Chilling fates of Manson Family cult followers as Leslie Van Houten is freed – including sinister plot to kill president | The Sun

IT remains one of the most infamous killing sprees in American history.

Terrorising Californian residents in the late 1960s, the deranged Manson Family cult, led by Charles Manson, slaughtered at least nine people – including the Hollywood actress Sharon Tate.

This week, Leslie Van Houten, 73, the youngest member of the bloodthirsty group to be convicted, was freed from jail after more than half a century behind bars.

The 19-year-old helped to kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary during a horrific knife attack in 1969 – two days after the notorious attack at Tate's mansion.

Initially sentenced to death, Van Houten saw her sentence overturned to life in prison, where she unsuccessfully applied for parole dozens of times.

During her sentence, she earned both a bachelors and masters degree while in prison and worked as a tutor.


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Now 73, she is expected to live in transitional housing where she will learn how to do basic things like going to the shops and acquiring an ATM card after serving 53 years.

Here, we look at what happened to the other members of the sickening group, including one who had four children behind bars and another who tried to assassinate a president.

Charles Manson

The deranged leader had a troubled childhood – by the time he established a base for his cult at the Spahn Ranch in 1968, he had spent nearly half of his life in correctional institutions.

Manson managed to convince his followers that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ and preached ideologies that would sow racial tension and division.

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He dictated all aspects of his acolytes' lives – from what to eat, to when to have sex, and who they could do it with.

Although he maintained that he did not order any of the killings, which took place across July and August 1969, the prosecution in his 1971 trial argued his teachings emboldened his followers to commit the crimes.

He was sentenced to death, which was later overturned to life in prison. In his years behind bars, he still maintained that he was not responsible for the murders.

In a 1994 interview, Manson told Diane Sawyer: "They maybe [sic] influenced, or they might have thought they were my instructions, but I wasn't . . . I wasn't, uh . . . directing traffic."

In 2017, he died of cardiac arrest resulting from respiratory failure, which was brought on by colon cancer at the age of 83. He had three sons – the first killed himself in 1993 while the second decided to live a private life.

His third son, Michael Brunner, who he shared with one of his recruits, became one of his father's defenders, once saying: "The whole thing has been glorified and glammified and blown out of proportion."

Susan Atkins

Susan Atkins was one of the group's most violent members, convicted over the Tate murders and the killing of Manson Family acquaintance Gary Hinman days earlier.

Although accounts of the Hinman murder vary, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, in his book Helter Skelter, says he was killed as a result of a drug and property disagreement on July 25, 1969.

Growing up with alcoholic parents, Atkins had a difficult childhood and suffered from sexual abuse. She left home at 18 and fell into the hands of the Manson Family.

While in the group, she had a child with a member, who was placed up for adoption after she was convicted.

When asked about her son, she said in an interview: "All I know is that he's lived his life unscathed with this."

Like many of her accomplices, she was sentenced to death but later received a life sentence.

She reportedly married twice while in prison, first to self-described millionaire Donald Lee Baisure, then to James W. Whitehouse, a Harvard law school graduate who represented her at parole hearings.

Atkins claimed to have become a born against Christian from 1974 onwards after seeing a vision of Jesus Christ in her cell.

She died in prison in 2009 from brain cancer at 61.

Charles 'Tex' Watson

Watson was seen as Manson's loyal right-hand man and was the one who shot and stabbed Sharon, her three guests, and a teenager who had stopped by.

Known as Tex, because he is a Texas native, he was also instrumental in the LaBianca killings. After the killings, he fled from California to his home state when detectives began sniffing around the family.

After a brief stay at a mental health institution, he was put on trial and convicted of seven counts of murder.

While incarcerated, he married a woman called Kristin Joan Svege and went on to have four kids with her, thanks to conjugal visits that are now banned for those serving life-sentences. The couple broke up in 2003.

Now 77, the killer has unsuccessfully applied for parole 18 times.

Linda Kasabian

While Linda Kasabian was not convicted over the murders, she was on lookout duties during the spree and received immunity for testifying as a key witness.

She had arrived at the Manson camp with her one-year-old daughter after an argument with her husband – sleeping with Watson that same night and Manson the following day.

After the murders, she distanced herself from the group and reunited with her husband. She had another baby, whose paternity has come under question.

In 2018, it was reported that she had changed her name and had two further children – the first put into foster care and the second put up for adoption.

In her later years, she was arrested for offences including meth possession and indecent exposure. She died in January at the age of 73 – no cause of death was revealed.

Bobby Beausoleil

Bobby Beausoleil was convicted over the fatal stabbing of Hinman, who had befriended him and other members of the Family.

Although he was born to a working-class family, he got into trouble on several occasions after playing juvenile pranks and running away from home.

His death sentence was also reduced to life in prison in 1972.

While behind bars, he reportedly married a 21-year-old devotee, who sought an annulment a year later due to his preference for "more than one" lover.

He is believed to have distanced himself from Manson after being stabbed by other inmates in 1982.

Beausoleil, now 75, was recommended for parole in 2019 but that was blocked by the governor of California.

Patricia Krenwinkel

Patricia Krenwinkel was a staunch devotee of Manson's and confessed to repeatedly stabbing coffee company heiress Abigail Folger at Sharon Tate's house.

When asked how it felt to kill Folger, she said: "Nothing, I mean, what is there to describe? It was just there, and it was right."

According to court documents, she also acted on orders to kill Rosemary LaBianca and received a death sentence, which was overturned to life in prison.

After the death of Susan Atkins, Krenwinkel, 75, who went by various nicknames such as Big Patty, became California's longest-serving female inmate.

Like many of her cohorts, she has tried unsuccessfully for parole, which has been denied 15 times by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Lynette ' Squeaky' Fromme

At 19, Fromme dropped out of college and was thrown out of her family home, leading to her involvement with the Family.

Although she wasn't involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders, she regularly held vigils outside the court professing the innocence of Manson and her other cult mates.

In 1975, she was arrested and sentenced to life in prison after a failed assassination attempt on US President Gerald Ford.

The former US leader told of seeing a hand holding a large handgun as he made his way through a crowd at a Sacramento park, before a Secret Service agent lunged at Fromme.

She "appeared to want to either shake hands or speak, or at least wanted to get closer to me," he later said.

After being granted parole in 2009, having served 34 years, Fromme published a book about her life, but sickeningly has not expressed regret for her involvement with the cult.

In a 2019 interview, the now 74-year-old said: "I feel very honoured to have met [Manson], and I know how that sounds to people who think he's the epitome of evil."

Fromme now lives in New York with her boyfriend Robert Valdner, an ex con convicted for manslaughter said to be a Manson fanatic.

Bruce M. Davis

Davis was dubbed Manson's 'right-hand man' and convicted over the murders of Hinman and Donald 'Shorty' Shea in 1969.

He was also present when John Philip Haught allegedly killed himself playing Russian Roulette in November that year, before going into hiding.

Months later, he turned himself into cops and was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder.

In a parole hearing in 2014, he admitted he "wanted to be Charles' favourite guy".

While in prison, he earned a master's and doctorate degree but has been refused early release on multiple occasions.

Bruce, now 80, married Beth Wilson in 1985 and has one child with her.

Sandra Good

Good was from a working-class family and seemed to be heading in the right direction when she enrolled in university, although she never got a degree.

In 1968, she joined the Manson Family and was good friends with Fromme, but was not charged over any of the murders.

Instead, she was jailed for 15 years for mailing 200 death threats to corporations regarding their environmental policies.

Good, 79, served 10 years of her sentence and like many of her fellow members, does not regret her involvement with the cult.

In a recent documentary, she said: "I feel they really saved my health, my brain, my emotional health, my mental health, my physical health. I'm thankful to them all."

As part of Good’s parole agreement, she had to move away from the prison where Manson was held. After the terms expired, she moved near Corcoran State Prison to be closer to him, although she could not visit as a convicted felon.

She also created a Manson website to support his causes, including his environmental movement, Air Tree Water Animals.

Paul Watkins

Paul Watkins joined the cult when he was just 18, despite his middle-class upbringing.

He wasn't part of any of the group's murderous activities but agreed to provide the prosecution with clarifications about their motives.

To stop him from testifying, one of the cult members is said to have set his van on fire as he slept. He still appeared in court and spent no time in prison.

Paul went on to become a motivational speaker and published a book about his life as part of the Manson Family. In 1990, he died at the age of 40 from leukemia.

Steven 'Clem' Grogan

After quitting high school, Grogan's life took a downturn – he became involved in petty crimes and was increasingly influenced by Manson.

Grogan was convicted of the murder of Donald Shea but when the prosecution recommended the death penalty, the judge overruled and said he was "too stupid and too hopped on drugs" to have acted without the rest of the cult.

His life sentence was cut short after serving 15 years due to the fact that he had agreed to help investigators to find Shea's remains.

Since his release, he has disappeared from public view and now lives a low-key life. Along with Van Outen, he is the only member to have been released after getting a life sentence.

Dianne Lake

Lake became the youngest member of the cult after meeting Manson at just 14. Growing up, her parents had encouraged her to do drugs.

Although she did not participate in the Tate-LaBianca murders, she became a star witness for the prosecution.

Police detective, Jack Gardiner, and his wife took her in as their foster child and she went on to live a normal life.

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Although she now has a family of her own, she once said: "People who have been victimised as children can carry that shame around like an awful weight as adults, and they don't have to."

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