Dead, Susan Denise Atkins on September 24, 2009 at the age of 61, she was a convicted American murderer who was a member of the “Manson family”, led by Charles Manson. Manson and his followers committed a series of nine murders at four locations in California, over a period of five weeks in the summer of 1969.
Born in San Gabriel, California on May 7, 1948, the second of three children, Susan Atkins grew up in northern California. According to her, both her parents, Edward John and Jeanette, were alcoholics. Her mother died of cancer in 1963.
Over the next three years, Susan’s life was disrupted by the gradual breakup of her family, frequent relocations, and her leaving home to live independently. Until she was 13 years old Atkins and her family lived in a middle-class home in the Cambrian Park area of San Jose, California.
She was described by those who knew her as a quiet, self-conscious girl who belonged to her school’s glee club and the local church choir. In 1967, Atkins met Charles Manson when he played guitar at the house where she was living with several friends.
When the house was raided several weeks later by the police and Atkins was left homeless, Manson invited her to join his group, who were embarking on a summer road trip in a converted school bus painted completely black. She was nicknamed “Sadie Mae Glutz” by Manson and a man who was creating a fake ID for her at the time.
Atkins later claimed to have believed Manson was Jesus. The growing “Manson Family” settled at the Spahn Ranch in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, where, on October 7, 1968, Atkins bore a son by Bruce White, whom Manson named Zezozose Zadfrack Glutz.
Atkins’ parental rights were terminated once she was convicted of the murders and no one in her family would assume responsibility for the child.
On August 8, 1969, Atkins and others, under Manson’s orders, burst into the house shared by director Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate and murdered Tate and four other people.
Atkins was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. On March 29, 1971, Atkins was found guilty and sentenced to death, along with all of the other defendants. California’s 1972 ban on the death penalty changed her sentence to life in prison, however.
At trial, the prosecution stated Manson’s desire to start “Helter Skelter” (an apocalyptic race war) was the motive for the crimes. Initially, Manson told the group that during this war, they would hide in a hole in the desert and emerge when the war was over.
He said the blacks would win the war, but would be unable to govern and would turn to Manson. In the weeks prior to the murders, Manson began to say that the war wasn’t starting fast enough, and the group would have to start it by murdering wealthy white people.
As evidence for this motive, several witnesses testified to Manson’s statements regarding “Helter Skelter” and his obsession with the Beatles’ music, and the individuals convicted for the murders have testified at various parole hearings that this was the motive (e.g., Leslie Van Houten testified to this at her 1993 parole hearing).
During Beausoleil’s trial for the murder of Hinman, the defence, in order to discredit the prosecution’s case, argued that the crimes were copycat murders made to misdirect police suspicion away from Beausoleil.
Atkins was the longest-serving female inmate in the state of California at the time of her death, on September 24, 2009, at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California.