LOS ANGELES — The fight for the corpse of Charles Manson was thrown out of a Los Angeles court Friday, as another potential heir stepped into the case and the grandson of the cult leader made an emotional plea to a judge.
In a hearing to determine the venue for legal battles over Manson’s estate and the disposition of his remains, Jason Freeman, whose father was born by Manson’s first wife, echoed the frustration of several parties who have been trying to get control of the notorious criminal’s body since he died in November.
“My grandfather has been on ice over 60 days,” Freeman blurted in court as he choked up.
Judge David Cowan divided the two dueling Manson cases, deciding that litigation over the potentially lucrative estate should remain in Los Angeles because that’s where Manson was living when he was arrested and convicted in the murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others.
Cowan said the case over the remains, however, belongs in either in Kings County, where the cult leader was imprisoned or Kern County, where he died at 83 in a Bakersfield hospital Nov. 19. A hearing is already scheduled Wednesday in Bakersfield and the Kern County coroner, which has the body, requested the case be decided there.
Each of the parties that have come to court all have said they want to collect Manson’s body so he can be cremated or properly buried, though some have suggested others have less noble motives, such as selling cadaver photos or carving off Manson’s tattoos for sale or display.
Freeman, an oil worker and former pro mixed martial arts fighter, said he got to know Manson in the last eight years of his life through phone calls and letters. He said it was not an easy or smooth relationship and that Manson had urged him not to get involved in his affairs, but that he felt it was his mission.
“I’m here to claim my grandfather, have him cremated, spread his ashes and do the right thing,” Freeman said. “And put this so-called monster, this historical figure that shouldn’t have been blown up as big as it was for all these years, now that he’s passed (away), I want to help bury it.”
So far, three parties have staked claims in court to collect Manson’s body from the morgue and take control of any assets, which could include rights to any property he left behind, the commercial right to use his image or royalties to songs he wrote. Guns N’ Roses recorded a Manson song, “Look at Your Game, Girl,” and the Beach Boys, who Manson was acquainted with, recorded a variation of a tune he wrote.
Freeman is being challenged by Manson’s longtime pen pal, Michael Channels, who holds a will that names him as executor and sole beneficiary.
A lawyer for a purported son of Charles Manson appeared in court Friday for the first time and said he was representing Michael Brunner, whose mother was an early member of the infamous “Manson family.” Mary Brunner was in jail when Manson’s followers slaughtered Tate and friends, and a wealthy grocer and his wife over two nights in August 1969.
Representatives for another alleged son, Matthew Lentz, who claims he was fathered by Manson during a Wisconsin orgy, have said he would appear in court, but he’s been a no-show at two hearings and has yet to file court papers. However, a will purportedly signed by Manson leaving everything to Lentz, his “one living child,” was filed with the Kern County coroner.
Attorneys for Freeman, Brunner and Kern County have all questioned the validity of the two wills.
Brunner’s lawyer, Daniel Mortensen, said Manson acknowledged his client as a son, but they didn’t have a close relationship. He said Brunner, a military veteran, would cremate the remains and dispose of them immediately in a dignified way “that does not appeal to culty people.”
“He wants to as quickly as possible end the circus,” Mortensen said. “He doesn’t want anything ghoulish to go on with the body.”