LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Having just been assigned the Charles Manson probate case, a judge today asked lawyers for a road map on how best to try the issues, including the validity of a man’s claim to be the grandson of the mass murderer as well as an assertion by a former Manson pen pal that the cult leader wanted him to be the executor of his estate.
During Tuesday’s virtual hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Ruben Garcia asked that the attorneys file court papers detailing their recommendations by March 18 and to be ready for a final status conference on June 1. Garcia is the latest of multiple judges to preside over the case.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to it,” he said of the voluminous case, which he said he reviewed during the long weekend.
Jason Freeman, Manson’s self-professed grandson, is one of three people who want to be the permanent administrator of the Manson estate. Freeman last year won a victory in the 2nd District Court of Appeal when a three-justice panel ruled he does not have to undergo DNA testing to prove his claimed relationship to Manson. The justices found that Judge Clifford Klein, who has since retired, erred when he signed an order in 2019 directing that the 45-year-old Freeman submit to DNA sampling.
Freeman, of Bradenton, Florida, had once told the judge that he would not voluntarily agree to DNA testing, but would obey a court order to do so. His appeal had put on hold a trial of whether he or longtime Manson pen pal Michael Channels should be the permanent administrator of Manson’s estate.
Channels had asked for the DNA test of Freeman. In his court papers, Channels said Manson’s 2002 will, filed in Kern County in November 2017, named him as the executor of Manson’s estate.
Freeman, acting as his own attorney, has filed court papers stating that probate of the will should be denied because it was created “as a direct result of undue influence exercised by (Channels) over (Manson) and is not, and never was, the will of (Manson).”
Manson suffered from heart disease and other ailments before he died in 2017, according to Freeman’s court papers.
“Because of his weakened condition, (Channels) … gained his confidence and easily influenced (Manson) to leave all of his estate to (Channels),” Freeman’s court papers state.
Timothy Lyons, a lawyer for Channels, told the judge Tuesday that a determination of the validity of the 2002 Manson will should take priority because a ruling in his client’s favor would make Freeman’s kinship claim moot.
A third bid to administer the estate has come from Nancy Claassen of Spokane, Washington, who alleges in her court papers that she and Manson had the same mother and that she therefore is his “sole heir-at-law.”
Claassen disputes Freeman’s claim to be Manson’s grandson.
Alan Davis, an attorney for Dale Kiken, a lawyer and current temporary special administrator of the Manson estate, said he favors trying the issues on a piecemeal basis so there is not a prolonged trial. Lyons said he tends to agree with Davis, but lawyers for Claassen prefer a trial of all the claims.
Kiken has represented Freeman’s interests by, among other things, recovering property that Manson left behind in prison when he died at age 83 on Nov. 19, 2017, at Bakersfield Mercy Hospital. In March 2018, a Kern County commissioner ruled that Freeman was entitled to Manson’s remains and that order established that Freeman was Manson’s grandson, according to Davis. The judge extended Kiken’s special administrative authority on Tuesday.
In February 1986, an Ohio judge additionally found that Freeman was the son of Charles Manson Jr., also known as Charles White, who killed himself in June 1993, Davis added.
Manson and members of his outcast “family” of followers were convicted of killing actress Sharon Tate — who was eight months pregnant — and six other people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area in August 1969.
Prosecutors said Manson and his followers were trying to incite a race war he dubbed “Helter Skelter,” taken from the Beatles song of the same name.
The Manson clan also stabbed to death grocery magnate Leno La Bianca and his wife Rosemary La Bianca the night after the Tate murders.
Manson was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Tate, the La Biancas, and four other people at the Tate residence — coffee heiress Abigail Ann Folger, photographer Wojciech Frykowski, hairdresser Jay Sebring and Steven Earl Parent, who was shot in his car on his way to visit an acquaintance who lived in a separate rented guest house on the Tate property.
Manson and followers Charles “Tex” Watson, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and the late Susan Atkins all were convicted and sentenced to state prisons in 1971. Manson also was convicted in December of that year of first-degree murder for the July 25, 1969, death of Gary Hinman and the August 1969 death of Donald Shea.
He and the others originally were sentenced to death, but a 1972 state Supreme Court decision caused all capital sentences in California to be commuted to life in prison. There was no life-without-parole sentence at the time.
Manson was denied parole a dozen times.