Susan Atkins, one of the leading members of Charles Manson's notorious violent cult who carried out brutal murders at his behest in 1969, has died in a California prison, her husband said. She was 61. Atkins, imprisoned since 1971 for her part in eight Manson-related murders, had been suffering from a brain tumour. Earlier this month, state corrections officials rejected her request to be freed so she would not have to die in prison.
"Susan passed away peacefully surrounded by friends and loved ones and the incredible staff at the Skilled Nursing Facility at the Central California Women's Facility," her husband, James Whitehouse, said by e-mail. "... Her last whispered word was 'Amen.' No one (on) the face of the Earth worked as hard as Susan did to right an unrightable wrong," Mr Whitehouse said. As part of Manson's following Atkins once said he could see and hear everything she did. But during her time in prison she denounced Manson, and in 1974 became a Christian in a conversion inspired by correspondence with another former "Manson family" member.
At a 1993 parole hearing, Atkins described her time with Manson by saying, "It is almost impossible to understand insanity and that's what I was living with - insanity." Atkins was 21 years old when the career criminal Manson dispatched her and other followers to the Beverly Hills home of actress Sharon Tate and film director Roman Polanski on August 9, 1969, with orders to kill. Polanski was out of town but the heavily pregnant Tate and four friends were brutally stabbed, beaten and shot to death. Atkins later said she personally stabbed Tate after ignoring her pleas for mercy.
The next night Atkins and other cult members went to the home of grocery owner Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and killed them. Atkins did not actively participate in those killings. Atkins was convicted in 1970 with her guru and two other "Manson girls" Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel. *Reuters