Upon hearing multiple arguments from attorneys representing alleged relatives of Charles Manson who are seeking the notorious cult leader's remains, a Kern County court commissioner on Wednesday said she will make a ruling within days regarding the disposition of the body.
Noting exigent circumstances given Manson died Nov. 19 and has been kept under refrigeration in the custody of the Kern County coroner's office since then, Court Commissioner Alisa R. Knight said she will review subpoenaed California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records that recently became available. She will then file her ruling directly online.
It's unclear whether the ruling will result in someone immediately gaining possession of the remains, or whether further hearings will be required.
Among those seeking the remains are Jason Freeman, a purported grandson of Manson; Michael Brunner, an alleged son whose attorney says is biologically related but later adopted and raised by grandparents on his mother's side; and Michael Channels, a longtime Manson pen pal who claims Manson left him his remains in his will.
Deputy County Counsel Bryan C. Walters asked Knight Wednesday for a ruling to allow the coroner's office to cremate the remains as soon as possible. Then, once the court determined who the remains should go to, they could be delivered to that party.
Knight did not rule on that request as not all the attorneys were in agreement to have the remains immediately cremated.
She did, however, reject Channels' petition as the filing didn't comply with the rules of the court and appeared to have multiple defects, she said. She did not dismiss Channels entirely from the case.
Dale Kiken, the attorney representing Freeman, said the body should go to his client as his claim has no defects. Kiken said Brunner has failed to prove a parental connection to Manson despite having years to do so.
"The only person with a clear right is Mr. Freeman," Kiken told the court.
Brunner's attorney, however, said his client, while unable to provide an original birth certificate, is willing to undergo a DNA test to prove his relationship to Manson.
"We believe he was the subject of a nonconsensual adoption at a time when Manson was sentenced to death," said attorney Daniel Mortensen.
Walters said his office will cooperate in the DNA testing of Brunner.
Manson had been housed in the Protective Housing Unit at California State Prison-Corcoran since 1989, where inmates who would be at risk among the general population are kept.
He was hospitalized in Bakersfield at least twice last year, once in January and then again shortly before his death in November.
Since then, he's been held at an undisclosed location in the custody of the coroner's office. Sheriff''s spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wells said, due to the interest in Manson and the multiple people seeking his remains, they made preparations early on to hold the body at least six months, and will keep custody of it until the case is resolved.
He said Manson is being held within Kern County at a long-term facility. He declined to say at what temperature the corpse is being held.
Bodies are generally stored between 14 degrees to -58 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce decomposition. Such storage is typically done when a body has not been identified.
Manson had been serving life without parole at Corcoran State for leading his followers in a killing spree over two nights in 1969.
They killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others at Tate's home on Aug. 9, 1969. Grocers Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were killed the following evening.