Leslie Van Houten was born in Altadena, CA on August 23rd 1949. Her father was an auctioneer, her mother was a school teacher. She had an older brother, later on her parents adopted two children who had been orphaned in Korea, a younger brother and sister.
The Van Houten family was, from outward appearances, the typical middle class family of that era. However, it appears that there were problems within the family. In her 2006 parole hearing Van Houten referred to her father as an "alcoholic". However in her 2007 parole hearing Leslie said that her father was in Alcoholics Anonymous and that she never saw him drunk.
A witness for the defense in Leslie's first trial, Dr. Joel Simon Hochman, called Leslie a "spoiled little princess." who was unable to suffer frustration and delay of gratification. He said from childhood on she had difficulty with impulse control, going into rages when she didn't get her way, even beating one of her younger siblings with a shoe.
When Leslie was 14 her parents divorced. Van Houten and her siblings would live with their mother. She says that she felt "very close to" her father, and that the divorce "ostracized" her family from the community. Her Mother would say, during Leslie's first trial for murder, that she had to obtain psychiatric help for Leslie due to her "rebellious attitude". However in her subsequent parole hearing Leslie said that the entire family went for psychiatric help, not just her, and that they went to help the family deal with the breakup of the parents.
Leslie, who says she was a "beatles maniac", attended Monrovia High School and was involved in many school activities. Twice she was elected a homecoming princess. Van Houten says that she started using drugs either her Sophomore or Junior year of high school. She indicates she used marijuana, LSD, Benzedrine and hashish, not a lot in the beginning, but that "it escalated".
In her retrial in 1977 Van Houten testified that she had been introduced to LSD by her boyfriend at the time. She said that they took LSD almost every weekend for a period of eighteen months. When the young man took the stand during the trial he contradicted this by saying that they had "dropped Acid together five or six times." (The crux of Leslie's defense during the 1977 trial was that she was suffering from diminished capacity due to Manson's influence and her use of LSD.)
While still in high school, Leslie and her boyfriend ran away to Haight-Ashbury. However, once there they became fearful and eventually returned home. Leslie subsequently completed her high school studies.
Van Houten says that she was "very hungry for someone to feel attached to after my dad left." At the age of 17 Leslie became pregnant. The pregnancy ended in an abortion. She says that she "wanted the child" and after the abortion she felt "very cut off and removed" from her mother. In her 2007 parole hearing Van Houten referred to the abortion as an "illegal abortion" and said that afterwards her Mother told her it wasn't an abortion but rather an "induced miscarriage"
In her 2004 parole consideration Leslie said:
"I didn't want the abortion and so when she arraigned for me to have it I harbored tremendous anger at my mom."
Subsequently she says that she gave up drugs for a time:
"I was trying to reach the enlightened...this was during Timothy Leary's time of enlightenment and all of that. Just...so I put it in context. So, I had decided with my boyfriend that I would try to find enlightenment through natural means and that was Yoda and meditation."
After graduating high school Leslie moved in with her father and step-mother. In 2007 she told the parole board that her Father's second wife was not happy with the close relationship she had with her Father.
She then enrolled in Sawyer's Business College. Van Houten would say that this was her father's idea. Leslie would explain it this way in her 1993 parole hearing:
"The reason I went to the business college is I was going to be a Yoga Grenunciate (phonetic) for self-realization fellowship. And I had asked them during the year that you study, you know, the lessons to see if that's what you wanted to do, what kind of vocation should I get. And they said they could always use secretaries and so my dad, being a practical man, seized the opportunity to get me in a trade. Because up to that point, I was pretty undefined."
Leslie remained drug free, she says, until halfway through the first year of Sawyer's Business college. At that time she started taking LSD again. She says she took at least one trip a week.
After graduating Business college, Van Houten determined not to join the yogic community but rather hit the road, dropping out of society and immersing herself in the counter-culture movement.
"You couldn't meet a nicer group of people." - Leslie Van Houten speaking to Sgt. Mike McGann about the Manson Family.
In June of 1968 Leslie was living with friends at the Kalen Ranch near Victorville and Apple Valley. It was here that Van Houten met Bobby Beausoleil, Catherine "Gypsy" Share and the other females that comprised their group. Leslie was apparently enticed and joined Beausoleil's group, traveling around with them.
During their travels Catherine Share began to tell Leslie about a man named Charles Manson. She told Van Houten that he was "like Jesus" and that he had "the answers". In her 2002 parole hearing Van Houten said:
"Catherine Share was with Robert Beausoleil when I was with him, and she would spend hours talking about Manson, and that she and I should leave Robert Beausoleil and go be with Manson"
In September 1968, Beausoleil, Leslie, Share and the other girls went to visit Spahn Ranch. At some point subsequent to that visit Van Houten and Share were either left at the ranch with the Manson Family or they returned on their own to live there. Around this time Leslie called her mother and told her to stop loving her that she was dropping out of society and that she wouldn't see her anymore.
Van Houten says that while she was mesmerized with him, Manson never completely accepted her. She says that he viewed her as "stupid" and as Beausoleil's "woman". In her 1993 parole hearing Leslie said:
"Bobby Beausoleil was very important to Manson and he viewed me as the way to keep Bobby Beausoleil around the ranch. And so I think I was absolutely intrigued and mesmerized by Manson and I believed that he was someone very special and extraordinary. And I think that perhaps he viewed me as a way to keep and lure Bobby to the ranch to be with him."
Leslie remembers the early days at the ranch with the Manson Family as peaceful. One of her jobs at the ranch, Van Houten says, was to read from the bible to Manson while he bathed. In her 1977 retrial she said that "…it was a mellow situation…it was an easy, slow life."
But soon the focus began to change. In 1969 Leslie says Manson started to talk about a revolution, a black and white race war where blacks would be victorious. Manson called this conflict Helter Skelter, named so for a song by the Beatles on the WHITE ALBUM. "All we did was listen to the Beatles' White Album and read Revelations" (From the Bible) Van Houten testified in 1977.
The Manson Family would survive by going to the desert and finding a hole in the ground in which to hide for years. During that time they would grow in number and eventually make their way back to civilization where they would take over. Van Houten says she bought into this completely. In her 1993 parole hearing Leslie remembered:
"...Around February of 1969, early Winter. We were up in the desert and he (Manson) had gone into L.A. And when he came back, he said that he had had a vision or an experience and that we would have to go back to L.A. and start preparing to save people from the revolution."
In 2002 she said:
"you know, I believed that he (Manson) was Jesus Christ and it was his view and belief that all of this would happen. And part of his thing was not to, not to have individual thinking and don't ask questions and I bought into it lock, stock and barrel. So I never... I never asked him how is that going to happen. I took it at face value."
Upon Manson's instructions, Charles "Tex" Watson began to hold impromptu classes in how to cut someone's throat. In addition the Family would play games where they would sneak up on other unsuspecting Family members, practicing catching people off guard.
