Weird Torture Slaying of LaBianca Described
Friday, August 28th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 28 – Market owner Leno LaBianca had the word “WAR” cut into his stomach with a carving fork as he lay dying of 26 stab wounds, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury was told Thursday.
LaBianca, one of the seven victims hippie leader Charles Manson and three of his “girls” are accused of murdering, could have died of any one of six of the 26 wounds, Los Angeles Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. David M. Katsuyama testified. ”
The start of the trial today was delayed when one of the defendants said she was too ill to continue.
Susan Atkins, complaining of stomach cramps and back pains, was examined by a doctor and brought down from the men’s jail five floors above the courtroom in the Los Angeles Hall of Justice.
Miss Atkins was taken from the courtroom after a short bench conference between attorneys and Judge Charles Older.
She had been sitting with her head on the counsel table from the time she was escorted into the courtroom.
In some of the most grisly testimony to come out thus far in the gory murder case, Dr. Katsuyama Thursday said the murderers, after stabbing the market owner 12 times with “at least two knives,” left one imbedded in his neck. Fourteen puncture wounds from the carving fork were found in LaBianca’s abdomen area and the fork left sticking in the dying man’s stomach.
“The fork wounds were inflicted and ‘WAR’ was written in the last phases of life or shortly after death,” Dr. Katsuyama said.
The bespectacled autopsy expert said the carving fork—”used singly, one tine at a time” — may have been used to carve the message on LaBianca’s stomach.
“But,” he added, “whatever was used…did not have a sharp edge. It was more like a screwdriver or an electric plug.”
An electrical cord, with a plug on the end, had secured a pillow case over LaBianca’s head. The cord, the doctor testified, had been tied “moderately light” around the victim’s neck and could not be removed without cutting it.
(A similar hood had been placed over the head of Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring and secured with a rope the night before in the killings at the home of actress Sharon Tate.)
Dr. Katsuyama, who listed LaBianca’s cause of death as “multiple stab wounds to the neck and abdomen causing massive hemorrhage,” said the knife in the victim’s throat had not been discovered at the scene of the murders because of the hood which covered LaBianca’s head and neck.
The surgeon said the blade of the small carving knife — which measured less than five inches long and three-fourths of an inch wide — could not have made all the stab wounds found in LaBianca.
“A minimum of two knives were used to kill him,” the doctor said. “A double-edged blade — at least 5 1/2 inches long – caused most of the wounds.”
Earlier, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Danny Galindo testified that when he arrived at the murder home he saw LaBianca’s head stuffed inside a pillow case with the electrical cord around his neck — the end still attached to a lamp.
“The carving fork, with a pearl-white handle and aquamarine markings, was inserted in his abdomen area, two inches above the navel,” the sergeant related matter-of-factly. “The tines were stuck into his flesh up to the bifurcation of the tines.”
Matching utensils, he said, were found in the LaBianca kitchen, indicating the murderers had used their victims’ own kitchen equipment to kill them.
“W-A-R was written in his stomach with the fork protruding from the ‘A’. Some sort of sharp object had raised the flesh to angry scars,” the 20-year homicide veteran added calmly as jurors and spectators cringed visibly in their seats.
Mrs. LaBianca, the officer said, also had a white pillowcase slipped over her head and also was tied with an electric cord that ran from her neck to a bedside lamp.
“The lamp had been dragged a little bit,” the sergeant said, “and it appeared to me that she had crawled. In my opinion there was no struggle in the living room (where LaBianca was found) or the bedroom (where Mrs. LaBianca was discovered).”
There was also “no signs of ransacking” he said, “since many items of value — diamond rings, wrist watches, valuable camera equipment, coin collection, rifles and guns were around, unlocked.”
Sgt. Galindo told the seven-man, five-woman jury that an open purse — with no wallet in it — was found on top of a liquor cabinet, and a man’s wallet was found in a car parked in front of the home.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald, Sgt. Galindo admitted he found scratch sheets and book-making paraphernalia in the home.
In getting the policeman to admit that “I found a lot of horse betting information sheets” and getting Mrs. LaBianca’s son, who was on the stand Wednesday, to admit that the home had been burglarized or ransacked many times before the murders, Fitzgerald is laying the foundation for the defense of not only his own client, Patricia Krenwinkel, but the other three defendants.
The others are hippie leader Charles Manson, Miss Atkins, and Leslie Van Houten.
By MARY NEISWENDER