Since he died last November, cult leader Charles Manson’s body has been kept on ice at the morgue under a false name. Why hasn’t he been cremated or buried yet? Several parties have been fighting over the notorious convicted murderer’s remains. At a hearing on March 7, the Kern County Superior Court Commissioner promised to make a decision on the case in the next few days.
Convicted killer chas been in cold storage in a California morgue since shortly after he died on November 19, 2017. More than three months. It’s being filed under a fake name at the morgue for security reasons.
Of course, the coroner doesn’t normally keep the remains of deceased convicts for quite so long. This is a special case.
When the founder and leader of the 1960s killer cult dubbed the “Manson Family” died, the coroner’s office was faced with not one, not two, but three claims for his remains from so-called rightful heirs.
It’s been a long wait, but, at the hearing on Wednesday, Kern County Superior Court Commissioner Alisa R. Knight said that she would be handing out her decision within the next few days. The lawyer representing Kern County, Bryan Walters, has asked that the cremation of Manson’s remains be expedited due to space and resource issues at the morgue.
Read on for more about Charles Milles Manson and the men who wish to claim his body.
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Death of a Man Who Terrified America
In the 1960s, Manson started his own commune-living cult in California. The Manson Family grew into a group of approximately 100 people who were into free love and drugs like marijuana and LSD.
The cult leader’s most avid and vulnerable followers bought into his unusual beliefs, including his claim to be the messiah and his predictions of a race war that he later called “Helter Skelter.”
In a horrifying and tragic twist, Manson’s desire for control, manipulation tactics, drug use, and delusions ended up leading some of his followers down a violent path.
The true total of the Manson Family’s victims is unknown, but it may be as many as 35.
The most infamous cases, and the ones that put Manson and the main perpetrators in his cult behind bars, were the brutal Tate and LaBianca murders.
On August 9, 1969, four Manson Family members went to the rented home of director Roman Polanski, north of Beverley Hills. Acting on Manson’s orders, they killed everyone who was at the home that night: pregnant actress Sharon Tate, Polanski’s wife; Abigail Folger; Wojciech Frykowski; and Jay Sebring. Another victim, 18-year-old Steven Parent, was killed outside the home.
On August 10, 1969, Manson went with three of his cult members to a home in Los Feliz. There they murdered a well-to-do couple, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
At both scenes, the killers attempted to make it look like the African-American political organization the Black Panthers had committed the murders, writing words like “pig,” “death to pigs,” and “Helter Skelter” in the victims’ blood on the walls. This was Manson’s attempt to jump-start the race wars he had prophesied.
At his trial in 1971, Manson was sentenced to death for one count of conspiracy to commit murder and seven counts of first-degree murder. He was later found guilty of two more counts of first-degree murder for killing two additional men on separate occasions. However, his death sentence was commuted, so he ended up dying of natural causes after more than 40 years in prison.
Manson died at 8:13 p.m. on November 19, 2017, at the Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield, California. He was 83 years old at the time. Cardiac arrest was listed as the primary cause of death, with colon cancer and respiratory failure as confirmed underlying causes. He had been transferred to the hospital from Corcoran State Prison just before he died.
Three Men Fighting for Charles Manson’s Body
Michael Brunner, Son
Michael Brunner, now 49, was born out of wedlock to Mary Brunner, Manson’s very first Manson Family follower, in 1968.
Originally named Valentine Michael “Pooh Bear” Manson, Michael Brunner lived at the infamous Spahn Ranch with the Manson Family at the time of the Tate and LaBianca murders. However, his mother didn’t participate in those particular crimes.
In 1970, while Mary Brunner was in prison on unrelated charges, her son was sent to live with her parents, who adopted him. Brunner did not have a relationship with his biological father after that.
As Manson’s only acknowledged living son, Brunner may seem to have the best claim. However, it’s been argued that his adoption may rule him out as heir.
Daniel Mortensen, Brunner’s lawyer, told the court on March 7, 2018 that his client is agreeable to the coroner’s wish to cremate the body immediately.
However, he does want DNA samples taken before the cremation. Brunner would like DNA testing done to confirm whether or not Manson is indeed his biological father. If he’s not a blood relative, he has no desire to claim the killer’s remains.
A man named Matthew Robert Lentz, who claims that the cult leader is his father as well, was present at the hearing in support of Brunner. Lentz is not involved in the fight for Manson’s body, but will likely want his DNA tested as well, should Brunner’s request for samples be approved by the judge.
Jason Freeman, Grandson
Jason Freeman, who goes by Jason Freeman Manson on Facebook, is the grandson of Charles Manson. His father was Charles Manson Jr., the son of Rosalie Jean Willis, who Manson married in 1955. She was his first wife. Manson Jr., who changed his name to Jay White, killed himself in 1993.
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Forty-one-year-old Freeman, who grew up in Ohio, now lives in Florida with his wife and three sons. He’s a former MMA fighter. As an adult, Freeman, a very spiritual man, formed a relationship with Manson. He communicated with the man he believes is his grandfather through letters and phone calls and also met with him in person.
At the hearing this past Wednesday, Dale Kiken, Freeman’s lawyer, said that his client did not want immediate cremation. He wishes to see the body of his grandfather before it’s incinerated.
According to Kiken, Freeman “wants to pay his last respects to his relative, and that would be absent if the county is allowed to do the cremation.”
Freeman plans to cremate his grandfather and spread his ashes in a private ceremony, should he be given custody of the remains.
There is some speculation in the media as to Freeman’s true motives. A Facebook Live post from February 2 shows him joking around with one of his sons and a Charles Manson puppet.
Freeman commented that they might put some of Manson’s ashes in the puppet so they could spend time doing things as a family with “grandpa,” like fishing. But he goes on to say that it’s just meant as “lively entertainment.”
Michael Channels, Pen Pal Named in Will
Fifty-two-year-old Santa Clarita resident Michael Channels isn’t claiming any blood relation to Manson.
Channels, a collector of Charles Manson memorabilia, became prison “pen pals” with the cult leader in the early 1990s. Then he visited him at Central Valley’s Corcoran State Prison in 2002.
Channels alleges that, only a few months later, Manson sent him a copy of his new will.
In it, he named Channels as heir to his possessions and stated his wishes that Channels dispose of his remains. The will also disowned any blood relatives, including the killer’s “known sons” Michael Brunner and Charles Manson Jr., as well as any “unknown children.”
However, there are claims that the will may not be valid.
On Wednesday, Mortensen, Brunner’s lawyer, argued that Channels’ petition was invalid. “We don’t think you can legally, by a will, make a gift of your body.”
Channels told The Daily Beast that his only motive is to make sure Manson’s final wishes are honored. Should he win the case, he plans to spread the cremated remains in the desert.