Big news yesterday: Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, Manson Family member and would-be assassin of Gerald Ford, has been paroled from prison after nearly 35 years of incarceration. Despite her fanatic membership in the infamous Manson Family, prosecutors were unable to pin anything on Squeaky until her attempt on the President's life, which is what eventually landed her in prison with a life sentence. Considering that during that time, she attacked a fellow inmate with the claw end of a hammer and escaped once in 1987 to try to meet up with Manson. I don't know what she's been up to in the 20 years since then, but I do know that if she moved in next door to me, I'd probably start house-hunting pretty quickly. In case you've been wondering if any of the other Family members are looking for real estate in your area, here are where 10 of them are today.
1. Susan Atkins was incarcerated on October 1, 1969, for participating in eight killings during that summer, including the horrible Tate/LaBianca murders. No other female currently in the California penal system has been in jail longer than she, something that her family is extremely upset about. Atkins became a born-again Christian in 1974 and wrote a book about her life with Manson. In 2008, it was reported that she had terminal brain cancer and had less than six months to live, so she requested compassionate release from jail to live out the rest of her life (possibly in Laguna Beach, which is where she told reporters in 2002 that she wanted to settle down upon release). The request was unanimously denied. Since then, her condition has apparently worsened and she is said to be 85% paralyzed and has almost no speech capability. She's scheduled for a parole hearing on September 2.
2. Tex Watson has also been in prison for more than 30 years. He was convicted and sentenced to death on October 21, 1971, but managed to escape death because a 1972 court case made all death sentences issued before that year invalid. He also became a born-again Christian, got married in 1979 , and had four kids with his wife through conjugal visits. He says he has been "forgiven by God," but he has definitely not been forgiven by the court: Watson has been denied parole 13 times. His next parole hearing is in December 2011.
3. Bobby Beausoleil, who murdered Gary Hinman on July 27, 1969, is also still in prison. Like Watson, he was sentenced to death but benefited from the 1972 law about the death penalty. However, he seems to be enjoying a career while behind bars: in the late "˜80s, he composed and recorded the soundtrack to the movie Lucifer Rising, and in 2005, some of his artwork was displayed in the Clair Obscur Gallery. He was denied parole in 2008 and isn't scheduled for another hearing until 2013.
4. Mary Brunner, who had a baby named Valentine with Manson, was definitely at the Hinman murder, although accounts of her level of participation have varied over the years. She wasn't convicted for it, though "“ she actually went to prison because of the 1971 Hawthorn Shootout. She and several other members of the Family took people hostage in a Hawthorn, California, Western surplus store. The grand plan was to hijack a Boeing 747 and kill a passenger every hour until Manson and all of the other incarcerated Family members were released. When police showed up, a huge shootout took place. Police gained the upper hand when Brunner and two others were injured. Brunner served a little over six years in jail for her role in the shootout, and when she was released in 1977, she took up an assumed name, got custody of her son with Manson, and moved somewhere to the Midwest (she could be my neighbor).
5. Patricia Krenwinkel was an active participant in the Tate/LaBianca murders. Like the others, she received a death sentence that was later changed to life in prison. She reportedly has a perfect prison record and has received a Bachelor's degree in Human Services. She also writes poetry and music, gives dance lessons, participates in a service dog-training program, and plays on the prison volleyball team. Sounds kind of like a yearbook list of your high school activities, doesn't it? Despite being a model prisoner, Krenwinkel has been denied parole 11 times.
6. Leslie Van Houten lost any sympathy the jurors may have had for her during her trial when she giggled through the descriptions of the deaths of the LaBiancas and Sharon Tate, which she had been a part of. In the late "˜70s, she received a retrial, claiming that her counsel hadn't accurately represented her the first time. She won it, but her lawyer disappeared in the middle of the trial. He was later found dead. She had a second trial, and a third, and was eventually sentenced to life in prison again. She married a man in 1981, and when it was discovered that he owned a uniform used by prison employees and apparently had plans to help Van Houten break out, she divorced him and said she had no knowledge of the matter. She has earned two college degrees and has had no notable incidents in prison, but hasn't yet received parole. She was most recently denied in 2007 (her 18th try) but can apply again this year. She and Patricia Krenwinkel are in the same prison.
7. Linda Kasabian testified against all of the other members of the Manson Family and is largely the reason they were all convicted. She never participated in the killings and served more as a lookout, and in fact tried to prevent a couple of murders. Because of her willingness to testify, Kasabian didn't serve any time. She moved back to New Hampshire to raise her kids, refusing to talk to the media unless she had to take the stand during various retrials. She later moved to Washington and has avoided publicity, except for a 1988 interview with A Current Affair. She recently told her story for a show that is scheduled to air on The History Channel this year, but does so somewhat anonymously "“ she didn't want her image used because she still isn't comfortable being recognized.
8. Sandra Good didn't participate in any murders (that she was convicted of, anyway), but she was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1976 for "conspiracy to send threatening letters through the mail." She had helped write and send death threats to nearly 200 executives of companies that Good decided were killing the earth. She was paroled in 1985 and still devoutly followed Manson. Upon her parole, she moved to Vermont and lived under the name of Sandra Collins. She later moved to California and lived very close to Corcoran State Prison, where Manson was (and is) being held. She started a Manson website in 1996. It has been down since 2001 and not much else has been heard from Sandra Good.
So there you have it. Five in jail and four roaming free (including Squeaky). What do you think about Squeaky Fromme's release?
Also, I'm out tomorrow and Monday and leave you in the capable hands of our guest blogger! I'll be Tweeting live (is there any other way to Tweet?) from Lollapalooza if you're interested in reading about various bands, Chicago sights and my first experience with a press pass. And I'll be back Tuesday full of news from the Windy City. See you then!