Many if not all cults have leaders, and the Manson Family was no exception. Those leaders often manipulate and control the lives of their followers. It seems that Charles Manson, head of the Manson Family, was yet another frontrunner who would force his supporters to commit horrific crimes, in order to bring about something he wanted.

Susan Atkins in a prison interview / Picture Credit: NBCLA on YouTube

Susan Atkins in a prison interview / Picture Credit: NBCLA on YouTube

Who was Susan Atkins?

In 1967, Susan Atkins met Charles Manson and his ‘family’. It didn't take her long to get to know them and she would begin travelling with the group before settling onto their ranch.

The Manson Family are known for many things; largely murder, and perhaps most notably the killing of pregnant actress, Sharon Tate.

On August 8th, 1969, under orders of Charles Manson, Atkins and a few other members of the Family broke into the home Tate and director Roman Polanski shared, and killed Tate and four others.

Atkins was found guilty of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. However, not long after her conviction the death penalty was banned in California (CA), so her sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Early life

Susan Denise Atkins was born on May 7th, 1948, in San Gabriel, CA.

She was the second of three children born to alcoholic parents, and grew up in North CA.

Atkins dropped out of high school in order to support herself, as her mother had died when she was 15, and her father deserted the family.

The young girl moved, by herself, to San Francisco.

The Manson Family and Tate’s murder

In 1967 while staying with friends, Atkins met Charles Manson.

By that same summer, Atkins went on a road trip with Manson and his group.

Soon after, she settled in with the Family at their ranch in Southern CA, where Atkins gave birth to a son; Manson named this baby boy Zezozose Zadfrack Glutz (he had earlier dubbed Atkins ‘Sadie Mae Glutz').

By July 1969 Atkins was a highly trusted member of Manson’s inner circle. One day he took her and two other members to extract money from a man called Gary Hinman. When he wouldn’t submit, however, Manson sliced his face with a sword and left; the remaining members later beat and killed Hinman.

At this point, Manson’s visions of a race war were pressing his every move.

He had a very strange plan to begin this war by killing people in their homes, and blaming it on the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers were a Party for self-defence founded in 1966 that included, among other things, the ideology of black nationalism.

On August 8th, 1969, Manson sent four of his followers, including Atkins, to the home of director Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time.

By the end of the night, Tate and four others who were in the house were dead.

Atkins later admitted to holding Tate down while Charles ‘Tex’ Watson stabbed her to death. Later however, Atkins recanted her story and claimed that she was simply a bystander during the ordeal…

Conviction and sentencing

Many members of the Manson Family were arrested multiple times, but only on the suspicion of car theft.

The police eventually linked the murders that occurred within the Tate residence to another set of killings at another home; therefore realising that they already had many of the suspects already in custody.

In October 1969, the entire Manson Family (which at its peak, had around 100 followers and 30 core members) was arrested, and later tried for the murders.

The series of trials were like freak show, and the odd behaviour of the defendants became a reoccurring trait of the proceedings.

On March 29th, 1971, Atkins was found guilty and sentenced to death, along with the other defendants.

However, CA’s 1972 ban on the death penalty changed this sentence to life in prison.

Atkins was the longest-serving female inmate in the state of CA at the time of her death (which was listed as natural causes) on September 24th, 2009, at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, CA.

Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal

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