WHERE ARE THEY NOW: A HISTORY OF THE MANSON GIRLS
January 26, 2021
Charles Manson is one of the most infamous names in history, known for ordering out the murder of some of largest names in Hollywood in the late 60’s. Many wonder how he was able to convince the Manson Family to change their names and commit the Tate-LaBianca killings in order to start a race war, so here’s a look at the so-called Manson Girls and their devotion to the cult leader.
Pre Manson: born in 1943, Brunner had a normal childhood as she grew up in Wisconsin. She eventually made her way to University of Wisconsin-Madison then settled down as a UC Berkeley library assistant.
Meeting Manson: in 1967, Brunner met Manson and changed the course of her life. She was charmed by him and willingly moved in with him… and his 18 other lovers on Spahn Ranch, though her deemed her to be different. Brunner was given the honor of carrying Manson’s–who believed and convinced others he was the personified version of Jesus Christ–child and gave birth to Valentine Michael Brunner, aka Pooh Bear, one year after their first meeting.
The Manson Era: the Family was discovered in 1969 as they were arrested for auto theft, though their murders were soon brought to the surface. While charged with the murder of Gary Hinman, a PhD candidate at UCLA and drug dealer among other things, Brunner had immunity for giving the police information on other activities of the Family (mostly out of hopes of protecting Manson from a bad fate). Manson ordered the death of Hinman, though it’s claimed that Brunner was horrified by the scene. After receiving immunity, Brunner and a few other Family members planned an elaborate heist during the hour before Manson’s release. This only resulted in a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
Post Manson: she was on parole in 1977, changed her name, and moved back to the Midwest. Other than that, nobody knows much about her whereabouts. Brunner was also able to win custody over her son, who said, “[Mary and I] are closer than we’ve ever been, she lives for the day. She’s very active and enjoying life, enjoying her retirement.”
Susan Atkins, AKA Sadie Mae Glutz
Meeting Manson: Atkins met Manson in 1967, believing him being Jesus, and joined in a Family road trip that summer. She eventually moved in and also gave birth one year later to a son, whom Manson named Zezozose Zadfrack Glutz.
The Manson Era: Atkins became really close to Manson, and she was present for the Hinman murder. She also assisted in the murder of heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate, whom Atkins recalled saying, “Please let me go, all I want to do is have my baby.” Atkins’ response was, “Woman, I have no mercy for you.” She even wrote “PIG” with Tate’s blood before leaving the scene. She was arrested in October of 1969 and was sentenced to the death penalty in March of 1971. Upon leaving the court room, she yelled, “You best lock your doors!” and “You better watch your own kids!”
Post Manson: despite being called “the scariest Manson girl” in court, Atkins had a complete turnaround in prison. She and the other Family members didn’t receive the death penalty due to California banning it in 1972. Atkins spent her time reforming and writing her autobiography Child of Satan, Child of God, which spoke of her time in the Family to becoming a Christian who deeply regretting her past. She and multiple others have advocated for her parole, though it was denied every time, even when she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008. She died one year later at 61 years old.
Patricia Krenwinkel, AKA Katie
Meeting Manson: she and Manson met at a party, and Krenwinkel quit her job immediately to join the Family. Krenwinkel was 19 when she joined and described her time as such: “We were just like wood nymphs and wood creatures. We would run through the woods with flowers in our hair and Charles would have a small flute.” All of that changed, of course.
The Manson Era: Krenwinkel was one of the killers at the Tate-LaBianca murders. Specifically, she was responsible for the death of coffee heiress Abigail Folger, which she described as feeling “[N]othing” at the time. “I mean, like, what is there to describe?” At Leno and Rosemary LaBianca’s murders, she stabbed the two with a knife and fork and wrote “Healter Skelter” (the correct spelling being “Helter Skelter”) and “DEATH TO PIGS” with their blood. She was also arrested in 1969.
Post Manson: during her trial, Krenwinkel doodled devils the entire time. For the murder of seven people, she was sentenced to the death penalty, which was reduced to a life sentence. She publicly stated her regret to The New York Times in a 2014 interview, saying, “What a coward I found myself to be when I look at the situation.” After being refused parole multiple times, she has made good use of her time by earning her bachelor’s in human services and found herself enjoying the hobbies of playing volleyball, sewing, and writing poetry. She also revealed the struggle she went through to discover an identity outside of Manson in the 2014 interview: “I take responsibility every day for every word I say, what I believe, what I do. I am who I am today because I have fought desperately for everything that I am.”
Leslie Van Houten, AKA Lulu
Pre Manson: Van Houten’s life looked perfect from the start. She was born into a middle class family, was quite the athlete throughout her schooling, and was even crowned homecoming queen. However, the hippie and counterculture lifestyle was appealing to her, and Van Houten began experimenting with LSD and marijuana, all of which were alluring and accepted by the Family.
Meeting Manson: after meeting members Catherine “Gypsy” share and Bobby Beausoleil and hearing about Manson through them in 1968, Van Houten became captivated by him. She, like many others, was intrigued by Manson’s “Christlike” qualities, and she became the youngest member of the cult all within the same year.
