Cult Girl Unworried About Death Penalty
Tuesday, February 23rd, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 23 – The one-time high school beauty queen who admitted killing at least one of the Tate-LaBianca murder victims admitted today that she thought about the death penalty but decided to ignore it if it should be imposed, because there is “nothing I can do about it.”
Pretty 21-year-old Leslie Van Houten continued to testify in Los Angeles Superior Court today about her part in the killing of Rosemary LaBianca and the murder of Topanga Canyon musician Gary Hinman two weeks before.
Not the happy-go-lucky girl she had been on the stand Monday, the longhaired member of Charles Manson’s hippie “family” not only argued with the prosecutor, Dep. Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi, but also exchanged heated words with Manson’s attorney, Irving Kanarek.
Under cross-examination by Kanarek, who questioned her as if he were another prosecutor, the girl said she was taking the witness stand because she was “willing to carry the weight of the fact I was in that house with that woman with a knife in my hand, and am ready to be done with, with whatever has to be done.”
Pushed by Kanarek into descriptions that her attorney had intentionally ignored, the girl said the knife she used to kill Mrs. LaBianca must have been from the LaBianca kitchen.
“It was a weak knife — it bent,” the already convicted murderess said in testimony in the penalty phase of the trial.
The reason she killed the 38-year-old woman, she said, was “because it just happened.” She then became angry when Kanarek questioned her further on the killing as well as on the writings on the wall and on the effects LSD had on her. At one point she suggested that the attorney “take a tab of acid and see what it’s like.”
Under cross-examination by Bugliosi, who termed her testimony a “web of lies,” she admitted telling a court appointed attorney that Manson had ordered the murders.
She said she was just following the pattern set by Susan Atkins in her confession published in a Los Angeles newspaper before the trial began — the same pattern, she said, which Linda Kasabian, the state’s chief witness, followed in her testimony.
Miss Van Houten testified Monday that she felt no sorrow about the killings.
“Sorry is only a five-letter word — it can’t bring back anything…and I’d never want anything to be done over another way…that’s a foolish thought,” she said. “You can’t relive anything that’s done.”
Miss Van Houten, animated and frank on the witness stand in her testimony, was the third girl defendant to take the stand in the grisly murder trial and “confess” to her part in the killings.
But the former Monrovia High School beauty queen didn’t stop there.
She also “confessed” to participating in the Hinman murder.
She carefully absolved Manson of any guilt in any of the crimes, following the lead of her two predecessors, Miss Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel.
She told the five-woman, seven-man jury which is to decide whether she is to live or die for her part in the murders that when she entered a car filled with five other members of the “family” on the night of the LaBianca killings she did not know where they were going nor what, if any purpose, they had in mind.
“We drove all over the place and then we stopped at a house. Linda (Linda Kasabian) and Tex (Charles Watson, still to face trial for the murders) got out of the car,” she said.
“Linda came back and said Tex was going to stay. Katie (Miss Krenwinkel) and I said we wanted to stay too, so Linda said ‘Go up that driveway.'”
“When you walked up the driveway to that house did you have murder in mind?” her attorney Maxwell Keith asked.
“No,” she said quickly, admitting that neither did she intend to harm anyone inside, nor rob or burglarize.
“The front door was ajar, so we walked in. Tex was standing and a woman and a man were sitting. The man’s hands were behind him — it was apparent his hands were tied. Tex said nothing. The woman looked at us and said, ‘I’ll give you anything.’ ”
No one, she said, had threatened the couple at that point. So she, and Miss Krenwinkel, took the woman, Mrs. Rosemary LaBianca, into the bedroom, leaving the man, Leno LaBianca, with Watson.
“The closet door was open and we were looking at all the clothes…she had some very pretty clothes, and I thought she’d give us some because she said, ‘I’ll give you anything.’
“The woman kept saying ‘I won’t call police…I won’t call police,’ but she picked up a great big table lamp and it looked like she was going to throw it. I saw her out of the corner of my eye so I blocked it. We were fighting on the bed and I ripped a pillowcase off and put it over her head. I may have taken the lamp cord and put it around her neck or maybe her hands.
“Just then Katie came back from the kitchen with a bunch of utensils. I kept saying ‘please be still’ and she kept saying ‘I won’t call police.’ The more she kept saying police the more panicked I got.
“I asked her to lay still and be quiet and she started to pick up the lamp again so I took one of the knives Patricia had brought from the kitchen and we started stabbing and cutting up the lady. “I stabbed her. I don’t know if it was before or after she was dead, but I stabbed her.”
Miss Van Houten testified she then got a towel and started wiping everything off.
She said she next went into the living room and saw a man lying on the floor and writing in blood on the wall.
By MARY NEISWENDER