in "the role of law in personal ethics," and other courses from Antioch University. Susan also became certified in computer programming. She became a peer counselor to other inmates and received many good reports. In 87 she started working in the prison laundry.
Susan married James Whitehouse on December 27, 1987 at the prison chapel. A few days later they had a three-day honeymoon at the family living unit apartments on prison grounds. The FLU apartments are utilized for conjugal visits at the prison. Susan received two more disciplinary violations for inappropriate and excessive body contact during normal visits with her husband after several warnings and the visits were terminated.
In 1986, Susan along with her AA sponsor from the outside who was a bodybuilder founded the Weight Training Program for Women at the prison, dealing with physical fitness and body building. Susan began to teach other inmates the benefits of physical fitness training through the use of weights. In 1987, the program had evolved to be highest rated program in the institution in terms of attendance. Susan stopped attending AA and claimed she took the principles of AA and NA and applied them to the weight training program. Hmmm... A.A. physical fitness!
In 1988, Susan met Arnold Schwarzenegger, who came into the institution to speak to the women about weight training and physical fitness. He commended Susan for her great work in setting up the program.
In 1988, Geraldo Rivera hosted his "Geraldo special; Murder: Live on Death Row," where he interviewed Charles Manson. It was the highest rated television special that year. Susan claims she watched it with her roommate. She said she was "horrified" at Manson's comments and told the 1988 parole board that Manson was the "embodiment of evil."
When it came time to undergo a psychiatric evaluation for the 1988 board hearing, Susan refused to participate. After the disaster with the MMPI in 1985, she was afraid she would be misjudged again and refused to see the psychiatrist under any circumstances. The parole board felt she showed bad judgment and criticized her for it and denied her parole for one year. Due to a temporary decision by the courts after Charles Tex Watson filed a writ of habeas corpus and sued the Board of Prison Terms because they stopped their annual parole reviews and would now deny parole for up to three years. Board member Rudolph Castro broke board protocol and taunted Atkins by saying she might only get out after she was eligible for Social Security.
James Whitehouse was accepted into Harvard Law School during this time. Susan never disclosed her husbands name or occupation, not even to the parole board. To protect his privacy she told the board in 1989 that he was working on a degree in engineering. In 1989, Susan and James had conjugal visits every 90 days for three days at the FLU apartments on prison grounds. They had had 14 conjugal visits since they were married. Whitehouse graduated an honor student from the University of California at Irvine. He had been living in Orange County for over 10 years.
In 1989, Susan was contacted by Australia 60 Minutes, an Australian tabloid show known to hype things up and take words out of context. Susan accepted the interview request. During this time, convicted murderers were allowed to be interviewed every three months. The interview was a total disaster for Susan. Doris Tate and Steven Kay were also interviewed for the show. Susan vowed to never grant another television interview again, "never."
In 1990, Susan completed a program called Breaking Barriers, which helps inmates to set goals and to fulfill those goals through education and preparation towards eventual release on parole. Susan was trained to be the programs facilitator and her ccounsellor acknowledges Susan for successfully completing 40 hours of Training for Trainers in order to become a facilitator for Breaking Barriers.
After being criticized for several years by the Board of Prison Terms, Susan enlisted herself in AA and NA again. For prisoners to earn parole they must have a spotless record and participate in everything that is beneficial. In the 90's, Susan went on a roll and involved herself in every self-help, therapy and vocational program available in the institution.
That same year, Doris Tate came into the institution with other members of VRG (Victims Reconciliation Group), where victims of crime confront inmates and they share their stories. According to Doris Tate, Susan didn't bother to show up. Susan claimed she enlisted herself in the program but the administration locked her in her cell to avoid an incident with Doris.
In 1991, Susan received another disciplinary violation report for disrespecting staff and the unauthorized use of a state telephone. Susan stated it was a lie by the complaining officer who was retaliating against her because her husband had filed a citizen's complaint against the officer for giving him false information. Susan appealed the 115 report and got it reduced to a non-serious 128-B violation. Her chancellors stated "it's a pattern with Susan Atkins, she rarely takes responsibility," but appeals everything and "gives excuses."
In 1992, Susan was doing clerical work and working for the chapel at CIW. She along with Reverend Johnson held several bible study courses that they put together for the inmates.
On January 30, 1993. Susan was denied parole after an emotional three hour hearing. Doris Tate had passed away in 1992 and Patti Tate replaced her mother and attended the hearing. Debra Frasier was still representing her. They had been together since 1988. Debra believed in Susan and they were also good friends. "This was such an evil, evil thing," said Patti Tate at the hearing, who was 11 at the time of the killings. She conceded Atkins, may be rehabilitated, but added: "I don't see how people can accept her on the outside. I'm not ready for a murderess like this to live next door to me." Parole board Chairman Manuel Guaderrama said Atkins had done commendable work in prison but because of the heinous nature of the crimes must remain behind bars.
After the hearing, Atkins said in an interview she still holds out hope that she will one day be free. "In terms of Christian values, there should be room for forgiveness for me," she said. "I believe . . . that one day I will be given a second chance."
Although Susan was told to be disciplinary free until her next hearing, set in 96, she was able to get a serious 115 violation report only a few days after the hearing. She had used an institution computer to write personal letters without permission. "Upon inspection of the floppy disk assigned to inmate Atkins and found at her work station, the following unauthorized documents were found, a letter to Senator Presley regarding legislation prohibiting conjugal family visiting and several other personal letters" As usual, Susan had an explanation for it. As punishment, she was given 40 hours of extra work and lost all privileges. "This was not the crime of the century, she's already done that, but it indicates the same old string of manipulation," said Steven Kay later when this was brought up at her parole hearing.
On May, 26, 1993. Susan underwent surgery for reasons unknown. However she has had a medical problem for many years concerning her arm.
In 1993, conjugal visits for convicted murderers were terminated in California. This was done largely due to the fact that Charles Tex Watson had fathered 3 children and society was outraged.
In October of 93, the producers of the prime time ABC news show Turning Point contacted Susan. They were working on a television special on the Manson Women and wanted to interview Susan, Pat and Leslie. At the time, author Bill Nelson was corresponding and visiting Susan through Debra Frasier. Susan was nervous to do the interview and wanted to distance herself from Manson. Both Debra and Bill advised her not to do it and Susan agreed. Both Pat and Leslie participated in the show and were interviewed by Diane Sawyer but Susan refused to participate. The show became the highest rated prime time TV news episode that year.
In April of 1994, Susan was assigned to Miller B Unit as the yard person, doing gardening and cleaning up around the unit. That same year she enlisted herself to Blackstone School of Law in Dallas, studying to be a bonified paralegal and legal assistant. Her plans were to work for her husband in the future. For many years, Susan has been a moving force in the Longtermers Orientation Meetings where inmates serving a life sentence support each other.
Susan fired her attorney Debra Frasier who had stuck with her for many years. Debra told Bill Nelson it was because Susan's husband, James Whitehouse didn't approve of her. Susan and Leslie were asked to participate in a police conference in Los Angeles about cults, through video conference.
In 1995, Susan's brother Michael contacted her after many years. Susan confronted him about the sexual abuse and wanted him to make amends. She demanded an explanation and he told her that his friends wanted to know about girls but didn't have a sister so he offered Susan. Michael continually tried to gain Susan's confidence and sell her life story from his perspective as her brother so he could make some money. Susan however, is very careful about whom she confides in. Many people have tried this very same thing. Susan finally decided, since he wanted nothing more than to exploit her, to cut off all ties with Michael.
