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The Dead Of Susan Atkinson
The death of Susan Atkins is the final curtain call in the murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
By: Lyn Thomas
In 1969 the pregnant actress was one of seven people, cold-bloodedly assassinated in two Los Angeles homes, during the Manson cult’s rampage. She had apologized several times for her actions.
Atkins was diagnosed in 2008 with a brain tumour, had a leg amputated and told she only had months left to live. She underwent brain surgery, before becoming paralyzed. In her last few months she had extreme difficulty with her speech.
Manson and three others, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Charles Tex Watson, who were involved in the deaths, are still serving life sentences.
Atkins and her co-defendants were originally given death sentences, but these were reduced to life in prison, when capital punishment was briefly outlawed in the 1970’s, by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Throughout the sensational 10 month trial, the guilty parties claimed their innocence. However, once they had been convicted, the women described the incidents in graphic detail. They were keen to see Manson, an ex-convict, pardoned.
Manson had gathered around him a ‘family’ of dropouts and runaways, at a ranch commune, in Death Valley, outside Los Angeles. There he claimed he was the Messiah, leading his ‘family’ in an abnormal lifestyle, fueled by drugs and communal sex.
The perpetrators had been instructed by Manson to go and do something ‘witchy’. They went through a wealthy section of town and entered the home of Tate, killing her and four others. The list included celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, filmmaker Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of Tate's caretaker. Tate was only days from giving birth to a son.
Atkins testified during the trial's penalty phase, "I was stoned, man, stoned on acid. I don't know how many times I stabbed (Tate) and I don't know why I stabbed her".
Atkins and Manson were also convicted of killing musician Gary Hinman. The following night a wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, were found stabbed to death in their home across town.
When asked how she could say that what she had done was right Atkins answered, “How can it not be right when it’s done with love.” At her appeal board in 2000 Atkins claimed she had found redemption in Christianity.
The Manson killings remained unresolved for three months, until Atkins confessed to a cellmate, following her arrest on a totally unrelated charge.
Atkins married twice while in prison. Her first husband, Donald Lee Laisure, was said to be an eccentric Texas millionaire. They quickly divorced. Her second husband, Whitehouse, is a Harvard Law School graduate and had recently served as one of her attorneys.
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