A bizarre California court battle has ended with custody of cult leader Charles Manson’s body going to his grandson. Kern County Superior Court Commissioner Alisa Knight ruled that Jason Freeman can take custody of the remains. Freeman is the son of the late Charles Manson Jr., who was the child of Manson and his first wife.
Manson was serving a life sentence in Bakersfield for orchestrating the 1969 killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others. He hoped the murders would trigger a race war. Manson spent 46 years in prison for his involvement the grisly murder spree. He was 83 when he died.
The case in Kern County settles a three-way fight for the body between Freeman, Michael Brunner (who claimed to be Manson’s son), and Michael Channels, a pen pal who filed what he said was the cult leader’s will. Freeman largely won out because of deficiencies with the other petitions. All three tried to cast doubt on the authenticity of the competing claims.
The will submitted by Channels was problematic because it listed himself as one of the two witnesses, along with being the sole beneficiary. Brunner’s mother was an early member of the so-called Manson family and according to his birth certificate, he was fathered by the cult leader. However, Brunner lost his right to be deemed an heir because he was adopted by his maternal grandparents. Another purported son, Matthew Lentz, also forfeited his claims as an heir because he was also adopted.
The Kern County Coroner’s office wanted to quickly resolve the matter. The coroner’s office has kept Manson’s body at an undisclosed location since his death on November 19. To prevent photos of the body from being leaked, the coroner’s office stored Manson’s remains under a pseudonym and only two employees were told its true identity. An attorney for the coroner’s office said that he would alert the coroner to the ruling.
The decision clears the way for Manson to be cremated or buried. Freeman previously said he would cremate and spread the ashes of Manson. Attorney Dale Kiken, who represents Freeman, said his client wants to have a final internment that doesn’t keep ashes or pieces of Manson.
Who, among the four men, will retain the rights to Manson’s estate has yet to be decided. The estate could include lucrative rights to songs Manson wrote or for licensing his image, along with other material. The next court hearing in that case will take place on March 16 in a Los Angeles court, due to the city being the last place Manson voluntarily lived.