Charles Manson manages to convince real woman to marry him

The notorious criminal's fiancee says, "It's what I was born for"

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published November 18, 2014 7:27PM (EST)

Charles Manson           (AP)
Charles Manson (AP)

I'm sure they'll be very happy together: Charles Manson and his 25-year-old fiancée have reportedly successfully obtained a marriage license. Kind of makes you feel proud of everyone in America still tenaciously clinging to the notion that marriage between a man and a woman is the most sacred institution one can aspire to, eh?

If the much ballyhooed nuptials proceed, it will be the third trip down the aisle for the 80-year-old Manson, who is currently living out his days in Corcoran State Prison. It will also make Manson's young fiancée something of a stepmother to his surviving offspring, although the whereabouts and true paternity of a number of the children conceived during his messianic, cult leader heyday is largely unknown. (One son, Charles Manson Jr., killed himself in 1993.) So what kind of woman would sign up for marriage with that kind of baggage – two former marriages, a more than 50-year age gap, oh, and that business of being the mastermind behind several of the most shocking and gruesome murders in American history? She goes by Star.

The young woman who was born Afton Burton in Illinois has been alive considerably less time than Manson has been in prison. She says she's been fascinated with him since the age of 16, when she became entranced with his environmental philosophy of "ATWA" -- air, trees, water, animals. "It's the life on the planet, you know," she told CNN recently. "The Earth is a rock and everything else on it is ATWA." After writing to him and speaking to him on the phone, she moved to Corcoran, California, at 19 to be closer to where he's incarcerated. "I'm completely with him, and he's completely with me," she explains. "It's what I was born for, you know. I don't know what else to say … I don't care what those kind of people think. It doesn't make any difference," she says.

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman tells CNN the couple can have up to 10 guests from outside the prison and two from within. Because of the terms of Manson's imprisonment, touching between the bride-to-be and her intended is limited, and they would not be permitted conjugal visits even after making it official. But the Associated Press says that "a wedding coordinator has been assigned by the prison to handle the nuptials"; Star herself seems content with the limitations of their marriage. She also seems very interested in using her status as Charles Manson's wife as leverage – hinting to the AP that as a relative, she would have access to information not available to outsiders and that "There's certain things next of kin can do."

Though Star seems eager to put a ring on it, the groom may be harboring more doubts – in 2013 he told Rolling Stone the stories of his engagement were "a bunch of garbage. That's trash. We're playing that for public consumption." Yet in photos, the two seem comfortable together. She certainly seems enthralled with him.

"The man that I know is not what they have in the movies or in documentaries and the books," she says. "He's nothing like that. He doesn't tell people what to do. He's not manipulative at all." Yet she also shaved her head and carved an X into her forehead two years ago, and said she did so at his request to protest when he'd been put in solitary confinement. She currently maintains "several of Manson's social media sites." And that – amid all the easy cracks about this unlikely May-December couple – is what's truly disturbing in all of this. Star seems very much like a woman willing to do what Charles Manson tells her to do. And she's a woman who is very much free of the confines of prison walls to do his bidding. No wonder that when asked what she thought of the engagement, the sister of the Manson family's most famous victim, Sharon Tate,  told the AP, "The devil is alive and well."

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Afton Burton Charles Manson Crime Manson Murders Sharon Tate