Leona Rae “Candy” Stevens kept Charles Manson out of jail in 1959 and helped lock him up a year later. She visited him once behind bars — and never saw him again.
Before Charles Manson became the world-renowned cult leader who sicced his murderous “family” on Sharon Tate and Rosemary LaBianca, he was just another petty thief. Unbeknownst to many, even those familiar with the infamous criminal, Manson was once a married man who tried to go straight.
His marriage to Rosalie Jean Willis in 1955 didn’t pan out as the couple intended. After three years — two of which Manson spent in federal prison after driving a stolen car across state lines — the family unit essentially fell apart. Willis eventually stopped visiting her husband, and moved in with another man.
Though the pair had produced a son, Charles Manson Jr., the man of the house proved utterly unreliable to sustain any semblance of normalcy.
Manson and Willis divorced in 1958 — one year before Manson met his second and final wife, Leona Rae “Candy” Stevens.
Charles Manson Meet ‘Candy’ Stevens
According to Lis Wiehl’s Hunting Charles Manson, Manson genuinely tried to legitimize his means of income after his release from Terminal Island on Sept. 30, 1958.
But he quickly gave up after a short stint of going door to door making appointments for salesmen to sell freezers and frozen foods. He claimed his colleagues “double-crossed and short changed” him, forcing him back into a life of small-time crookery.
Manson was a pimp before he was a cult leader. He made his girlfriend, Leona Rae Stevens (or Leona Rae Musser), prostitute herself around Los Angeles. By all accounts, she didn’t hesitate to do so, as she had a growing infatuation with Manson that would last for years to come.
Not much is known about Stevens; where and when she was born and whether she’s still alive all remains a mystery. The only things we know about her are the things she did for and with Charles Manson.
Known on the streets as “Candy,” Stevens failed to make enough money as a prostitute to satisfy Manson’s proverbial thirst. In turn, he went back to an old, reliable pastime of his: opportunistic thievery. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t very good at it, and he was arrested on May 1, 1959.
Manson Leaves Leona — For Prison
Manson’s ploy was viable, though short-sighted and easily prone to immediate failure. He signed the backs of two U.S. Treasury checks he’d stolen from the mailbox of Leslie Sever. They were made out to her and her husband, who had died a couple of years earlier.
The first one was addressed to Leslie, and Manson successfully cashed the $34 check at a gas station. He tried to cash the second one, made out to her husband to the tune of $37.50, at a Ralph’s supermarket. But when the grocery clerk questioned Manson about some of the incongruities, he ran off.
Manson was a fairly trim-looking fellow, but he failed pretty quickly at outrunning his pursuers that day. When they caught and held him down until police arrived, Manson admitted to what he’d done — but later denied this supposed confession when he realized how serious his crimes were.
The amounts he stole were certainly low, but his charges — stealing mail, forging signatures with the intent of defrauding the federal government — were quite consequential. With fines of up to $2,000 and a five-year prison term for each count looming over him, Manson thought he could improve his chances if the evidence was destroyed.
And so, when the Secret Service agents keeping him in custody weren’t looking, Manson was able to shove one of the checks into his mouth and swallow it. But that act of desperation couldn’t save him from the slammer.
“He Is Probably A Sociopathic Personality”
Stevens was quite helpful in employing Manson’s next strategy, which revolved around improving his image before his trial judge. Manson got Stevens and his fellow inmates to write compassionate letters attesting to his character, in the hopes that his judge would at least impose a lighter sentence.
The letters contained the type of claims one would expect from the cunning, manipulative figure. He asked his loyal girlfriend and future wife to detail how hard he’s had it growing up — no education or money, and having suffered institutionalization from the injustices of the penal system.
Most notably, however, was a new tactic employed this time around. These letters claimed that Manson’s opportunity for a fair trial had already been compromised — that the attorneys meant to defend him were corrupted and greedy, incompetent, and intentionally failing him.
When Manson’s attorney requested a psychiatrist to examine the 24-year-old convict, Dr. Edwin McNiel, who had observed Manson four years earlier, stepped in. Though Manson admitted to his deeds, Dr. McNiel simply couldn’t vouch for him any longer.
“[Charlie] does not give the impression of being a mean individual,” the doctor wrote. “However, he is very unstable emotionally and very insecure….In my opinion, he is probably a sociopathic personality without psychosis. Unfortunately, he is rapidly becoming an institutionalized individual.”
“I certainly cannot recommend him as a good candidate for probation.”
Unfortunately for Manson, probation officer Angus McEachen couldn’t have agreed more profusely.
“Defendant certainly has displayed no ability or willingness, perhaps both, to get along on the outside for any length of time,” McEachen wrote in his pre-sentence report.
A Marriage Of Convenience
Ever resilient in the face of the U.S. justice system and its warranted pressure on him, Manson decided to use Leona as his trump card.
Read more: https://allthatsinteresting.com/leona-candy-stevens-manson-wife