Ex-Manson follower Susan Atkins dies
Fri September 25, 2009
(CNN) -- Susan Denise Atkins, a former member of the Manson family who killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate during a two-day killing spree in 1969, has died, according to a California corrections spokesman. She was 61. Atkins died at 11:46 p.m. PT Thursday (2:46 a.m. Friday ET) at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, said Terry Thornton with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Atkins, California's longest-serving female inmate, was suffering from terminal brain cancer.
Since she entered prison in 1971, she became a born-again Christian who worked to help at-risk youth, victims of violent crimes and homeless children, among others, according to a Web site maintained by her attorney and husband, James Whitehouse.
Atkins' brain cancer was diagnosed in March 2008, Whitehouse wrote on his Web site. On May 15, 2008, doctors predicted she would live less than six months. But she passed that deadline, he wrote, and celebrated her 21st wedding anniversary on December 7. In July 2008, Atkins requested a "compassionate release" from the California Board of Parole Hearings. It was denied by unanimous decision. Her request was opposed by Tate's sister, Debra, Los Angeles County prosecutors and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others. On September 2, a panel from the Board of Parole Hearings denied Atkins' suitability for parole in a hearing, her 13th. Atkins' hospital bed was wheeled into the hearing room for the proceeding, and she appeared to sleep through much of it. For her statement, her husband helped her deliver the 23rd Psalm. She spoke in a high, cracked voice.
Like most of the other former Manson family members, Atkins shunned Manson during her incarceration. "He is a liar, a con artist, a physical abuser of women and children, a psychological and emotional abuser of human beings, a thief, a dope pusher, a kidnaper, a child stealer, a pimp, a rapist and a child molester," she wrote in a manuscript posted on her Web site. "I can attest to all of these things with my own eyes. And he was all of these things before he was a murderer."