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Bizarre battle over body of Charles Manson won by grandson



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  • LOS ANGELES — A grandson of cult leader Charles Manson won the bizarre California court battle Monday over the killer’s body.

    Kern County Superior Court Commissioner Alisa Knight ruled that Jason Freeman can retrieve Manson’s remains, which have been on ice in the Bakersfield morgue since he died in November.

    Freeman didn’t immediately comment but previously said he would cremate and spread the ashes of Manson and put to rest “this so-called monster, this historical figure that shouldn’t have been blown up as big as it was for all these years.”

    Manson died in a hospital in Bakersfield while serving a life sentence for orchestrating the 1969 killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others. He was 83.

    The fight over his corpse devolved into a circus of sorts with friends filing competing wills purportedly signed by the infamous inmate while kin began to come out of the woodwork to also stake a claim to the killer’s body and an estate that could include lucrative rights to songs Manson wrote or to license his image and other material.

    While the decision clears the way for Manson to be cremated or buried, the battle for the body foreshadows what lies ahead as the same competing camps wrestle for control of the estate.

    The case in Kern County was brought by the coroner’s office, which said it wanted to quickly resolve the matter because bodies were piling up at the morgue from the methamphetamine and opioid epidemics.

    The three-way fight for the body was between Freeman, Michael Brunner, a man who said he was fathered by Manson, and Michael Channels, a pen pal who collected and sold Manson memorabilia and filed what he said was the cult leader’s will.

    The three all tried to cast doubt on the authenticity of the competing claims and Freeman largely won out because of deficiencies with the other petitions.

    Knight said the will submitted by Channels was problematic, in part, because he was one of the two witnesses while also sole beneficiary. It was also ambiguous about what would be done with Manson’s body other than for Channels to use his judgment as executor.

    “All I wanted to do was take the dude’s ashes and dump them in the desert where he wanted,” said Channels, who said he was more upset that Freeman prevailed over Brunner, who he believes is Manson’s legitimate son. “I’m irate. That Jason Freeman, he just pulled the wool over the whole system’s eyes.”

    Brunner’s mother was an early member of the so-called Manson family and he was fathered by the cult leader, according to his birth certificate, though it misspelled Manson’s middle name. Knight said Brunner had shown evidence he was fathered by Manson, but he lost his right to be deemed an heir because he was adopted by his maternal grandparents.

    Freeman, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter from Florida, is the son of the late Charles Manson Jr., who was the child of Manson and his first wife. Charles Manson Jr. changed his name to Charles Jay White and later killed himself.

    Although some raised questions about whether Freeman was really Manson’s grandson, Knight determined he was “the surviving competent adult next of kin.”

    Another purported son, Matthew Lentz, who claims he was fathered by Manson during a Wisconsin orgy, supported Brunner’s petition. He is named as the sole beneficiary in a 2017 will that Manson apparently signed and sent to Ben Gurecki, another friend and memorabilia collector, who is named as executor.

    Knight noted that the will did not appear to be properly executed and that Lentz forfeited his claims as an heir because he was also adopted.

    Most of the people vying for the body have said they would cremate it, though Freeman’s attorney balked at that suggestion when Deputy Kern County Counsel Bryan Walters suggested at hearing last week that the coroner could cremate the body and allow the parties to continue their court fight over the ashes.

    Some adversaries have suggested others want to profit off the death by selling morbid photos of the corpse to tabloid publications.

    To prevent photos of the body from being leaked, the coroner’s office stored Manson’s remains under a pseudonym and only two employees were told its true identity, Walters said.

    Freeman has denied having a deal to sell photos of the body. A video online shows Freeman’s son playing with a Manson puppet, complete with swastika on the forehead, and Freeman joking about stuffing the doll with Manson’s ashes and taking him fishing.

    Attorney Dale Kiken, who represents Freeman, dismissed the video as play and said his client is respectful and wants to have a final internment that doesn’t keep ashes or pieces of Manson.

    Kiken expects there to be a public ceremony, possibly documented by a film crew that has been following Freeman, in which Manson’s ashes are scattered on a body of water.

    “From a logical standpoint, there’s a great benefit to a public scattering of his ashes, not just for finality for his relatives but to everyone affected by Mr. Manson,” Kiken said.

    Brian Melley, The Associated Press

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    Alberta suspends caribou protection plan, asks for assistance from Ottawa



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  • EDMONTON — Alberta is suspending portions of its draft plan to protect threatened woodland caribou, saying more research needs to be done and that Ottawa needs to help out.

