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Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi says Susan Atkins' exact role in Tate murders unclear

With the death of Manson follower Susan Atkins, the man who prosecuted her for first-degree murder said Friday that one of his lasting images was that of a "heartless, bloodthirsty robot."

Vincent Bugliosi, however, said that image has become more ambiguous with the passage of time.

Atkins, who died Friday, played a central role in the 1969 slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and others in a two-night rampage in the Los Angeles area. She later said she killed Tate even as the woman pleaded for mercy.

It's possible it will never be known exactly what happened inside the home in Bel Air that night. And though Bugliosi said he has questions about Atkins' specific actions that night, it had nothing to do with her legal culpability.

"She's still guilty of first-degree murder as an aider and abettor and co-conspirator. If we were back in 1971, I would still seek the death penalty against her. She was a very hard-core member of the Manson family who was willing to do his bidding."

Atkins had given conflicting statements around the time of her trial, Bugliosi said. Still another version is found in the book by Charles "Tex" Watson, the main killer in both the Tate and LaBianca murders.

Watson said that Atkins boasted about killing Tate and her unborn baby to get attention but that Atkins actually held her down while he stabbed her. 

"It was my hand that struck out over and over until the cries of 'mother, mother' stopped," Watson wrote.

Atkins told two cellmates after her arrest for the murder of Manson family associate Gary Hinman that she stabbed Tate telling her, "Look, bitch, I don't have any mercy for you." She repeated the claim to Bugliosi the night before he called her before a grand jury.

Later, in the penalty phase of the murder trial, after Atkins was convicted of first-degree murder, she then testified she killed Tate.

Atkins told co-inmates and Linda Kasabian, who was the star witness who testified against the Manson family, that she had lost her knife inside the Tate residence, Bugliosi said. 

Bugliosi said a short buck knife was found within three feet of Tate's body and the Los Angeles Police Department's forensic investigators were unable to find any blood on the knife including the blade.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Comments () | Archives (41)

Even after all these years this story is still creepy as hell. All the Manson defendants should of been executed right after the trial. They are an abomination to mankind!!!

And just how much has it cost us taxpayers to keep these Manson people alive? It is a joke where they live in housing where they get 3 square meals a day. And we have homeless people walking our street digging in trash cans looking for something to eat. Those homeless people need to be taken care of, not people who break the law.

What is obscene in this tragedy is the lack of mercy by the state in releasing her for medical reasons, specially since so many claim this nation is a Christian nation. Justice should be fair, but no merciless. If revenge is what the country wants, then drop its "Christianity label" from every thing we do, but Christianity and revenge don't mix. She committed a horrible crime, but the state can't behave more like judicial thugs than enablers of justice. We should learn from the Amish, where Christianity is not just a word, but a way of life. Revenge and justice should never mix. One is the anti-thesis of the other.

No, YOU are an abomination to mankind.

People who do not remember that time can have no idea how fearful we all were. A family friend lived next door to the LaBiancas. It terrorized Los Angeles until they were caught.

Atkins was a case of someone who should have gotten early release to home detention to save money, so that money could be used for schools and better uses. It cost a fortune to keep that terminally ill woman in prison, with doctors at her side and the most expensive end of life care until she died of cancer.

It would have cost a fraction to send her to some hospice if she had no family who wanted to take her. Jorge is right, this was vengeance not justice or responsible governing, which should balance economics with public safety, punishment with doing good for the greater good.

Had Susan Atkins been tied to Middle East oil interests she might have been allowed to go home to die.

I am so happy your are dead!!!!!!!!!!!

I am so happy you are DEAD!!!!!!!!!!

Atkins' name shouldn't have been even mentioned in the media since that horrible crime back in 1969. The state shouldn't have given her as much as an aspirin when she was dying. I hope that she's roasting in hell!

Agreeing with an earlier comment; Revenge and Justice are too separate things. Sending her to jail was justice, keeping in there when she was terminally ill and no longer a threat to humanity was just petty revenge and it makes me lose a little faith in our state. Watching the interviews with her, she's sincerely repented and regretful for what she's done. Anyone on here posting "I'm glad she's dead" is heartless and cruel. When you can't even show mercy for someone dying in such a way, you're no better than the person Atkins used to be.

For those of you who thought she should have been released for medical reasons, imagine if it were one of YOUR family members she had murdered, and by murdered I mean stabbed numerous times....a pregnant family member no less, begging for her life. Don't look at it as "no mercy" but see it for what it really is and that's justice!!!!! Poor Sharnon Tate was never given the chance to die with her family members by her side. No, she and her friends were left there on the floor to bleed to death FOR NO REASON!!!!!!!

God is the ultimate judge, He is the only One worthy of passing judgement. Yes, what she did was horrible-but did her suffering in death bring back Sharon Tate and the others? She obviously was no longer a threat to society-keeping her imprisoned was just cruel and inhumane.

Ya mercy is for God, she us left with the pain and suffering want due justice, the one person is correct within the one week of trial end take them out back and one round to the head and thats it, what mercy did this person show.

t 5:7 Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Mat 9:13 But go ye and learn what [that] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Remember Richard ramirez same thing is still with us till this day.

God is just.