The Manson Era: the Beatles released the White Album in fall of 1968, which Manson seemed to fall in love with according to Van Houten. “All we did was listen to the Beatles’ White Album and read [the Biblical book of] ‘Revelations,'” she said. This sparked his excuse to begin the race wars, which Van Houten took part in. While she wasn’t there for the murder of Sharon Tate and the others murdered that night, she assisted in killing the LaBianca family by stabbing one of them 16 times out of the 40 that were inflicted. She was arrested in 1969.
Post Manson: Van Houten’s sentencing is a little tricky. She was sentenced to the death penalty in March of 1971, though it was switched to a life sentence after the banning of capital punishment. She had a retrial in 1977, though nothing came of it because of the jury’s inability to make a decision. Van Houten went through multiple attempts to be released on parole with the recommendations from others, though she was refused every time despite being said to be a “model prisoner.” She and Krenwinkle are in the same prison, though they have zero contact with each other. Van Houten has come to deeply regret the crimes she committed; as she said, “I take very seriously not just the murders but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson.”
Lynette Fromme, AKA Squeaky
Pre Manson: like many of the others, Fromme had a seemingly bright life starting when she was born in Santa Monica in 1948. She was in a well known performance troupe called the Westchester Lariats, which performed nationally and even at the White House. She was in the Girls Athletic Club and Athenian Honor Society, though her life at home wasn’t the greatest with her dictatorial father whom nothing was good enough for. In high school, she experimented with drugs and drank and almost didn’t graduate. She moved in and out of friends’ homes until her father forced her to move back and attend college.
Meeting Manson: Fromme moved out of her father’s house after another argument and made it to Venice Beach and met Manson. She loved the intelligent conversation she had with him and was eager to join him and Mary Brunner. She is thought to have been used for sexual pleasure by George Spahn, the blind and much older owner of Spahn Ranch.
The Manson Era: despite her streak in life so far, Fromme wasn’t present or in any way responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders. Fromme was part of the 1969 raid but was released after the murders were connected to the Family. Throughout the hearings, Fromme and a few other Family members camped outside the courthouse and carved an “X” on her forehead to show her support. Upon Manson’s sentencing and moving to San Quentin, Fromme followed, though she was prevented from ever seeing him. Manson was then moved to Folsom Prison, and Fromme followed him again
Post Manson: her connection with Manson never really faded. In fact, she and Family member Sandra Good was recruited as nuns for Manson and were forbidden from doing many of the things the cult leader encouraged. Their jobs were to help the environment, which Fromme took very seriously. She carried a .45 Colt automatic and confronted President Ford. She was ultimately arrested and was discovered to have had an unloaded gun. In prison, she supposedly attacked another prisoner and wasn’t known for any reform. In fact, she escaped in order to see Manson in 1987 because of his cancer diagnoses, however she was quickly caught. Unlike some of the girls, Fromme was released on parole in 2009 and is guessed to be living with her boyfriend in upstate New York. She admitted in a current ABC interview that she’s still very much in love with Charles Manson and doesn’t see why the murders were a big deal. “At the time [of the Tate-LaBianca murders], it was just one more person who was being killed.”
Pre Manson: besides being born in Maine in 1949, not much is know about Kasabian’s early life. In 1968, she moved to Los Angeles and had a daughter a year later (along with two divorces).
Meeting Manson: while pregnant, Kasabian met Manson in 1969 and went to live with him. Like the others, Kasabian enjoyed Manson’s messages of peace, which infamously turned into what we know him for today, though she still obeyed him and his laws.
The Manson Era: Kasabian was present for the Tate-LaBianca murders, though that was only because she was the only one in the family who had a valid drivers license to drive the killers to and from the scene. During Tate’s murder, she was told to stay outside or in the car. Like Brunner at Hinman’s murder, Kasabian listened and watched in horror at the scene unfolding. She considered abandoning the killers, though she knew Manson could possibly make threats or hurt her child if she didn’t comply. During the LaBianca killings, Kasabian once again listened and watched out of disgust and prevented Manson from killing another person by knocking on the wrong door. Concerning the Tate murders, she said, “There was a man just coming out of the door and he had blood all over his face and he was standing by a post, and we looked into each other’s eyes for a minute, and I said, ‘Oh, God, I am so sorry. Please make it stop.’ But then he just fell to the ground into the bushes.”
Post Manson: Kasabian fled two days after the LaBianca killings and turned herself in two months after the Family’s arrest. Recognizing her situation and willingness to testify again Manson, she was granted immunity and became prosecution’s lead witness with her 18 day testimony. She later changed her name, move to New Hampshire, and stayed out of the media until 2009 when she appeared on an episode of Larry King Live in disguise (which can be found on the Internet). No one is entirely sure of her whereabouts presently, though she–like many of the Manson girls–prefer it that way after the trauma the both inflicted and witnessed.