A tie between Charlie Manson and Stolen Valor fakers? Yes

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Charles Manson's ex-wife married a four-star Marine faker.

With the Stolen Valor Act under scrutiny by the Supreme Court today, it seemed like a good time to bring a story out of the mothballs.

In 2009, I covered a story for Marine Corps Times that falls squarely in the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category. The short of it: A man who claimed to be a retired four-star Marine Corps general had previously been married to convicted murderer Susan Atkins, ex-wife of the notorious serial killer Charlie Manson.

I know this because I went to great lengths to prove it. Donald Laisure claimed in the Marine Corps Association’s membership registry that year to have earned the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and an Air Medal in a 54-year career that included service in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf War. His registry profile also claimed that he went on to become the CEO and chairman of the board at Laisure Oil Refinery & Production Company in Greenville, Texas.

Based sheerly on those details, the profile already looked fishy. But a Google search also showed that a man by the same name had married Atkins in 1981. He reportedly decided to wed her after his psychic readings told him she wasn’t guilty of the horrific crimes of which she’d already been convicted. A records request to the state of California showed the wedding actually occurred.

In a phone interview, Laisure admitted that he had lied about his military service. He also acknowledged having been married to Atkins previously. They divorced a few months after their ceremony, and Atkins later said that Laisure was “not being totally honest with her,” according to a transcript of her 1985 parole board hearing.

I bring all this up to show the level of absurdity that can go with stolen valor issues. Based on experience covering stories like this, it’s clear that the individuals who lie about military service sometimes have myriad other issues.

That isn’t always the case, of course. Others have done it out of pure greed, reaping unearned benefits, gifts and admiration by claiming heroic acts at the expense of those who actually have performed them. Our newspaper chain has a full online database, the Hall of Stolen Valor, devoted solely to tracking and exposing those actions.

The Stolen Valor Act was passed in 2006 to deter these sorts of lies. As news reports like this point out, however, it’s constitutionality is considered shaky.

It’ll be interesting to see how the court rules on this issue. A prominent blog covering the Supreme Court suggests the justices may opt to narrowly define the law, rather than throw it out. Depending on how that occurs, that may be greeted as a victory by those who helped develop the law in the first place.

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About Author

I’m a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

8 Comments

  1. No Dan Lamothe now is not time to bring your story out of mothballs about that sh–bag Charles Manson and his ex-wife married a fraud General. Stolen Valor sucks and people who pretend and lie about military service, medals, conflicts etc. etc. should be in prison. Stop bringing up sh– like that (Charles Manson) so you can reclaim your fame and notoriety for breaking the story, nobody cares here that you broke the story about Mansons ex-wife and the fake general or you idiot writers who like to stir the pot so you can benefit from it somehow. Let the courts deal with frauds, and let Manson rot in prision, and leave your retarded a– stories in mothballs a–hole!!!!!

  2. All I can say after reading Brian’s post is “WOW.” I’m not familiar with the writer, nor am I familiar with this particular story but this guy doesn’t seem to fond of either!

  3. Thank you for your taking the time to comment on our blog, Brian, but your remarks about Mr. Lamothe are entirely inappropriate. The irony here, of course, is that the stolen valor case now before the Supreme Court hinges on the interpretation of free speech protections afforded by the First Amendment. While we’re pleased to see you exercising your right to free speech, we ask that in this setting you do so in a respectful manner.

  4. Brian, I’m sorry my entry rubbed you the wrong way. My point stands, though: The Laisure situation stands as a good example of just how twisted some of these stolen valor cases are.

    You’d be better off directing your anger at those who steal valor, rather than someone like me who has assisted in exposing it.

  5. That’s right Dan – like Brian says, “nobody here”, where here is the blog that the Marine Corps Times host but that Dan’s years of experience is the driving force behind, “cares”, where cares is defined as taking the time to write a profanity-laced, poorly constructed diatribe that exposes the comment writers terrible reading comprehension.

    Clearly, nobody cares.

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