Susan Atkins ‘Confessed’ To Cellmate
Saturday, February 14th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 14 – Susan Atkins, the informer in the massacre-murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others, wrote a series of letters to her former cellmate in which she implicated herself more deeply in the slayings than she has in her published confessions.
According to reliable legal sources, the letters were so emotional and bordering on fantasy that authorities are not sure how much weight to put on them.
Miss Atkins’ confessions to Shelley Nadell, 31, her cellmate, led to the break in the up-to-then unsolved murder case. It was Miss Atkins’ testimony before the grand jury that led to the arrest of five fellow cultists, including the alleged mastermind, Charles Manson.
Main difference between the grand jury testimony, her published confessions and the letters is how the 8 1/2-month-pregnant actress died.
The girl said in her published confession that she held the actress, who was pleading for the life of her unborn child, while Charles Watson, now being held in Texas, killed her.
The legal sources said the girl went beyond this in her letters to Miss Nadell, admitting stabbing the actress to death.
“When I plunged the knife into her, it made me have an orgasm.”
Wesley Russell, lawyer for Miss Nadell, admitted Friday the letters had been written to his client and said he had handed them over to authorities.
He said his client left the state on his advice for her own safety. She was secretly taken to the airport under police guard earlier this week.
The attorney said the letters were smuggled to his client through the jail grapevine after the women were put in separate cells.
The attorney said his client told him she did not want to be an informer, but decided to act when she was told other murders were being planned on a random basis and she was given the names of other intended victims.
The attorney would not release the names. The Atkins girl, in the letters, said she “went before the grand jury because my attorney said your (Miss Nadell’s) testimony was enough to convict me and all the others.”
“When I first heard you were the informer, I wanted to slit your throat,” the letter to Miss Nadell read.
However, the Atkins girl later relents, adding:
“I can see your side of this clearly…nor am I mad at you, I am hurt.”
She refers to Manson, the leader of the hippie cult charged with the murders, as “M.” She says about him
“Yes, I want the world to know M — it sure looks like they do now.”
In the letters, she uses sexual overtones, using the expression “orgies” to depict the bloody murder.
She says about the killings, “Those people died not out of hate or anything ugly. I know now it has all been perfect. I am not going to defend our beliefs, I am just telling you the way it is.
“In killing someone physically you are only releasing the soul…death is only an illusion.”
Miss Nadell’s attorney said his client had received several threats against her life, the latest a crudely printed note which was thrown into her jail cell. It read: “Death to squealer pigs.”
Police Lt, Robert Helder said Mrs. Nadell had filed no complaints concerning threats on her life and jail officials said they had received no complaints.
Police said Mrs. Nadell would be available to testify at the trial of any of the six defendants charged with the Tate-LaBianca killings.
Meanwhile, judge George M. Dell said he suspended Manson’s jail telephone privileges Wednesday for violating a previous court order prohibiting extra-judicial statements by principals in the case.
By MARY NEISWENDER