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Former Manson Follower, Sharon Tate Killer Being Considered for Prison Release

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Susan Atkins, seen in 1969. (AP)

Former Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins, convicted in the 1969 murder of actress Sharon Tate, could soon be released from a U.S. prison because she is near death, authorities said.

Atkins, 59, is terminally ill and being considered for so-called "compassionate release," California state corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said. She gave no details of Atkins' illness, but said a doctor determined she had less than six months to live.

The corrections department must approve the request before it is passed to the state Board of Parole, which has the power to release terminally ill inmates under California state law so they can die with loved ones, at their expense.

Such releases are relatively rare — only 10 of 60 requests made last year were granted, Thornton said. The prisoners must have family members willing and able to care for them.

Atkins was one of cult leader Charles Manson's ersatz hippie "family" of young killers who burst into a Beverly Hills home 39 years ago and killed Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, along with four others. The following night they stabbed to death a wealthy couple in their Los Angeles home.

Atkins has been denied parole 11 times, most recently in 2005.

She was housed in the California Institution for Women in Corona for 37 years, but has been in a nearby hospital since March.