SUSAN ATKINS, the terminally ill Charles Manson follower who admitted stabbing actress Sharon Tate 40 years ago, has lost what was likely to be her last bid for freedom.
Atkins, who suffers from brain cancer, slept through most of the four-hour hearing during which her husband-lawyer pleaded for her release and families of victims of the Sharon Tate-Labianca killings urged that she be kept behind bars until she dies.
In a dramatic moment – one of the few in which Atkins opened her eyes – Atkins’ husband, James Whitehouse, led her through a recitation of the 23rd Psalm, with Atkins concluding in a strong voice: “My God is an amazing God.”
Debra Tate, sister of the actress who was over eight months pregnant when she was killed, told the parole commissioners that she would have a 40-year-old nephew if her sister had lived. She said of Atkins: “I will pray for her soul when she draws her last breath, but until then I think she should remain in this controlled situation.”
Another speaker was Anthony DiMaria, nephew of the slain Jay Sebring, said: “I’m not here for Susan Atkins. I’m here for Jay Sebring. The only hatred I feel is for the crime.”
DiMaria reacted angrily to a suggestion by Whitehouse that the commissioners should consider the cost to the state of housing Atkins at a time when she requires constant medical care. Whitehouse said it was costing $17,000 (€11,919) a month for her care. “We are not here to balance the state budget,” DiMaria said. “We are here because Susan Atkins sent nine people to their death.”
Parole commissioner Tim O’Hara said that he and the other commissioner who presided over the hearing, Jan Enloe, based their decision heavily on the “atrocious nature” of the 1969 killings and said that Atkins never fully understood the magnitude of her crimes.
She was convicted of the seven Tate-LaBianca murders, one of the most notorious mass murders in California history.
The gruesome murders that made the Manson cult infamous were discovered on August 9, 1969, when a maid ran screaming from the home shared by Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski. Five people were killed in a ritualistic manner, including Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring. Two others, Rosemary and Leno LaBianca, were killed at another home. Polanski was not at home at the time of the slayings.
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