Forty-three years in the slammer have apparently not taken a toll on Charles Manson’s charms. One year after insisting he has no plans to marry Afton Elaine Burton, a 26-year-old admirer nicknamed Star, the two have received a marriage license. Star, who told Rolling Stone in 2013, “Charlie and I are going to get married. I take it very seriously,” will apparently finally get her dream wedding.
Manson is hardly the first convicted serial killer to get married from prison, nor will he even be the first member of his own “Family” to tie the knot while serving a sentence for the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders. In honor of Manson’s engagement, we’ve rounded up the most notorious marriages behind bars.
One of the key figures in the Manson family, Susan Atkins died in 2009, 38 years into her life sentence for eight murders—including those of pregnant actress Sharon Tate, Los Angeles business owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, and musician Gary Alan Hinman. Before her death, Atkins, who was once described by a former L.A. County deputy district attorney as “the scariest of the Manson girls,” reportedly changed her ways, embracing Christianity, renouncing Manson, and even finding love—twice. According to the Los Angeles Times, Atkins got married in 1981 to “a self-proclaimed Texas millionaire” named Donald Laisure. It may have been Atkins’ first marriage, but she was Laisure’s 36th wife and the two split when Laisure decided to move on to Number 37. In 1987, Atkins was married again, to attorney James Whitehouse, who had represented her some of her final parole hearings. The two stayed together until Atkins’ death.
Charles “Tex” Watson
Charles Manson was known for employing a posse of attractive young women to do his bidding, but there was also one male Manson groupie present the night of the Tate-LaBianca murders: Charles “Tex” Watson. Manson’s self-described “lieutenant for killing” not only got married in prison, but fathered four children with Kristen Svenge via conjugal visits (before California revoked that privilege for inmates serving life sentences). The two eventually divorced. Watson, who has also graduated from college, converted to Christianity,and become an ordained minister during his 44 years behind bars, was denied parole for the 16th time in 2011.
Next to Charles Manson, perhaps the most frightening face of the second half of the 20th century belonged to convicted rapist, serial killer, and necrophile Ted Bundy. Ever the romantic, Bundy used the penalty phase of his 1980 trial for the murder of one of five Florida State University Chi Omega sorority members—he’d eventually be convicted of sexually assaulting, bludgeoning and strangling to death the women while they slept—as an opportunity to propose to Carole Ann Boone, a former co-worker who’d moved to Florida to be closer to him. Boone accepted Bundy’s proposal and he declared, before the judge and a notary public, “I do hereby marry you,” making the marriage technically legal. One year later, Boone confirmed she was pregnant with Bundy’s child but would not reveal how the two conceived, as the Florida State Prison where Bundy was on death row strictly forbid physical contact between inmates and visitors.
The Menendez Brothers
Lyle and Erik Menendez, the Beverly Hills brothers convicted of shooting and killing both of their parents at their mansion in 1989, might not seem like the most suitable bachelors. But both have been married while serving out life sentences in separate California prisons—and one of them got hitched twice. Lyle, the elder Menendez brother, who was 21 at the time of his parents’ murders, got married to former Playboy model Anna Eriksson in 1996, right after receiving a life sentence. Eriksson told People Magazine that she wrote to Menendez after watching his first trial on TV in 1993 and the couple corresponded for about a year before Eriksson moved to Los Angeles to be closer to him. Unsurprisingly, Eriksson was not Menendez’s only prison pen pal, and the two divorced after Eriksson discovered her husband was exchanging letters with another woman. In 2003, Lyle was re-married to Rebecca Sneed, a Sacramento woman he’d reportedly known for about 10 years.
Lyle wasn’t the only Menendez brother to find love behind bars. Eric, who was 18 when he and Lyle killed their parents, was married in 1999 to Tammi Saccoman. Like Erikkson, Saccoman first reached out to her future husband after watching his first murder trial on TV. Saccoman (who changed her last name to Menendez) has been outspoken about her relationship with Menendez, publishing the book “They Said We’d Never Make It” in 2005 and agreeing to be the subject of a 2010 A&E documentary called “Mrs. Menendez.”