In 1995, Susan with the help of one of her die-hard supporters, Linda Mann, opened her website called "The Dove's Nest" where Susan would spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and communicate to people interested in knowing what she had to say about Christianity. She would also have a diary and recount her prison activities and accomplishments. She also published a newsletter each month to hundreds of supporters, distributed by Linda Mann. Linda Mann even made a request to attend Susan's 1996 parole hearing, but was denied.
In March of 1996, Susan was dropped from group therapy, dealing with sexual abuse for lack of attendance. Susan however disputed this and said the doctor was no longer available to perform the group. According to the prison staff and the doctor, Susan was counseled several times for not attending and every session of the group was intact and Dr. Ponath was present at all times.
On May 2, 1996, Susan was examined by Dr. Robert McDaniel PhD psychiatrist. He gave her a terrible report and stated Susan "was at risk for deterioration," if released back into the society. She was diagnosed as having "anti social personality disorder," and, "personality-aggressive personality disorder." He also claimed Susan did not "deal with problems directly, but rather skillfully deflects them away during conversation." He said "the inmate has developed these skills to a greater level." He also said she had a "tendency to overcompensate and minimize or avoid certain topics," some of it on the verge of denial. He stated Susan was on the defensive, very nervous and maintained what he called "an artificial cheerful demeanor," attempting to be positive at all times. He said she also skillfully and deftly deflects away from sensitive topics such as any discussions of the crime.
At her 1996 parole hearing, she was denied parole for 4 years. The longest denial she had ever received. It was largely due to her prison violation, terrible psych report and for being dropped from the therapy group. Also, at the hearing Susan was in her finest form, she had excuses and explanations for everything. Susan stated on record that she was very happy that no reporters were present at the hearing. KCAL 9 Television from the LA area had obtained the right and responsibility to provide the television pool feed through their television camera, inside the hearing. They never showed up so nobody got any footage. A camera crew from NBC4 was outside the prison, but was denied access. The media and pool feed arrangements have to made and approved 3 days prior to a hearing.
James Whitehouse was living in Orange County at the time and had been there for over ten years. There he lived alone in a trailer, but 9 months out of the year he would live in near Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts while he attended school. He would come home for the summer and holidays. Susan's parole plans are to live in Los Angeles with her husband. When criminals are paroled, they have to reside in the county of commitment and live there until the parole supervision is over.
While, Whitehouse was at Harvard, he would visit Susan during the holidays but during the summer he would visit twice a week. That's the extent of the contact between married folks in prison after conjugal visits were terminated. After James's family had gotten used to the fact that their son's wife was a mass-murderer, serving eight concurrent life sentences in a state prison, they got to know her and even visit her regularly. Susan is very fortunate to have this great support. Most inmates don't.
In spite of her prison violations and often bad psychiatric reports, she is considered a model prisoner by many and she has a lengthy list of supporters: reformed former fellow inmates who credit her with straightening them out; prison teachers who concede she has been a superb student who has learned numerous skills; prison clergy, counselors and psychologists impressed by her compassion and determination to be a positive role model. Even some hardened prison guards soften when they talk about Atkins. One retired correctional officer said in a 1999 letter that too many people still wrongly see her as that "decrepit little creature from 1969." He said, "Susan has answered the Lord's call." The following year, another retired jailer sent Atkins a seven-page handwritten letter warmly recalling their time together in the 1970s and '80s. He called her "sweetie."
In 1997, Susan completed her paralegal studies and graduates as a bonified legal assistant. She remains in Miller-B unit and works as a gardener as well as in the Interfaith In-house Chapel where she is a moderator and helps open up the chapel services on Sunday afternoon makes church announcements and organizes time of testimony with the choir. Because of work in the garden, Susan handles floral arrangements for special events and celebrations at the prison.
In 1999, Susan formed her own Christian 12 step study group where they utilize the 12 steps from AA and NA but with emphasis on the bible. She was also very active that year in the Long Termers Organization where other "Lifer's" support each other.
