Nearly four months after the death of cult leader Charles Manson, his remains were cremated on Saturday following a small, private funeral that featured songs by the Beach Boys and Guns 'N Roses.
Mark Pitcher, pastor of the Church of the Nazarene who presided over the service, told the Associated Press that 20 to 25 of Manson's friends and family members attended the service, held at a funeral and cremation center in Porterville, California. After a months-long court battle over Manson's remains, they were eventually awarded to his grandson Jason Freeman last week. Although Freeman – whose father died by suicide in 1993 – had never met Manson in person, he recently told Rolling Stone that he felt that his handling of his grandfather's final arrangements were part of God's plan.
"I am a grandson working to take the proper steps to show my respect to my grandfather and his true close friends. I'm not only doing this for me. It's for everyone who stands firm in the truth of life," he explains.
Though great care was taken to ensure that the release and subsequent cremation of Manson's body remained private, a film crew chronicled the process for Freeman's upcoming documentary on his personal journey, The Porterville Recorder reported. One camera operator was present when Les Peters of Porterville Funeral and Cremation took possession of the remains from the Kern County coroner on Tuesday. Peters told the newspaper that Manson's body was not in good shape after being kept in refrigerated storage for four months.
"He was still in his hospital gown inside of a pouch. It was very inappropriate," Peters told The Porterville Recorder, adding that he embalmed the body per Freeman's wishes in order to have an open-casket funeral.
Freeman and his wife Audrey had a private viewing of the body on Saturday morning before welcoming invited guests – which included former Manson Family member Sandra Good and her husband – at 9 a.m., ahead of the funeral service which began at noon.
According to the Associated Press, Pitcher said he quoted passages from scripture during the service, and did not ignore the horrific crimes Manson committed during his lifetime. He did, however contextualize them in Manson's difficult upbringing, saying that "there were many choices thrust upon him that brought about very challenging circumstances through his early years."
Immediately following the service, Manson's body was carried from the chapel to the crematorium where those in attendance witnessed his cremation, The Porterville Recorder reported. While the ashes were being prepared, the funeral guests played some of the songs Manson had written himself – including versions that were performed by the Beach Boys and Guns 'N Roses. Peters told The Porterville Recorder that the service had a "hippie" vibe.
Later, around 3:30 p.m., Freeman received his grandfather's ashes from the crematorium staff, noting that he planned to distribute them "free in the air" somewhere.