Charles Manson's grandson is entitled to take the infamous cult leader's body from the morgue, effectively ending a circus-like battle over who has the right to a corpse that's been stored on ice since November, a California official ruled Monday.
At least five people had petitioned to take possession of Manson's body since his death at age 83 on Nov. 19. Kern County court commissioner Alisa Knight said Monday that Jason Freeman, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter from Florida, can pick up the remains.
Although some raised question about whether Freeman was really Manson’s grandson, Knight determined he was “the surviving competent adult next of kin.”
Freeman recalled Manson, one of America's most notorious mass killers whose 1960s cult led his followers down a path of murder, anarchy and "helter skelter," as a "kind and giving person." He says he got to know Manson in a series of phone calls he made to the prison during the past decade.
Manson, who was serving multiple life sentences at a prison in Corcoran, Calif., had struggled with gastrointestinal problems in his later years and finally succumbed to his ongoing issues.
That gave rise to numerous claims by would-be relatives and acquaintances who wanted the body. In addition to Freeman, people from Illinois, California and Florida claimed to have a right to the remains, according to a court filing. At least one of the filings was from a person who professed no relationship to Manson, other than he had become pen pals with the killer.
Freeman, a 41-year-old married father of three, told the New York Daily News last year that he just wants to give his grandfather a proper burial.
“I will definitely speak with the inner circle of people who love my grandfather and who may know more of where he would want to be. I’m working on doing my part,” Freeman told the newspaper.
Freeman first stepped forward in a 2012 CNN interview, saying he barely knew his own father, who was the only son of Manson and his first wife, Rosalie. Freeman said he started speaking with Manson by phone eight years ago and reached a place of “forgiveness.”
"He told me he loved me. I told him I loved him. It took five years for that to come out of his mouth," Freeman said, according to the Daily News.
Manson, noted since the 1960s for a crudely carved swastika on his forehead, has been in the annals of American criminal lore since he dispatched a legion of cult followers to carry out brutal attacks in and around Los Angeles.
Among the victims was director Roman Polanski's pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. In all, Manson and his followers killed nine people at four locations in July and August 1969.