Michael Bear Carson and Suzan Carson

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Michael Bear Carson and Suzan Carson
Michael Bear Carson and Suzan Carson

James Clifford Carson (aka Michael Bear Carson) ((born 1950) and Suzan Barnes Carson (born 1942) were serial killers reported to have been active at several countries and regions in the late 1970s and early 1980s - particularly, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Family Background[edit]

Both James and Suzan Carson possess considerable information about and interest in their respective ancestors. Suzan's ancestors are known to have included Loyalists who fought on the British side during the American Revolution, fled to Canada when the US became independent, but came back later. Michael's ancestors included Scottish immigrants who fought on the American side in the American Revolution and on the Union side in the Civil War, and in between were involved in brutal fighting against Native American tribes in 1820's Kentucky. One of his great-grandmothers was a Seneca.

Early Life[edit]

Michael Carson was born and grew up in Oklahoma, and his father was a retired government official. He had been involved in various movements and traveled widely around the world. After returning in 1979 from a trip which included England, Israel and India, Carson published a book called "The Way". A second book, entitled "A Cry for War" was published in 1981, in the aftermath of the DEA raiding Carson's then home in Oregon.

Arrest, charges and trial[edit]

Carson and his wife Suzan had been involved in the counter-culture movement, and after they were arrested and put on trial on charges of murder, the prosecutors asserted that "their crimes emerged from a shared missionary philosophy to exterminate individuals they believed to be 'witches'". The pair themselves claimed to have acted in self-defense, and that their cause was against the US Government. They reportedly kept a list of targeted political figures such as then-President Ronald Reagan and his Vice-President George H.W.Bush.

After their arrest in 1983, they held a news conference admitting to killings including those of Karen Barnes, stabbed to death in their home in Haight-Ashbury, Clark Stephens, shot in Humboldt County and John Hillyar, shot near Santa Rosa, California.

On 12 June 1984 the Carsons were convicted of one murder and sentenced to serve twenty five years to life in prison. On May 1985 and November 1987 they were convicted of two other murders and given and additional 50 years to life each - 75 years to life in all

Michael is known to be conducting an extensive correspondence from prison with friends and contacts all over the world, while Suzan - a devoted environmentalist - works as a gardener in her prison.

Reynolds book[edit]

In 2010 the journalist and writer Richard D. Reynolds published "Cry for War, the Story of Suzan and Michael Carson" [1], which he asserted was based on interviews conducted with the Carsons at the time of their trial. However, Michael Carson himself accused Reynolds of simply plagiarising Carson's own book, dropping the "A" from its name and adding some completely fictional chapters.


  • Lane, Brian; Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (Paperback), Berkley (July 1, 1995)
  • Lawson, Kristan and Rufus, Anneli; California Babylon, St. Martin's Griffin; Revised Edition (October 2000)
  • The Cry for War: The Story of Suzan and Michael Carson, Squibob Pr; 1st ed edition (January 1988)

External links[edit]