Susan Atkins

Charged with first-degree murder, Susan Atkins, was involved in the murder of Sharon Tate, Gary Hinman, Abigail Folger, Stephen Parent, Wojciech Frykowski and Jay Sebring. She was given a life imprisonment along with others involved in the murder.

Susan Atkins’ Overview

  • Birth Name: Susan Denise Atkins
  • Age: 61
  • Date of Birth: May 7, 1948
  • Place of Birth: San Gabriel, California, US
  • Date of Death: September 24, 2009
  • Place of Death: Chowchilla, California, US
  • Nationality: American
  • Father: Edward John Atkins
  • Mother: Jeanne Atkins
  • Siblings: Two Brothers
  • Spouse: Donald Lee (1981-82), James Whitehouse (1987 onwards)
  • Children: One

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Early Life

  • Susan Atkins was an English, Scottish, German and Irish descendant.
  • Her parents, Jeanne and Edward John Atkins, were alcoholics. She was the second child of the couple.
  • Later in an interview, she revealed that one of her male relatives abused her sexually.
  • Susan’s mother died in 1964 due to cancer after which her life was completely disrupted for almost three years.
  • Edward along with Susan and her younger brother Steven, moved to Los Banos, California.
  • After finding work on a construction project, he left the children to fend for themselves.
  • While Susan was in her junior year in school, she started working to support herself and her brother.

Atkins’ Meeting with Manson

  • In 1967 when Susan was 19, she met Manson when he was playing guitar in the house she was living in with friends.
  • After a few weeks, house was raided by the police and she was left homeless.
  • Manson invited her to join his group, who were going on a road trip in a bus painted with black color and was named “Sadie Mae Glutz” by Manson and one of his friends who was making fake IDs for her.
  • The “Manson Family” settled in San Fernando Valley of South California
  • In 1968, Susan Atkins bore Bruce White’s son , however, her parental rights were terminated after she was found guilty of murders.
  • Her son was later adopted and renamed and she lost the contact with him.

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Murder of Gary Hinman, Sharon Tate and LaBiance by Susan Atkins

  • In 1969 summers, Manson along with the “MansonFamily” caught the attention of the police who were suspecting them for auto thefts and underage runaways.
  • Also to get money to shift to the desert, Manson started drug dealing and due to the fear of Black Panthers, he pressurized his followers to donate more money.
  • Meanwhile, a member of the family suggested him that the family acquaintance Gary Hinman has inherited a large amount. He thought that he can join the commune and contribute money.
  • To persuade Hinman, Atkins, Mary Brunner and Bobby were sent to his house in July 1969.
  • After Hinman said that he had not inherited money then Bobby beated him, Manson also showed up and swung his head with a sword, sliced his face and cut his ear.
  • After two days, Bobby got Hinman’s sign over the registration of his vehicals and again stabbed him.
  • In August 1969, Bobby was arrested after he was found sleeping in Hinman’s car along with the murder weapon in car’s trunk.
  • In August, 1969, Manson along with Atkins, Patricia and Linda killed people in the house and get money from them.
  • Again in the same month,  Susan Atkins was involved in the murder of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca along with Manson, Watson, Kasabian and Krenwinkel.

Motivation behind murders

  • During prosecution, Atkins stated that Sharon Tate and LaBiance murders were done to mislead police and convince authorities that Bobby was the wrong suspect.
  • However, after a few years, Vincent Bugliosi stated all the muders were carried out in desperation and to benefit Manson.

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Arrest and Jailhouse Confession

  • In August 1969, Spahn Ranch was raided for auto thefts, however, everyone was released in some time.
  • Soon, Manson along with his followers left for Barker Ranch where they were again raided in October 1969 and everyone was arrested for auto thefts.
  • Just after this, one of the members of the group confessed Atkins participation in the Hinman murder and she was booked for the same.
  • In her jail term, Atkins confessed to Virginia Graham and Veronica Howard, her involvement in the murders of Tate and LaBianca and they reported this to the authorities.
  • Later, Atkins appeared before the grand jury in which she provided remarkable details related to the Tate’s murder.

Tate and LaBianca Trail

  • Atkins along with Manson, Van Houten and Krenwinkel went on trial in june, 1970.
  • During trial, Atkins confessed that she stabbed Tate.
  • Her claims were often contradictory and she and her co-defendants disrupted the proceedings several times.
  • All of them were given death sentence on March 29, 1971.
  • Atkins was kept in the new women’s death row in California in April, 1971.

Hinman Case Trial

  • Atkins was again involved in the Hinman murder case.
  • Initially, she stated that she was unaware that Hinman is to be robbed and then killed.
  • However, she contradicted her statement in her autobiography that came out in 1977.

Life Imprisonment of Susan Atkins

  • On 23 April, 1971, Atkins’ came to death row of California for her death sentence.
  • In the following year, Atkins’ death sentence was reversed to life imprisonment by California Supreme Court.
  • During her life imprisonment, she was actively involved in teaching classes and other prison programs.
  • Atkins also assisted during health emergencies for which she also received the commendations.
  • While in prison in 1981, Susan Atkins married Donald Lee. Aktins was his 35th The couple got separated in 1982 when Lee married another woman.
  • In 1987, Atkins got married to James Whitehouse, who was her junior.
  • In 2002, she discouraged teenagers from joining the Manson group.
  • During her 17th parole hearing in June, 2005, her attorney, Eric Lampel, issued a statement about her deteriorating health condition stating that she is paralyzed on one side and could not sit without assistance.
  • The hearing was conducted in the presence of victims’ family members, including Tate’s sister and the Sebring family.
  • Her request for the parole was denied for the next four years.
  • In 2008, Atkins was in hospital for about a month with undisclosed illness that was later said to be the terminal brain cancer, also one of her legs was amputated.

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Release Hearing

  • In July 2008, a hearing was conducted for the request release of Susan Atkins.
  • During the hearing, pleas and statements came from the supporters and opponents of Susan Atkins.
  • Debra Tate, Pam Turner and Anthony DiMaria plead in opposition while Gloria Killian, director of Action Committee for Women in Prison spoke in her support.
  • At the end of the hearing, Susan’s parole was denied for the 13th

Death of Susan Atkins

  • On 24 September, 2009, Susan Atkins died at Central California Women’s facility located in Chowchilla.
  • The spokesperson of the prison informed the reporters that she died a natural death at the age of 61.
  • In a statement, James Whitehouse, stated that the last word she whispered was ‘Amen’.

Media Portrayals of Susan Atkins

  • Several movies and series were released on Susan Atkins life.
  • In 1976 movie, Helter Skelter, Nancy Wolfe portrayed Atkins role.
  • In ‘The Manson Family’ released in 2003, she was portrayed by Maureen Allisse.
  • From 2009 to 2019, numerous movies were released on her life.

Reference Link


Susan Atkins – FAQs

What happened to Susan Atkins?

Susan Atkins was paralyzed and also suffered from brain cancer. She died in September 2009 at Women’s facility.

How old is Susan Atkins?

Born in 1948, Susan Atkins died at an age of 61.

What did Susan Atkins do to Sharon Tate?

Sharon Tate was murdered by Atkins during pregnancy.

Is Susan Atkins of the Manson family still alive?

No, Atkins died a natural death in while serving her life imprisonment.

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