A story so weird it had to be true — that convicted mass murderer Charles Manson’s body is coming to Florida — may not be after all. One of Manson’s three confirmed grandchildren, who lives in Bradenton, told the Miami Herald Wednesday evening that multiple newspaper reports that the remains were headed this way are “not true at all.”
“I’m not too happy about that,” said personal trainer and boxer Jason Freeman, 4l, of the published accounts, but then added cryptically: “That’s about four steps from where we are now. We’re on step two of a four-step program.”
What those steps are and where they’re leading, however, remain a mystery. Freeman, speaking by telephone from Bradenton, wouldn’t explain any further. “My grandfather just passed,” he said. “I can’t talk...there’s a lot going on.”
Manson died Sunday in a hospital in Bakersfield, Calif., at the age of 83, of what prison authorities would only say were “natural causes.” He served 48 years for ordering his followers in a communal cult to murder actress Sharon Tate, her unborn baby and eight others in a two-day spasm of unhinged violence.
Manson referred to his hippie followers as his family, but he also had a more conventional one. Long before he turned into a counter-cultural guru who plotted murders to start a race war, Manson was married twice — once to a pregnant teenage girlfriend, later to a woman with a long prostitution record.
Each marriage produced a child, and Manson had at least one other by a cult follower. And there are probably others whose paternity was unknown to Manson and even possibly themselves — couplings within his commune were frequent, fast and far from formal. “How many children do I have? Uh, I don’t know,” Manson admitted in a 1981 interview.
Freeman’s father was Charles Manson Jr., the son of Manson and his wife Rosalie Jean Willis, a teenage waitress in the West Virginia mountains where the future killer grew up. They married in 1955 and headed to California, where Manson soon wound up in jail, where he stayed while Willis gave birth. The marriage crumbled while he was locked up.
Willis remarried, to a man named Jack White, and Charles Jr. took the last name of his stepfather. The marriage produced two other children, but the White family seems to have been born under a bad sign. One son was killed in a childhood shooting accident, another died of a drug overdose — and Charles Jr. killed himself in 1993, leaving behind a 17-year-old son: Jason Freeman.
Freeman, who lives in Bradenton while often visiting Ohio for work, learned Manson was his grandfather at an early age but spoke out about it publicly only in 2012. Freeman began a string of minor arrests in Ohio, where he grew up, that stretched into his mid-20s, but he has no criminal record in Florida.
He was in contact with Manson from time to time, but the two never met. His Facebook page and a short-lived blog he used to write make frequent reference to his grandfather, and he has occasionally been affiliated with Manson memorabilia websites.
Freeman told the Herald to contact his manager, business agent Joe Townley, with questions about his plans for Manson’s body. But calls to Townley’s offices in New York and Los Angeles were not returned. In any event, whether Freeman can actually gain custody of Manson’s remains and what little property the man had (Manson was successfully sued decades ago by the family of one of his victims, aspiring Polish writer Voytek Frykowski, and any money generated by his painting or songwriting is quickly gobbled up by the debt, now grown to over $1 million.) remains to be seen.
California prison authorities say Manson’s relatives have until Nov. 29 to claim his body; if no one does, it will be likely buried in a Bakersfield cemetery holding the bodies of other inmates who went unretrieved after their deaths.
But what sort of documentation Freeman needs to claim the body, or whether the other Manson grandsons — who, publicly, at least, have been silent so far — plan their own claims, or whether Manson left a will that stipulates burial plans remains unknown.
The subject has come up before; in 2015, Manson canceled plans for a jailhouse marriage to a 27-year-old woman named Afton Elaine Burton, reportedly after he learned she had post-mortem plans to put his corpse in a glass coffin and display it.