Charles Manson's body was kept on ice for months as a bizarre court battle ensued over notorious cult leader's remains

Charles Manson's body was kept on ice for months as a bizarre court battle ensued over notorious cult leader's remains
(Source : Getty Images)

Infamous cult leader Charles Manson was in prison from 1969 until his death in November 2018. Manson died in a hospital in Bakersfield while serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1969 murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others. He was 83 years old when he took his last breath. The day after it was announced that Manson died, however, several people came forward with petitions to claim his body. 

The bizarre fight that took place over his remains turned into a media circus with his friends filing competing wills that were allegedly signed by the notorious cult leader. Family members also suddenly started appearing trying to stake their claim on the convict's body as well as an estate that could very well include rights to songs that Manson wrote or even to license his image.

In this handout photo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Charles Manson, 74, is seen March 18, 2009, at Corcoran State Prison, California (Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images)

Even though the decision will clear the way for Manson's body to be either cremated or buried, the strange battle for his corpse says a lot about the sides fighting to gain control of his remains. The Kern County case was taken to the coroner's office which wanted the whole issue to be resolved quickly as there were bodies piling up from the methamphetamine and opioid epidemics.

A three-way fight ensued between the cult leader's grandson Jason Freeman, Michael Brunner (who claimed Manson was his father), and Michael Channels, a pen pal of the cult leader who collected and sold Manson memorabilia, who also filed what he claimed was the cult leader's will. The three men tried to dispute the authenticity of the other's claims but Freeman finally won because there were deficiencies in the other petitions.

Kern County Superior Court Commissioner Alisa Knight ended up ruling on March 13 this year that Freeman could retrieve his grandfather's remains after it had been on ice since November last year. The man had also decided that he was going to cremate Manson's body and spread the ashes in order 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."


Knight also said that the will that was submitted by Channels had been partly problematic because he had been one of the two witnesses while also being the sole beneficiary. It was also not clear what he planned to do with the body. 

Channels, who made it clear that he believed Brunner was Manson's legitimate son and that Freeman ended up winning, said in an interview: "All I wanted to do was take the dude’s ashes and dump them in the desert where he wanted. I'm irate. That Jason Freeman, he just pulled the wool over the whole system’s eyes."

Brunner's mother had been one of the early members of the Manson Family and, according to his birth certificate, was fathered by the cult leader. Knight said that Brunner had proved he was Manson's legitimate son but had lost the battle because he had been adopted by his maternal grandparents.

Another alleged son, Matthew Lentz, a man who also claimed that he was fathered by Manson during an orgy that took place in Wisconsin, took Brunner's side. He was named as the sole beneficiary in a 2017 will that Manson was alleged to have signed and sent to Ben Gurecki, another friend and memorabilia collector, who was named as executor. Lentz forfeited his claims as an heir, however, because he was also adopted.


MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) previously reported that a new documentary from the network REELZ is offering a detailed view of the journey that Freeman took to acquire and cremate his notorious grandfather's remains. 

SVP of REELZ Development and Production, Rob Swartz, says in an interview announcing the documentary: "This documentary shows the unusual real story confronting Jason Freeman who struggles to comprehend his role in a situation that involves family, infamy and the inevitable event of death. Freeman's story will no doubt leave viewers asking themselves what they would do if faced with similar circumstances."


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