Susan Atkins, convicted in the brutal slaying of actress Sharon Tate, 8½ months pregnant with her unborn son in 1969, along with other followers of Charles Manson and Manson himself, is requesting a “compassionate release” from her life sentence in prison on the grounds that she has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and has six months to live.
Susan Atkins at her 1969 trial.
Susan Atkins after parole denial, 1985
In testimony before the Grand Jury, Atkins told of Sharon Tate pleading for her life, “Please let me go. All I want to do is have my baby.” She also said that she tasted Tate’s blood and found it to be “warm and sticky.” She then took some of Tate’s blood and used it to scrawl, on the porch wall, “PIG.”
After her arrest on unrelated charges, Atkins told of “a beautiful cat” named Charles Manson. She told of the murders,
“of finding Sharon Tate, in bed with her bikini bra and underpants, of her victim’s futile cries for help, of tasting Tate’s blood. Atkins expressed no remorse at all over the killings. She even told fellow cellmate Virginia Graham a list of celebrities that she and other Family members planned to kill in the future, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Tom Jones, Steve McQueen, and Frank Sinatra.”
After one of America’s longest trials, Atkins, along with Charles Manson, Charles “Tex” Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian were found guilty of first-degree murder and all received the death penalty! A California Supreme Court ruling in 1972 declared the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional thereby commuting the five’s sentence to life in prison.
All convicted for the brutal 1969 slayings have repeatedly been denied parole.
Debra Tate, Sharon Tate’s sister and last living relative said,
“I don’t want to seem like a heartless creature, but in all my years, I never considered this could happen. She showed no compassion. She told my sister as she slit her throat that she didn’t care for her or her unborn baby. If I could, I would say to her that I would pray for forgiveness on her soul at her moment of death when she has paid her debt to society. At that point, I’ll show compassion and pray for her soul.”
Margaret DiMaria, the sister of Jay Sebring, also murdered at the house that evening said,
“It is most unfortunate that Ms. Atkins now suffers a terminal illness. However, in the eyes of the law and in memory of her victims, I fail to see how one thing correlates to the other. She repeatedly committed crimes requiring evil premeditation and executed them in a cavalier manner that afforded her victims no mercy. The sentence Ms. Atkins now serves should not be mitigated because fate has struck this blow.”
Vincent Bugliosi, former Los Angeles prosecutor who prosecuted the murders said,
“She has paid substantially, though not completely, for her horrendous crimes. Paying completely would mean imposing the death penalty.” In regards to her “terminal illness,” Bugliosi added, “I don’t have an objection to her being released.”
Claiming “Born Again Christian,” Atkins has a website devoted to her “life since incarceration” boasting of
“Her life, her accomplishments since incarceration, her work with the Church, the Community and the needy, and her eligibility for parole.”
Her attorney husband, James W. Whitehouse, maintains the site.
Reading through the websites list of Accomplishments, one could come to the conclusion that the heinous murders she participated in and boasted of later were minimal compared to her accomplishments while incarcerated, neglecting her part in the earlier Gary Hinman murder, or that she was originally sentenced to death.
She repudiated her Grand Jury Testimony and through the years has claimed that her participation in the crimes was passive and that she didn’t actually kill anyone. After hearing the death sentence imposed upon her, Atkins proclaimed, “Better lock your doors and watch your own kids.”
39 years later, Atkins now requests “compassion.” Compassion she denied an 8 ½ months pregnant mother as she held her down while she was being stabbed to death and whom she told she didn’t care about as the actress lay dying.
Does someone who showed no compassion and boasted of a brutal slaying deserve compassion herself? Does being terminally ill merit compassion for release when time after time, paroles were denied and the person was originally sentenced to death for the brutality and heinous nature of the crimes?