The Kern County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the agency took custody of convicted murderer Charles Manson’s body after he died of natural causes at a local hospital, but what will happen to it now was still unclear Tuesday.
According to state law, Manson’s next of kin has 10 days — or until Nov. 29 — either to claim or decline to take possession of the body. If his relatives decline, prison officials must make arrangements for cremation or burial.
If Manson, who was 83, has any personal funds or property in the agency’s custody, they would go toward his cremation or burial expenses, under state law. If any belongings are not claimed within a year, officials can auction them off.
It’s possible that Manson’s body could have been claimed already. No details were available.
A spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation referred questions on Monday and Tuesday to the Kern County sheriff-coroner, while a spokesman for the sheriff-coroner on both days referred questions back to state prison officials.
“I don’t have any idea what the plan is for his remains at this point,” said Kern County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Adam Plugge, later adding that he didn’t know whether Manson’s family had tried to claim the body or whether an autopsy would be performed.
“We’re just merely a holding facility for the California Department of Corrections,” Plugge said.
The protocol in Los Angeles County provided a glimpse of what may happen next in Manson’s case.
In Los Angeles County, any in-custody death automatically gets turned over to the coroner for examination, even if the inmate died of natural causes, said Los Angeles County Coroner’s Lt. Larry Dietz. The medical staff then decides whether to perform a full autopsy on the body.
“They will get an exam of some type,” Dietz said. “Not necessarily a full autopsy.”
If relatives want to claim the body, he said, they must fill out the proper paperwork with a mortuary, which will take the documents to the coroner. If there’s a dispute over who has the legal right to it, the body is held until the matter is resolved, he said.
Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she was killed at her hilltop home in Benedict Canyon on Aug. 9, 1969. Four others were stabbed and shot to death the same night: Jay Sebring, 35; Voytek Frykowski, 32; Abigail Folger, 25, a coffee heiress; and Steven Parent, 18, a friend of Tate’s caretaker.
The next night, Manson rode with his followers to the Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, then left three members to kill the couple.