Charles Manson never said ‘I do’ but his female friend had designs on him

Charles Manson mythology and pop culture

Charles Manson was a constant dark presence in pop culture for decades after his arrest in the gruesome Tate-LaBianca murders.
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Charles Manson was a constant dark presence in pop culture for decades after his arrest in the gruesome Tate-LaBianca murders.

One of the oddest stories from the life of Charles Manson at Corcoran State Prison involves the marriage that never happened.

Manson died at 8:13 p.m. Sunday at a Kern County hospital. He was 83. He’d been incarcerated at Corcoran since 1989, shortly after the Kings County prison opened.

Manson was a cult leader who ordered his followers to commit murder, according to “Helter Skelter,” the book by Los Angeles prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who convicted him of seven counts of first-degree murder.

The death-penalty verdicts against Manson were later commuted to life in prison without parole. Manson’s life was spared, but the public’s fascination with him remained endless. Almost anything that could be learned about about him became news.

But a report that the world’s most notorious murderer might get married behind bars to a woman 53 years his junior launched a frenzy.

The story broke three years ago after a marriage license was issued on Nov. 7, 2014 by the Kings County Clerk-Recorder’s Office in the names of Manson and Afton Elaine Burton, then 26.

According to news stories, Burton grew up in a small town in Illinois and moved to Corcoran to be near Manson. She lived at an apartment complex in Corcoran and still does, according to public records.

It’s going to happen. ... I love him.

Afton Elaine Burton, financée of Charles Manson

The Associated Press reported that she maintained several websites advocating Manson’s innocence. Those claims are apparently based on the fact that Manson was not present at the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969 that terrorized Los Angeles and claimed the lives of Abigail Ann Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Parent, Sharon Tate Polanski, who was eight months pregnant, Jay Sebring, and Leno and Rosemary La Bianca.

The Associated Press interviewed Burton, who goes by the name “Star,” about her possible marriage to Manson.

“Y’all can know that it’s true,” she said. “It’s going to happen. ... I love him. I’m with him. There’s all kinds of things.”

A year earlier, she had told Rolling Stone magazine she and Manson planned to marry, although Manson himself reportedly said “that’s a bunch of garbage.”

Afton Elaine Burton lived in this apartment building in Corcoran when she took out a marriage license for herself and Charles Manson. LEWIS GRISWOLD lgriswold@fresnobee.com

Inmates have the right to marry behind bars in California, but Manson would not have been entitled to family visits allowing conjugal relations. Burton told the Associated Press she wanted to help him obtain possible release.

The marriage license expired 90 days after it was issued, was never returned, and no new one was issued.

It’s unclear why the marriage never took place. The website MansonDirect.com reported “Charlie and Star were not able to complete their wedding ceremony due to an unexpected interruption in logistics.”

A few days after the license expired Feb. 5, 2015, the New York Post posted a story headlined “Charles Manson’s fiancée wants to marry him for his corpse.”

Citing journalist Daniel Simone, the Post said Burton and a male friend had come up with a “wild scheme” to obtain Manson’s corpse and display it, like Lenin’s Tomb. Manson reportedly did not sign off on the plan, so they switched to the idea of marriage to give her the right to possession of his remains.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation isn’t saying what happened to Manson’s body because that information isn’t public, spokeswoman Krissi Khokhobashvili said.

Prison regulations say that bodies of inmates are released to a licensed funeral director in the community where the death occurred, and the prison must notify next of kin.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold