Susan Atkins, who is suffering from brain cancer, will be lucky to see the end of the year. In September, prison authorities quietly moved the 60-year-old Charles Manson follower (who has her own Web page) from an undisclosed hospital in Southern California to the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. The most likely scenario is that doctors determined that they couldn't do anything more for Atkins who, last spring, was only given three months to live. The Central California Women's Facility is outfitted with a skilled nursing facility for inmates requiring higher care levels — and, perhaps more pertinently, a hospice where female inmates go to die.
In May Atkins' husband, James Whitehouse, asked for “compassionate release” for his wife. However, the California Board of Parole voted unanimously in July to deny Atkins' request for a court hearing in Los Angeles that could have allowed her to die outside the custody of the California prison system. Among those protesting her release were Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and former Hollywood Matchmaker Virginia Graham — who shared a cell with Atkins while cops were trying to piece together the infamous Manson murders. Atkins' attorney also tried to lobby support from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, reminding him that he met Atkins several times at the women's prison in Corona before he was governor. (There's a great photo of Schwarzenegger with his hand on Atkins' shoulder.)
At the time of the compassionate-release hearing, Atkins' condition was
so dire that her husband told the parole board that she was paralyzed
on her right side and unable to get out of bed — and that she had lost
her left leg and could barely speak.
Her hospital stay from
March to September cost taxpayers close to $2 million dollars. Of that,
$592,000 was spent on guarding the onetime topless dancer.
the summer of 1969, Atkins fatally stabbed a pregnant Sharon Tate 16
times inside the Benedict Canyon home she shared with husband Roman
Polanski, who was abroad at the time of Tate's death. After killing the
beautiful actress, Atkins, prosecutors claim, tasted her blood and used
it to scrawl the word “PIG” on the Polanskis' front door. On that night
of August 8-9, the Manson Family also killed Abigail Ann Folger, Voytek
Frykowski, Steven R. Parent, and Jay Sebring.
The following day,
Manson family members – excluding Atkins – bludgeoned to death Leno
LaBianca and his wife Rosemary at their Los Feliz hills home. Atkins,
then 22, was convicted of killing Tate and music teacher Gary Hinman.
Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten
were soon charged with the other grisly murders.
preached about an apocalyptic race war he said was predicted in the
Beatles song “Helter Skelter.” His followers believed they would
eventually control the United States — if they performed heinous
crimes for Manson.
Atkins was originally sentenced to death in
1971. She was re-sentenced to life in prison in 1972 when the
California Supreme Court ruled the death penalty constituted cruel and
unusual punishment. (The high court reinstated the death penalty in
For 37 years Atkins was housed in the California
Institution for Women. There, she became a model prisoner, while also
filing a lawsuit claiming to be a political prisoner, according to Women in Crime Ink.