Photo of the Day

Arrested: Suzan Carson and her husband, Michael Bear Carson. The Carsons declared themselves “vegetarian Muslim warriors” for whom witch-hunting stood as a moral duty. That, in fact, is how they explained their 1981 to 1983 spree of serial murder throughout California.

“San Francisco Witch Killers”

Embarking on a ‘mission’ to kill “witches”, Michael Bear Carson and Suzan Carson (the San Francisco Witch Killers) murdered three innocent young people, Karen Barnes, Clark Stephens and Jon Hellyar. They were also investigated for nine other homicides as well as a plot to kill President Reagan.

When Suzan Barnes met James Carson, things got… weird. Fast. Both were unsatisfied divorcees, and Suzan had been immersed in the ‘70s culture of free love and hallucinogens. After taking mescaline on one occasion in 1974, she had a vision that she would meet the man of her dreams. Three years later, when she finally saw James at a party, she said, “This is the man I’ve been searching for.” Indeed, James’ daughter, Jenn Carson, says that when the pair met “It was almost like two magnets just shooting across the room and joining. I think they had a great sexual attraction.” It didn’t take long for the new couple to descend into a life of sex and hallucinogenic drug taking. But it wasn’t all fun and games.

The magnetic pair would end up starting their own twisted religion, which would incite them into killing three people they deemed to be witches.

When they first met in the late 1970s, James Clifford Carson and Suzan Barnes Carson were seemingly just a couple of divorced parents who fell in love and liked to dabble in drugs and mysticism. They married, spent some time travelling around Europe, and came home having changed their names to Michael and Suzan Bear, self-described pacifist “vegetarian Moslem warriors.”  While the Carsons’ lifestyle maybe seemed harmless on paper, their increasingly bizarre behaviour caused them to become estranged from friends and family.

Their hodgepodge of new age (Suzan believed she could see the future) and fundamentalist (“homosexuality and abortion are causes for death,” they once said) beliefs, exacerbated a drug-induced paranoia, informed the couple’s strange moral code. They were on a mission from God to exterminate anyone they believed to be a witch – or anyone who simply got in the way – earning them the nickname the “San Francisco Witch Killers.”

In time, however, the Carsons, who chose to go by the surname “Bear,” also came to believe in witches and that “witchcraft, homosexuality and abortion are causes for death.”

The Carsons also declared themselves “vegetarian Muslim warriors” for whom witch-hunting stood as a moral duty. That, in fact, is how they explained their 1981 to 1983 spree of serial murder throughout California.

Jennifer Carson would say of her father: “If he had fallen in love with a televangelist, he would become one. If she had joined ISIS, he would have. He was that much of a follower. He was drawn to extremists, people he found really exciting.” And Suzan certainly wasn’t boring. Shortly after they met Suzan told James she’d had a vision, and that his name was really Michael, after the angel who fought the devil. James was spellbound and changed his name to Michael. In another vision, Suzan said she saw that they should both change their last name to Bear, which they also did. But perhaps the most dangerous vision of all was one in which Suzan saw that they should become “Muslims” and kill witches. Unfortunately, Suzan and Michael missed the part of Islam that prohibits the taking of mind-altering drugs and murder and created their own sick cult-like religion.

In 1978, after a year of being together, Suzan and Michael travelled to Europe, preaching their religion. They also had a marriage ceremony (although not legally binding) by the moonlight at Stonehenge. Eventually, they ran out of money and were forced to return to the US, where they moved to San Francisco and into the apartment of Keryn Barnes, a 23-year-old wannabe starlet who had moved to California to find fame but instead found the hippie lifestyle of Haight-Ashbury. But Michael and Suzan wanted more from Keryn than just co-habitation. They wanted her to be Michael’s second wife, and enter into a polyamorous relationship with them. When Keryn baulked at the idea, Suzan had a vision: that Keryn was a witch.

Suzan Carson Barnes quoted:

“You kill that demon or I will.”

So Suzan and Michael plotted to kill Keryn.

On March 6, when Keryn got home from work, Suzan told Michael to kill her.  Michael followed their young roommate into the kitchen, where he beat her in the head with a cast iron frying pan, and then stabbed her 13 times in the face and neck to finish it. The couple then wrapped the body in a blanket, placed her head on a pillow, and did a series of bizarre, childlike drawings all over the walls before leaving.

