Almost four months after Manson died at a hospital in Bakersfield, California, Kern County Superior Court Commissioner Alisa Knight chose among three competing claims — by Freeman, Michael Brunner, who says he’s the cult leader’s son, and Michael Channels, a Manson friend and memorabilia collector who says he has the only valid will.
A fourth — Matthew Lentz — who says he is also Manson’s son and has a will that only addresses Manson’s estate, sided with Brunner.
The Kern County Coroner’s office has kept Manson’s body at an undisclosed location since his death on November 19 at age 83.
An attorney for the coroner’s office said that he would alert the coroner to the ruling and that there was still a possibility one of the other plaintiffs could file a motion that would delay the turnover.
In making her decision, Knight said that the 2002 will that Channels submitted was not valid, in part because the witness signature was dated four days before the will was executed.
In addition, the court found that the will, even if valid, had no specific details on how to dispose of the remains. As for Brunner, the court ruled that he had been adopted by his maternal grandparents, and was thus no longer Manson’s son.
Freeman learned that he had won the case in a phone call shortly after the ruling was posted. “I can finally say this part is over,” he told CNN. “I never looked at it as being a battle between anybody.”
“This is unreal — this is something I actually played out in my mind ever since I was a kid,” he said.
Freeman says he plans to cremate his grandfather’s remains and hold a small family ceremony. He says that he would extend an invitation to Brunner and Channels. “I wouldn’t want them to miss out,” he said.
Still to be decided is who, among the four men, will retain the rights to Manson’s estate. That will be decided in a Los Angeles court, the last place Manson voluntarily lived.
Channels and Lentz each have a will they claim Manson signed and named inheritor. Brunner’s attorney says that, as Manson’s son, Brunner retains the rights. Freeman says he’s the next of kin. The next court hearing will take place on Friday. Up for grabs are writings, drawings and music compositions.
Manson spent 46 years in prison for his involvement a grisly murder spree that left seven dead in August 1969 — a crime that terrified the nation during the turbulent ’60s. Manson hoped the murders would trigger a race war.
Before today’s decision was handed down, Debra Tate, the sister of “Manson family” murder victim Sharon Tate, told CNN “I feel bad this man is not … in some kind of restful state.”
Tate said she knows that view must seem “quite magnanimous” given the circumstances. But, she said, “I have forgiven these people. I have no ill will toward any of them as long as they stay behind bars. But in death, everything should be handled in a dignified manner.”