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Prison boss opposes release of ailing ex-Manson follower

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  • Decision puts case in parole board's hands, spokeswoman says
  • Susan Atkins is serving life sentence for role in Manson family murders of late 1960s
  • Web site quotes Atkins' husband as saying she has terminal brain cancer
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- California's director of adult prisons is recommending against "compassionate release" for a terminally ill former Manson family member, a spokeswoman said.

Susan Atkins is led from a Los Angeles grand jury room after her indictment in the 1969 "Manson murders."

Susan Atkins is led from a Los Angeles grand jury room after her indictment in the 1969 "Manson murders."

Suzan Hubbard, director of the Division of Adult Institutions, decided that Susan Atkins' request should not be sent to the sentencing court for consideration, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Hubbard's recommendation is advisory and will not necessarily prevent Atkins' release.

The court -- not the department or the state Board of Parole Hearings -- has the final say on whether Atkins should be released, Thornton said. "They're the only ones legally who can recall the sentence," she added.

Atkins, 60, was convicted in the 1969 slayings of actress Sharon Tate and four others. She had been incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California, but has been hospitalized since mid-March.

Her request is now before the Board of Parole Hearings, which is conducting an independent investigation and will hear the case during its monthly public meeting, Thornton said. The next meeting is scheduled July 15.

Atkins had been held for years at the Corona prison, which earlier determined that she met the criteria for compassionate release under the law, and sent her request to the corrections department.

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The Board of Parole Hearings will receive public comment, discuss the request in closed session and then announce its recommendation. The board also can decide whether to refer the request to the sentencing court.

The court, based in Los Angeles, can either grant or deny Atkins' request. It also can recall her life sentence and resentence Atkins to a lesser term, allowing for her to be paroled.

In 2007, the department received 60 compassionate release requests, Thornton said. Ten were approved.

Citing privacy rules, prison officials would not disclose the nature of Atkins' illness. Her husband and attorney, James Whitehouse, has been quoted as saying she has terminal brain cancer, according to a blog called Manson Family Today. She also has had a leg amputated, the Los Angeles Times has reported.

Atkins, known within the Manson family as "Sadie Mae Glutz," has been in prison since 1971 and has been denied parole 11 times. She is California's longest-serving female inmate.

Tate and three houseguests were slain in August 1969 by killers who burst into her Benedict Canyon home. A teenager who was visiting the home's caretaker in his cottage on the property also was killed.

According to historical accounts of the murders, Atkins stabbed Tate, who was 8 months pregnant, and wrote the word "pig" in blood on the door of the home the actress shared with her husband, director Roman Polanski.

The following night, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were slain in their home in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. The two-day crime spree sent shock waves throughout Los Angeles.

All of the killers remain behind bars. Atkins also was convicted in the earlier murder of music teacher Gary Hinman.

Atkins, like family leader Charles Manson, received a death sentence. Her punishment was changed to life in prison when the California Supreme Court ruled the state's death penalty unconstitutional in 1972.

Atkins is a born-again Christian, according to a Web site maintained by her husband. During her incarceration, the site says, Atkins has worked to help at-risk youth, victims of violent crimes and homeless children.

Last month, authorities dug for buried bodies at the Inyo County, California, ranch where Manson and his followers once lived, after police became aware that testing had indicated humans might be buried there. Nothing was found, police said.

All About Charles MansonCalifornia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

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