Dying Manson follower denied prison release

Image: Charles Manson, Susan Atkins
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.AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

California's state parole board on Tuesday denied a request for compassionate release to Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins, who stabbed actress Sharon Tate to death nearly 40 years ago and is dying of brain cancer.

The California Board of Parole released its unanimous decision hours after a 90-minute hearing, during which it heard impassioned pleas from both sides.

Her doctors and officials at the women's prison in Corona made the request in March because of her deteriorating health. Atkins also has had her left leg amputated and is paralyzed on her right side, her husband and attorney, James Whitehouse, told a parole hearing.

Whitehouse had argued that his wife was so debilitated that she could not even sit up in bed and told the parole board there was no longer a reason to keep her incarcerated.

He said doctors have given her three months to live. Atkins, in a hospital near the Southern California prison where she was housed for nearly 40 years, did not attend Tuesday's hearing.

Imprisoned for 37 years
Atkins, two other women and Manson were convicted of the 1969 cult killings of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate. They were sentenced to death, but their terms were commuted to life sentences when the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.

Atkins, 60, has been imprisoned for 37 years, longer than any other female in state history.

Atkins, Manson and two other cult members, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, maintained their innocence throughout the trial. Once convicted, the women confessed to the killings during the penalty phase.

Atkins recounted stabbing
On the stand then, Atkins recounted her role in stabbing Tate, who pleaded for the life of her unborn baby.

"She kept begging and pleading and begging and pleading and I got sick of listening to it, so I stabbed her," Atkins said during her testimony.

She claimed she was on LSD at the time, but did not apologize until a parole hearing years later.

Atkins has been denied parole 12 times, corrections department spokesman Seth Unger said.

Corrections Department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Atkins' medical treatment and paying for prison guards to watch over her has cost state taxpayers more than $1.4 million since March.

The corrections department no longer would pay for Atkins' medical care or be required to guard her around the clock if she was released to her husband.

Manson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten remain in state prison.