Police found 23-year-old Keryn’s body on March 7, 1981, in her apartment with the skull bashed in and stabbed ln the face, neck and mouth. Curiously, the drawings on the wall included the name “Suzan” written around the pictures. (Suzan had actually been born “Susan”—and changed the spelling of her name to “Suzan” after a drug trip.) One of Keryn’s friends rushed to the scene of the crime as word got around, and informed police about Keryn’s new roommates, and their strange beliefs.

Victim Karen Barnes stands outside her home in Jonesboro, Ga., in this 1976 photo.

It wasn’t until police questioned Keryn’s mother two days later that they got a full name: Suzan Carson, and her husband, Michael. But unfortunately, because Suzan and Michael Carson weren’t the couple’s real names, police weren’t able to track them down via their databases.

After a year of searching for the murderous roommates, the investigation stagnated. The Carsons hitchhiked north, and for a year lived in a secluded cabin–which they believed was a refuge provided to them by Allah–in the wilderness. But after a year they got bored, and decided to head back to southern California and started working on a marijuana farm as caretakers. Things were seemingly fine until the couple started having problems with a friend of the farm owner, 26-year-old Clark Stephens. Clark was loud and drank a lot, and the Carsons saw this as an affront to Allah. Suzan tried to block Clark from entering the farm one day, so Clark cussed her out, and so Suzan declared Clark a witch and Michael was tasked as executioner. Carson shot Stephens to death, then burned and buried the body in the woods.

Two weeks later, authorities found both Stephens’ remains and identification cards, but the Carsons had once again disappeared. Police also discovered the Carsons’ incendiary “anarchist” manifesto, which stated their intention to wipe out witches at the highest level — among them, Tonight Show host Johnny Carson and President Ronald Reagan.

In November 1982, Michael Bear was picked up by police in Los Angeles and brought in for questioning regarding the murder of Clark Stephens, but a clerical error released the killer before the police had an opportunity to talk to him. The Bears were gone once again. This error would come back to haunt the police. The foul-up enabled Carson to walk, but not before he posed for a mugshot and accidentally left his handgun behind in a police vehicle.

The Carsons’ grand witch-hunt came to a stupefying end in March 1983. The Carsons headed right back up to Northern California to hide out in the wilderness and would go into civilisation only for food and supplies. To get to town, the pair would hitchhike. Two years after the murder of Keryn Barnes, in January 1983 they caught a ride with a man named John Hillyer in his pickup truck. Suzan rode in the middle, and while driving, John’s leg touched Suzan’s leg. Suzan said she felt threatened, but more importantly, that she’d had a premonition about John, and that he was a witch. Again, Michael was tasked with killing him. However, John fought back, and what ensued was a wrestling match for the gun Michael was trying to use to kill him.

Police Santa Rosa, California, received a 911 call from a roadside fruit stand, from a witness who saw a pickup truck had pulled up, and Suzan, John and Michael emerge. The three began fighting until finally Michael got hold of the gun and shot John.

Thirty-year-old John Hillyer later died in the hospital. Michael and Suzan attempted to drive off in the truck, but police caught up and a high-speed chase ended with the truck spinning out of control and landing in a ditch.

The killer couple were taken in for questioning, but instead of talking about what led them to shoot John–who was being treated in a hospital–only wanted to talk about ESP, witches and their DIY religion. In a jailhouse interview, Michael and Suzan described themselves as “religious warriors involved in a holy war against witches.”

In another bizarre twist, Michael penned a letter in which he wrote that no one cared that he and Suzan had killed the biggest witch in San Francisco. The police were quick to link the confession in the letter with the murder of Keryn Barnes. When police tried to get an on-the-record confession from the Carsons, however, they said they would only do it with a press conference, and so on March 10, a press conference was held.

They ultimately agreed to confess to killing Barnes, Stephens, and, as was obvious, Hellyar, in exchange for being granted a press conference where they could announce their personal blend of hippie spirituality and psychedelic-dented radical Islam.

In a five-hour interview with KGO-TV and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as homicide investigators, the Carsons claimed to have been pacifists and vegetarian yoga practitioners who converted to a form of the Muslim religion, and described themselves as “vegetarian Moslem warriors.” Their crimes emerged from a shared mission: to exterminate individuals they believed to be “witches”. The press dubbed them “the San Francisco Witch Killers.”

They stated that they killed Barnes because they believed she had made a false conversion to their religion and was “draining Miss Carson of her health and yogic powers.” Their justifications for the second and third killings were that Stephens had allegedly sexually attacked Suzan, and that Hellyar had called her a “witch.” They had worked on a marijuana farm outside Garberville, California with Stephens, whom they later killed near Alderpoint by shooting him, burning the body and burying the remains under chicken fertiliser. They met Hellyar while they were hitchhiking; He picked them up and gave them a place to stay that night. The Carsons claimed he abused Suzan sexually and they killed him on the side of a road in Sonoma County, California.

During the conference, the Carsons ranted about everything from George Orwell’s 1984, President Reagan being the devil, and why witches needed to be killed. Michael said that Suzan had the power to identify witches, via visions she got directly from Allah–which is how they realised they had to kill Keryn. So while Suzan went around identifying witches, Michael would kill them. They also admitted to killing Clark, and after 6 hours of ranting, were charged with multiple crimes, including three counts of first-degree murder.

Family photos of Karen Barnes

On camera, Michael described Suzan as “a yogi and a mystic with knowledge of past, present and future events.”

‘Witchcraft, homosexuality and abortion are causes for death,’ Carson said in the course of a rambling interview the couple gave to reporters, The plain-looking pair said they wished more publicity for their acts and spoke calmly and with frequent smiles for the television camera.

Carson said they fatally stabbed their San Francisco housemate, Keryn Barnes, 23, in March 1981, because Miss Barnes had ‘faked’ a conversion to the Moslem religion and was secretly draining Carson of her health and mystic powers.

On a hitchhiking trip through Oxnard, Calif., a rainstorm struck and Carson ‘got orders’ to slay Miss Barnes, she said.

‘Each time Suzan said it (that Miss Barnes should be killed) the thunder would clap,’ Carson said.

The Carsons expressed no remorse for their crimes, explaining that they put Keryn Barnes to death for her witchy transgressions of just pretending to convert to Islam and “draining [Suzan] or her health and yogic powers.”

Michael said they knew the murder was necessary because, during a rainstorm, “Each time Suzan said it [that Keryn Barnes should be killed] the thunder would clap.”

Their other victims were also witches, Michael reiterated, and slaying them was inevitable because “It was part of the Koran.”

The Carsons’ trials began in May 1984. Despite confessing to everything in the press conference, both Suzan and Michael entered “not guilty” pleas. But after three days of trial which Michael’s daughter described as a “zoo”, they were both found guilty and given 25 to life.

In total, investigators suspected the Carsons in anywhere from nine to 12 murders, both in the western United States and from a 1980 trip they took to Europe.

Remarkably, the Carsons became eligible for parole in 2015. Both the families of the victims and the Carsons themselves publicly campaigned against the possibility of one or both of them going free.

Regardless, Michael told attorneys to cancel his hearing, writing, “No one is going to parole me because I will not and have not renounced my beliefs.” Suzan, reportedly, also continues to stand by her witch-killing convictions, even as a convict.

84 of the most violent lifers in California might be released under the new elder lifer guidelines for inmates over 60 who have served 25 years. This ruling is based on a claim that inmates “age out of violence”. Elder lifers in the U.S. include Charles Manson, the Unibomber, the Green River Killer and the BTK Killer. Older doesn’t mean reformed.

A life sentence should require life-long incarceration, not early release for having grey hair or manageable health needs.

In 2015, a California parole board found Suzan Carson, now 75, unfit for early release and scheduled her next parole consideration for 2030, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Luis Patino said.

Carson and her husband were convicted of killing three in Northern California in the 1980s during a drug-fueled religious quest to rid the world of witches. They were each sentenced to 75 years to life.

“I am so happy we won’t have to worry about her for another 15 years,” said Lisa Long, the sister of the couple’s first victim. Long travelled from Atlanta to testify at Suzan Carson’s hearing at a women’s prison in Chino, California, 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

“They are pure evil,” Long said.

Long said that Suzan Carson didn’t attend the hearing.

Her attorney Laura Sheppard confirmed the outcome of the hearing but had no further comment. The Carsons qualified for parole consideration after a federal court concerned with prison overcrowding ordered hearings for about 1,400 inmates older than 60 who have served more than 25 years of their sentences.

Michael Carson cancelled his parole hearing, saying he refuses to renounce his violent religious beliefs. He is scheduled for parole review in five years.

“I know this is absurd,” Michael Carson wrote to prison officials in 2015, from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, on a form formally cancelling his hearing. “No one is going to parole me because I will not and have not renounced my beliefs.”

