From Newsweek, January 23, 1978:
One Man's Family
EILEEN KEERDOJA with bureau reports
Like other families, Charles Manson's has grown older and split up. But for most of the drugged-out band of hippies who were involved with Manson nine years ago in the grisly California murders of actress Sharon Tate, her four house guests and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the family is likely to remain the critical experience in their lives. Manson himself is behind bars, as are most of his inner circle—all but two of whom have broken with him. One of his followers, Cathy Gillies, tried to regroup what was left of the old gang three years ago in the California desert, but without much success. Though the sheriff's office near Death Valley still keeps an eye out for unlawful Manson-style activities, authorities report that the family "as such" no longer exists.
Mansion [sic] is serving a life sentence for his crimes; though he will be eligible for parole in December, the legal opinion is that he will never go free. He was transferred from Folsom prison to the California Medical Facility at Vacaville in 1976 when prison authorities decided that he was "deteriorating psychiatrically"—becoming more withdrawn and refusing to leave his cell. Manson still can't be described as a model prisoner. "For a while he'll be verbal and outgoing, then he'll get cantankerous," says a Vacaville spokesman. "He might have mellowed some, but there haven't been any major changes in his personality."
One member of Mansion's [sic] inner circle did not stand trial: promised immunity from prosecution, Linda Kasabian turned state's evidence against Manson and a trio of his female disciples. Under the name "Linda Christian," she has settled in Nashua, N.H., and keeps a low profile most of the time. Occasionally, however, she stops in at a local pub and, says one policeman in town, "after she's had a few beers, she likes people to know who she is. She tells 'em she's Linda Kasabian, was with the Manson family and all that."
Leslie Van Houten was one of the three girls convicted with Manson, but now, her lawyer says, she is "completely rehabilitated." Free on $200,000 bail, Van Houten is awaiting a third trial in the LaBianca slayings. Her conviction for first-degree murder was reversed on appeal because her original lawyer died in the middle of the case, and a second trial in 1976 resulted in a hung jury. Pleading "diminished [mental] capacity" at the time of the crimes, her lawyer hopes to get the charge reduced to manslaughter—in which case, if the time she has already served is taken into account, Van Houten could go free even if convicted.
Patricia Krenwinkel has no such hopes. She is serving her life sentence at the California Institution for Women, where she does maintenance and stagehand work for the prison auditorium.The parole board will meet before April to determine when—if ever—she should become eligible for parole. Her arrival at the institution in 1971 caused some problems: it was around the time that the movie "Helter Skelter" was shown on TV, and some of the prisoners were frightened of her. Now, however, Krenwinkel gets along well with everyone.
She rarely sees fellow inmate Susan Atkins, the last member of the trio tried with Manson. Atkins is housed in the psychiatric-treatment unit. Though all three women have severed contact with Manson, Atkins has renounced him publicly in favor of Jesus Christ. Since her conversion, she has been conducting Bible-study classes in her cellblock.
Another Manson follower alos claims to have found Jesus: Charles (Tex) Watson, who was tried separately for the Tate-La-Bianca slayings and sentenced to life, has joind the prison chaplain's staff at the California Men's Colony, where he preaches one sermon a month. "He's been tied up with Jesus real closely," says associate superintendant E.L. Snyder. "He claims he's a changed person."
Both Atkins and Watson were baptized in prison, and both have written books about their crimes and conversions, with the proceeds going to charity. Atkins shows the same zeal for Christ that she once did for Manson. "She's gone so far that she wants to baptize people," says the associate superintendent, and it's only after some persuasion that she has agreed to leave that to the ministers.
But there are still two of Manson's band who have remained loyal to him, and they are housed together in the new maximum-security section of West Virginia's Federal Correctional Institute. Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme is under a life sentence for her attempted assassination of President Ford in 1975, and Sandra Good is serving fifteen years for threats to kill 75 corporation executives. They don't hold prison jobs, and scorn recreational activities such as cards, Ping Pong and movies in favor of what Fromme calls "secret things pertaining to the family." "We put all our faith and trust in Manson," Good told NEWSWEEK, "and it's much stronger than you imagine. If they opened the doors and had a limousine waiting and a house like Patty Hearst's to go to, we wouldn't want out—not unless Manson was out too."