Susan Denise Atkins, also known as Sexy Sadie and Sadie Mae Glutz, was born on May 7, 1948, in San Gabriel, California. She was the second of three children born to alcoholic parents. After the death of her mother, who died of cancer in '64, Susan dropped out of high school and moved to San Francisco.
Susan found a job at a local coffee shop called Burke's. One day, four guys were hanging out in the alley behind the coffee shop. Susan invited them in and offered them coffee and cake. Susan was attracted to one of the guys, Al, and she started flirting with him. Al invited Susan to come to Oregon with him.
Susan and Al, along with a man named Clifton, drove towards Oregon in Al’s brand-new car, a Buick Riviera. It turned out that the car was stolen and that the two men were convicts who made a living committing armed robberies.
When the three friends found out that the police had them in their sights, they went into hiding in a popular camping area. Susan got shooting lessons from Al, and she got pretty good with a gun. They stole supplies from local stores and survived for a while, but were eventually arrested.
Susan pleaded guilty to charges of receiving stolen property and concealing a weapon. Judge George Jones sentenced Susan to six months in jail. Because she had no prior criminal record, he suspended the sentence and placed Susan on two years probation.
Church of Satan
Susan was very licentious, and late at night, she could often be found in one of the nightclubs. One night, Susan entered an amateur topless dancing contest. Her performance was met with loud cheers, and they hired Susan as a topless dancer, earning $150 a week. Susan took on a stage name: Sharon King.
One day, Susan was about to start her break when her boss asked if she would like to dance for a guest. The guest turned out to be Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan. LaVey persuaded Susan to join his show, The Witches' Sabbath. The show was a massive success, and it was the strangest show on the strip. Susan's life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll would soon take a toll. A few months later, Susan was hospitalized with gonorrhea, and she suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown.
The Manson Family
In early 1967, Susan befriended some drug-dealing hippies and moved in with them. The hippies lived in a commune in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. It was here that Susan met Charles Manson.
“I ended up in a house in San Francisco. It was primarily dope dealers. I got involved with them, and then one day a little man came in with a guitar and started singing for us. The song that hit me the hardest was “The Shadow of His Smile”, and his voice, his manner, just more or less hypnotized me – mesmerized me. I was just absolutely in love with him. I didn’t know him, and I also felt I was in competition with him because he got more attention than I did”.
On October 7, 1968, at two o’clock in the morning, Susan gave birth to a son, whom Manson named Ze Zo Ze Cee Zadfrack Glutz, sometimes spelled Zezozose. According to Atkins, Bruce Hall aka Bruce White, whom she nicknamed new-Bruce, was the child’s father. The child was born at Spahn Ranch.
Manson Family member Dianne Lake cut the umbilical cord with her teeth. The child was born two months premature, possibly due to Atkins’ drug use. Susan has had no contact with her son, now named Paul, since her incarceration in 1969.
Witches of Mendocino
Susan and several other Manson Family members lived in Mendocino, California for a while, trying to find a new place for the group. They arrested Susan and the others for giving LSD to a group of children. At their trial, they were given the nickname the “Witches of Mendocino”. Various murders took place during the time the group members lived in Mendocino, including the murder of a pregnant woman, Clyda Dulaney, and her unborn baby. The murder of pregnant Clyda remains unsolved to this day.
In the summer of ’69, the Manson Family attracted police attention at their hangout at Spahn’s ranch. The Family began looking for funds to move to a new hide-out in Death Valley. Manson had heard rumors that Family acquaintance Gary Hinman inherited money and sent Susan Atkins, Mary Brunner and Robert Beausoleil to Hinman to rob him. After several days of torture, they killed Hinman.
Susan was part of the murder squad sent to 10050 Cielo Drive. Susan first claimed she was the one who killed Sharon Tate, but during the Tate/LaBianca murder trial, she stated she held down pregnant Tate while Tex Watson stabbed her to death. Susan considered cutting the unborn baby out of Tate’s belly, but she couldn’t do it. After the murders, Susan wrote “pig” on the front door in Tate’s blood.
Jail and Death
Susan was arrested in October 1969 for her involvement in the murder of Gary Hinman. At that point, the police did not know who was responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders. While locked up for the Hinman murder, Susan implicated herself in jail when she confessed the Tate murders to two cellmates. She told her cellmates she killed Tate, tasted her blood and wrote “Pig” on the front door with Tate’s blood.
On March 29, 1971, Atkins was sentenced to death. Later the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. A year before her death, Susan received a diagnosis of brain cancer and had one of her legs amputated. Susan Atkins died on September 24, 2009, at age 61. According to her husband, James Whitehouse, her last whispered word was 'Amen'. At the time of her death, Susan was California’s longest-serving female inmate.
A Visual Guide to the Tate Murders