Rumors of Charles Manson's departure have been greatly exaggerated.
Rumors of his death are spot-on accurate, of course, but the cult leader's remains remain right where they've been for the past two weeks — in the possession and legal custody of the Kern County Sheriff's Coroner Division.
Whether Manson's body is still being refrigerated somewhere specifically on the coroner's campus in east Bakersfield is not clear, however.
Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Wells said he could not disclose precisely where Manson, who died Nov. 19 at a Bakersfield hospital, was resting, only that it had not been released to a next of kin or other claimant.
"It's going to be a difficult process," Wells said. "But until there's a resolution, nothing will change."
Wells said a few people have inquired about Manson's remains, wondering if and how they might be able to take legal custody.
"I don't know how they got this number, but there has been some interest," he said, noting that all are from outside of Kern County. "One person wanted to turn his ashes into an art project."
He had the tell the woman from Fond du lac, Wisc., that she was most likely out of luck.
Recent conjecture on Facebook and elsewhere had suggested Manson had left the building. Whether that's the case or not, he is still under county supervision.
Manson, who died at 83, directed his followers in the summer of 1969 to commit nine savage murders. He served time at several California prisons, including Corcoran State Prison in Kings County.
Some in Bakersfield have expressed concern about the possibility he could end up interred at Union Cemetery. According to state law, whenever a California prison inmate dies, and no claim is made by the inmate's next of kin, the department of corrections "shall dispose of the body by cremation or burial no sooner than 10 calendar days after the inmate's death." Such burials typically take place in the county where the death occurred.
An employee of Union Cemetery who did not identify herself said last week the disposition of Manson's remains had not yet been determined. Asked if Union had been in recent contact with corrections officials, she said the cemetery would have no comment.
Manson's grandson, Jason Freeman, is reportedly trying to claim and bury Manson's body, as is another man, a prison pen pal who corresponded with Manson for years. TMZ reports the man is named in Manson's 2002 will. If that will is deemed valid, the pen pal would presumably receive all of Manson's personal belongings, including cash, image rights, clothing — and the body.
Perhaps he can then cut a deal with that Wisconsin artist.