Manson Family killer Susan Atkins dies in prison

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Susan Atkins, a former member of the Manson clan and the longest-serving female prisoner of California, US, has died in prison. She was 61.

It was Atkins who exposed those responsible for the murders after she bragged of her involvement while imprisoned for an unrelated offence. Two fellow inmates reported her to the authorities. Subsequently, her testimony ensured that she, Charles Manson and several others would be convicted of a string of murders in a 10-month trial, including those of heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate and of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Atkins received another murder conviction for the separate killing of Gary Alan Hinman, bringing her total to eight murders. All convicted killers in the Manson clan were sentenced to death but this was replaced with life imprisonment after the death penalty was abolished in California.

In recent years, Atkins had developed cancer which spread, almost totally paralysing her. She also had one leg amputated. She was denied compassionate release last year and parole earlier this month, with the parole board citing the vicious and remorseless nature of the crimes. Prosecutor Stephen Kay described her as "the scariest of the Manson girls. She was very violent."

Ex-chief prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi said that she "had the most unfortunate background," of all the killers except Manson himself. Her mother died of cancer while Atkins was fifteen, her father selling the family's house and all their possessions to pay hospital bills. He became an alcoholic and first neglected, then abandoned Atkins and her younger brother. Both were in foster care for a time and Atkins dropped out of school after her standards fell. She struggled to look after both herself and her brother and later worked as a topless dancer. Once, she was arrested and charged while hitchhiking because the car that gave her a ride was stolen.

In prison, she became a Christian and denounced Manson. Prison staff supported her 2005 parole bid, but she would be kept imprisoned. She ultimately served 38 years behind bars.


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