Van Houten says that Manson's talk of Helter Skelter continued in this vein until shortly before the Tate-Labianca murders. At that time, Leslie says, Manson began to say that the Family would have to show the blacks how to do it, how to start the war. Leslie Van Houten from her 1993 parole hearing:
"Manson had started changing his talking about surviving the Helter Skelter war and that perhaps we would have to do something to instigate it because it wasn't coming along as quickly as he had anticipated."
Leslie says that this happened about two weeks prior to the Tate-Labianca murders. During her 1977 trial Van Houten said that during that time she considered for two days whether she would participate in the murders Manson was orchestrating. After that deliberation she determined that she would. On the night of the Tate murders-August 8th, 1969-Van Houten says that she was with Pat Krenwinkel, who had been assigned to watch over Leslie, when Manson sought Krenwinkel out. From her 1993 parole hearing:
"Pat Krenwinkel and I were in a small room taking care of the children, and Manson came in and said to Pat to leave with him. ...I felt something was happening, but I didn't know specifically."
Van Houten says that she was disappointed she wasn't picked to go that night but that she didn't ask to go. She says she stayed with the children that night, and that she didn't learn the specifics of the murders at the Tate-Polanski home until the next day when she saw coverage of the murders on television and spoke to Pat Krenwinkel about it. Van Houten says that her resolve to participate in any future murders was strengthened. She says she felt that she "wanted to go and be a good soldier and surrender myself for what I believed in."
The Murder of the Labiancas
"Being a truly evil person takes an awful lot of work." - Leslie Van Houten in an interview in the early 1980's
On the night of August 9th, 1969 Van Houten says she was at Spahn Ranch on the boardwalk, as Manson, Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Steve Grogan and Linda Kasabian and others began to gather together. Leslie says that, again, she didn't ask to go, but that everything on her "face said I want to go.". In her 1993 parole hearing she said:
"Charlie came up to me and asked me, did I believe enough that I could go with them and that I could kill. Was I crazy enough to believe in him, and I said: 'Yes'"
The group left Spahn Ranch with Linda Kasabian at the wheel, Manson in the front seat and Watson, Grogan, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten in the backseat. Of the people in the car that night, four had gone to the Tate-Polanski home the night before.
Van Houten says that various people and locations were targeted during the time they drove around trolling for victims. From the 1993 parole hearing, Van Houten said:
"We stopped at one house and he went up and looked in the window and said 'No.' because there were children who lived there."
"We stopped by a church and he went and he looked in and he said that he wanted to do something to the minister or something, but he didn't find him. I think he wanted to put the minister up on the cross."
The group also targeted the people in a car at a stoplight. However, as Manson got out of the car the light turned green and the car drove away.
During this odyssey Van Houten says that she slept most of the time.
Leslie says that some time after this seemingly directionless roaming Manson began to give Kasabian specific directions, which in turn brought them to the home of Leno and Rosemary Labianca.
The couple had just returned from a trip to Lake Isabella. Before returning home they stopped at a news stand run by John Fokianos. Mr. Fokianos testified that the Labiancas were with him between one and two a.m. on the morning of August 10th, "closer to two", he testified.
Mr. Fokianos had known the Labiancas for approximately two years, during which time they had been customers of his news stand at the corner of Hillhurst and Franklin Street in the Los Feliz area. Mr. Fokianos said that he spoke with the Labiancas for two or three minutes and the three discussed the Tate murders of the night before. Mr. Fokianos testified that the Labiancas were not previously aware of the murders and that Mrs. Labianca in particular was very upset upon learning of them.
Van Houten says she didn't know who lived at the residence. She says that Manson left the car and went up to the house. At some point he came back to the car. Leslie is unsure if Watson went into the home with him then or not. (According to his auto-biography, Watson says that Manson went up to the house initially by himself but returned and had Watson follow him back to the house. The two entered the house and rounded up the Labiancas. Manson then returned to the car and had Leslie and Patricia go into the house to join Watson.)
Eventually she says that Manson directed Watson, Krenwinkel and herself to go into the home. She is unsure if she actually heard Manson say the couple were tied up and not to scare them "like last night", or if she has since read or heard that he said that.
Upon entering the home Van Houten says that Leno and Rosemary Labianca were sitting on the couch with their hands tied, presumably by Manson and Watson. Pat and Leslie went into the couple's kitchen and armed themselves with knives. In his auto-biography, Watson says that he asked Krenwinkel and Van Houten if Manson had said to kill the couple. He says Van Houten and Krenwinkel nodded yes.
Leslie and Pat then took Mrs. Labianca into the bedroom while Watson stayed in the living room with Mr. Labianca.
Once in the bedroom Leslie put a pillowcase over Mrs. Labianca's head and unplugged a lamp and wrapped the electrical cord around her neck. However, Van Houten says she doesn't remember doing that. She said in her 1993 parole hearing that she doesn't remember seeing Mrs. Labianca's face.
She then held Mrs. Labianca down on the bed so that Krenwinkel could stab her. Van Houten says that while she was being held down Mrs. Labianca heard the sounds of her husband being murdered in the living room and that she began to struggle with her assailants. Mrs. Labianca apparently grabbed the lamp she was tied to and started swinging it at Van Houten and Krenwinkel. Patricia Krenwinkel stabbed Mrs. Labianca but her knife bent when she hit Mrs. Labianca's collarbone.
Leslie says that she then yelled for Watson to come help them. She says that Watson entered the room and apparently Krenwinkel left and went into the living room. Van Houten says she stood at the door of the bedroom facing the room opposite.
Van Houten says that she has no sound memory of Mrs. Labianca being killed. She has also said in some parole hearings that she doesn't remember hearing Mr. Labianca scream as she and Patricia Krenwinkel held Rosemary Labianca down, but that Mrs. Labianca began to react to hearing her husband being killed. In other parole hearings she says she did hear the sound of Mr. Labianca dying.
Leslie says she was concerned about not having the sound memory of these murders but she "spoke to a psychiatrist" and they advised her that hearing her victims die was "too much" for her.
At some point Leslie says that Charles Watson turned her around and handed her a knife and said "Do something." She says that she then began to stab Mrs. Labianca in the back.
In parole hearings where Van Houten has agreed to discuss the murders, (She sometimes refuses to discuss them.) she has said she "thought" that Mrs. Labianca was already dead when she began to stab her. At most of the parole hearings the parole board has gotten her to admit that she really didn't know if Mrs. Labianca was alive or dead when she stabbed her.
In Van Houten's 1986 parole hearing she said she stabbed Mrs. Labianca between ten and twenty times. In her 1989 hearing she said she stabbed Mrs. Labianca sixteen times. By 1993 she said she stabbed her "numerous" times. In her 2004 parole hearing Van Houten agreed that she had stabbed Mrs. Labianca between fourteen and sixteen times.
In her 2004 parole hearing Leslie described the murder of Mrs. Labianca this way:
"...when Tex handed me the knife, I knew he wanted me to do something, and at that moment I lost all sense of my humanity. I couldn't stop."
In her first trial Leslie had the following to say:
"I had a knife and Patricia had a knife. We just started stabbing and cutting up the lady."
She also testified that she not only stabbed Mrs. Labianca in the buttocks and possibly the neck, but "I could have done a couple on the back".
Mrs. Labianca was stabbed forty two times. Eight of those stab wounds were fatal. Seven of those eight fatal stab wounds were to her back.
In the living room Leno Labianca had been stabbed multiple times. A carving fork had been stuck in his stomach. The word WAR had been carved across his torso. A pillowcase over his head hid the fact that a knife was lodged in his throat.
According to Diane Lake, Leslie told her that at first she had been reluctant to stab Mrs. Labianca, but then she’d discovered the more you stabbed, "...the more fun it was".
While Charles Watson took a shower and Patricia Krenwinkel wrote words in blood on the wall of the home and on the refrigerator, Van Houten says she wiped the bedroom clean of fingerprints after realizing she had touched the lamp. No fingerprints of Watson, Krenwinkel or Van Houten were found in the home.
Van Houten has testified in her parole hearings that everyone had been instructed to bring a change of clothes but for some reason she says she did not. However, she did change clothes before leaving the Labianca home. She went into the closet of Rosemary Labianca and obtained a change of clothes. Leslie says that she didn't have any blood on her clothes but that she changed them because Watson said he needed her jeans. It's unclear why Watson would need Leslie's jeans unless he did not bring a change of clothes also. Also, in his book Will You Die For Me? Watson says that he changed " into an old pair of brown khaki pants and a shirt of Mr. LaBianca's." not Leslie's jeans.
On the way out of the Labianca home the group took cheese and chocolate milk from the refrigerator. They hid in nearby bushes until the morning. At that time they managed to hitch a ride with a man who was a night guard at Griffith Park. Watson would describe Leslie flirting with the man, who apparently knew of Spahn Ranch and thought he recognized the girls from there, and obtaining a ride all the way to Chatsworth. (The young man who gave the group a ride was apparently so infatuated with Leslie that he showed up later at Spahn Ranch looking for her.)
Upon returning to the ranch Leslie burned the clothes she had taken from Mrs. Labianca's closet and counted the money that was taken from the Labianca's home. (Leslie says the coins amounted to $10 and change.) Diane Lake would testify that Leslie also burned a purse, some credit cards and a four foot rope.
Van Houten says that Watson learned she had spoken to Diane Lake about the murders. She says he became mad at her and told her not to speak to anyone else about the murders.
The next day two of the Labianca children, Suzan and Frank, entered the Labianca home and discovered the murders. (Suzan and Frank were the biological children of Rosemary from a previous marriage. Leno was their step-father.)
On August 16th, the Spahn Ranch was raided by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies, Van Houten was among the Family members arrested in that raid. The LASO deputies were looking for stolen cars. However due to an outdated warrant all those arrested were released within seventy two hours.
Shortly after their release from jail members of the Manson Family murdered Donald "Shorty" Shea. In his book THE FAMILY, Ed Sanders claimed the entire core membership of the Family was involved in the murder of Shea: "Some killed, some buried, some burned, some packed his gear."
In her 1993 parole hearing Van Houten says Manson told her and Patricia Krenwinkel to go and stay at a place called Fountain of the World. She says that he kept them isolated from the rest of the Family until they "all went to the desert for the final time".
At some point Van Houten says she decided to leave Manson and the Family. She says that Manson took her for a ride in a dune buggy up into the mountains and told her she might as well jump off the mountain because if she left him she was killing him, the rest of the Family and herself.
They retreated to Barker Ranch in Death Valley. It was there On October 9th-12th, 1969, that officers from the California Highway Patrol and the Inyo County Sheriff's Office arrested the Manson Family during a three day raid. The Family was booked at the Inyo County Jail in Independence. Leslie was among those arrested.
In November 1969 the Tate-Labianca case was solved (for lack of a better word) in part due to the jail house confession of Susan Atkins and statements of other fringe members of the Manson Family.
Leslie, who was being held at Sybil Brand, was questioned by Sgt. Mike McGann on November 26th, 1969. She hinted at knowledge of the Hinman, Tate and Labianca murders but stopped short of confessing anything, until McGann revealed that John Philip "Zero" Haught was dead.
Van Houten was upset upon learning of her friend's death. When told that Haught had been playing Russian roulette and that Bruce Davis had been present she asked McGann:
"Was Bruce playing it too?"
McGann advised her that he wasn't.
Leslie Van Houten: "Zero was playing Russian roulette all by himself?"
Mike McGann: "Kind of odd isn't it?"
Leslie Van Houten: "Yeah, it's odd."
After this exchange Van Houten became less guarded and started making some admissions.
McGann told her that he knew five people had gone to the Tate home on the night of the murders: three girls and two men, and one of the men was Charles Manson.
Van Houten responded that she didn't "...think Charlie was in on any of them."
Leslie also stated that of the three girls who went to the Tate home, one of them had not murdered anyone (Linda Kasabian) indicating that the other two had. That one of the girls who went to the Tate home was "Katie" (Patricia Krenwinkel) known to police as "Marnie Reeves". She indicated that she knew of eleven murders. The combined Hinman, Tate, Labianca, Shea murders totaled nine. Perhaps she, like many of the Manson Family, believed that Manson had killed Bernard Crowe. A drug dealer Manson had shot and left for dead in July 1969, but who had survived. That would account for ten murders. Who was the eleventh?
McGann went on to inform Van Houten that Atkins had said that she (Atkins) had went out the night after the Tate murders and "...killed two more people out in the hills."
This of course surprised Van Houten because she knew that Susan Atkins had not been in the Labianca home and had not participated in their murder. Van Houten stopped answering questions after this. When McGann asked her why she said that she was afraid she could wind up dead like "Zero". McGann offered her twenty four hour protection but she declined.
By December Atkins' lawyer had made a deal that she would testify before the grand jury - truthfully - and in return the prosecution would not seek the death penalty against her in the Hinman, Tate and Labianca cases; nor could they use her testimony against her or any of her co-defendants at trial. Atkins testified before the grand jury and named Leslie as present at the Labianca home the night of the murder.
On December 8th, 1969 the Los Angeles County grand jury returned indictments against Manson, Atkins, Watson, Krenwinkel, Kasabian and Van Houten. Leslie was indicted on two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Prior to the trial, Susan Atkins repudiated her grand jury testimony. In doing so she gave up the immunity that the prosecution had offered. She would be tried and subject to the death penalty if a conviction was obtained.
The prosecution then offered immunity to Linda Kasabian, who had gone along both nights but by all accounts had not participated in murder at the Tate house and had not entered the Labianca home.