The killers’ chance at freedom has upset families of their victims, who say the self-described vegetarian Muslim “warriors” have never expressed remorse or abandoned beliefs that they were in a “holy war against witches” during their killing spree.

“Witchcraft, homosexuality and abortion are causes for death,” said bearded, long-haired Michael Carson during a 1983 “press conference” arranged by investigators with San Francisco media that lasted five hours.

Since February 2014, 267 elderly inmates have been granted parole and 729 have been denied, according to the department. An additional 450 hearings have been cancelled or postponed.

After meeting in the late 1970s, San Francisco societal dropouts Suzan Carson and her husband, Michael Bear Carson, remained true believers in mystic seeking, drug-fueled mind expansion, and the Haight-Ashbury counterculture in which they remained active.

Despite the odds against the couple’s release, Michael Carson’s daughter is aiding the families and formally opposes her father’s release as well.With new acquaintances, co-workers, even boyfriends, Jennifer Carson says that there is no easy way and no good time to bring up her family history.

“They are still dangerous,” she said. Jennifer Carson said her college-educated dad was a stay-at-home father caring for her in 1970s suburban Phoenix while her mother supported the family by teaching.

“I remember those times as very happy times,” Jennifer said. “But then his behaviour began to change.” She said her father changed dramatically after he met Suzan Carson at a party. The couple soon divorced their respective spouses and married each other.

Jennifer Carson said her father and Suzan were heavy drug users who created their own moral and religious code. “It was like a match meeting dynamite,” she said of the day the couple met.

Jennifer’s earliest memories are good ones. “I was totally a daddy’s girl,” she said.

In the eyes of his adoring daughter, Michael Carson could do no wrong.

“My father was brilliant,” Jenn said. “He had a master’s degree and a degree in Chinese studies.”

But brilliance would soon give way to madness.

“When I was a little girl, my father was a stay-at-home dad,” Carson says. “Both of my parents are well-educated, articulate, and professional. But my father began to change in his 20s. My mother noticed it and tried to get people to pay attention but they didn’t. After they divorced, we literally went on the run, moving every six months or so while my mother took low-paying jobs that kept us below the radar.”

Her father remarried. He and his new wife got involved with dealing and using drugs. Suzan supposedly had a “vision” that they should change their last name to Bear, become their own version of Muslims and destroy “witches” whom they deemed to be evil.
They were caught and sent to prison when Jennifer was 9 years old.
“ Like anything traumatic, it either shatters you or it makes you stronger, It hasn’t been easy. I struggled as a teenager with depression and an eating disorder. But I overcame that. Homicide didn’t change my life; it shaped my life.”
Carson works as a child and adolescent counsellor, often helping children whose parents have been sent to prison.
“ My uncle says that this situation didn’t come with a manual,” she tells me. “It’s a small club, and it’s a lonely club.”
She says that while we should do everything that we can for the victims of crime, we also should pay more attention to the children of those whom we convict. A high percentage of them become problems for society. Carson only went public with her past after the BTK killer was caught and she read that one of his adult children was on a suicide watch.
“ A serial killer is smart,” she says. “And much of the energy he puts into deception goes toward the people who are closest to him. Children of such people struggle with that. They struggle with a lot of things. I wanted the BTK killer’s son to know that he wasn’t alone. Having such a person in your family isn’t easy. It never goes away. It’s like a booby trap that keeps going off in your life.”
She considers herself lucky to have been raised by a strong mother and stepfather. Through her work, she knows that not all kids in such a position are as fortunate.
I wondered, then, how the rest of us should think of the relatives of criminals.
“ Like what they really are,” Carson says. “Crime victims.”

Murder Suspects Admit Slayings

Couple plead innocent after confessing at news conference

Murder conviction stands in ‘witch’ slaying

3rd murder conviction upheld

Valley woman recalls childhood with her serial-killer dad

Murderpedia: James Clifford Carson aka Michael Bear Carson

Wikipedia: Michael Bear Carson and Suzan Carson

“San Francisco witch killers” eligible for parole

Batsh*t ‘Witch Killer’ From 1980s Suzan Carson Denied Parole

Cry for War: The Story of Suzan and Michael Carson 

California Babylon

Wicked Attraction: The Two Bears

Deadly Women: Hunting Humans

Killer Couple: Suzan And Michael Bear Carson, The “San Francisco …

Parole hearing brings back dark memories of the notorious “San …

The New Age Murderers Who Went on a Witch-Killing Spree

Muslim ‘Witch’ Killer Denied Parole in California – Breitbart

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.