• LSD Influence on Miss Van Houten Told

LSD Influence on Miss Van Houten Told

LOS ANGELES, May 20 – A psychiatrist who specializes in “medicines of the mind” testified Thursday that Leslie Van Houten’s use of LSD so changed her values that she ended up “not caring for life, even her own.”

That is Dr. Keith Ditman’s appraisal of the 19-year-old girl accused of taking part in the 1969 murders of grocery chain operator Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary.

But the mental health of Miss Van Houten now, almost eight years later, is quite good, Ditman said under questioning by her attorney, Maxwell Keith.

“She is an outgoing, cheerful person free of any morbid or bizarre or recriminative thoughts,” the Beverly Hills psychiatrist testified. “She now has good ego strength, considering the precariousness of her position and long incarceration.

Ditman said he reached his conclusions about her present mental health after spending “about 10 hours” with her in recent months.

He explained to the jurors hearing the retrial in the courtroom of Superior Judge Edward Hinz Jr. that Miss Van Houten had refused to let him examine her at the time of her first trial.

The psychiatrist said much of the foundation for his opinion of her mental condition in 1969 was based on a tape-recorded conversation she had in December of that year with her attorney then, Marvin Part.

Ditman said he also had the benefit of a long session with Mrs. Jane Van Houten, the defendant’s schoolteacher mother.

Jurors earlier had the tape played for them and also heard Mrs. Van Houten tell about her daughter’s happy childhood, active early high school years and the troubled late teens that led her to become a “hostile and unkempt” member of Charles Manson’s cult.

On the hour-long tape played for the six-woman, six-man jury, Miss Van Houten was heard telling attorney Part about stabbing Mrs. LaBianca.

“I took the knife and I started stabbing, and I turned into an animal almost, you know. I just completely let out on that woman’s back. I must have done it about 10 times.”

Part then asked her on the tape if the stabbing of the woman “felt different than you thought it might have felt?”

She replied:
“It felt so weird that I blew my mind behind it … I mean, I lost control. I went completely nuts at that moment. It was hard to get the knife through … It’s not even like cutting a piece of meat. It’s much tougher. I had to use both hands and all my pressure, all my strength behind it to get it in.”

Miss Van Houten also told Part she believed Manson was Jesus Christ and maintained that she did nothing wrong in the LaBianca killings because she thought it would help trigger the “Helter Skelter” racial war Manson was predicting.

Ditman testified that Miss Van Houten’s use of LSD “facilitated” Manson’s control over her and his ability to convince her of theories such as the race war idea.

“In her case, I think LSD was a prime factor making her more susceptible to the philosophy … of Manson and that group,” the psychiatrist said.

Miss Van Houten’s mother testified about talking with her daughter in the spring of 1969 about the supposedly impending race war.

“She said to me, ‘Mama, did you know there is going to be a revolution and the black people will kill all the white people?” the mother testified. “I said, ‘Oh, Les, I don’t believe that.’ She said, ‘Then you’ll be killed, too,’ “Mrs. Van Houten continued.

The mother said the defendant also talked about speaking with “dogs and cats who say words so I can understand them.”


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