LOS ANGELES (CBS SF) — A judge has tossed the fight over the body of Charles Manson out of Los Angeles County.
Judge David Cowan said Friday the case belongs either in Kings County, where the cult leader was imprisoned or Kern County, where he died in a hospital in November.
Cowan says California law requires that the dispute belongs in the place where he had been living at the time of his death or where he died.
Cowan says the battle over Manson’s estate will take place in Los Angeles County because that’s where he lived when he was convicted in the murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others.
The hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died of heart failure after nearly a half-century in prison.
Two possible heirs, a purported son and grandson, are seeking control of the estate, as is Manson’s longtime pen pal, who claims to hold a will.
“It’s a circus show,” said a frustrated Ben Gurecki, one of two pen pals who hold dueling wills allegedly signed by Manson. “It’s despicable that I’m still sitting here 60 days later and I can’t get my friend cremated.”
Manson’s 41-year-old grandson — identified as Jason Freeman — has said he would like arrange for Manson’s cremation in California and then bring his ashes back to his home in Florida.
Freeman has been challenged in Los Angeles by Michael Channels, another pen pal and collector of Manson memorabilia, who holds a will bearing what appears to be Manson’s signature and names him as executor and sole beneficiary.
Gurecki, who like Channels also sells Manson mementos to fans of so-called murderabilia, has filed a will with the Kern County coroner’s office bearing Manson’s purported signature. It names Gurecki as executor and leaves everything to his “one living child,” Matthew Lentz, a Los Angeles musician. Lentz and Gurecki have yet to file the will in court.
The Kern County coroner, who has held Manson’s body since he died Nov. 19, is asking Cowan to transfer the case regarding Manson’s remains to that county, where a hearing is scheduled Wednesday.
A petty criminal who had been in and out of jail since childhood, the charismatic, guru-like Manson surrounded himself in the 1960s with runaways and other lost souls and then sent his disciples to butcher some of L.A.’s rich and famous in what prosecutors said was a bid to trigger a race war — an idea he got from a twisted reading of the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”
The slayings horrified the world and, together with the deadly violence that erupted later in 1969 during a Rolling Stones concert at California’s Altamont Speedway, exposed the dangerous, drugged-out underside of the counterculture movement and seemed to mark the death of the era of peace and love.
Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Manson maintained during his tumultuous trial in 1970 that he was innocent and that society itself was guilty.
“These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them; I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up,” he said in a courtroom soliloquy.
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