Afton Burton was 16 and living with her parents in Illinois when she discovered Charles Manson.
Now, nine years later, her name is Star, she’s 25 years old, and she considers herself Charles Manson’s wife, even though it isn’t official yet.
“He filed for the first round of paperwork,” says Star, who says she’s in love with the 79-year-old convicted murderer. “I’m completely with him, and he’s completely with me. It’s what I was born for, you know. I don’t know what else to say.”
Star says she was first attracted to Manson after reading about ATWA, Manson’s environmental philosophy that stands for air, trees, water, animals.
“It’s the life on the planet, you know,” Star says. “The Earth is a rock and everything else on it is ATWA.”
After a few years of sending letters and talking to Manson on the phone, Star, at age 19, moved to Corcoran, a small central California city that’s home to Corcoran State Prison, where Charles Manson has lived for the past 25 years.
She talks to Manson almost every day by phone and visits him on most weekends.
“We talk about anything and everything, you know, like what’s going’ on today– who’s doing what. I try to help him file papers and stuff like that,” the slender brunette says.
The prison limits physical contact. During visits, Star and Manson can only hug each other at the beginning and end. Because Manson is serving a life sentence, they won’t be allowed conjugal visits, even if they’re officially married.
Star says she knows people think she’s crazy.
“I don’t care what those kind of people think. It doesn’t make any difference,” she says. “The man that I know is not what they have in the movies or in documentaries and the books. He’s nothing like that. He doesn’t tell people what to do. He’s not manipulative at all.”
Star spends her days painting and maintaining several of Manson’s social media sites, including MansonDirect.com. Her goal is to try to get Manson out of prison, arguing that he had nothing to do with the seven Tate-LaBianca murders that he was convicted of masterminding.
“Charlie never believed in something called Helter Skelter. That didn’t have anything to do with why those people were killed,” she says of the theory prosecutors used that Manson persuaded a group of followers to kill wealthy white people to incite a race war by framing the Black Panthers.
“He never ever thought any of that stuff. That’s ridiculous,” says an emphatic Star. “That’s crazy.”
Star is fiercely loyal to Manson. She still has a scar from when she shaved her head and carved an X in her forehead two years ago, an act similar to what girls in the so-called Manson Family did during his 1971 trial. She says she did it at Manson’s request as a protest after he was put in solitary confinement.
Critics believe Star is being manipulated by Manson, and that ATWA is just a ploy to get young people like her to pay attention to him.
“The only thing that he’s trying to manipulate people into doing is planting trees and cleaning up the Earth. He genuinely cares about that,” says Star. “He’s nice to everyone. I’ve never seen him try to be manipulative. I’ve never seen any of that.”
Star says Manson, who turns 80 in November, is in good health, and she doesn’t think about what she plans to do with her life after he’s gone.