Notorious cult leader Charles Manson is back in the spotlight thanks to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the upcoming season of Mindhunter, and guys. Guys. GUYS!!! You have no idea just how creepy his whole ~thing~ was. And by “his whole thing,” I’m definitely referring to Manson’s fleet of followers (aka the Manson Family), who helped him execute a series of horrifying murders.
At its peak, the Manson Family had close to 100 members—most of whom were just confused hippies following a delusional man they believed to be a prophet. But some poor unfortunate souls (yes, that was an Ursula quote, just trying to lighten things up here!) ended up as murderers thanks to Manson, and it’s time to find out what they’re doing today. Because while Manson himself is dead, most of his Family is still alive and kickin’.
Twenty-three-year-old college graduate Mary Brunner met Manson in summer 1967 when he was living in San Francisco. Apparently, they hit it off, because he moved in and convinced her to let 18 other women join their, uh, love shack. Which I guess isn’t actually that weird considering it was the ’60s and everyone was feelin’ groovy.
While Manson was persuading his fleet of followers that he was a reincarnation of Christ (sure, bud!), Brunner was busy becoming pregnant with his child, and in 1968, they welcomed their son Valentine Michael to the world. We’ll talk more about Valentine in a moment, but first, we need to discuss Brunner’s flirtation with murder.
Although Brunner wasn’t involved in Sharon Tate’s infamous murder, she was present for the murder of Gary Hinman, who was killed at Manson’s request. Brunner was charged along with fellow Family members Susan Atkins and Bobby Beausoleil, but get this: She got immunity from the prosecution for testifying against Atkins and Beausoleil. In other words, she snitched—but mostly in an attempt to protect Manson.
You’d think Brunner would stay out of trouble after this, but nope, not so much. Instead, she and a bunch of other Family members stole more than 100 rifles from a store and tried to go through with a plan to hijack a plane and kill one person an hour until Manson was released from prison. Obviously, this plan failed, but the group fired on police officers during the attempted heist and Brunner ended up with a prison sentence.
Sooo, where is she now?
No one knows. Brunner was paroled in 1977 and completely disappeared from the spotlight. However, her son (remember him?!) recently said, “We’re closer than we’ve ever been, she lives for the day. She’s very active and enjoying life, enjoying her retirement.” Unclear what she “retired” from, but hopefully a life of crime, amirite?
Musician Bobby Beausoleil got the death sentence for killing Hinman. Regardless of your feelings about capital punishment, I bet we can all agree that the details of Hinman’s murder are absolutely awful. Beausoleil—along with Brunner and Atkins (more on her in a moment)—went to Hinman’s house to demand money. When Hinman was like “lol, nope,” Manson arrived with a bayonet, tortured him, and ordered Beausoleil to end his life. Poor Hinman was stabbed to death and smothered, and then Beausoleil wrote “political piggy” on the wall in blood so police would think the murder had been committed by the Black Panthers. Why? Because on top of being killers, the Manson Family wanted to ignite a “race war” called Helter Skelter.
Sooo, where is he now?
In jail. Beausoleil’s death sentence was reduced to life in prison, and he’s been denied parole time and time again. But he’s managed to have whatever the jail version of a ~lit~ personal life is. In 1980, Beausoleil married a 21-year-old fan, subsequently got divorced, and then ended up marrying a woman from Oregon with whom he fathered four children. Like...please help me understand in what universe this dude is getting more than one person to marry him.
Bobby hasn’t given many interviews, but in 1972, he told Truman Capote, “I have my own justice. I live by my own law, you know. I don’t respect the laws of this society. Because society doesn’t respect its own laws. I make my own laws and live by them. I have my own sense of justice.” Uh...cool?
Patricia Krenwinkel (aka Big Patty aka Yellow aka Marnie Reeves aka Katie aka WTF HOW DOES ONE PERSON HAVE SO MANY NICKNAMES?!) was one of the four people who murdered Sharon Tate and her friends at Manson’s behest. Krenwinkel is currently the longest-incarcerated female inmate in the California penal system, which, yeah, isn’t exactly something to be proud of.
After abandoning her plans to become a nun (wow, that would have been a better life path), Big Patty moved to San Francisco and met Manson in 1967. Legit, this is how she described the era: “We were just like wood nymphs and wood creatures. We would run through the woods with flowers in our hair and Charles would have a small flute.” Like...truly what.
Sadly, it wasn’t all wood nymphs and flutes. On August 8, 1969, Big Patty participated in the brutal murder of Sharon and her friends, stabbing coffee heiress Abigail Folger to death. When she took the stand, Patty said, “I stabbed her and kept stabbing her,” and when asked what she felt at the time of the crime, she said, “Nothing. I mean, like, what is there to describe?”
Krenwinkel also killed a grocer named Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, by stabbing them with a knife and fork. Before leaving the LaBianca home, she wrote “DEATH TO PIGS” in blood on the wall and “Helter Skelter” (Charles Manson’s race-war “motto”) on the fridge.
Big Patty was sentenced to death (which was later reduced to life in prison), and—in a notoriously creepy move—she spent her trial drawing doodles of devils.
Sooo, where is she now?