The First Trial
On December 10th, 1969 Leslie, along with Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian, were arraigned in the court of Judge William Keene. Throughout the preceding Susan and Leslie laughed. All three girls requested and were granted a continuance before entering pleas.
Donald Barnett was appointed council for Leslie. He arranged for a psychiatrist to examine Van Houten. But when the psychiatrist arrived at Sybil Brand, Leslie refused to see him. Shortly after, on December 19th, Leslie asked to have Barnett replaced. Judge Keene appointed Marvin Part as Van Houten's new counsel.
While awaiting trial Leslie wrote her parents that even if she were convicted she would be out in seven years. (Technically, she was only a year off in her prediction. In 1977 she was released on bail between her second and third trial.)
On January 6th, 1970 Part requested a court appointed psychiatrist interview Leslie. Judge Keen appointed Dr. Blake Skrdla.
On January 19th, Van Houten requested Part be replaced with Ira Reiner, as her counsel.
Judge George Dell decided to hear arguments in chambers. Part argued that Van Houten was mentally incapable of making that substitution. He argued that Van Houten was not making the decision of her own free will, but at the urging of the Manson Family, and specifically Charles Manson.
Part said that Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme had visited Van Houten, and in his presence told her that "We think you ought to have another lawyer" . Fromme then gave Leslie Ira Reiner's card. A few days later Leslie refused to be interviewed by Dr. Skrdla and told Part she had replaced him with Reiner.
Part also argued that Reiner's involvement with Manson would constitute a conflict of interest.
Judge Dell questioned Reiner who said that while he had spoken to Manson approximately a dozen times, he had never represented him. He said that Manson was one of several people who suggested he represent Van Houten, but that he only went to see her after receiving a written request from her.
Dell spoke to Van Houten and she again requested Part be replaced with Reiner.
Part asked Judge Dell to listen to a recording he had made of Leslie. He told the judge: "That girl is insane in a way that is almost science fiction." Judge Dell declined to hear the tape but said he would have three psychiatrists review the tape to determine if Van Houten could intelligently make a substitute of Counsel.
On February 6th, based on the findings of the three psychiatrists Judge Dell ruled that Van Houten was legally sane and competent to make a substitution.
On April 13th, Charles Manson filed an affidavit of prejudice against Judge Keene. Keene accepted and stepped down. He was replaced by Judge Charles Older. All defendants have the right to file one affidavit of prejudice against the trial Judge, however the defense attorneys agreed to accept Older and he would continue to preside as Judge for the duration of the trial.
In June of 1970 Manson requested Irving Kanarek replace Ronald Hughes as his attorney. After some debate amongst the Judge, the prosecution and Manson, Older agreed to the substitution. In picking Kanarek Manson had hoped to pressure the Judge into letting him act as his own lawyer as he had requested before. Kanarek had a reputation for being an "obstructionist" in the courtroom, causing trials to drag on due to his many objections. The Judge did not give in to Manson's bluff.
Later in court the three female defendants each stood in turn and said: "If Your Honor does not respect Mr. Manson's rights, you need not respect mine." They then turned their back on the Court. The defense attorneys told the Judge that they had no control over their clients, so Older had the three removed and placed in a vacant jury room upstairs. A speaker was set up in the room with them so they could hear the proceedings.
After the lunch recess Krenwinkel speaking for the other two told the Judge: "We should be able to be present at this play here." However, the three continued to stand with their backs to the Judge. The Judge had them removed again.
The next day all four defendants were in court. Older advised them that they were only hurting their case by their conduct in previous days. Manson again tried to revert to pro per status. When Older denied his request, Manson and the girls bowed their heads and stretched out their arms in a crucifixion pose. When the deputies were unable to seat them they were removed from the court again.
As the search for jury members began Reiner began to try and separate Leslie from the other defendants. Manson and the girls desired a unified defense and made this known to their lawyers. Ira Reiner and Paul Fitzgerald told the Los Angeles Times that the defense had been told to "remain silent" during voir dire and not question prospective jurors.
The next day Reiner disobeyed this order and continued to question the prospective jurors. Leslie asked that he be removed as her lawyer. Judge Older denied her request.
Reiner asked potential jurors: "Even if it appears that Leslie Van Houten desired to stand or fall with the other defendants, could you nevertheless acquit her if the evidence against her was insufficient?"
On July 14th, the jury was accepted by both the defense and prosecution. There were seven men and five women. The youngest was twenty-five, the oldest was seventy-three. The jurors were sequestered.
On July 17th, Van Houten requested Reiner be replaced as her lawyer by Ronald Hughes, who had previously represented Manson. After questioning Hughes, Van Houten and Manson about a possible conflict of interest, Older granted the substitution.
On July 21st, six alternate jurors were sworn in and sequestered as well. (Eventually one of the jurors would have to drop out due to illness. He was replaced by a male alternate, thereby keeping the gender makeup of the jury the same.)
On July 24th, the trial began. Manson arrived in court with a bloody X on his forehead. He had apparently carved or burnt the X into his flesh. A press release was passed out by the Family members that were not incarcerated. It read in part: "I have X'd myself from your world." On the following Monday, July 26th, Van Houten and the other two female defendants arrived in court with X's on their foreheads as well.
As the trial progressed the girls seemed disinterested. Van Houten spent time drawing, giggling, sometimes making faces at the jury, or as in the case of the youngest male member of the jury, sometimes flirting.
On August 3rd, during an impromptu press briefing at a law enforcement conference in Denver, President Richard Nixon referring to the Manson case, said, "Here is a man who was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason." . He criticized the press, saying that it tends to "glorify and to make heroes out of those who engage in criminal activities."
Immediately after Nixon made the remarks in Denver, Ronald V. Ziegler, Presidential press secretary, called reporters together to "clarify" the President's statement.
Ziegler said that Nixon "failed to use the word 'alleged'" in his statement. "The phrase he used could lead to some misinterpretation," Ziegler added.
Asked if the "clarification" was a retraction of the Nixon statement, Ziegler answered, "I believe I've done that."
The defense immediately moved for a mistrial.
In Los Angeles, defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald told reporters, "If we're going to have the chief executive of this nation categorically or uncategorically speculate on people's guilt, we ought to abandon this court system. Maybe President Nixon in a news conference ought to determine whether these people are guilty."
Despite pains being taken to keep the jury from hearing or reading about the President's remarks they would eventually learn what he had said.
On August 4th, Manson held up a newspaper headline that proclaimed: "Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares". This resulted in the Judge questioning each juror to see if they could continue to remain objective despite having seen the headline. Each said they could.
The motion for a mistrial was denied.
In court on August 5th, Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins stood and in unison said: "Your Honor, the President said we are guilty, so why go on with the trial?"
On August 19th, while the prosecution called various witnesses to testify to events surrounding the Tate murders, Hughes made a motion that he and his client Van Houten be allowed to be absent during this testimony. The motion was denied but it put Hughes in Manson's cross hairs.
