Susan Atkins died in prison last week of brain cancer. Atkins, 61, belonged to the infamous Manson Family cult. She, along with others in the Manson Family, was in prison for killing 8 or 9 people. I met Atkins one time, as well as "Squeaky" Fromm, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Leslie Van Houten.
I met Manson earlier, in 1967. As an evangelical preacher (Yes, I've led a checkered past.), I was trying to convert lost souls for Jesus on Sunset Strip. One night I got into a debate with a guy who was also recruiting. Bearded, with a leather-brimmed hat, shoulder length hair that looked unclean, he was very intense.
I used to quote the Bible a lot. I tried that on him, telling him something that Jesus had said.
"I am Jesus, the son of God!," he retorted.
"Whoa!," I thought. This guy is nuts.
In trying to convert people, the law of averages applies, like a salesperson selling something. The more people you pitch to, the more you'll sell, or convert.
I decided to focus on other prospects, because I wasn't getting anywhere with this guy. I told him that my name was Skipp, and held out my hand. He shook it, and said his name was Charlie.
The next time I saw Charlie was on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.
When I met the "Manson Girls" a couple of years later, Manson had been arrested and was being held in the county jail in downtown Los Angeles. The so-called Manson Girls sat on the street holding a vigil just outside the jail. They had a Volkswagen bus that they slept in at night.
To supplement my income, I worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. At lunch time I went on the street to talk to the Manson Girls. One day, they gave me a manuscript that Manson had written and signed. They said they smuggled it out of jail. They gave it to me to read, on the promise that I would return it.
Return it? I was afraid of those girls! Of course I would return it. First, though, I photocopied it, and returned the original. Somewhere I lost the photocopy. All I can remember today is that Manson didn't make any sense at all. Still, I wish I had retained it.
Susan Atkins became a born-again Christian in prison, as well as some of the others in the Manson Family. She tried to get paroled several times. Originally, she was sentenced to death, but the Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for a while, so she was sentenced to life in prison.
When someone is sentenced, I think they should serve their full sentence. (I'm against the death penalty.) There should be no getting out for "good behavior." What about the time they misbehaved? That's what got them imprisoned. So what if they became a born-again Christian, or a devout Jew, or some other thing? Life is short. Eternity is long.
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