LOS ANGELES – The purported sons of Charles Manson could soon be out of the legal battle over his estate after failing to show up in court Tuesday.
Matthew Lentz, who claims he was fathered by Manson at a 1967 orgy, looking disheveled and frazzled when he arrived at Los Angeles Superior Court after the brief hearing concluded in the probate case of the late cult leader. Another supposed son, Michael Brunner, filed papers to drop his claims as an alleged heir to the convicted murderer.
If the two drop out, it would pit a purported grandson against a pen pal who has filed a will that names him as sole beneficiary to the potentially lucrative estate.
At least three people claiming kinship to the killer and two so-called murderabilia collectors who befriended the inmate have emerged in the court fight since Manson, 83, died in a hospital in November while serving a life sentence for orchestrating the 1969 killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others.
Lentz, who doesn't have a lawyer, lamented his late arrival and said he feared he would be out of luck because he had hoped to forge an alliance with Brunner, who has been represented by counsel.
"I blew it," Lentz said outside court. "I wasted how many years of my life for this dumb crap? For what?"
Lentz is listed as sole beneficiary in a 2017 will that names memorabilia collector Ben Gurecki as executor. Others have claimed the will is a fraud.
Wearing an inside-out plaid shirt, Lentz clenched a hard plastic case overflowing with the rambling letters from Manson that he hoped would sway a judge to believe he was his son.
"You got the same father I got - a Hobo just left on a midnight train," one letter said. "Your mom's father ran me off saying you bad bandit OUTLAW BIKE TRASH - stay out of her life. It's not that I didn't care. It was free love and you paid the price."
Lentz, a musician, said he was hoping to get the rights to a song Manson said he wrote for him.
The judge said Lentz had until a July 13 hearing to show why he shouldn't be dismissed from the case.
A lawyer for Brunner filed papers to dismiss his case. Attorney Daniel Mortensen was not in court and did not return phone calls seeking comment on why he was dropping out.
Brunner's mother was a former Manson family member and he is widely believed to be Manson's offspring.
Mary Brunner was in jail on credit card fraud case in August 1969 when Manson instructed his followers to carry out killings that he hoped would spawn a race war.
Michael Brunner had been among those who also fought in court over the right to collect the body of Manson for burial.
That round was won by Jason Freeman, a purported grandson and former mixed martial arts fighter from Florida. He had the remains cremated and scattered the ashes after a brief private funeral in March.
Brunner lost that fight because he surrendered his right to be deemed an heir when he was adopted by his maternal grandparents, a judge said. His bid for the estate was likely to meet a similar fate.
Lentz faces the same problem — and, unlike Brunner, he doesn't have a birth certificate naming Manson as his father. Lentz was also adopted and later pieced his paternity together after tracking down his biological mother.
Michael Channels, who befriended Manson by mail and sold his songs and artwork, is also fighting for the estate. The will he filed names him as executor.
The court that ruled against Channels in the body case, though, said the will presents a possible conflict of interest because he was one of the two witnesses while also sole beneficiary.
Channels said he's upset because Manson didn't get his last wish and ended up being dumped in a Central Valley farm town.
"Manson never made it to Death Valley like he wanted. He's by the side of some road in Porterville," Channels said outside court. "It was like robbing someone's grave."