The Brief And Tragic Life Of Charles Manson Jr., The Cult Leader’s Son Who Killed Himself

Published June 11, 2019
Updated March 22, 2023

Charles Manson's son, Charles Manson Jr., couldn't stand the story behind his name. He tried changing it — but still found no solace.

Charles Manson Jr Charles Manson Son

Find A GraveCharles Manson’s son, Charles Manson Jr., who changed his name to Jay White in order to distance himself from his father.

Even after Charles Manson died of natural causes at 83 in Bakersfield, California, his horrific legacy of violence lived on — as did his progeny. Though by that time, only one remained. And according to Heavy, Manson’s first-born, Charles Manson Jr., did everything in his power to distance himself from such a legacy — including take his own life.

Thrust into a world with a father who wrought havoc like the bloody Sharon Tate murders of 1969, perhaps the innocent Charles Manson Jr. never stood a chance at a normal life.

The Birth Of Charles Manson Jr.

Charles Manson Jr. was born in 1956, one year after his father married Rosalie Jean Willis in Ohio. She was 15 years old at the time and working as a waitress in a hospital whereas Manson was already 20 years old.

Though the marriage didn’t last long — largely due to Manson’s erratic criminal behavior and subsequent stints in prison — he later said their time as husband and wife was a delight.

Charles Manson With First Wife

Public DomainManson with wife Rosalie Willis. Circa 1955.

When Willis neared her second trimester, the couple moved to Los Angeles. It didn’t take long for Manson to get arrested for taking a stolen car across state lines — then get sentenced to five years probation for it.

Mischievous and psychotic, Manson couldn’t contain himself and was imprisoned at Terminal Island in San Pedro, California that same year. With him behind bars and Willis managing her pregnancy alone, their son Charles Manson Jr. was born to a single mother.

Not long after, Willis filed for divorce and tried to live a more normal life. Charles Manson, meanwhile, went on to amass a loyal following of “Manson Family” cultists who would commit several of American history’s most infamous murders in 1969.

And while Manson fostered this chaotic, unofficial family, Manson’s biological son tried to escape his father’s dark shadow.

Growing Up As Charles Manson’s Son

Not much is known about Charles Manson Jr.’s personal life, particularly as an adolescent. What’s clear, however, is that he never cared for his familial background. It plagued him so deeply that he eventually changed his name, just as his youngest biological brother, Valentine Michael Manson, would.

For inspiration, he looked no further than his stepfather, Jack White (not the one you’re thinking of), who his mother married while Charles Manson was serving prison time. No longer calling himself Charles Manson Jr., the newly renamed Jay White hoped to distance himself from his father and forge ahead independent of his biological history. His stepfather, meanwhile, fathered two more sons, Jesse J. and Jed White.

Manson At Trial

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesCharles Manson at trial. 1970.

Jesse J. White was born in 1958 and his brother was born a year later. Tragically, the latter died of an accidental gunshot wound as a pre-teen in January 1971. The shooter was his 11-year-old friend who barely understood his mistake.

Rosalie Willis And Charles Manson's Son

TwitterRosalie Willis with her son, Charles Manson Jr., who had already changed his name to Jay White. Date unspecified.

Unfortunately, tragedy didn’t end there for the White brothers. Jesse J. White died of a drug overdose in Houston, Texas in August 1986. His friend discovered the body in a car around dawn after a long, seemingly fun night of drinking at a bar.

Most wrenching of all was Jay White’s own death seven years later.

The Death Of Jay White

Jay White committed suicide on June 29, 1993. According to CNN, the motivation was never entirely clear, though a combination of distress over who his father was and a need to distance himself from his own son in an effort to protect him is largely thought to be at the foundation.

Regardless, the incident happened on a barren stretch of highway in Burlington, Colorado near the Kansas state line. His death certificate confirmed that he died from a “self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head” at Exit 438 on Interstate 70 at around 10:15 a.m.

The shadow of White’s father likely haunted him from the first blips of consciousness to the very end. His own child, a kickboxing cage fighter named Jason Freeman, has fortunately managed to process the two generations of trauma that preceded him more effectively.

Jason Freeman Portrait

The 700 Club/YouTubeJason Freeman wished his father had stayed strong and let go of his past. He now kickboxes and tries to set an example for those with terrible parents.

Freeman described the cloud over his life as a “family curse,” but decided to use that frustration as motivation. He recalled one day in an eighth-grade history class when his teacher “was talking about Charles Manson, and I’m looking around like, are there people staring at me?”

“I’m personally, I’m coming out,” he announced in 2012, referring to his effort to neutralize the toxicity of the Manson name.

Freeman, a 6-foot-2 kickboxer, said he was frequently bullied as a child due to his biological connection to the notorious criminal. Forbidden to discuss his grandfather at home or in school, even his grandmother, Rosalie Willis, ordered him never to mention her late former husband.

“He just couldn’t let it go,” said Freeman of his father, Charles Manson Jr. “He couldn’t live it down. He couldn’t live down who his father was.”

A 700 Club interview with Charles Manson Jr.’s son, Jason Freeman.

Charles Manson’s grandson may look like the hardened, emotionally unwavering type: He’s a tattooed brute who appears to have no time for vulnerability. But when he was asked what he would’ve liked his father to consider before killing himself, the tough exterior crumbled.

“I want him to know…he missed out on a lot,” Freeman whispered of his father Charles Manson Jr., battling tears. “I see my kids, you know, and that’s kinda where I get shook up. I would hate to see them grow up without a father. That’s important. Very important.”

Freeman later tried to reconnect with his infamous grandfather, whose name and legacy ultimately killed his own father. “From time to time, every now and then, he’d say ‘I love you,'” Freeman said of his conversations with Manson. “He’d say it back to me. Maybe a couple times he said it first. It took a while to get to that point though, trust me.”

Jason Freeman engaged in a battle for the rights to his grandfather’s body and estate against his biological uncle, Valentine Michael Manson (later Michael Brunner). He eventually won the rights to Manson’s body and he had the cult leader cremated and scattered. He hopes to win the rights to his grandfather’s estate so that he can sell his morbid memorabilia for charity.

“I don’t want to be viewed for the actions of my grandfather,” he added. “I don’t want the backlash from society. I walk a different walk.”

Ultimately, Charles Manson Jr.’s son expressed an unrealistic wish of turning back time to June 1993 and helping him to overcome his shame. Whatever Jay White felt at the time before his death, Freeman explained that he would’ve loved to let him know that a better life was waiting for him.

After learning about Charles Manson’s son, Charles Manson Jr., read up on a few Charles Manson facts that demystify the monster. Then, read about the troubled life of Charles Manson’s own mother, Kathleen Maddox. Finally, learn about Charles Watson, Manson’s right-hand man, and discover who Charles Manson killed.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Cite This Article
Margaritoff, Marco. "The Brief And Tragic Life Of Charles Manson Jr., The Cult Leader’s Son Who Killed Himself.", June 11, 2019, Accessed April 21, 2024.