Sgt. Dolan of the Latent Prints Section of SID were called by the prosecution. Dolan testified that no print of Manson, Krenwinkel or Van Houten had been found at the Labianca home. When asked about the fork that had been left in stomach of Leno Labianca, Dolan said: "there was not so much as a slight smudge on it; in fact it gave the impression to me that the handle of that particular fork had been wiped." In addition Dolan testified to finding "wipe-type marks" on the door of the refrigerator.
In her 2002 parole hearing Van Houten described wiping off fingerprints in the bedroom of the Labianca home. When asked if she wiped off prints in the rest of the home she said that she did not leave the bedroom until they left the home. At the time of the trial, Diane Lake told prosecutors that Patricia Krenwinkel had told her that Charles "Tex" Watson had directed Leslie to wipe fingerprints off everything they had touched.
During the testimony of Spahn Ranch hand Juan Flynn, Manson and the female defendants created several disturbances. Older had them removed several times. On October 2nd, Manson turned to the courtroom audience and said: "It's your Judgment Day, not mine." Leslie, Pat and Susan turned and shouted the same thing. Again, Older had them all removed from the courtroom.
When court resumed the following Monday, Judge Older allowed the defendants to return to court. As the prosecution ended direct of LASO detective Paul Whiteley, the defense declined to cross-examine him. However, Manson spoke out in court and demanded to examine him. Older refused. Words were exchanged and Manson threatened the Judge. Suddenly, Manson leapt across the defense table with a sharpened pencil in his hand, heading toward the Judge. Two deputies were able to pin Manson and take him out of the courtroom. As he was being removed Manson shouted: "In the name of Christian justice, someone should cut your head off."
While this was going on Van Houten, Krenwinkel and Atkins stood and chanted and shouted in Latin. Older demanded several times for them to stop and when they didn't he had them removed as well.
On November 16th, 1970 the prosecution concluded it's case. Court was recessed until Thursday November 19th. At that time Judge Older told the defense to call their first witness. Paul Fitzgerald, speaking for the defense, said: "Thank you, Your Honor. The defendants rest." They had determined they would not put on defense.
Leslie and the other two girls shouted they wanted to testify. Judge Older called counsel into chambers. The defense attorneys told the Judge that the girls wanted to testify and say that they had planned and committed the murders - and that Manson was not involved. The attorneys for the girls opposed this and therefore decided to rest their case. Van Houten's attorney, Ronald Hughes, said: "I refuse to take part in any proceeding where I am forced to push a client out the window."
Judge Older ruled that the right to testify supersedes all other rights. He would allow the girls to take the stand. As Susan Atkins took the stand her attorney Daye Shinn refused to examine her. Again Judge Older called counsel into chambers. He admonished the defense for trying to wreck the trial and recessed court for the day.
The next day Manson announced he wanted to testify. Older determined that he could testify, but that the jury could not be present because of possible Aranda issues. He was given permission to make a statement rather than be questioned by his lawyer. After an hour of speaking he left the stand. He told Leslie, Patricia and Susan: "You don't have to testify now."
Judge Older called a recess before final arguments began. Court was to resume on November 30th.
On November 30th, Ronald Hughes, attorney for Leslie Van Houten failed to appear when court resumed.
During the recess in the trial Hughes had gone on a camping trip near Sespe Hot Springs, CA.
A Volkswagen Hughes and two friends had taken on the trip became stuck in mud. The two friends said they hitchhiked out but Hughes decided to remain behind.
Fellow defense attorney, Paul Fitzgerald, said that his answering service had received a call from someone identifying themselves as Hughes, who stated that until the police allowed them to go on the road he would have to stay where they were.
Deputies said that there was no telephone service to Sespe Hot Springs. They speculated that perhaps Hughes had someone who hiked out call Fitzgerald on his behalf.
On December 2nd, 1970 Bruce Davis, who had gone into hiding earlier in the year when the Grand Jury brought indictments against him for the Hinman murder, and Nancy Pittman, who had also been missing for several weeks and was wanted on a forgery charge, turned themselves in.
That same day Judge Older told Leslie that he felt a co-counsel should be brought in to represent her due to Hughes' absence. Leslie said she would refuse a co-counsel.
On December 3rd, Older appointed Maxwell Keith co-counsel for Leslie. Older granted a delay until December 21st, to give Keith a chance to prepare his argument.
When after several days Hughes failed to appear a search for him was launched.
At Sespe Hot Springs the Volkswagen was found. It had some of Hughes' trial transcripts in it, but supposedly a psychiatric report on Leslie Van Houten was missing.
On December 21st, court reconvened. During the course of the day Leslie and the other girls shouted that Older had "done away with Hughes". Older had Manson and the girls removed.
Keith advised the court that he did not feel he could adequately defend his client - Van Houten - since he had not been present during testimony. He requested a mistrial. Older denied the motion.
The prosecution began their opening argument. After the first day of the opening argument Older allowed the girls to return to the courtroom. (Manson declined to return) Shortly afterwards Leslie caused a disturbance. Krenwinkel and Atkins mimicked her and Older had them all removed again.
Judge Older declared that the defendants would not be able to return to the courtroom for the remainder of the guilt phase of the trial.
Despite not having been present for most of the trial, Keith probably gave the best argument for his client. He argued that at best "she was there" at the time of the crimes.
During final summation the prosecution refuted Keith's argument saying Leslie was guilty and went far beyond being just present at the murders, stabbing Rosemary Labianca, wiping prints from the house to hide evidence.
On January 15th, 1971 Older gave instructions to the jury and they began their deliberations.
On January 25th, the jury reached a verdict. All defendants were found guilty. Leslie was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of murder in the fist degree.
During the polling of the jurors it's reported that Leslie said to Patricia: "Look at the jury; don't they look sad?"
During the penalty phase of the trial, Judge Older allowed the defendants to return to the courtroom.
Keith called Leslie's mother Jane Van Houten to the stand.
Ms. Van Houten described Leslie as a "feisty" child, fun to be with. "She had a wonderful sense of humor."
Keith asked Ms. Van Houten: "How do you feel about your daughter now?"
Mrs. Van Houten: "I love Leslie very much."
Keith: "As much as you always have?"
Mrs. Van Houten: "More."
Years later Leslie would recall her father and Manson locking eyes during the trial. "I remember when Charlie locked eyes with my father. You know, I was watching both because it was a really intense moment for me, and there was great satisfaction on Charlie's face. You know, It was just one of, you know, 'Look what I've done to your baby.'"
The Family members not on trial - Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, Catherine "Gypsy" Share, Ruth Ann Moorehouse, Steve "Clem" Grogan and Sandra Good - took the stand and put the blame for the murders on Linda Kasabian who had been the prosecution's star witness, telling of both nights of murder.
Leslie and the other two female defendants also took the stand and alternately took the blame for the murders and fingered Linda Kasabian as the mastermind.
During her time on the stand Atkins implicated Leslie in the murder of Gary Hinman, saying that Van Houten had been present during his murder. When Keith called Leslie to the stand she also put herself
at the Hinman murder.
Regarding the Labianca murders, Leslie said she did not know where she was going that night when she got in the car. She claimed to not have known anything about the Tate murders the night before. She said that she and Patricia Krenwinkel only stabbed Mrs. Labianca after she swung a lamp at them.
Keith asked her if she had stabbed Mrs. Labianca "after she appeared to be dead".
Leslie answered: "I don't know if it was before or after she was dead, but I stabbed her...I don't know if she was dead. She was lying there on the floor."
Keith: "Had you stabbed her at all before you saw her lying on the floor?"
Van Houten: "I don't remember."
When Keith asked her if she felt sorry about Mrs. Labianca's death, she answered: "What can I feel? It has happened. She is gone."
When asked if she wanted to cry for what had happened, she answered: "Cry? For her death? If I cry for death, it is for death itself. She is not the only person who has died."
Van Houten went on to say she only thought about the death of the Labianca's when she was "in court."
During the testimony of a defense witness, psychiatrist Keith Ditman, who testified that Leslie could have been susceptible to the influence of Manson due to her use of LSD, Van Houten shouted: "This is all such a big lie. I was influenced by the war in Vietnam and TV."
The prosecution was able to bring out testimony from this psychiatrist, and another doctor who testified for the defense - Dr. Fort - that most people on LSD do not tend to be violent.
Another defense witness Dr. Joel Simon Hochman, said of Leslie: "Leslie Van Houten was a psychologically loaded gun which went off as a consequence of the complex intermingling of highly unlikely and bizarre circumstances."
After prosecution and defense arguments in the penalty phase of the trial were over, the jury began deliberations on March 26th, 1971.
March 29th, the jurors came back with their verdicts. The girls were brought back into the courtroom to hear the verdicts. They had shaved their heads, mimicking Manson who had shaved his head earlier.
Before the verdicts could be read Manson caused a disturbance and had to be removed.
The clerk read the first verdict, which was death for Charles Manson. The girls shouted:
Krenwinkel: "You have just judged yourselves."
Atkins: "Better lock your doors and watch your own kids."
Van Houten: "Your whole system is a game. You blind, stupid people. Your children will turn against you."
Once again Judge Older had to have the girls removed from the courthouse. They listened over a loudspeaker to the rest of the verdicts, all of which were death against all four defendants. Leslie and the other girls smiled and giggled.
That same day a body, suspected to be Ronald Hughes, was found in Ventura County.
Paul Fitzgerald viewed the body in the Ventura County Morgue and said that he was "firmly of the opinion it was Hughes."
The Ventura Country coroner, Merle Peters, withheld making an official identification until he was able to match Hughes' dental records to that of the corpse.
The cause and nature of Ronald Hughes' death was ruled as 'Undetermined'.
Later members of the Manson Family were reported to have said that Hughes had been murdered the "first of the retaliation murders."
On April 19th, 1971 Judge Older upheld the verdicts against all four defendants. Manson was ordered to the State Prison of the State of California at San Quentin. There was no death row for women at the time. An isolation wing was constructed at the California Institute for Women at Frontera and Leslie, Patricia and Susan were sent there to await execution.
The Death Penalty is Overturned
In February 1972, the death sentences of all Manson Family members awaiting execution, were automatically reduced to life in prison by California v. Anderson, in which the Supreme Court of California abolished the death penalty in that state.
The People of the State of California v. Robert Page Anderson, was a landmark case in the state of California that outlawed the use of capital punishment. It was subsequently overruled by constitutional amendment.
The Anderson decision caused all capital sentences in the state of California to be commuted to life in prison. It would also mean that if any person was ever charged with a murder committed in California before 1972, the death penalty could not be imposed.
Sitting on death row at CIW, Leslie Van Houten heard the news on the radio. "That's us" she shouted to Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins.
Later Leslie would say that the overturning of the death penalty was the event that made her start to deal with what she had done. Before that, she said, she had looked at her death sentence as an "eye for an eye".
The Second Trial
In 1976 the Court of Appeals threw out Leslie's conviction and granted her a retrial based on the fact that her attorney in her first trial had disappeared during the trial and she had not been granted a mistrial.
Maxwell Keith, who replaced Ronald Hughes after he disappeared during her first trial, represented Van Houten. The grounds of Keith's defense of Van Houten was diminished capacity. Steven Kay, who had been a prosecutor during Leslie's first trial, assumed that role again.
On December 27th, 1976 Leslie's retrial was set for January 28th, 1977. Keith requested bail be set at $50,000. Stephen Kay argued that the bail should be set at $150,000. Judge Jack E. Goertzen set bail at $200,000, higher than even Kay had asked. Goertzen advised the defense that he had no prison records in front of him to help him make a decision about bail, but left an opening for Keith to produce those documents and file a bail reduction motion.
On December 31st, Judge Goertzen and Keith met in chambers where Keith provided documents from CIW where Van Houten had been housed for the previous five years. Keith argued that Van Houten was not a security risk and again asked for bail to be set at $50,000. District Attorney Kay said that he had been phoned by Alan Brown, associate superintendent at CIW who had heard Keith on TV say that it was the opinion of the authorities at CIW that Van Houten was "thoroughly rehabilitated". Kay said Brown told him that while Leslie had made progress her behavior had deteriorated in the past six months. Kay went on to quote Brown as saying that Van Houten had recently violated several prison regulations and committed one violation of law involving possession of marijuana. Judge Goertzen ruled that the $200,000 bail should stand. He listed the two main reasons for keeping the bail at $200,000, as the strong evidence pointing to her guilt and the gravity of the crime.
Leslie was transferred from CIW to Sybil Brand jail to await her trial.
In January 1977 a taped interview between Barbara Walters and Van Houten was shown on ABC. Van Houten's bangs were cut so as to cover the X she had burned into her forehead during her first trial. She was smartly dressed in the fashion of the day. From outward appearances she seemed like any other woman in her late twenties. However, when she spoke she appeared dull and lifeless, almost as if she were sedated and her reactions and her answers to Walters' questions seemed rehearsed and guarded. During much of the interview she kept her eyes down cast or closed.
On January 20th, a judge ruled that the retrial of Van Houten would remain in Los Angeles after both defense and prosecution attorneys agreed that the entire state was "saturated" with publicity about the case.
The retrial began in March. Many of the witnesses from the first trial testified again, such as Linda Kasabian and Paul Watkins. Keith played a tape of Charles Manson.
In July the jury began deliberation. After thirteen days and seventy and a half hours of deliberation, a member of the jury had to be replaced due to an intestinal illness. An alternate juror, a female, was appointed to replace him. The makeup of the jury was then seven women and five men.
Judge Edward Hinz Jr. told the jury that they should begin deliberations anew. He advised the jury that a proper verdict could only be reached "after full participation" of the new juror.
On August 4th jury foreman Bill J. Albee told Judge Hinz that the jury was deadlocked. Albee advised the Judge that the last ballot had been taken at 10:26am that morning and that the vote was 2-3-7. (The Judge had advised the foreman not to designate what those votes signified.) Hinz questioned the jurors individually in open court asking if they thought that they come to an agreement upon further deliberation. Seven said that they thought the jury could come to an agreement and five said they felt that they could not.
On Saturday August 6th, a mistrial was declared. The jury had deadlocked seven for first degree murder, five for manslaughter. Foreman Albee said that the jury had taken fifteen to twenty ballots during both series of deliberations. (With the original juror who became ill and then with the alternate who replaced him.) Upon hearing the number of jurors who voted for manslaughter, Van Houten gasped and broke into a big smile.
Before deliberations the jury had heard forty one days of testimony spread out over a fifteen week period. The prosecution called twenty six witnesses, the defense twelve (Including five psychiatrists).
Judge Hinz sent the hung jury home and set a September 12th hearing date to determine when and if there would be a third trial.
The Third Trial
On December 27th, 1977 Leslie was released on a $200,000 bond, until the start of -and the duration of- her third trial. Friends and family raised the $20,000 for her bail. She worked as a legal secretary and lived with a woman who was working on a book about her.
In her 2007 parole hearing District Attorney Sequeira read a letter from Barbara Hoyt, who lived with the Manson family when she was seventeen, during the time of the murders of 1969. In the letter Hoyt described seeing Van Houten at the home of Paul Watkins, another member of the Manson Family, while Leslie was out on bail during the time of her third trial. While Watkins was not involved in any murders committed by Leslie or the other members of the Family, he was intimately involved in the Manson Family and even after the Tate Labianca murderers were arrested and charged with those murders he continued his involvement with them for a time. He was also a witness at Van Houten's retrials, and it seems an odd choice that Van Houten would have made to go visit him.
In March 1978 Van Houten's third trial began. Steven Kay and Dino Fulgoni were the prosecutors. Maxwell Keith again represented Leslie.
The jury consisted of six men and six women. Judge Gordon Ringer presided.
Keith once again used the defense that she was suffering from diminished capacity due to Manson's influence and her use of LSD. He argued that due to these factors she could not "meaningfully and maturely" have premeditated murder and therefore should be convicted of Manslaughter. If Van Houten had been convicted of manslaughter she could have walked out of the courtroom based on time served.
Kay argued that Van Houten had testified that she had considered for two days whether or not to participate in murder and decided to do so.
At the start of the trial Stephen Kay said Leslie Van Houten was "a very bright girl," neither drugs nor sex were forced on her and she always did just what she wanted to do, even when it came to murder.
On June 22nd, Judge Ringer gave instructions to the jury and they began deliberations.
On July 5th Leslie was convicted of two counts of first degree murder. The jury had deliberated over thirty hours during a nine day period.
Her bail was revoked and she was returned to jail to await sentencing.
Upon appeal her conviction was upheld. Paul Fitzgerald, who had represented Patricia Krenwinkel during the first trial, represented Van Houten in her appeal.
Van Houten was returned to CIW in August 1978.
Beginning in the late 1970s Leslie began to come before the parole board to be reviewed for release. In 1979 and 1980 she was reviewed by the board and denied parole.
A group of supporters of Van Houten called "Friends of Leslie" began to campaign for her release. They wrote letters, collected signatures on petitions and appeared on TV, radio and in print to plea for her release.
In a 1980 Los Angeles Times article three members of "Friends of Leslie" were interviewed. One of the comments made during that interview was:
"Her involvement (in the murders) was minimal. When she realized what was happening she ran screaming."
This statement is ludicrous. In no way, shape or form did Van Houten run "screaming" from the Manson Family. She knew they were going out to kill the night of the Labianca murder and she made it known she wanted to go. Once in the house, not only did she stab Mrs. Labianca, but she tried to hide evidence while in the Labianca home, and afterwards at the ranch. She stayed with the Family until she was arrested.
Another statement made by the group during that same interview was: "Her involvement (in the murders) was something she couldn't prevent or deal with."
Leslie Van Houten absolutely could have prevented her involvement in these murders.
Doris Tate had told Steven Kay that if he ever needed her help to let her know. In the early 80's Kay learned that Van Houten's supporters had been able to collect 900 letters in support of her release.
Kay called Mrs. Tate and advised her of Leslie's support letters and asked did she think they could do better than that. Doris responded "Honey, you bet we can."
Mrs. Tate was able to obtain over 350,000 letters against the release of Van Houten or any other member of the Manson Family.
This experience is what convinced Mrs. Tate to become active in the Victim's Rights movement. She worked tirelessly for many years, until her death, on behalf of not only her daughter and the other victims of the Manson Family but all victims of violent crime.
The group Friends of Leslie were set back by these developments. Jerry Grumbleton, a Los Angeles Unified School District psychologist, who had been active in his support of Van Houten, said: "We know we precipitated Stevie Kay getting together with Mrs. Tate. It's hard to see how we facilitated or helped anything. It was Doris Tate who killed us."
Though the Tate family was not able to attend the parole hearings of Leslie Van Houten they were outspoken in their belief that she should never receive parole.
Since 1999 the Labianca family has stepped forward and various members of the family are attending the parole hearings for Leslie Van Houten.
Debra Tate and Jay Sebring's nephew, Anthony DiMaria, have joined the Labianca family at the latest parole hearings as support. They are not allowed to speak during the parole hearing.
In her 1991 parole consideration Van Houten was asked if she knew the age of her victims at the time of their deaths. She couldn't answer. This is information that is well documented and readily available. It seems to show a total lack of interest on her part, that she doesn't know the answer.
Since that hearing Van Houten has mentioned several times in interviews the ages of the Labiancas and how she is now older than they were then. In 1994, shaking her head, she told Diane Sawyer: "I...took away all that life."
Through the years Leslie has been represented at her parole hearings by several attorneys. She's even represented herself a couple of times.
Van Houten is unwilling at some parole hearings to discuss the details of the murders with the board. When she does discuss the murders, she often cites memory loss regarding certain facts surrounding the case. She also has contradicted herself numerous times over the years in retelling the story. She's been called on this, usually by the district attorney but sometimes by the board.
In her 2002 parole hearing she made a point of correcting the board's misstatement that she was a Homecoming Queen in high school, telling them that she was a Homecoming Princess. She said it was a small thing but she felt that sometimes she had to be so careful of all the little "technical details".
Obviously, the parole board is not concerned whether Leslie was a Homecoming Queen or a Princess. The fact that she feels that is the kind of "technical detail" they would call her on, shows a complete lack of understanding of the gravity of her offense.
