LOS ANGELES, Aug. 1 – The star prosecution witness in the Tate-La Bianca murder case, whose testimony could send Charles Manson to the gas chamber, Friday testified she loved him and considered him “the Messiah, come again.”
Twenty-one year old Linda Kasabian, who burst into tears for a second time as she recounted how she revisited the Benedict Canyon home of actress Sharon Tate to point out details for prosecutors, said Manson “seemed to be good — to be truthful.”
Under pounding cross examination by defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald, the admitted “pioneer group liver” said she felt Manson was “God-Man…a second Jesus Christ.”
“He just seemed to generate love…what he said seemed to be pure truth. This is what I had been looking for — this is what I saw in him,” the pig-tailed mother of two said.
Although she admitted that she questioned some of Manson’s philosophy “in my mind” because “some of the things didn’t make sense,” she never questioned it openly.
“I was told never to question why…never to disagree,” the ex-Manson “family” member related calmly. “The girls always said we never questioned Charlie…We just knew he’s right.
“In my own head I disagreed, but I was afraid to disagree out loud. He’s a heavy dude,” explaining that she meant Manson “had something to hold you…he was heavy.
“The girls,” she said, “worshipped him…would die to do anything for him — out of love.”
Under cross examination for the second day, Mrs. Kasabian smiled at the jury as she took the stand, then demurely pulled her skirt down to hide her knees.
Defense counsel Fitzgerald didn’t let this go unnoticed. His first questions were regarding the sex orgies in which — she admitted — she freely participated.
“I was like a blind, little girl in the forest. I took the first path that came along,” she said, lowering her yes.
Then, under questioning that became loud enough to be heard in the corridors, she admitted leaving home at the age of 16, getting married, divorced, remarried, and in between living in communal situations from New York’s Greenwich Village to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury.
The day she and her husband separated, July 4, 1969, a month before the murder of the pregnant actress and four others, she joined the Manson “family” because she felt “terribly unloved and unwanted.”
Her persuader, she said, was Catherine (Gypsy) Share, a member of the Manson “family.”
“Gypsy was sitting playing Charles Melton’s guitar and just singing. She told me about this family…this beautiful man…that there were children and they were going into the desert.”
Melton, she explained, she had met in Washington a year before and she and her husband had stayed with him the rest of the time. It was Melton, together with her husband, who came to the Spahn Ranch in Chatsworth, where the family lived, a few days after she arrived. She hid, she admitted, not wanting to leave the “family”.
Melton, she testified had inherited some money and with it, she and her husband were to go to South America.
It was at this point that Manson, showing anger and irritations for the first time, said “Ask her about the God-damned money.”
His comments brought Deputy Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi to his feet shouting.
“Mr. Manson is making all kinds of inflammatory remarks that the jury can hear,” he screamed, demanding a conference with Judge Charles Older at the bench.
A few minutes later, tempers still short, Manson’s attorney demanded “protection” for his client from Bugliosi, who apparently had made a snide remark as he walked past Manson, returning to his chair at the counsel table following the bench conference.
Mrs. Kasabian, who admitted “sleeping with all the men at the ranch eventually,” said she slept with Manson only four times, but that he paid more attention to her than he did to the rest of the girls.
“But that was usual for a newcomer,” she said.
When she first came to the ranch, she said, she met Charles (Tex) Watson, now fighting extradition in Texas, and it was with him that she first made love, although she admitted she had “no special feeling for any special person.”
“Tex took me into a dark shed and made love to me…which was an experience I never had before — totally different.”
The statement raised eyebrows and raised the question by the young attorney if this had been her first sexual experience.
Her response was a quick “no.”
“It was different…my hands were clenched when it was over…I had no power to open my hands…Gypsy said my ego had died.”
When Manson arrived, she said, he “talked to me…but I said I already know the truth…he talked about his philosophy, but I can’t remember what he said…It just didn’t stick in my mind. I just let go of it because I knew it wasn’t the truth.”
His loving, however, she said she remembered as being… “in the cave, the waterfall, the trailer and the house…I don’t know why I remember them, they just stuck in my mind.”
As far as the murders themselves were concerned, she said, she just “didn’t think.”
“I didn’t think anything about being asked to get a change of clothing the night of the Tate murders,” she testified. “But I knew not to ask questions.”
And although she admitted wrapping up the three knives with the instructions from Watson that she was to throw them out the car window if they were stopped by police, she “really didn’t think about what they were to be used for.”
Denying she loved Watson more than any others at the ranch and that he was the father of her child, Angel, born while she was in jail, she said it was Watson who told her they were “going to a house…where he’d been before…and do what he told us to do.”
She returned to the Tate home, she testified under questioning, in February — six months after the murders, to point out specifics.
“I remember going up and the dogs coming up and barking,” she said beginning to cry. “And I remember saying why weren’t the dogs here that night, and I started to cry.”
Fitzgerald, who had her admit that she had retold the story a half dozen times at least, asked her if she had cried every time she told the story — or “just in front of the jury.”
“I cry every time I think about it in my room,” she said. “I had seen something horrible when I was on that spot (in the Tate driveway).”
Admitting she had been promised immunity if she testified, the girl claimed that immunity was “just a piece of paper.”
“From the moment it happened, I knew I would be the one to tell the truth.I never had immunity in my mind. I look on this as a miracle. I have to do it. It doesn’t matter if there’s immunity or not.
“I’d give my life if none of this had happened…I could give my life for the people that were killed. It’s not a matter of saving my life. It’s a matter of telling the truth.”
Then Fitzgerald, almost at the top of his lungs shouted:
“During August did you call a police agency and tell them the truth?”
The girl shook her head.
“Did you tell the truth during September 1969?”
“No,” she said softly.
“What about October 1969…did you call anybody — police, victim’s families — to tell the truth?”
“No I did not.”
“What about November 1969?”
Before she could answer, Fitzgerald, who has spearheaded the 4-lawyer defense team, shouted: “You only did it after you were arrested…It was only when you knew you were being arrested for seven counts of murder that you decided to tell the truth. Isn’t that right?”
The girl nodded: “Yes.”
But Fitzgerald didn’t let up. “You were motivated solely because of your interest to tell the truth?”
“…I was concerned about my children…I wanted to have my baby first — then I’d tell the truth.”
As the hammering of the chief prosecution witness continued, Manson and his three girl followers — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — watched in apparent fascination. Although all four had smiled and nodded at her when she entered court, when the testimony was over for the day the girl walked out of court without a friendly nod from any of her former “family” members.
By MARY NEISWENDER