In June of 1999, Susan became medically disabled and her physician ruled that she was unable to work. She had an operation due to a medical problem with her arm. Since the late 1970's, Susan has had to use reading and distance glasses. She also has a hearing problem and it has gotten worse in recent years. She has to rely on a hearing aid to hear sufficiently.
After she became medically disabled, she donated a lot of her time in hobby craft. Susan is a very talented artist and very good with colors, paint, pastel and pencil. The prison has a hobby shop where people can buy artwork from the prisoners and Susan has donated a lot of her artwork to the hobby shop. Some of her artwork has found its way to crime memorabilia dealers.
Susan herself sold a few paintings and gave the proceeds to the estate of Bartek Frykowski. Frykowski had brought a civil suit against them in the late 70's. He has since died but his lawyers have renewed the suit every five years. Susan is the only defendant to voluntarily pay into the account. It was a little over $ 1000 in 2002. All proceeds Manson made from the song "Look at your game girl" by Guns and Roses went to the Frykowski estate. First payment was about $ 60.000 but there has been a lot more.
In 2000, Susan is asked by the Crime Victims Assistance Director for the Mayor of Houston to aid them in stopping the profiteering by crime-memorabilia dealers on the internet.
Atkins was scheduled to have psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Robert McDaniel on Oct 31, for her upcoming board hearing. However, Susan refused to participate because she felt he had seriously misjudged her before her last hearing where she received a terrible report. According to the doctor; there was discussion between the doctor and the inmate and they came to an impasse. The doctor came to the conclusion, based upon the fact she would not come into his office that she had refused this psychiatric evaluation.
In a statement dated on November 4, 2000, the Dr. concluded: "I believe the inmate continues to be adept at side-stepping issues and creating controversy where none really exists. The inmate has developed these skills to a greater level. Upon further reflection, it was my impression that I was ambushed under these circumstances and not allowed to proceed with the course of the psychiatric evaluation. I believe it is the inmates' intent to create controversy and dispute in areas that have nothing to do with the psychiatric evaluation and her appearance before the Board of Prison Terms. I can only conclude, based upon the inmates' behaviour that she still has a serious problem with authority and has assumed an extremely adversarial approach to this psychiatric evaluation.
In December 2000, following a three-hour hearing, the board handed Atkins her 10th parole denial. The board chairman noted, Atkins had racked up a "quite lengthy" list of accomplishments and behaved in an "extremely professional manner." But that was not enough. He claimed she needed "a longer period of observation and treatment." In the end, the three-member panel ruled that she "would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety if released from prison." The hearing was attended by Debra Tate, Angela Smaldino and Janet Parent. Susan was represented by her husband, James Whitehouse who recently graduated from Harvard Law.
"When it comes to me, the board has adopts a policy of breaking their own rules and regulations," Atkins said in an interview after the hearing. "I jump through all their hoops, and then each time I come back after doing everything and more than they asked, they give me a whole different set of hoops to jump through."
The prosecutor, Steven Kay seethes when he hears arguments for Atkins' release from prison. Kay maintains that Atkins is an actress. During one parole hearing, he says he observed a "crying, sympathy-seeking" Atkins "turn it off" when she immediately walked into a private holding cell and coldly screamed at a guard who didn't have her lunch ready. Kay has advised the parole board that "she's a facial chameleon whose features can shift almost imperceptibly from coldness to glowing innocence." "How can she murder an eight-and-a-half-months pregnant woman and then talk to the parole board with a straight face?" asked Kay. "It defies comprehension. She should never, never, not in a thousand years, get out. Not after what she has done."
On February 7th, 2002, Atkins received two disciplinary reports for misconduct. Apparently she had a shirt in her possession without permission and the other had to do with a creamer and cosmetics that were found in a desk drawer in her cell. Some cosmetics, especially make-up are considered contraband.
While the prison was investigating the sale of her artwork to pay into the Frykowski account after he had brought a civil judgment against Atkins and the others, Susan lost all her privileges for one year. The investigation revealed nothing illegal and in 2003 she got all her privileges back.
When Leslie Van Houten was brought to court in May of 2002 in front of judge Bob N. Krug, both attorney's for Atkins and Watson attended the proceedings and were watching closely what would happen. Susan, Eric Lampel, Susan's new attorney and her husband James Whitehouse were working on a law suit against Governor Gray Davis, The California Department of Corrections, the Board of Prison Terms, the warden at CIW, several counsellors and the board psychiatrist, Dr. Robert McDaniel. (If they won't give me parole, I'll just sue them.)
Filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside in May, 2003, The federal civil-rights suit, filed by Irvine lawyer Eric P. Lampel, seeks to advance Atkins' parole hearing and also seeks $1 million in punitive damages and contends that Atkins is a victim of Gov. Davis' hard-line policy of denying parole to murderers. "Over the course of her incarceration, Ms. Atkins has been transformed into a political prisoner and her imprisonment amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is barred by the Constitution," the suit said.
Atkins contended in her suit that she had not received a psychiatric evaluation before the 2000 parole hearing because she had insisted that the session be tape-recorded to protect her and the psychiatrist. Her suit also alleged that prison officials improperly revoked visiting privileges for her husband, James Whitehouse, who is a San Juan Capistrano lawyer. That deprived her of access to counsel, the suit said.
The suit was thrown out. U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin ruled that Atkins cannot sue the state, its Department of Corrections, the Board of Prison Terms and three board commissioners. The judge said the commissioners are immune from prosecution for their official actions, and the U.S. Constitution bars her from taking action against the state and its agencies unless they consent to be sued. The case remained in place against Gov. Gray Davis, the California Institute for Women at Chino, Warden John Dovey and Atkins' prison psychologist, Robert McDaniel. However, it was tossed out all together several weeks later.
The suit made headlines all over the world and Atkins became somewhat of a laughing stock. In 2004, Susan and her husband filed a writ of habeus corpus against parole officials, claiming her parole hearings are continually conducted in bad faith. Outcome is pending.
In 2002, Susan enlisted herself in Newport University through correspondence and is working towards a BA degree in human services. She had started at one point but funding was no longer available as the prison stopped paying for education at this level. All correspondence studies are paid by Atkins herself. In 2005 she had four and a half electives left. Her Bachelors of Arts degree was also conducted through Newport.
Because of her medical condition, Susan given a job as teaching assistant at re-entry, helping inmates preparing to go back into society and as a clerk receptionist. She assists the re-entry instructor by taking care of attendance reports for him. Susan always receives exceptional work reports. She is still the supervisor and facilitator of Breaking Barriers and has helped over 250 women set goals for their lives and plan towards their eventual release on parole.
Since the 1980's, Susan Atkins has been a moving force inside the Long Termers Organization, a support group for women serving life-terms. Both Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten are very active as well. Through the Long Termers, Susan assists many of the women in preparing for their parole hearings. Sometimes they do mock hearings and put each other on the spot. Susan is also an accomplished artist and works as a teacher in hobby craft and has been teaching a bead and design class. She also teaches watercolour, pen and ink.
In 2004, Susan worked with Peer helper and facilitated a substance abuse group for younger inmates at the prison. She meets with them every Thursday afternoon, where she helps the women work through their addiction problems. Susan has been clean and sober for over 35 years and since 1984, she has participated extensively in Narcotics Anonymous and AA except for two years when she got very disillusioned with the fellowship.
Susan was asked by the recreational committee to assist her fellow inmates to quit smoking. On July 1st, 2005, the prison outlawed smoking. To help the women, Susan held an exercise program on Thursday evenings to help them get a healthy release for their addiction.
