Sunday, September 27, 2009
AS SEEN IN:
"Helter Skelter" (2004)
AS PLAYED BY:
The former Manson follower and murderer of Sharon Tate died on Thursday.
Susan Denise Atkins, a former member of the Manson family who killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate during a two-day killing spree in 1969, has died, according to a California corrections spokesman. She was 61.
Atkins, California's longest-serving female inmate, was suffering from terminal brain cancer. Since she entered prison in 1971, she became a born-again Christian who worked to help at-risk youth, victims of violent crimes and homeless children, among others, according to a Web site maintained by her attorney and husband, James Whitehouse.
But Atkins was best known for her actions in 1969 when as a 21-year-old she and other Manson family members participated in seven murders over two days, a rampage that terrorized Los Angeles.
By her own admission, Atkins held Tate, who was the eight months' pregnant, down as the 26-year-old actress pleaded for mercy, stabbing her 16 times. In a 1993 parole board hearing, Atkins said Tate "asked me to let her baby live. ... I told her I didn't have any mercy on her."
After stabbing Tate to death, Atkins -- known in the family as Sadie Mae Glutz -- scrawled the word "pig" in blood on the door of the home Tate shared with her husband, director Roman Polanski, according to historical accounts of the murders.
All of those involved -- Manson, Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles "Tex" Watson -- were convicted in connection with the five deaths that night and the killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the following night. Atkins also was convicted in the earlier murder of music teacher Gary Hinman.
They were all sentenced to death. But their sentences were automatically commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the nation's death penalty laws in 1972.
Atkins was described as a model prisoner who accepted responsibility for her crime, but [Tate's sister] said Atkins had never offered her an apology.
Like most of the other former Manson family members, Atkins shunned Manson during her incarceration. "He is a liar, a con artist, a physical abuser of women and children, a psychological and emotional abuser of human beings, a thief, a dope pusher, a kidnaper, a child stealer, a pimp, a rapist and a child molester," she wrote in a manuscript posted on her Web site. "I can attest to all of these things with my own eyes. And he was all of these things before he was a murderer."