LOS ANGELES — Two men who claimed the most direct line of descent to murder mastermind Charles Manson were eliminated Friday from the bitter battle over his estate.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed probate petitions by Matthew Lentz, a musician who claims he was fathered by Manson at a 1967 orgy, and Michael Brunner, whose mother was a member of the "Manson family" when he was born.
Because both men were adopted, which severs their legal link to Manson, their claims had been on shaky ground since another court dismissed their bid to claim his corpse after he died in November at a Bakersfield hospital and his remains housed for months at the Kern County Coroner's Office. Manson, 83, was serving a life sentence for orchestrating the 1969 killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others.
Judge Clifford Klein narrowed the case down to Jason Freeman, a man who says he's the cult leader's grandson, and Michael Channels, a pen pal who peddled memorabilia he collected from Manson.
Lentz made his first court appearance in the case Friday and asked the judge to give him more time to find a lawyer. But Klein told him he had blown deadlines and his time was up.
Unlike Brunner, who asked to withdraw his petition because he didn't think he could win, Lentz was still hopeful that a will naming him as beneficiary would give him a claim to the estate, which includes rights to songs Manson penned and other possible intellectual property.
The will named Ben Gurecki, another so-called murderabilia dealer and friend of Manson, as executor. The will had deficiencies such as only one signature from a witness to Manson signing it and Freeman's lawyers said it was a fraud.
Without a lawyer to help Lentz navigate the legal system, he was lost and said he was relieved in some ways to be done with the court fight.
"I'm over my head," Lentz said outside court, saying he was going to focus on his music and promote himself as Matthew Manson. "I never expected to get anything out of this."
Brunner's bowing out and Lentz's loss leaves Freeman, a former cage fighter, and Channels.
Channels' claim to the estate lies in a will that names him as executor and sole beneficiary and specifically disinherits any children or heirs.
The will's authenticity and validity have been called into question, due to a conflict of interest because Channels is listed as a witness and his signature pre-dates Manson's autograph by four days.
Freeman, whose father Charles Manson Jr. committed suicide, has the inside track. He already overcame challenges by the others in Kern County Superior Court to claim the remains of Manson from the morgue.
He held a simple funeral in the Central Valley and spread Manson's ashes in March.
Channels and Lentz objected to the way Freeman handled the service.
Although he never met Manson in person, Freeman told reporters after a Kern County court hearing that he corresponded with him over the past eight years and got to know him as a "kind, giving person." He said he wanted to fulfill his duty as a grandchild and make sure his grandfather's remains are disposed of properly.
Manson's body were kept in the custody of the coroner's office at an undisclosed location in Kern County while Freeman and the others engaged in a months-long fight for his remains.
Manson was hospitalized in Bakersfield at least twice last year, once in January and again shortly before his death. He had been housed in the Protective Housing Unit at California State Prison-Corcoran since 1989, where inmates at risk among the general population are kept.
Klein scheduled a hearing Dec. 14 to set a trial date.