Port Vila, Vanuatu (PressExposure) October 06, 2009 -- California's longest serving prison inmate has died. Susan Atkins, 61, a member of Charles Manson 'family' admitted she had, ruthlessly stabbed to death, pregnant actress Sharon Tate. The actress was one of seven people, cold-bloodedly murdered in two Los Angeles homes, during the Manson cultâs rampage in 1969. She apologized several times for her actions.
In 2008 Atkins had a leg amputated, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and told she only had months to live. She went through brain surgery, before becoming paralyzed. In her last few months she had difficulty speaking.
Manson and three others were involved in the murders, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Charles Tex Watson. They are still serving life sentences.
Atkins and her co-defendants originally received death sentences, but these were reduced to life in prison, when capital punishment was briefly outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970's.
Throughout the 10 month, sensational trial, the guilty parties held to their innocence. However, once they had been convicted, the women admitted to everything in graphic detail. They were keen to see Manson, an ex-convict, absolved.
Manson had gathered around him, at a ranch commune, in Death Valley, outside Los Angeles, a 'family' of dropouts and runaways. He cast himself in the role of Messiah, leading his 'family' in an abnormal lifestyle, fueled by drugs and communal sex.
The perpetrators had been told by Manson to go and do something 'witchy'. They entered a wealthy section of town and the home of Tate, killing her, as well as four others. The list included celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, filmmaker Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of Tate's caretaker. Tate was carrying a full-term baby.
"I was stoned, man, stoned on acid," Atkins testified during the trial's penalty phase. "I don't know how many times I stabbed (Tate) and I don't know why I stabbed her".
The following night a wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, were found stabbed to death in their home across town. Atkins and Manson were also convicted of killing musician Gary Hinman.
When asked how she could say that what she had done was right Atkins answered, "How can it not be right when it's done with love". At her appeal board in 2000 Atkins claimed she had found salvation through Christianity.
The Manson killings remained unsolved for three months, until Atkins confessed to a cellmate, following her arrest on an unrelated charge.
Atkins married twice while in prison. Her first husband, Donald Lee Laisure, was said to be an eccentric Texas millionaire. They rapidly divorced. Her second husband, Whitehouse, is a Harvard Law School graduate and had recently served as one of her attorneys.
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