Cellmate of Susan Doubted ‘Kill Story’
Wednesday, October 14th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 14 – One of the women to whom Tate-LaBianca murder defendant Susan Atkins confessed testified today that she did not believe the story and felt the girl was making up the details.
Miss Ronnie Howard, 31, in a “dress rehearsal” of her testimony without the jury present, said she thought it was Miss Atkins’ “imagination” at work when she told her how she savagely killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate, and then considered cutting the baby from the mother.
“It sounded so fantastic,” the witness said, explaining why she had taken notes following one of four conversations with Miss Atkins in their joint cell at Sybil Brand Institute, “that I want to remember the things she said. I wanted to know if all of these things were put in the papers and she read them or if she was just making them up.”
The micro mini-skirted “Miss Howard said she discussed Miss Atkins’ confession with another cellmate, Mrs. Virginia Graham Castro, an old-time friend, who had also been told of the crimes by the girl.
“Virginia told me what she had heard from Sadie (Miss Atkins) but I didn’t tell her what I heard,” Miss Howard admitted. “I just said I didn’t think she was telling the truth.
“Virginia was very concerned about Sadie’s story, but I told her that anyone could have got that from the papers, and that people confessed to things like that all the time.”
Miss Howard said she had seen the story of the Tate murders on television just once shortly after the killings in August 1969.
“I changed the channel because I wasn’t interested,” she said, adding that most of her information came directly from Miss Atkins.
Hippie cult leader Charles Manson, Miss Atkins and two other women are on trial before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older in the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Mrs. Castro, in similar testimony Tuesday, also without the jury’s presence, said Miss Atkins once compared stabbing a person to a drug habit. “The more you do it the better you like it,” Miss Graham quoted Miss Atkins.
“’Sharon Tate couldn’t believe what was happening to her,’” Miss Howard quoted the defendant as saying in their cell. “She pleaded for her life and her baby…then she screamed and everytime she screamed, Sadie’d stab her, and she kept stabbing her until she stopped screaming.”
Miss Howard, who looks like an aging version of the 22-year-old Atkins girl, testified she learned of Miss Atkins’ alleged role in the killings on Nov.1, 1969.
“We were talking about acid trips,” she testified, “and Sadie (Miss Atkins used the name Sadie Glutz when arrested) told me she had done just about everything there was to do, and that nothing would shock her. I said I had too, and she said ‘I bet I could tell you something that would blow your mind.’
“Then she told me she was at the Tate murders. She told me Sharon Tate was in the second bedroom and a man was sitting on the bed talking to her when she walked by. They didn’t see her.”
At this point Miss Howard’s testimony parallels that of the previous prosecution witness, Mrs. Castro, who also failed to give details as to how the eight months pregnant actress and her former fiance, Jay Sebring, were brought out of the bedroom.
Miss Howard’s testimony picks up “when the people were brought out…”
“Sharon couldn’t believe what was happening. She had a look on her face that couldn’t believe it, and Sadie said she begged for her life and her baby.”
“I have no feeling for you, bitch,” Miss Howard quoted her former cellmate as saying. “You’re going to die.”
“I asked where she stabbed Sharon,” the woman said under questioning, “and she said in the chest. She said she wanted to take the baby with her — to cut it out of her body — but she didn’t.
“She said stabbing a person is like going into air — into nothing.
“She said it’s like a drug habit — the more you do it the better you like it.”
“Did Sharon Tate scream?” Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi asked.
“Yes,” came the quick answer. “When she screamed it was something to her (Miss Atkins) — A rush through her. When she screamed she’d stab her and she kept stabbing her until she stopped screaming.”
The witness told the halt-empty courtroom that her former cellmate “enjoyed” telling the story
By MARY NEISWENDER