PHOENIX, ARIZONA: A woman says she lived in fear in her youth of inheriting “monster genes” from her father after finding out he was a serial killer. Jenn Carson, 48, says her ‘hippie’ father, Michael Bear Carson, changed completely after meeting his abusive stepmother.
Bear, along with his second wife, Suzan Barnes, brutally killed at least three people in California. The husband-wife duo were infamously known as the “Witch Killers of San Francisco” because they claimed their victims were witches.
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In an interview with the People, Carson said she had a fairly happy childhood with her father, whose real name was James Clifford Carson and like most fathers he used to read to her and braid her hair. “My perception then was that he loved,” she said of her father. “He was fun.”
Michael Bear Carson and wife Suzan Barnes (YouTube screenshot/NBC 10)
The youth of Jenn Carson
Carson spent her childhood in Phoenix, Arizona, where her mother, Lynne Carson, was a teacher and her father was a stay-at-home marijuana dealer. In 1978 his parents divorced and it was after that that Bear met Suzan, a wealthy divorcee and mother of two at a party. He married her the following year and the duo became increasingly unstable.
“At that time, I have a lot of memories of his breakup,” she said, noting that her stepmother was “very dominant in the relationship.” Jenn, a kindergarten student at the time, thought Suzan was “the wicked witch.” She said her father slowly stopped paying attention to her and soon changed his name to Michael Bear and became a completely different individual whom she did not recognize. She remembers the first time she slept in Suzan’s house, which was filled with potted trees and not much else. Jenn had to spend the rest of the night sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor.
She said the spooky, stripped-down setting reminded her of “the haunted forest from the Wizard of Oz”. Jenn was reportedly starved and beaten when she visited Suzan’s home on weekends. “I’ve had glimpses of lifelong memories of her pushing me under the bathwater — like holding me under and I couldn’t breathe,” she told People. “I’m in this house of horrors. It doesn’t feed me. It tells me I’m the devil. I’m going to hell. I deserve to die.”
Jenn Carson reveals the abuse she suffered from her mother
Finally, after tolerating the torture for so long, Jenn finally decided to tell her mother about the horrific abuse she had to endure from Suzan. This even included his stepmother ripping his back off and leaving open wounds with “five jagged fingernail marks”. “
Lynn became convinced that Bear and Suzan planned to kill her and her daughter when she learned that they planned to leave the country. Lynn and her daughter were on the run and hiding in Southern California when the Secret Service showed up on their doorstep in 1982.
Lynne Carson, Jenn Carson’s biological mother (Screenshot/True Crime Daily YouTube)
The killing spree of Micahel Bear Carson and Suzan Barne
Michael and Suzan believed it was meant to kill “witches” around the world. They killed 23-year-old Karen Barnes in 1981 by hitting her head with a frying pan and stabbing her 13 times in her San Francisco apartment. The following year, Michael shot 26-year-old Clark Stephens and burned his body in Humboldt County.
Detectives quickly found their manifesto after his death, which included a plot to assassinate then-President Ronald Reagan. Jenn recalled how her mother was interrogated for many hours by authorities who questioned her about Michel’s political ideologies or if he had ever talked about killing the president.
In 1983, 30-year-old John Hellyar picked up the couple as they were hitchhiking. Suzan stabbed Hellyar when a fight broke out in the car. Michael then shot him point-blank in the back, killing him. The police were called to Hillyar’s murder and they were arrested.
The disturbed duo admitted to killing Barnes, Stephens and Hellyar, but they are also suspects in nine other murders. Both were convicted of three counts of murder and are still in jail serving their 75-year sentences.
“I was afraid of growing up and killing people”
Jenn began having nightmares about Michael’s victims when she learned of her father’s crimes. She feared she had inherited her “monster genes” and struggled with suicidal thoughts and severe depression. “At 9 years old, I saw every adult as a potential killer,” she told People. “The whole world terrified me. I was also afraid of growing up and killing people.”
Jenna credits her mother and stepfather, Michael Gonzales, for helping her through the trauma. Jenn has her doctorate in social work and has become a trauma expert, as well as an advocate for the children of prisoners. “I want people to understand that this type of shame is so corrosive,” Jenn said. “And that’s why I tell my story.”