from my sketchbook: veronica lopez

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in my midnight confession

It was November 1969. Veronica Lopez, a one-time prostitute and career criminal, sat in a cell at Sybil Brand Women’s Prison. Veronica was serving a sentence for forging a prescription. One day, she got a new cellmate – a 21-year old hippie girl with a wild look in her eye. She called herself Sadie Mae Glutz, but she was booked on murder charges under her real name – Susan Atkins.

Over the next few weeks in the small cell, Susan recounted the jaw-dropping story of how she and members of her “family” attacked, tortured and murdered actress Sharon Tate and her party guests. As Veronica sat in silent awe, an emotionless Susan told how the pregnant Tate pleaded for her life and for the life of her unborn child. With no remorse, Susan stabbed Tate repeatedly (a coroner’s report put the number at sixteen) until she didn’t make a sound. She claimed she tasted Tate’s blood (a claim she later denied). Susan further detailed her participation in the subsequent murders of Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. She explained that they were following orders from Charles Manson, who Susan believed was Jesus.

Veronica repeated to police everything that Susan Atkins had confessed. Veronica received a portion of the reward money offered by Tate’s widower, director Roman Polanski. Charles Manson was arrested based, in part, on information provided by Veronica.

Returning from a Las Vegas trip in 1979, Veronica was taken from a Los Angeles bus terminal by a man she believed to be to be a hired cab driver. The driver robbed Veronica and beat her until she was unconscious. A police search found her in the street at 60th and Western Streets in South Central Los Angeles. She reported that $400 was taken from her. Over the next few days, Veronica complained of dizziness and nausea. After treatment received at a hospital, she was released, but her symptoms persisted. She was returned unresponsive to Cedars Sinai Hospital, where she soon passed away from injuries resulting from brain stem compression and blunt force trauma.

Veronica was 43. Police maintained that her murder was unrelated to her Manson Family testimony.



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