Rosalie Jean Willis is remembered as the first wife of Charles Manson, the notorious American criminal, and murderer. When she met him, she was only 15 years old and never could have imagined he would go on a violent spree.
How much do you know about Rosalie? Where is she now? Is she alive? What was her fate? Let’s find out.
Who Was Her Husband?
Born Charles Milles Manson in November 1934 he was an American criminal and musician who led the Manson Family, a cult based in California. His family earned recognition in the late 1960s when some of the members would commit a series of murders in different locations.
Manson was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people, including film actress Sharon Tate. To this day, the Tate murders have been a source of inspiration for filmmakers and book authors.
Born in November 1934, his mother was only 15 years old at the time. His mother was Kathleen Manson Bower Cavender, nee Maddox.
His biological father was Colonel Walker Henderson Scott Sr. His mother filed a paternity suit against his father in 1937. His father Colonel worked intermittently in local mills but had a reputation as a con artist. He allowed Charles’s mother to believe that he was an army colonel, but Colonel was only his given name.
In August 1934 before Manson was born, Maddox married William Eugene Manson, a laborer at a dry cleaning business.
Because of his rough childhood, Manson was placed in the home of an aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia. His mother was paroled in 1942, with Manson saying the first weeks after she returned from prison was the happiest time in his life.
Before the murders in July and August of 1968, Manson had spent more than half of his life in correctional institutions. He was a singer and songwriter on the fringe of the Los Angeles music industry while gathering his cult following.
Fun fact: in 1968, The Beach Boys recorded Manson’s song Cease to Exit, and renamed it Never Learn Not to Love. But they did it without credit to Manson.
He would often talk about The Beatles, including their 1968 album. He felt guided by his interpretation of the Beatles’ lyrics and adopted the term Helter Skelter to describe his impending apocalyptic race war.
Yet, many believe that the Tate Murders and LaBianca murders were copycat crimes intended to exonerate Manson’s friend Bobby Beausoleil. Charles Manson himself denied having instructed anyone to murder anyone.
While in prison, he began studying Scientology with the help of fellow inmate Lanier Rayner. He listed his religion as Scientology.
His life has been an inspiration for documentaries like Life After Manson, Manson, Charles Manson Superstar, Inside the Manson Cult: The Lost Tapes, Charles Manson: The Final Words, and more.
Fiction inspired by him includes the television drama Helter Skelter, the musical opera The Manson Family, Merry Christmas Charlie Manson an episode of South Park, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a movie about the Tate Murders, and more.
We can now talk about his first wife, Rosalie Jean Willis. Born in January 1937, she grew up in the city of Benwood, West Virginia. She was the third child of Clarence Cowboy Willis and Virginia McNish. She had two sisters, Amy and Eileen, as well as a brother named Clarence Willis.
Her parents divorced when she was just a young girl. At the time, her father worked as a coal miner. Growing up, she spent most of her childhood in Benwood, with her parents and siblings. She held American nationality and was of Caucasian ethnicity.
In 1954, Charles Manson moved near Charleston, West Virginia, with his mother Kathleen Maddox. Charles was 20 at the time, and he befriended Rosalie’s father. That is how the story between Charles and Rosalie began.
Marriage To Charles Manson
When the two met, she was around 15 years of age, working as a waitress in a hospital. Charles was in his 20s, and they met for the first time in a hospital.
Willis married Manson despite knowing he was a thief. She believed at the time she could change him after getting married to him. But that soon proved to be an impossible goal. She filed for a divorce just three years after the marriage in 1958.
They got married in January 1955 in the Nazarene Church. They chose the place because of Nancy Ingram, the grandmother of Charles. She was a member of the Church.
At the time, she worked as a nurse while he was working as a car repairer, but he was also a car thief.
Soon after their marriage, Rosalie became pregnant and they moved to Los Angeles. There, he continued working odd jobs and doing small crimes to support his family.
In one interview later on, Charles revealed he enjoyed this part of his life, going to work and coming home to his wife after work. He remembered Rosalie as a super girl.
Yet, soon he would get arrested for a stolen car. Because he already had a criminal history, he wound up in Terminal Island prison, in San Pedro, California. At the time, they were married only for a year, leaving Rosalie to handle her pregnancy alone.
She would go on to visit him in prison with his mother Kathleen. Yet, she soon realized there was no way for him to change and save their marriage. She decided to end it and filed for divorce in July 1957. They eventually got divorced in September 1958.
Do They Have Children Together?
As we said before, Rosalie would get pregnant soon after their marriage. They have a son together, named Charles Milles Manson Jr. Rosalie gave birth to him in 1956 and supported him as a single parent. Charles Manson Jr. would go on to become a cult leader and dangerous criminal, forming a like-minded group of people identifying as the Manson Family.
Charles Milles Manson Jr. lived under the shadow of his father throughout his life. He failed to overcome the trauma of his father and the atrocities they committed. So, he ended his life, shooting himself at the age of 37.
Manson Junior was only 13 when the news of the Tate murders shocked the world.
Where Is She Now?
After divorcing Manson, Rosalie Willis would go on to date another man, Jack White. They would get married and have two children together, Jesse J. White and Jed White. Jesse was born in February 1958, even before Rosalie formally divorced Manson. Jed White was born in April 1959.
Jack White would also play the role of stepfather to Charles Jr. He even renamed him Jay White. This Rosalie’s marriage would last until 1965.
She gave another shot at happiness again, getting married to Warren Howard Handley. This marriage would last longer, but Warren passed away in 1998.
Rosalie’s Death And Legacy
Rosalie Jean Willis had a fate no mother should have. She lived to see all of her children die. Jed White died at the age of 11 as a result of an accident in January 1971. His friend shot him in the gut and he passed away due to a bullet wound.
Jesse White lived up to 28 years, but he was found dead in a car, as a result of an overdose of heavy drinking.
Her first child, Manson Junior, was a victim of stress, depression, and anxiety. He shot himself at the age of 37.
Rosalie outlasted every child of her marriages. She passed away in August 2009.
Destigmatizing The Family Name
Rosalie’s grandson, Jason Freeman is determined to build a name for his family. He was born as a son of Charles Manson Junior’s relationship with Ms. Freeman in 1970. While most of the family members hate to be associated with Charles’ name, Jason goes by Charles Manson III.
He played professional boxing and MMA, winning the championship title in 2009. He is working hard to destigmatize the family name.