Susan Atkins was convicted of several killings, including the notorious Tate murders in 1969. Atkins was sentenced to death, but her sentence was commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was briefly abolished in California. She remained in prison until her death in 2009.
Born on May 7, 1948, in San Gabriel, California, Susan Denise Atkins aka Sexy Sadie and Sadie Mae Glutz, was the second of three children born to alcoholic parents. After her mother’s death from cancer in 1964, Susan dropped out of high school and relocated to San Francisco.
While working at Burke’s Coffee Shop in San Francisco, Susan was taken by the charm of one of four men who were lingering in the alleyway behind the shop one day. She invited them in and offered them coffee and cake and soon found herself flirting with the man, Al. Al then asked her to accompany him to Oregon, an offer which Susan accepted.
Accompanied by Al and Clifton, Susan set out for Oregon in a stolen Buick Riviera, unaware that the two men were convicted felons making a living through armed robberies. When they realized they were being hunted by the police, they went into hiding in a popular camping area. While there, Susan learned how to shoot a gun from Al, becoming quite proficient with it.
They survived by stealing supplies from local stores until their eventual arrest. Susan plead guilty to charges of receiving stolen property and concealing a weapon, and Judge George Jones sentenced her to six months in jail, though this was suspended and she was instead placed on two years probation.
Church of Satan
A known hedonist, Susan could often be found frequenting nightclubs late at night. One evening, she entered an amateur topless dancing contest and her performance was met with thunderous applause. As a result, she was hired as a topless dancer, earning $150 per week, under the stage name Sharon King. One day, when she was about to begin her break, her boss asked if she would dance for a guest.
This guest turned out to be Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, who then persuaded her to join his show, The Witches’ Sabbath. The show was a massive success, and it earned a reputation as the most bizarre performance on the strip. However, her life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll soon took its toll, and a few months later, Susan was hospitalized with gonorrhea, experiencing a complete physical and mental breakdown.
In early 1967, Susan Denise Atkins encountered a group of drug-dealing hippies and moved in with them in their commune in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. It was here that she met Charles Manson.
“I ended up in a house in San Francisco. It was primarily dope dealers. I got involved with them, and then one day a little man came in with a guitar and started singing for us. The song that hit me the hardest was “The Shadow of His Smile”, and his voice, his manner, just more or less hypnotized me – mesmerized me. I was just absolutely in love with him. I didn’t know him, and I also felt I was in competition with him because he got more attention than I did”.
On October 7, 1968, at two o’clock in the morning, Susan Denise Atkins gave birth to a son at Spahn Ranch, whom Charles Manson named Ze Zo Ze Cee Zadfrack Glutz (sometimes spelled Zezozose). Atkins claimed that Bruce Hall, nicknamed new-Bruce, was the father of the child, who was delivered prematurely, likely due to Atkins’ drug use. Dianne Lake cut the umbilical cord with her teeth. Since her incarceration in 1969, Atkins has had no contact with her son, now known as Paul.
Witches of Mendocino
Attempting to find a new location for the family, Susan Atkins and several other members moved to Mendocino, California. They were eventually arrested for giving LSD to a group of children, resulting in them being given the nickname the “Witches of Mendocino” at their trial. During their stay in Mendocino, a number of murders occurred, including the unsolved killing of pregnant Clyda Dulaney and her unborn child.
On July 25, 1969, Susan Atkins, Bobby Beausoleil, and Mary Brunner visited Gary Hinman in order to rob him. At first, Gary thought they were joking when they demanded all of his cash, but when he realized they were serious, he said he had no money. The trio then held him captive and tortured him for several days. Charles Manson and Bruce Davis arrived at some point, with Manson brandishing a sword and cutting Gary’s left ear and face, while Davis pointed a gun at him.
Atkins and Brunner tried to stitch up Gary’s face with a needle and dental floss. Beausoleil eventually stabbed him twice in the chest. Hinman didn’t die immediately, he started making gurgling noises, so Atkins and Brunner smothered him with a pillow. Afterward, Beausoleil wrote “Political Piggy” and drew a paw print on the wall in Gary’s blood, in an effort to make the authorities believe the Black Panthers had committed the murder.
As part of the murder squad sent to 10050 Cielo Drive, Susan Atkins initially claimed to have been the one who killed Sharon Tate, yet later she confessed to holding down the pregnant Tate while Tex Watson stabbed her to death. Atkins even considered cutting the unborn baby from Tate’s stomach, though was unable to carry out such a gruesome act. After the murders, Atkins wrote the word ‘Pig’ on the front door with Tate’s blood.
Jail and Death
In October 1969, Susan Atkins was arrested for her involvement in the murder of Gary Hinman. At the time, the Los Angeles Police Department had yet to identify the perpetrators of the Tate-LaBianca homicides. During her incarceration for the Hinman murder, Susan made a shocking confession to two of her cellmates, revealing her role in the Tate massacre. She boasted that she had killed Tate, tasted her blood, and scrawled the word “Pig” on the front door of the property with Tate’s own blood.
On March 29, 1971, Susan Atkins was found guilty and sentenced to death. Her death sentence was eventually changed to life imprisonment. In 2008, Atkins was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer, and one of her legs was amputated. On September 24, 2009, Susan Atkins passed away at the age of 61. Reportedly, her last whispered word was ‘Amen’. At the time of her death, Susan was California’s longest-serving female inmate.