September 3, 2009 / 4:39 AM / 10 years ago

Dying Manson follower Atkins denied parole

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Susan Atkins, a follower of mass killer Charles Manson convicted nearly four decades ago in some of the most notorious murders in U.S. history, lost her 13th bid for release on Wednesday.

Convicted murderer and former Charles Manson family member, Susan Atkins, lies on a moveable bed during her parole hearing at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California September 2, 2009. REUTERS/Ben Margot/Pool

Atkins — terminally ill with brain cancer and, according to her attorney, paralyzed over much of her body — was denied her freedom by the California Parole Board after a hearing at the prison where she is being held.

Now 61, Atkins was convicted in 1971 of taking part in seven “Manson Family” murders, including that of heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate, the wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski.

Her death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972, when the California Supreme Court abolished capital punishment. Atkins will next be eligible for parole in 2012.

Manson became one of the 20th Century’s most infamous criminals during the summer of 1969, when the Beatles-obsessed ex-convict directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people.

Tate was stabbed 16 times by members of the Manson Family at her Beverly Hills home in the early hours of August 9, 1969.

Four other people were stabbed or shot to death in Tate’s home that night by the group, who scrawled the word “Pig” in blood on the front door before leaving.

The following night, members of the family stabbed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca to death, using their blood to write “Rise,” “Death to Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” — a misspelled reference to the Beatles song “Helter Skelter” — in the home.

Atkins told a grand jury she held down Tate while another member of the family, Charles “Tex” Watson, stabbed her to death. She later recanted that testimony.

Manson was also spared execution by the California Supreme Court and is serving a life term in prison. He has been denied parole 11 times and is next scheduled for a hearing in 2012.

Editing by John O'Callaghan

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