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article imageManson follower Susan Atkins: Killer at 21, dead at 61

By Kay Mathews     Sep 25, 2009 in Crime
Forty years after her participation in the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, Susan Denise Atkins died at the California Central Women's Facility. Atkins, a loyal follower of Charles Manson, bragged that she wrote "Pig" using Sharon Tate's blood.
The New York Times reports that Susan Atkins, 61, died on Sept. 25 in a medical clinic at the California Central Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, CA.
Acting on the orders of Charles Manson, Atkins took part in the killing of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Voyteck Frykowski, Steven Parent, Leno LaBianca, and Rosemary LaBianca.
On Jan. 25, 1971, Atkins, along with other "family" members, was convicted of the murders occurring at the home of Sharon Tate and husband Roman Polanski.
Prior to the two-night killing spree in Aug. 1969, Atkins was involved in the murder of Manson friend Gary Hinman. She was arrested and jailed for that murder. While In jail, as detailed in prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s book "Helter Skelter," Atkins "boasted to cellmates of having stabbed Ms. Tate, tasted her blood and used the blood to write the word 'Pig' on the front door of the house."
Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Charles Manson were sentenced to death in 1971. Their sentences, however, were reduced to life imprisonment in 1972 after the death penalty was temporarily abolished in California.
The New York Times notes that Atkins had a son in 1968 who was take away from her and later adopted. Atkins was denied parole 11 times, and married in 1981 to a Texan named Donald Lee Laisure,
Last year Atkins was diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent a leg amputation. However, Gordon Hinkle, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections, told the New York Times that Atkins "died of natural causes."
At the time of her death, Atkins was the "longest serving woman in the Californian penal system," Hinkle told the New York Times.
Update: KFSN-TV in Fresno, CA reports that Atkins died at just before midnight on Sept. 24. Her current husband, James Whitehouse, was by her side until the end of visiting hours at 8:00 Thursday night. Over the phone, he told KFSN-TV reporter Sara Sandrik the last word he heard her say was "amen" following a prayer.
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