‘Susan Was a Good Kid’; Then Came Sadie Glutz
Friday, December 12th, 1969
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 12 – She called herself Sadie Glutz.
It was a name Charles Manson gave her, an outsider’s little joke on the establishment world. “Tell them your name is Sadie Glutz,” he told her. And she did.
But Wednesday, she was formally charged with seven murders under the name her parents gave her when she was born in San Jose on May 7, 1948: Susan Denise Atkins.
What happened to change Susan into Sadie?
“I loved her,” her father, Edward John Atkins, 49, told a newsman. “I still do. She once did some very beautiful things. But that was a long time ago.
“I don’t know what went wrong. I guess I never will.”
Criminal records show Miss Atkins’ first arrest was in South Salem, Ore., in 1966, when she was 18, long before she had heard of Charles Manson and his so-called family of wandering hippies.
There were eight other arrests between that one and the charge on which she was arraigned Wednesday – that she and others of Manson’s group killed five persons at the home of Sharon Tate and two others the next day.
But in San Jose, Calif., there are people who remember when she sang in a church choir.
Her life was apparently fairly stable until she reached adolescence.
Then, When she was 15, her mother – to whom she was very close – died of cancer.
Two weeks before her mother entered the hospital, with what had been diagnosed as terminal cancer, Miss Atkins brought her church choir to sing Christmas carols beneath her mother’s window.
After her mother died her grandparents came to help run the family, which consisted of Susan, her father, an older brother, and a younger brother. The family was deeply in debt because of her mother’s illness.
The family home was sold. There were many moves. Bill collectors were insistent. Atkins left, looking for work. Once he was gone six months.
An old friend remembers that Miss Atkins worked during her junior year in high school to help support herself and her younger brother. At one time they were in a foster home.
She was an average student in school, with no record of disciplinary trouble.
“Susan was a good kid,” one San Jose source remembers. “But she was left alone, and there was no place to turn for help.”
“She was active in a singing group and took part in church and school activities. We certainly never had any trouble with her, although she was extremely upset emotionally.”
In 1965 she enrolled in Los Banos High School, when her father was working as a construction worker at San Luis Dam near Los Banos, Calif. Friends recall that she and her father argued frequently and heatedly.
It was the next year that Miss Atkins broke her ties with home. Her father, who remarried, told newsmen that he had pleaded with courts to keep his daughter “off the streets,” said Atkins.
“She needed help. She should have been put away somewhere where help could be given, not turned back on the ‘streets to go through it all again.”
She drifted to Washington and Oregon. She went to San Francisco, where she tried to become a dancer. (She is 5 foot 5 inches, weighs 120 pounds, and has a good figure.) She appeared in amateur go-go dance halls.
It didn’t work. She ended up in the drug-oriented society of Haight-Ashbury. It was there, in 1967, that she met Charles Manson.
She had been arrested in Salem and Portland, Ore., on charges of car theft, and concealing stolen property, always as Susan Denise Atkins. She was released on probation, and it was as Atkins she registered in San Francisco as terms of her probation.
In 1968, when Manson’s school bus-living quarters showed up in Ventura County, Calif., Miss Atkins was fined $13 for a driver’s license irregularity. When sheriff’s officers took Manson’s “family” into custody, they asked her name. She said it was Sadie Glutz.
Manson, she later said held an almost hypnotic power over his band most of whom were women – and his mistresses. In September, 1968, they stayed at her father’s San Jose home.
“I thought they were a slap happy bunch of kooks, dumb hippies,” Mr. Atkins said.
She became pregnant – with Manson’s child, her father believes. The baby was born at the Spahn Ranch near Chatsworth, Calif., earlier this year, when the family was living there. The child, a son, was placed in a foster home.
It was from the ranch, she later told authorities, that Manson ordered the forays which ended in the deaths of Miss Tate, four persons at her home, and Leno and Rosemary La Bianca the next day.
When she was arrested at Independence, Calif., as a suspected member of a car theft ring believed headed by Manson, the murders were nearing solution. Police heard rumors the family was involved, investigation followed, and Miss Atkins verified suspicions in conversations with a jail cellmate.
When Los Angeles officers picked her up – at first as a suspect in a prior murder now attributed to Manson’s band – she told them her name was Sadie Mae Glutz. Her family name.
But, in court Wednesday, with Manson in jail several blocks away, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William B. Keene asked her:
“Susan Denise Atkins, is that your true name?”
And she replied: “Yes.”
By Dial Torgerson