As of 2005, most of Susan's family is deceased. After her father's death in 1981, Susan remained very close to her stepmother. She however, died recently. All that Susan has left on her side is her two brothers, Michael Atkins who is 61 and lives in Texas and Steven Atkins who is 53 and lives somewhere in Central California with his wife and two daughters. Susan's older aunt and grandmother are also deceased. Susan remains very close to Steven and his family. They come down to visit Susan, at least once every year. Susan introduced them to the Lord after Steven had turned his life around. He had a substance abuse problem for several years.
On January 3rd, 2005, after 12 years of negative psychiatric reports. Susan met with Dr. Robert Smith for her board psychiatric evaluation. His diagnosis was, "Poly-substance Dependence in remission," and a "Personality Disorder not otherwise specified with Anti-social and Passive Aggressive Features." The Dr. also stated; "inmate Atkins does admit responsibility and she offers what appear to be credible expressions of insight and remorse. Complete assurance of her acceptance of responsibility, insight and remorse will probably always be clouded somewhat by the factual disputes that stem from her earlier versions of the crimes."
He goes on say; "the inmate is mentally stable with no history of recent dangerousness in a controlled setting. There is no immediate threat of dangerousness should this inmate be released to the community. The inmate has a favourable risk profile for release to the community, conditional on her continued abstinence from alcohol and/or illegal drugs. That is if she remains alcohol and substance free. Future dangerousness is not reasonably foreseeable should be released from custody. He then goes on to say, "I am full supportive of a release in accordance with these conclusions."
Susan was scheduled to have a parole hearing in April, 2005. Susan and her husnad/lawyer asked for a postponement due to a recent legal action they had taken. Susan filed another writ of habeus corpus and it is presently before the courts and has not been resolved. She has three lawyers working on her case and the aim is to get her released from prison sometime in the near future.
Her most recent parole hearing was re-scheduled for June 1st, 2005. Her husband, James Whitehouse represented her again and gave the same 2 hour argument like at her 2000 hearing. Susan refused to speak about the crimes but talked freely about her childhood and life in prison. For the first time in 35 years, she faced relatives of Jay Sebring. His sister, Mararet DiMaria, her husband and their son, Anthony DiMaria were present and gave powerful impact statements to the Board.
ABC7 Television filmed each moment as Susan apologised to the victims' family members. "I know that each family member here, they miss their loved one. I can not give that back to them. I can not take that pain away from them. I wish with all my heart that one day they will be able to heal." Then she went on to say, "The victims are begging the Board of prison Terms to not give me parole. And I don't think that those people understand that that's something that the law affords me..."
Debra Tate was also present at the hearing and said "I cannot guarantee that in the freedom of society, that the same aspects that you displayed once before, lack of personal fortitude and weakness, would not manifest themselves again," and asked the Board to consider the maximum denial. Susan was denied parole for 4 years.
Today, Susan remains at the California Institution for Women in Chino, California. She has been denied parole 11 times and remains basically a model prisoner. Her days are filled with the unpleasant rigors of prison life, but also anticipation. Besides religion, she says the passion she has for her husband inspires her to fight for parole. "My life is about helping people now. I am a good, law-abiding citizen, and I've done everything in this environment—everything. I should be given a chance." However, it is unlikely she will ever see freedom. She is eligible for another parole hearing in 2009.
5 To Die
The Killing of Sharon Tate by Susan Atkins
Child of Satan, Child of God by Susan Atkins
1970 Trial Transcript
1981 Parole Hearing Transcript
1982 Parole Hearing Transcript
1985 Parole Hearing Transcript
1988 Parole Hearing Transcript
1989 Parole Hearing Transcript
1993 Parole Hearing Video
1996 Parole Hearing Transcript
2000 Parole Hearing Video
2005 Parole Hearing Transcript
2002 Writ of habeus Corpus petitioned by Susan Atkins
2003 Writ of habeus Corpus petitioned by Susan Atkins
Excerpts from Atkins' C-File
Interview w Stan Atkinson
Interview with Doug Bruckner for KNBC
Interview with Australia 60 Minutes