In prison. While incarcerated, she earned a bachelor’s degree in human services, and now she spends her days writing poetry, sewing, drawing—she even played on the volleyball team. She’s been repeatedly denied parole. Krenwinkel no longer worships Manson and has expressed remorse for her actions.
“What I am today is not what I was at 19,” Krenwinkel told the New York Times in a 2014 video interview. “Today I am who I choose to be. I take responsibility every day for every word I say, what I believe, what I do. I am who I am today because I have fought desperately for everything that I am.”
Like Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins (aka ~Sexy Sadie~) met Manson in ’67 and—in a totally normal and not at all red-flag-inducing turn of events—she started thinking he was Jesus. A year later, Atkins had given birth to a kid with a fellow Family member named Bruce White, so yeah, you could say she was in it.
During her murder trial, Atkins told the jury she restrained Sharon while Tex Watson stabbed her, and that when Sharon begged for her life, she responded, “Woman, I have no mercy for you.” She also claimed that Sharon said, “Please let me go, all I want to do is have my baby,” which is so heartbreaking. Before leaving the house, Atkins wrote “PIG” on the door in Sharon’s blood.
Atkins spent her life in prison after her death sentence was commuted, and in 1977, she published an autobiography called Child of Satan, Child of God. At this point, she was a born-again Christian, which makes sense, given that she initially thought Manson was Christ.
Sooo, where is she now?
Atkins died in prison in 2009, after many failed attempts at getting paroled. While she was incarcerated, she kinda lived it up, by which I mean she got married twice—including once to a lawyer who represented her during a couple parole hearings.
“I am not the same person I was when I came in here,” Atkins told Diane Sawyer in a 2002 interview. “I would like to be out some day. I hope to be out some day. And it’s amazing that I still have hope. I don’t know about expectations anymore.”
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme is actually, uhhh, best known for her attempt to assassinate President Ford. Which had nothing to do with Manson, shockingly! She did live with the Family during the Sharon Tate murder trial, though, and even carved an X in her head to support Manson.
After a series of terrible life decisions, Fromme moved to Sacramento with fellow Manson family member Sandra Good and became obsessed with environmental pollution. Like, to the point where on September 5, 1975, she went to Sacramento’s Capitol Park to confront President Gerald Ford about redwood trees and ended up pointing a gun at him. She was convicted of attempted assassination, got a life sentence, attacked an inmate in jail with a hammer, escaped from jail in an attempt to meet Manson, was re-jailed, and was eventually/amazingly released on parole on August 14, 2009.
Sooo, where is she now?
Living in Marcy, New York, with her boyfriend, last time anyone checked! And she’s still fully on board with Manson. No, like, actually, she told ABC during an interview, “Was I in love with Charlie? Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh, still am. Still am. I don’t think you fall out of love.”
She also doesn’t seem to think the Manson Family murders were a huge deal. “At the time, it was just one more person who was being killed,” she said. “I’m telling you, when the war is very visible and conflict in the streets is visible, I determined not to make judgments.”
Tex Watson was Manson’s right-hand man in his most notorious murder plots and spent his entire life in jail as a result. Not only did he kill Sharon and her friends, but he also shot an 18-year-old who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time that same night. Plus, he helped murder Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, stabbing them multiple times.
Sooo, where is he now?
Jail! Watson has been denied parole 17 times and is currently chilling in a San Diego correctional facility. Oh, and *naturally*, he’s had a change of heart. “My beliefs changed from those of Manson to trusting in Jesus Christ as my Lord & Savior,” he said on his website, Abounding Love Ministries. “I was only 23 when Manson’s beliefs led to the deaths of seven innocent people, which I deeply regret. And I regret the enormous pain I caused their families. Today, I am 58 years old, very thankful for my new life in Christ and all He has done. God’s grace, which I am so undeserving, is the sole reason for my success and sanity after being in prison for 35 years.”
Watson wrote an autobiography called Will You Die for Me? in 1978, became a minister, and graduated from college, all while in jail. He also casually found someone to marry and has fathered four kids thanks to conjugal visits.
Here he is talking to the 700 Club about how reformed he is. No thanks!
Linda Kasabian was probably one of Manson’s most fascinating followers because she fully sold him out. She met Manson around the same time everyone else did, brought her daughter to live with the Family, and soon became willing to do anything to make Manson happy—short of murder.
Kasabian was present the night Sharon died but was ordered by Manson to stay in the car. As a result, she didn’t end up killing anyone and actually tried to stop her friends from committing the murders by running to the house and lying that someone was coming. While testifying, she said, “There was a man just coming out of the door and he had blood all over his face and he was standing by a post, and we looked into each other’s eyes for a minute, and I said, ‘Oh, god, I am so sorry. Please make it stop.’ But then he just fell to the ground into the bushes.”
Kasabian was also present the next night during the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca because she was afraid to refuse Manson’s request. Later that evening, she did successfully prevent the death of another innocent Manson acquaintance by purposely knocking on the wrong person’s door.
Kasabian ended up being a key witness for the prosecution in exchange for immunity, and her 18-day testimony was instrumental in landing her former friends in jail.
Sooo, where is she now?
Linda moved to New Hampshire with her husband (they later divorced) and children and has stayed out of the spotlight for the most part, although she did appear on CNN’s Larry King Live in 2009 wearing a disguise.
Welp, that’s it. Here’s a kitten:
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