Florida man ruled potential Charles Manson heir
LOS ANGELES - A Florida man who says he is the grandson of mass murderer Charles Manson — a claim challenged by a former Manson pen pal as well as Manson's professed sister — is potentially an heir to the late cult leader, but his assertion is subject to further litigation, a judge has ruled.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ruben Garcia said the kinship claim of 45-year-old Jason Freeman of Bradenton, Florida, comes down to whether it can be proven that Charles Manson Jr. — who was also named Charles Jay White and who committed suicide in June 1993 — was indeed the infamous criminal's son.
Garcia said he is satisfied Freeman is Manson Jr.'s son, based on a February 1986 finding by an Ohio judge in which Manson Jr. was ordered to pay child support payments to Freeman's mother.
Alan Davis, an attorney for Dale Kiken — a lawyer and current temporary special administrator of the Manson estate who is advocating for Freeman's kinship claim — said during arguments on May 3 that in March 2018, a Kern County commissioner ruled Freeman was entitled to Manson's remains, further establishing that Freeman was Manson's grandson.
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Davis said the Ohio order remained unchallenged for decades until the current challenges by former Manson pen pal Michael Channels and Nancy Claassen of Spokane, Washington, who alleges in her court papers that she and Manson had the same mother and that she therefore is his "sole heir-at-law."
Freeman, Channels and Claassen all are vying to administer the late cult leader's estate. Garcia took the case under submission after the May arguments and ruled Friday.
"This court finds that Freeman is potentially an ... heir of (Manson) assuming (he) died (without a will) and petitioner Kiken can prove Charles Manson Jr. is the son of Charles Manson," Garcia wrote.
Manson Jr. was determined to be the father of Freeman by the Ohio court, Garcia wrote. Under the state's probate code, the "natural parentage of Freeman is established by the Ohio paternity judgment order. The issue of whether Charles Manson Jr. is the son of Charles Manson, however, remains to be litigated."
Freeman also addressed the court during the May hearing, saying he was a freshman in high school when his father died and the only reason he could continue playing high school sports was because of the child support payments his mother received of more than $600 a month.
Attorney Timothy Lyons, on behalf of Channels, said during the May arguments that Judge Clifford Klein, who previously presided over the case and has since retired, gave no weight to the Ohio court decision. He also said there was no evidence Manson Jr. made child support payments to Freeman.
Lawyer Dilair Nafoosi, on behalf of Claassen, said the Ohio ruling dealt with child support and not whether Freeman was a Manson heir.
Klein signed an order in 2019 directing Freeman to take a DNA test, but his ruling was reversed by a three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 2021. Freeman once told Klein he would not voluntarily agree to DNA testing, but would obey a court order to do so.
Channels had asked for the DNA test of Freeman. In his court papers, Channels said Manson's 2002 will, filed in Kern County in November 2017, named him as the executor of Manson's estate.
Garcia took issue with Lyons' arguments.
"Channels' attempt to undermine the evidentiary value of the child payment history by noting there is no explicit proof that Charles Jay White was the one paying the child support is not persuasive," the judge wrote. "The court questions who else would feel compelled by the Ohio judgment to make the payments but Charles Manson Jr."
Claassen's arguments were largely based on inadmissible hearsay, Garcia said.
Freeman, acting as his own attorney, has filed court papers stating that probate of the Channels will should be denied because it was created "as a direct result of undue influence exercised by (Channels) over (Manson) and is not, and never was, the will of (Manson)."
Manson suffered from heart disease and other ailments before he died in November 2017 at age 83.
Manson and members of his outcast "family" of followers were convicted of killing actress Sharon Tate — who was eight months pregnant — and six other people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area in August 1969.
Prosecutors said Manson and his followers were trying to incite a race war he dubbed "Helter Skelter," taken from the Beatles song of the same name.
The Manson clan also stabbed to death grocery magnate Leno La Bianca and his wife Rosemary La Bianca the night after the Tate murders.
Manson was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Tate, the La Biancas, and four other people at the Tate residence — coffee heiress Abigail Ann Folger, photographer Wojciech Frykowski, hairdresser Jay Sebring and Steven Earl Parent, who was shot in his car on his way to visit an acquaintance who lived in a separate rented guest house on the Tate property.
Manson and followers Charles "Tex" Watson, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and the late Susan Atkins all were convicted and sentenced to state prisons in 1971. Manson also was convicted in December of that year of first-degree murder for the July 25, 1969, death of Gary Hinman and the August 1969 death of Donald Shea.
Manson and the others originally were sentenced to death, but a 1972 state Supreme Court decision caused all capital sentences in California to be commuted to life in prison. There was no life-without-parole sentence at the time.
Manson was denied parole a dozen times.