Image: Charles Manson, Susan Atkins
AP file
Susan Atkins, left, sits in a Santa Monica, Calif., courtroom Oct. 13, 1970, as Charles Manson walks in before pleas were entered for them for the 1969 killings of actress Sharon Tate and others.
updated 6/13/2008 1:50:21 PM ET 2008-06-13T17:50:21

Former Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins, convicted in the 1969 murder of actress Sharon Tate, could soon be released from prison because she is near death, authorities said.

Atkins, 59, is terminally ill and being considered for so-called "compassionate release," state corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said. She gave no details of Atkins' illness but said a doctor had determined she had less than six months to live.

The corrections department was reviewing the request, which if approved would then be passed to the state Board of Parole, which has the power to release prisoners under state law so they can die with loved ones, at their expense.

Such releases are relatively rare — only 10 of the 60 requests made last year were granted, Thornton said. The prisoners must have family members willing and able to care for them.

Atkins, now a gray-haired, matronly-looking woman, was one of cult leader Manson's ersatz hippie "family" of young killers who burst into a Beverly Hills home 39 years ago and killed Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, along with four others. The following night they stabbed to death a wealthy couple in their Los Angeles home.

Atkins has been denied parole 11 times, most recently in 2005.

She was housed in the California Institution for Women in Corona for 37 years but has been in a nearby hospital since March.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments