Was reading the New York Times earlier today when I came across a riveting obituaryâ€”that of Susan Atkins, the woman who, in 1969, murdered an actress named Sharon Tate, as well as seven others. Atkins was a follower of Charles Manson, andâ€”she said repeatedlyâ€”fell under his spell and felt compelled to complete his missions. Was she an evil woman? Put it this way: Tate was pregnant at the time of the crime, and she begged Atkins not to kill her baby. After finishing the job, Atkins tasted Tate’s blood, and even wrote a note with it. At the ensuing trial, she giggled. Giggled. She testified before a grand jury and admitted that she had stabbed Tate because she was “sick of listening to her, pleading and begging, begging and pleading.”
This, from Wikipedia: Tate begged for her child’s life, pleading that the group abduct Tate and let her give birth before murdering her. Atkins testified that she replied to Tate, “Look, bitch, I have no mercy for you. You’re going to die and you’d better get used to it.” Atkins and Watson then stabbed her to death. Atkins mopped up some of Tate’s blood with a towel and used it to write “PIG” on the front door.
Sick, disgusting, nightmarish.
Years later, while serving a life sentence at a women’s prison in Chowchilla, California, Atkinsâ€”it seemsâ€”turned around her life. She found Jesus, began counseling other inmates, apologized to Tate’s family repeatedly. I found this 2002 interview, conducted by Diane Sawyer, to be riveting. A Mass murderer coming off as contrite and remorseful. Even, oddly, likable.
Obviously, Atkins never warranted paroleâ€”no matter how many times she asked. You rob a liquor store or stab someone in the leg or start a brawl at Thee Doll House, you probably deserve a shot at rehabilitation. You murder eight peopleâ€”no way.
That said, I hope Susan Atkins truly turned her life around.