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Release of 'Squeaky' Fromme sparks debate about whether Manson followers should be set free

August 14, 2009 |  8:20 am

Sqeaky The release this morning of Charles Manson follower Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, who in 1975 tried to  assassinate President Ford, stirs memories of cult violence already fresh amid the 40th anniversary of the Manson murders.

There has been much debate about whether Manson followers convicted of crimes should ever be released.

Last year, doctors diagnosed Susan Atkins with terminal cancer, prompting a failed bid by the Manson follower and convicted murderer to receive a "compassionate release" from state prison.

But Atkins, who gained infamy for her role in the 1969 slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and others in a bloody two-night rampage in Los Angeles, has another chance at freedom at a hearing in September.

Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi has said parole should be considered for Atkins, telling The Times earlier this year it was wrong to say "just because Susan Atkins showed no mercy to her victims, we therefore are duty-bound to follow her inhumanity and show no mercy to her."

Fromme was 26 when she pointed a semiautomatic .45-caliber pistol at Ford in September 1975 in Sacramento. Secret Service agents grabbed her and Ford was unhurt.

Bugliosi feels different about Fromme. He said in an interview with ABC News: "If you do something like that against the president of the United States, the need for deterrence increases when you're talking about the most important person," he said.

Aside from Fromme, seven other members of Manson's communal "family" remain in prison 40 years after the notorious killing spree. Here's a rundown from Associated Press: -

- Manson, 74, is serving a life term, and is at the California State Prison at Corcoran. The cult leader and some of his followers were originally sentenced to death, which was commuted to life when the death penalty was briefly outlawed in the 1970s.

-- Atkins, 61, is held at a medical unit at a prison in Chowchilla, Calif. Gravely ill with a brain tumor, she was denied compassionate release.

Others serving life terms are Leslie Van Houten, 59; Patricia Krenwinkel, 61; Charles "Tex" Watson, 63; Bruce Davis, 66; and Robert Beausoleil, 61.

-- Shelby Grad

 Photo: In this Nov. 25, 1975, photo, Lynette Fromme sits in a U.S. Marshal's car in Sacramento. Fromme, the Charles Manson follower convicted of trying to assassinate President Gerald Ford, was released today from a Texas prison hospital. Credit: Walt Zeboski / Associated Press