A Continued History of Bad Decisions
In the early 1980's Van Houten began a written correspondence with an ex-con, William Cywin. He had done time for various charges ranging from car theft, embezzling and drugs.
Aware of all this, on November 18th, 1981 Van Houten married William Cywin.
On March, 1983 Cywin was arrested for stealing a car. A search of his home yielded small quantities of marijuana and cocaine. A California Department of Corrections shirt and badge and a California Department of Corrections jumper style dress generally used by pregnant female officers.
According to a report by the California Department of Corrections California Institute for Women at Frontera, dated August 16th, 1983, Cywin hand delivered a letter to CIW requesting visiting approval for a psychiatrist to interview Van Houten at CIW on March 28th, 1982.
In her 1986 parole hearing Van Houten said that she only spoke to Cywin once after he was arrested. She said he told her he could not speak about the charges against him because the call was recorded. She says she subsequently divorced him.
When asked, during that same parole hearing, what she thought he had planned to do with the CDC uniform she said she thought that he had planned to try and break her out, but that she had no knowledge of his plan.
In a 1994 interview with Larry King she said:
"...when I was in my early 30s, I married. But it was a very bad thing to do and I haven't done it since. You know, I did it specifically for love, and, well I was hoping -- you know, what can I say?"
In her 2007 parole hearing Van Houten submitted parole plans that included working in criminal defense attorney's office and with a former inmate who assists other life prisoners in obtaining release. Both of these job offers would put Van Houten in contact with other felons.
In the years since her first trial Leslie Van Houten has spent a lot of time minimizing her guilt in the Labianca murders. At times she has told the parole board that she takes responsibility for the death of both Mr. and Mrs. Labianca - as well she should since she was an active participant in the murders committed at the Labianca home in the early morning hours of August 10th, 1969. Other times she has said that she is not responsible for the murder of Mr. Labianca at all. And she has repeatedly lessened her involvement in the murder of Mrs. Labianca, saying that she believes Mrs. Labianca was dead when she stabbed her.
In an article in the Los Angeles Times in December 1980 Van Houten downplayed her guilt in relation to other members of the Manson Family saying:
"Pat and Susan have a lot more to live with than I do."
Apparently she was under the assumption that she was less guilty than Krenwinkel and Atkins because her body count was not as high as theirs.
At the age of 33 Leslie was interviewed for TV. During the interview she was questioned about her responsibility for the murder of the Labiancas. She said that she did feel responsible for Mrs. Labianca's murder because she was "there with her" but went on to say she did not feel responsible for Mr. Labianca.
During that same interview she said: "Sometimes it's difficult, because when you say 'responsibility' then it's as though there was something I could have done to have changed it."
When the interviewer answers that indeed there was something she could have done to change it, that what she did was her choice, Van Houten has a far away look in her eye and sort of shakes her head uncertainly and says "Yeah."
Speaking of the death of Leno and Rosemary Labianca she says they "ended". Not that she and her crime partners murdered them, but that they "ended". She goes on to say "Life goes on. I go on." As if to say, the family of the Labiancas should get over their death because life is going on, and more importantly Leslie is going on:
"It's... hard for me...sometimes, to accept the fact that people choose to... believe that I absolutely cannot change that I was something at 19 and what I am at 33 is irrelevant because the one that they loved ended when I was 19. And though I understand it it's very difficult because life goes on. And, you know, I go on. "
To reiterate this interview was filmed when Leslie was 33 years old, in the early 1980's. Fourteen years after the crimes. Fourteen years away from the influence of Charles Manson.
In her 2002 parole hearing the parole board asked her: "...are you responsible for the deaths of Leno and Rosemary Labianca?"
Van Houten answered: "Yes."
Later on in that same parole hearing she used the words "contributed to" in regards to the murder of the Labiancas.
The parole board called her on it asking: "Did you murder Mrs. Labianca? Did you kill Mrs. Labianca? Or 'contribute to' her death?"
Van Houten answered that she felt she "contributed to" her death. She goes on to say that the autopsy reports show that Watson inflicted the "fatal wounds" to Mrs. Labianca, but that she feels she contributed.
Leslie was convicted of the murder of both Leno and Rosemary Labianca - twice. Once in a verdict that didn't stand and once in a verdict that did. She is guilty of both murders.
Instead of accepting that, instead of understanding that by entering the Labianca home with the intention of murder, by holding down Mrs. Labianca so she could be stabbed, by calling for Watson to come help when she and Krenwinkel could not complete the job, by stabbing Mrs. Labianca herself, by covering up the evidence - she murdered the Labiancas - Leslie chooses to play Semantics with the board.
Further Attempts to Gain Parole
In 2002, Van Houten filed an appeal of her 2000 parole rejection, which received a hearing in Superior Court.
In early June of that same year, Judge Bob Krug of San Bernadino County ordered a new parole hearing, ruling that the Board of Prison Terms needed to explore Van Houten's prison behavior in greater depth and provide information on what she must do to win her freedom. The board, the judge ruled, could not simply deny her parole based on the seriousness of the crime.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed his decision in March 2004. The Fourth District’s Div. Two ruled retired Judge Bob N. Krug, applied the wrong standard when he held that the board had failed to balance the heinousness of Van Houten’s crimes against her subsequent efforts at rehabilitation.
Presiding Justice Manuel Ramirez, writing for the Court of Appeal, said that the courts must uphold the board’s exercise of it's discretion to find an inmate unsuitable for parole as long as there is “some evidence” to support it. And that evidence can come solely from a review of the circumstances of the crime, Ramirez said.
On June 23rd, 2004 the California Supreme Court declined to review the Court of Appeal's ruling upholding the denial of parole to Van Houten.
As of her parole hearing in August 2007, Van Houten has been denied parole eighteen times. Her next parole hearing is scheduled for some time in 2009.
Unsuitable for Parole
It is our opinion that Leslie Van Houten is unsuitable for parole for the following reasons.
- Van Houten was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
- The Heinous nature of the crimes. Words were written in the victim's blood on the walls. The victim's Bodies were mutilated. There were multiple stab wounds inflicted on both victims.
- The murders were committed in the victim's home in the middle of the night.
- The victim's bodies were left lying on the floor of their home for their family to discover.
- Van Houten knew before hand that she was entering the Labianca home to commit murder.
- Van Houten knew the facts surrounding the previous night's murders committed by her crime partners.
- The crimes were committed to incite a race war.
- The Victims were murdered because of their race.
- Van Houten made a mockery of her first trial.
- Van Houten received two other trials, and therefore has been given every opportunity to defend herself.
- Van Houten has minimized her role in the Labianca murders over the years.
- Her inability to accept that she is convicted of the murder of both Mr. and Mrs. Labianca.
- A continued history of bad personal decisions.
Webmaster Note: I'd like to thank Alan Patierno for his help with this profile. His contributions to the project were invaluable.