I totally believe the Watson story. Atkins did not stab Tate. Tex was the bloodthirsty beast on that horrid night in August 1969. The girls were along for the ride and Pat Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins got caught up in the moment, but the Cielo Dr. massacre simply would not have happened if Charles "Tex" Watson wasn't there. Atkins was trying to look and act hard core back in 1969-70, so she made up this story about her stabbing Tate. Tex is an arch con-man, but I must admit he pulls no punches in admitting his deeds in his 1978 book (aside from inexplicably never once mentioning Donald "Shorty" Shea). Atkins certainly deserved to go up the river with the rest of the bunch back in 1970, but let's be honest- there are far far worse psychopaths getting paroled after 7-10 years these days. Atkins and Van Houten should have been paroled by now. But Susan is gone, so no more parole hearings to deal with.

I agree with Paul. Atkins no way stabbed Tate - or killed anyone for that matter. Bugliosi has it on his conscience his kneejerk comments show, how can he even suggest the death penalty would still have been appropriate if Atkins did not stab anyone to death - only acting while under mental disability in an accessory role. That is not even first degree I don't think. Americans think with hearts not brains. The silliest statements are of the type - LA was terrified so they should all have fried. A bit like saying shock and awe that kills any old foreign civilians is Ok just because terrorists took out a major NY building. 2 year old logic.

You do-gooders make me sick. Susan was a brainless, heartless emotionless pschcopath. Susan was an animal. What goes around... comes around. Waiting in a concrete box for 40yrs for a long drawn out painfull death is JUSTICE & REVENGE. She deserved NOTHING - You do-gooders need to watch the way she behaved inside and outside the court room. Time heals wounds, but time doesn't change the fact that Susan was a cold blooded killer who was sentenced to death and thats what she got. She had 40yrs in hell on our earth. Now she gets to spend an eternity in hell.

I just can't belive how long it's been; how young she was, and how she ended up living out her life. She deserved to be where she was. I didn't find her death sadder than Sharon's or Sharon's baby.......their deaths were much, much worse. I bet she thought at the time she would never die in prison; thought she would get out by the time she was 30 or 40. Well, well, well..... I guess not

How can anyone that advocate the release of Susan Atkins from prison due to poor health? Lucy and Jorge suggest that this is "vengence, not justice". We have laws in this country to protect us from monsters like her. Paul states that there are people in prison that recieved less time and are guilty of more horrible crimes. Well....if our country would make criminals actually PAY for their crimes, we would be a much safer nation. Who cares if she was dying in prison! She knew at the time of the murders that, if caught, she would go to prison. As it turned out, she died there. It's what she deserved.

Sadie Mae Glutz is dead and gone! Wow! I've been following this story with fascination for the better part of three decades. I've read Helter Skelter numerous times, and am riveted every time there is a parole hearing on the news.

Charlie, Tex, Leslie, and Patty and are still with us as a reminder of what happens if you break the law. Bottom line: Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

One observation though, the killers admitted they were high on LSD at the time of the murders. I wonder what would happen today if they had the trial. They probably would all get off on insanity charges and be sent to the funny farm instead of prison.

Bugliosi was a genius and got the justice the victims deserved. My prediction on what happens next: Leslie will get paroled, then Charlie dies, followed by Tex, and Patty. End of story.

Susan Atkins died where she should have died, in custody. She did not deserve a compassionate release from prison. This woman had no compassion for the people she killed. She was shown compassion when her death sentence was commuted and she was housed and fed for 40+ years.

I think that if the families of these victims did not want her released, then so be it. They suffered the most, after the victims.

Susan Atkins was a vile, disgusting horrid excuse for a a human being. Thankfully, she is finally gone from the world, which she gave up her right to live in, back in 1969.

Althought she did not get out there was mercy given to a degree. She could have been left to die in her cell with no drugs or treatment of any kind but she was not. There is mercy in that. To me she was already given mercy they were all supposed to die but all given grace with prison time. Sharon Tate, her child and the others were not given one day they had an instant death sentence. Only she and God know if she was actually repentive in the end she has him to stand up to not anyone else.

The state of California was wrong in denying Susan Atkins compassionate from prison. To all those who say she got what she deserved or that she should roast in hell; well, you may face the same fate; if you fail to turn your life to Jesus Christ. Reports are that she accepted the Lord, good for her. While what she did was heinous, she should have been released. As a society, we want vengeance, not justice. As a Christian nation, this is a mockery to those ideas. God is the only judge and we should seek His will and not our own blood thirsty desire to see people die.

I was in Los Angeles last year visiting a long time pal, My brother back in Scotland had always been fascinated by the Manson outfit & had actually asked me to go up the the house in Ceilo drive, I declined to do so. I new about the case but was only a nine year old laddie in 1969 & therefore was unaware of the detail. That changed when Stuart asked me to go & visit the house, when I went into the detail I was utterly shocked at the level Watson & his Bangers went to in slaining these poor souls, especially Sharon only two weeks away from giving birth, just what was going on inside Watson & Atkins heids at the time? The completely arbitrary murder of the young Steven Parent poor laddie, wrong place wrong time! I think that Atkins did have to spend her life in prison, there surely has to be something we can gauge these kind of senseless acts of violence against, however, we don't have to behave like these rockets, & if the women was dying & beyond helping herself then we should if possible let them die at home. That of course is not how the victims families may well see it & of course who can blame them. Mans inhumanity to man sadly knows no bounds.

Hey Rachael, guess what ... Charles Manson didnt actually kill anyone either. Ready to release him too? Sounds to me like you think with the opposite end of your anatomy.

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