Charles Manson’s strange legacy is continuing to unfold even after his highly-publicized death in November of last year. His body was immediately frozen as a legal battled waged for his remains, remains that are still frozen four months later under a false name. Only two people in the world know its location, staff members at the coroner's office where it is being held. But now Kern County Superior Court has reached a final decision in who will gain possession of the notorious criminal's body.
The lore of convicted serial killer Charles Manson and his band of violent, brain-washed followers rose to an unprecedented level of infamy after the brutal murders of seven people in 1969. He existed in the late 60s and early 70s, and still exists now, as an overblown, saturated monster, a hovering banshee that cast a dark shadow over the Summer of Love as well as American culture at large. Whether he was the hypnotic, masterminded cult leader of our folklore, or a fast talking, drug dealing con man that has been given a little too much credit, the question mark of his final end has at least partially been answered. Manson’s body now has an owner, but what that owner will do with his remains has not been answered yet, nor has the question of just who will inherit his estate, which may include the rights to Manson’s songs, image, and other materials.
At least four people laid claim to the body and estate of Charles Manson when he died from cardiac arrest resulting from respiratory failure and colon cancer, including a collector of serial killer memorabilia who was a long-time pen pal of Manson’s, two alleged sons, a grandson.
Immediately after his death, a man named Michael Channels produced a will he claimed gave him the rights to Manson’s entire estate, including his body. Channels had been corresponding with Manson for more than 20 years at the time of his death, and had visited him in prison 20 times, spending some 200 hours with the convict. The will that Manson apparently mailed to Channels in 2004 names Channels at the sole heir, disinheriting all living family members.
Channels says he wrote to Manson several times before he ever wrote back. After he did, they formed a strong bond, with Channels looking favorably upon Manson and considering him a close friend.
Despite having a tremendous amount of potential material, Channels chose not to write a book about his time with Manson. He did, however, upload many of their unedited conversations to his YouTube channel. The videos have since been removed for reasons unknown.
According to Channels, he had not wanted to be pulled into a public battle, despite the fact that he came forward with the document. He stated that he simply wants to honor his dead friend’s body the way Manson told him he had wanted, his ashes scattered in the desert.
Channels says Manson wanted to “be with the lizards and the bugs.” However, he also claimed that Manson had truly wanted a huge shrine in a Hollywood cemetery, but that neither man could afford it.
The court found the will produced by Channels to be suspicious, and would not rule in favor of Channels as he was both the sole beneficiary stated in the will and the only other witness to the document aside from Manson.
Michael Brunner claims to be Charles Manson’s biological son with former Manson Family member Mary Brunner. Known in childhood as Valentine Manson, the 49-year-old man was adopted by his grandparents after his mother was arrested at Spahn Ranch for credit card fraud, meaning that his mother was out of the Family prior to the murders. Brunner made it clear that he did not want contact with his incarcerated father, in fact, he states he is mainly seeking a blood test to determine once and for all if Manson is his biological parent. He said that he if was not, he would back away from trying to obtain the body.
Not much else is known about the secretive son of Manson. He declines to comment to all major publications, and stated in his petition to the Kern County Court that he simply wants to cremate and spread his father’s ashes in a private ceremony. However, the court ruled that because he was adopted by his maternal grandparents, he could not inherit Manson’s body, regardless of the possible direct blood connection.
Also known as Matthew Lentz, a musician from Los Angeles, Roberts has claimed that his mother was impregnated by Manson during an orgy in 1967. Roberts was adopted young, and was able to locate his birth mother later in life, who told Roberts about his connection to Manson. He also produced a will from January 2017 which makes Roberts the sole heir, listing a memorabilia collector as the executor. Roberts claims he got in touch with Manson and that he confirmed the story he had been told about the orgy, and that Manson remembered his mother.
It was determined by the court that because Roberts was also legally adopted, and because the will was questionable, he was not the legal heir.
Jason Freeman claims to be the grandson of Manson from his first marriage to Rosalie Jean Willis, the son of Charles Manson, Jr, who changed his name to Charles Jay Wright and died by suicide in 1993. A mixed-martial artist from Florida, Freeman has drawn criticism for a Facebook Live video he posted with his young son, both goofing around with a Charles Manson doll, complete with a tiny swastika and acoustic guitar.
“We’re going to do things as a family with Grandpa. There’s nothing wrong with that. Finally, I get to take him fishing. Finally.” The father and son also joked about putting the ashes into the puppet.
Freeman told Rolling Stone that he had a relationship with Manson through letters and "gained to understand some of my grandfather, as he came to understand his grandson." A devout Christian man, Freeman had this to say about why he is seeking Manson's body: "I am a grandson working to take the proper steps to show my respect to my grandfather and his true close friends. I'm not only doing this for me. It's for everyone who stands firm in the truth of life. I'm just a tool walking this part of my journey out. It has brought a lot of hardship on my life and family at home. I prepare for battle daily. I am a frontline warrior and the Lord uses strong willed people."
He claims he want to put to rest “this so-called monster, this historical figure that shouldn’t have been blown up as big as it was for all these years.”
Kern County Superior Court Commissioner Alisa Knight made the final determination on March 12, 2018, ruling Jason Freeman the “surviving competent adult next of kin,” and legal heir to Manson’s body. Channels feels that that was the wrong choice, and that if it wasn’t him, it should have been Michael Brunner, whom he truly believes to be Manson’s biological son: “I’m irate. That Jason Freeman, he just pulled the wool over the whole system’s eyes.”
“She did not want to wait for anyone to do any further discovery or DNA testing [of potential relatives,” county attorney Bryan Walters said of Knight. “She said, ‘Nope, this is an urgent matter.’ She’s going to review all the pleadings that have been filed and make a decision on that.”
However, CNN did their own DNA analysis of Freeman and Roberts in 2012, concluding that neither man was related to Manson: "We did a battery of DNA tests. We studied your DNA along several points, and we have concluded you do not share a common biological ancestry," both men were told by Dr. Michael Baird, chief science officer at DNA Diagnostics Center in Fairfield, Ohio. Apparently this analysis was not considered viable enough by the courts to rule out their blood relation, but it has not been stated as to why.
“They have a puppet that looks like Charlie that they’re going to put his ashes in. What is it, do they want to make Chucky Part 4 and sell him off?” Channels also commented, showing more distain for Freeman, ““That’s what [Manson] didn’t want. That’s the only thing I’m trying to stop.”
Others also fear that Freeman plans to profit off of Manson’s death, possibly by selling photos of his corpse. Freeman has openly spoke about the documentary he is making about Manson, and has had a film crew following him throughout the process. There is a large possibility that the scattering of Manson’s body will also be filmed by this crew. Freeman is definitely an eccentric man, and a clear fan of Manson's, as he posts sympathetic memes and comments about Manson's innocence publicly. With Freeman inheriting the body, it seems that the strange tale of Charles Manson isn't going to end anytime soon.