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Two men relate to same haunting specter -- Charles Manson

By Miguel Marquez, CNN
updated 1:56 AM EDT, Tue April 24, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two men grapple with same heavy burden -- they might both descend from Charles Manson
  • Cage fighter Jason Freeman says his family never discussed his infamous grandfather
  • L.A. musician Matthew Roberts learns Manson may have fathered him in a 1967 orgy
  • Moment of truth with DNA evidence: Are the two bound through the blood of Manson?

Cincinnati (CNN) -- Charles Manson casts a long shadow. No one knows that better than his grandson, Jason Freeman, who is speaking out for the first time about growing up under, what he calls, a "family curse" started by Manson and his so-called "Manson family."

"I'm personally, I'm coming out," says the 6-foot-2 kickboxer and cage fighter. Freeman, whose father killed himself in 1993, is "coming out," he says, because he wants the real Manson family to stop hiding from a name that still has the power to evoke fear.

Today, Freeman wants to understand his roots and himself a bit better, two things denied him as a child. He knew from a young age that Charles Manson was his grandfather, but it never registered till one day in eighth-grade history class, said Freeman. Our teacher " ... was talking about Charles Manson and I'm looking around like, are there people staring at me?"

This image is the most recent photo of infamous inmate Charles Manson, taken in 2011. This image is the most recent photo of infamous inmate Charles Manson, taken in 2011.
Charles Manson: The infamous inmate
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Man: I may be Charles Manson's son

Forbidden from talking about Charles Manson to his school friends lest they tease and taunt him, Freeman always felt different from the other kids. Even behind closed doors and with his own family, talk about Charles Manson was discouraged. He was not permitted to ask his grandmother, Rosalie, about Charles Manson, the man she married in 1955. It was a ghostly elephant roaming through his life.

More than anything, Freeman wants to connect with the father he knew only through an occasional letter or gift. He believes his father, who changed his name to Jay White, purposely stayed away from him, not wanting to tarnish his childhood in the same way his had been. "He just couldn't let it go," reckons Freeman. "He couldn't live it down. He couldn't live down who his father was."

Death on a desolate highway

Jay White, who was cursed with the name Charles Manson Jr., killed himself on June 29, 1993, on a desolate section of highway in Burlington, Colorado, just west of the Kansas state line.

The death certificate offers few clues as to why there and what finally pushed him over the edge. The document indicates it was about 10:15 a.m. when he died from a "self inflicted gunshot wound to the head" at "exit 438 on interstate 70."

Charles Manson\'s grandson, Jason Freeman, provides a DNA sample to determine if another man is also related to Manson.
Charles Manson's grandson, Jason Freeman, provides a DNA sample to determine if another man is also related to Manson.

Freeman, who wrestles, fights and suffers the pain of tattoos in his off-time, makes a living working on oil rigs in western Pennsylvania. He is a classically tough guy. But when it comes to the father he never met and when he thinks of what he went through as a child, he tears up.

When asked what he'd like his father to know, Freeman gets emotional and, fighting back tears, he whispers, "I want him to know ... he missed out on a lot."

Specifically, he wishes his father were there to enjoy his grandchildren and see the life he has built for himself.

"I see my kids, you know, and that's kinda where I get shook up," he says the tears rolling. "I would hate to see them grow up without a father. That's important. Very important."

Freeman wishes he could reverse time and tell his father on the stretch of Interstate 70 back in June of 1993 that whatever he was feeling at the moment would pass and a better life lay ahead.

Another Manson offspring, another search

The desire to know one's father and to understand oneself is the same force, the same primal instinct, driving Matthew Roberts, a 44-year-old Los Angeles musician. Roberts, who was adopted as an infant, sought out his birth parents in 1998.

Through an adoption agency, he found his birth mother; according to Roberts, she was a reclusive and psychologically troubled woman named Terri living in Wisconsin. As they got to know each other, Terri eventually dropped a small bomb on Roberts that set him on a 14-year search for his father.

Terri told him that Charles Manson was his father and that she had met Manson in San Francisco in 1967 at an orgy. He was one of four men there, and she was certain Manson had impregnated her.

Roberts didn't believe her except that he looked shockingly similar to Manson.

He then wrote to Manson in prison, explaining the situation. To Robert's surprise, prisoner B33920 wrote back. Manson, in his frantic style and chicken scratch penmanship, confirmed to Roberts that he was at the 1967 orgy and remembered his mother, Roberts said. He related stories that his mother had told him that only she, or his father, would know. What seemed like fantasy was fast becoming reality.

Roberts twice tried to get a DNA match with genetic material from Charles Manson, but the samples were contaminated.

But says Dr. Michael Baird, chief science officer at DNA Diagnostics Center in Fairfield, Ohio, there is another way to establish the family link. If Matthew Roberts and Jason Freeman are related, they will have an exact copy of Charles Manson's Y chromosome. "The male line is easier to compare," said Baird, "because the Y chromosome stands out so strong. We can get a very good correlation if the two are related.

So curious were both men to once and for all solve the mystery, CNN took the extraordinary step to have both men's DNA taken and the results compared.

A match seemed likely.

Same members of notorious family?

The men seem predisposed to being related. Their lives run along parallel tracks.

Both are drawn to fame and fortune. Roberts is lead singer of a band called New Rising Son. Freeman is a fighter who goes by the name Freebird.

But both men have also had to settle for doing more conventional jobs to pay the bills. Freeman has his oil rig job; Roberts is a DJ at the Blue Zebra Cabaret in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.

Both men have self-published their own books. Freeman's "Knocking out the Devil" and Roberts' "The First Rays of the New Rising Sun."

But the question remained: Is Charles Manson the common denominator in the lives of these two men?

It took DNA Diagnostic Center 48 hours to resolve a mystery that Roberts chased for 14 years. With both men in the same room, Baird told the men what they found.

"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."

The news dropped on the room like a fact etched in lead. Jason Freeman exclaimed "holy cow." Freeman hoped to gain an uncle and perhaps a bit more insight into his family and his father's life.

Matthew Roberts was visibly shaken as though he had just been robbed. Roberts was upset.

"Now there's no chance of knowing who my father is," said Roberts. "That's the only lead I had, so now I have no chance of meeting or knowing my biological father."

Most people would be overjoyed to discover that Charles Manson wasn't related to them, but Roberts now feels his 14-year search for a father has ended in a cul de sac, without definition and not sure where to go next.

Such is the power of wanting to know where we come from and trying to make sense of our present lives by knowing our past. For both men, the search continues.

CNN's Michael Cary contributed to this report.

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