    Environment Minister Shannon Phillips told the house Monday that the province is acting on concerns about the economic impacts of the protection plan.

    “The federal Species at Risk Act is an extremely inflexible instrument that has already had negative economic consequences (in Alberta),” said Phillips.

    “We are going to do our best to make sure that we protect jobs on this.”

    She said she has sent that message in a letter to her federal counterpart, Catherine McKenna.

    Phillips is urging the federal government to help Alberta come up with a workable solution rather than have Ottawa impose an environmental protection order.

    Alberta’s draft plan is in response to a federal deadline under the Species at Risk Act passed last October and is designed to help threatened woodland caribou recover in 15 different ranges.

    The province released its draft plan on Dec. 19 and then held a series of town hall meetings.

    “The public meetings were attended by thousands of Albertans who are concerned about the impact caribou range plans will have on their communities and on the industries that support those communities,” stated Phillips’ letter, which was co-signed by Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.

    The province plans to spend more than $85 million in the next five years to restore caribou habitat by eliminating seismic lines, building birthing pens and bringing in other measures.

    It has already invested $9.2 million and the estimated cost over the next 40 years is $1 billion.

    Phillips said the feds need to step up on planning and consultation, and on the money side as well.

    “Caribou recovery cannot occur without an infusion of federal funds to restore habitat necessary to ensure population growth,” she wrote.

    “While we need more time and partnership from the federal government on this matter, we also need your support in not prematurely implementing federal protection orders that will not have effective outcomes for Canadians and Albertans.”

    The federal government has the option of imposing an environmental protection order if a province doesn’t come up with a plan to protect the caribou. The order would halt any development, such as oil drilling, that could harm the animals.


    Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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    Five Things to know about Canada’s forthcoming peacekeeping mission in Mali



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  • OTTAWA — The Liberal government has unveiled Canada’s 12-month UN peacekeeping commitment to the west African country of Mali. It includes two Chinook helicopters to provide medical evacuations and logistical support, along with four smaller, armed Griffons to act as escorts for the larger transports. Here are five things to know about Mali and the mission.

    1. Lots of Canadian aid dollars. Mali has relied heavily on Canadian foreign aid, with only the United States and France contributing more. In 2014-15, Canadian development spending reached $152 million. Since 2012, Canada has also contributed $44 million in humanitarian aid following the country’s 2012 crisis (more on that below) and about $10 million to support the UN peacekeeping mission, making Canada its ninth-largest supporter.

    2. The 2012 crisis. It started when soldiers overthrew the country’s president, creating a power vacuum that was filled by an Islamic insurgency. The fall of Libya in 2011 busted the locks off Moammar Gadhafi’s arsenal, spreading weapons across north Africa, which armed various militia groups, including al-Qaida linked organizations. France led a war in 2013 that succeeded in driving the jihadists out of the stronghold they established in northern Mali. A UN peacekeeping force was established that year, and it has become its most dangerous mission with more than 160 fatalities.

    3. Canada’s drop in the peacekeeping bucket. Canada’s contribution of 250 personnel is far less than many of its allies. The UN mission comprises more than 13,000 troops. Germany, the country whose air support operations Canada will be replacing, has authorized the deployment of more than 1,000 troops. In addition to the UN mission, Germany has contributed 350 troops to a training mission for Mali’s military. France has 4,000 troops deployed to a counter-terrorism mission in northern Mali separate from the UN’s peacekeeping efforts. “This announcement is a small but important step towards Canada’s re-engagement in peacekeeping,” said peacekeeping expert Walter Dorn of the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, noting that Canada’s contribution to peacekeeping has hit an “all-time low” of a couple of dozen.

    4. The political peace process. In June 2015, a peace agreement was signed between the Malian government, Tuareg rebels and other rebel groups. The Tuareg first sparked the 2012 rebellion, but that was soon hijacked by the better-armed jihadists. Those jihadists are outside the peace process. Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, said “there is a prospect of a brighter future for Mali” but that “the basic deconstruction of Libya and the rise of terror groups, terror armies” has to be addressed.

    5. The human rights situation. The UN’s latest report on the human rights situation, tabled last month, offers a grim update of the situation in Mali. Between January 2016 and June 2017, it documented 608 cases of human rights violations involving almost 1,500 victims. These occurred across the country, including Gao, where the Canadian air contingent is expected to be based, and further north in Timbuktu. The perpetrators include signatories to the peace process and “non-signatory and splinter armed groups.” The vast majority of the victims are men. The abuse included illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence.

    Sources: Government of Canada, The United Nations, Deutsche Welle

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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