Panel turns down Manson follower’s request for mercy

For the second time in as many years, a state parole board voted unanimously Wednesday to deny one of Charles Manson’s fiercest followers her request for a “compassionate release” so that she can die at home.

Convicted murderer Susan Atkins, 61, is terminally ill with cancer and has only months to live, doctors say. The issue of mercy has long haunted Atkins. Nearly 40 years ago, actress Sharon Tate begged the knife-wielding Atkins to spare her life and that of her unborn child.

“She asked me to let her baby live,” Atkins told parole officials in 1993. “I told her I didn’t have mercy for her.”

On Wednesday night, the parole board meeting at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla had little mercy for Atkins, who slept on a gurney for much of a hearing that began in the early afternoon.

It was the same result as last year when, despite the presence of a number of supporters, and the approval of the prosecutor who put her behind bars, the 12-member California Board of Parole unanimously voted to deny Atkins’ release.


Atkins is serving a life sentence for the 1969 slaying of Tate, 26, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and musician Gary Hinman.

She has served 38 years in prison, longer than any other female in the state.

The victims’ relatives and supporters opposed Atkins’ release, saying she showed no mercy on Aug. 9, 1969, when she and other young followers of Charles Manson entered a hilltop Benedict Canyon home and murdered five people.

A former topless dancer who used to sing in her church choir, Atkins was one of Manson’s most loyal disciples.

After fatally stabbing Tate, prosecutors said, Atkins tasted the actress’ blood and used it to write “PIG” on the front door of the home.

During her trial, which took more than nine months, Atkins seemed to show no remorse and maintained utter devotion to Manson, whom she called “Jesus Christ,” “the devil” and “the soul.”

During sentencing, she taunted the court, saying, “You’d best lock your doors and watch your own kids.”

Atkins is now considered a model prisoner known for helping others. She has been married to an Orange County attorney for the last 21 years.

In recent years, she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. One of her legs has been amputated and the other is paralyzed, authorities said.

Some of her supporters have argued that releasing Atkins would save the state substantial amounts of money in medical and prison expenses.

Former Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi said it was time for the state to show Atkins mercy. He told The Times last month that it was wrong to say “just because Susan Atkins showed no mercy to her victims, we therefore are duty-bound to follow her inhumanity and show no mercy to her.”

“She’s already paid substantially for her crime, close to 40 years behind bars. She has terminal cancer. The mercy she was asking for is so minuscule. She’s about to die. It’s not like we’re going to see her down at Disneyland,” said Bugliosi, who wrote the best-selling book “Helter Skelter.”


Special correspondent Anne Ellis in Chowchilla contributed to this report.