Born on the 7th day of May, 1948 in San Gabriel, California, Susan Denise Atkins was the second of the three children born to alcoholic parents, Edward and Jeanette. During her early years she was known as a quiet, self-conscious girl who belonged to her school’s glee club and the local church choir. Her mother died of cancer in 1963 and over the next three years her life was disrupted by the gradual breakup of the family and frequent relocations. Eventually, Edward moved to Los Banos, California with Susan and her younger brother. However, as soon as he got a job in San Louis Dam construction project, he left his children to find support for themselves. As there was no way out, Susan had to take a job during her junior year in school and lived with different relatives. She had been an average student at Leigh High School in San Jose, but her grades gradually deteriorated when she entered Los Banos High School.
Finally, Susan quit high school and moved to San Francisco. There she supported herself working the phones for a company peddling magazine subscriptions. In those days she used to live alone in a rented room and was depressed. Soon she left her job and became a waitress at a local coffee shop, where she met two escaped convicts. Eventually, the group of three was arrested in Oregon after committing a series of armed robberies and Atkins was incarcerated for 90 days and put on probation. After her stint in jail, she returned to San Francisco and became a topless dancer. It is to be kept in mind that, topless dancing created a wave at the 1964 Republican Convention, held at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. Young Atkins was smart enough to cash in on the trend.
In 1967, Susan Atkins met guitar playing Manson at the house where she was living with several friends. However, after a few weeks, the house was raided by the police and Susan was left homeless. At that hour of need, Manson invited her to join his group and by summer she was on a road trip with the group. Actually, Susan was charmed by Manson’s music and therefore, readily agreed to his proposal without any second thought. Manson made arrangements to give her a new fake ID and nicknamed her Sadie Mae Glutz. Finally, Susan settled with the growing Manson Family at their Spahn Ranch in Southern California and gave birth to a son by Bruce White, on 8th October, 1968, whom Manson named Zezozose Zadfrack Glutz.
Spahn Ranch with mountainous terrain, boulder-strewn scenery, and an ‘old Western town’ set, was an abandoned film city. It was named after a dairy farmer George Spahn, who purchased the property in 1948. The 80 years old farmer allowed the Manson family to stay there, free of rent, in exchange of labour for helping his horse rental business. In Spahn Ranch Manson ostensibly ran his family based on the hippie-culture of acceptance and free sex. Manson had the ambition to become an eminent Pop Star and till 8th August 1968, had a number of recording sessions, but was not thought promising enough for a contract. He identified with the subject of the Beatles song “Piggies”, through a “world-shaking” pop album he would record. However, by April 1969, Manson had involved followers in criminal activity such as auto theft and residential burglaries.
At the advent of the summer of 1969, Police became suspicious about the role of Manson and his commune at Spahn’s Rach of auto thefts and the high number of underage runaways. To avoid possible harassment, Manson planned to move away to the desert area. Since a lot of money was required for the purpose, he wanted to contact an old friend Gary Hinman, a California musician and PhD from the University of California. In fact, somebody had informed Manson that recently Gary had inherited a large sum of money. Manson thought to give it try to persuade Hinman to join the commune and contribute his purported new inheritance. Accordingly, on 25th July, 1969, Manson accompanied Susan Atkins, Bobby Beausoleil and Mary Brunner to Hinman’s residence. It may be mentioned here that Bobby was a talented young musician and Mary Brunner, a graduate from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, was impregnated by Manson and gave birth to a boy on 15th April, 1968. However, when Gary Hinman insisted that he had not inherited any money, Bobby Beausoleil thrashed him severely and after that Manson himself sliced off his ear and slashed his face with a sword. It was alleged that, the remaining crew held Hinman hostage for three days. On the third day, when again Hinman refused to part any money, either Atkins or Beausoleil stabbed him brutally. Before leaving the place Susan Atkins wrote on the wall “Political Pigy” in Hinman’s blood.
Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate 1968
On the fateful evening of 9th August 1969, Manson called Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Casablan and told them to go with Charles Tex Watson and do as directed. In the car Watson told the group, they were going to a certain house to extract money and to kill them. In fact, they were heading towards a particular house in Beverly Hills, where film director Roman Polanki lived with his actress wife Sharon Tate. Sharon was eight months pregnant at that time. It was a remote area, and there were no neighbors within distance who could be expected to hear what was about to take place. Atkins, Krenwinkel and Watson entered the estate after cutting the telephone wires, while Linda Casablan guarded them. The first victim of that night was 18-year old Stephen Parent, whom Watson shot, while he was in a car. Stephen Parent was a student, who came to visit the caretaker of Tate’s home. After that, Atkins, Watson and Krenwinkle entered the Polanski-Tate home and committed one of the most infamous and cold-blooded murders to disgrace the annals of crime.
On that tragic night five people, including Sharon Tate, were barbarously butchered in the house. Apart from Tate and Parent, the other three were Tate’s friends — celebrity hairstylist and former boyfriend Jay Sebring, budding screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, and the oldest daughter of Peter Folger, as well as the coffee heiress Abigail Folger. Roman Polanski was spared, as he was in Europe for a film project. Just before leaving the place, after the horrible job, Atkins wrote “Pig” on the front door in Sharon Tate’s blood. Later she told the grand jury that she held Tate down, while Watson stabbed her. However, during the sentencing phase of the trial she testified that she stabbed Tate because she was sick of listening to her pleading and begging, begging and pleading for her unborn child.
The entire Manson family was arrested in October, 1969. After a long trial, Atkins was found guilty and sentenced to death on March29, 1971, along with all of the other defendants. But finally, the death penalty was changed to life imprisonment, due to California’s 1972 ban on the death penalty. Time and again Susan Atkins was denied parole.
In April 2002, she was hospitalized for more than a month with an undisclosed illness, which was subsequently reported to be terminal brain cancer. Her one leg had been amputated. She died on September 24, 2009, at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California. At the time of her death, Susan Atkins was the longest-serving female inmate in the state of California