Leslie van Houten

Leslie Van Houten, a one-time homecoming princess, participated in the killings of Leno La Bianca and his wife Rosemary one day after the murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in August of 1969.

Leslie Van Houten, aka Lulu, was born on August 23, 1949, Los Angeles. Her father and mother were Paul, an auctioneer, and Jane Van Houten, a schoolteacher. As her surname suggests, Van Houten is of Dutch descent. She grew up in a middle-class family, with an older brother and two adopted siblings, a brother and sister of Korean descent.

Her parents divorced when Van Houten was fourteen years old. Her father moved out, and Van Houten continued to live with her mother. She began experimenting with different types of drugs around this time, including Benzedrine, hashish, and marijuana. She had fights at home and regularly ran away from home.

Van Houten was sexually active early on, and she became pregnant when she was seventeen. Her mother forced her to have an illegal abortion. The abortion was performed when Van Houten was already quite advanced in her pregnancy, and the aborted baby was buried in the backyard.

After this traumatic event, Van Houten became mentally unstable, ran away from home, but returned to finish high school. After graduating from high school in 1967, Van Houten moved in with her father and attended business college. At that time she started to be interested in spiritualism and went to live in a spiritual yoga commune.

In the summer of 1968, Van Houten was visiting friends in San Francisco where she met Manson family members Catherine Share, Bobby Beausoleil and his wife Gail. She traveled around with them, and in September of that year they took Van Houten to Spahn Ranch, to meet Charles Manson.

A few weeks later she returned to the ranch and continued to live there. Manson forbade contact with relatives, and Van Houten called her mother to say that she would no longer contact her from now on.

The Family

Van Houten became friends with Patricia Krenwinkel, with whom she would later end up in the same prison. According to Barbara Hoyt, Van Houten was seen as a leader. Like the rest of the family, Van Houten used LSD almost every day. At one point, Van Houten said that she was completely saturated with LSD, and that she could not understand how people in the outside world could live without LSD.

LaBianca murders

The day after the Tate murders, August 10, 1969, Van Houten went with Manson, Watson and Krenwinkel to a house located on Waverly Drive. This was the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. After Manson and Watson tied up Leno and Rosemary, Manson left and sent Van Houten and Krenwinkel inside. Then Van Houten, Watson and Krenwinkel slaughtered Leno and Rosemary.

Van Houten was arrested in the August 16, 1969 Spahn Ranch raid and in the October 10, 1969, Barker Ranch raid. Van Houten broke down during the police interrogation and told the police about Susan Atkins and the murder of Gary Hinman. She also told the police about the Tate murders, and that Linda Kasabian was the only one on those nights who had not participated in the murders. Van Houten was eventually arrested for her complicity in the LaBianca murders.

Death Of Lawyer

Van Houten’s attorney, Ronald Hughes, disappeared while on a camping trip during a recess of the Tate/LaBianca trial. His body was found in March 1971. His body was in a state of severe decomposition, and no cause of death could be determined. Vincent Bugliosi later said that Manson family member Sandra Good had told him that the Manson family had committed 35 to 40 murders and that Ronald Hughes had been murdered by members of the Manson family in retaliation for representing Van Houten during the trial.

Conviction

Van Houten initially cooperated with the police but, during the trial, changed into a real Manson girl. She showed bizarre behavior, laughing, singing and dancing with the other Manson girls on the way to the courtroom.

Because Van Houten had not participated in the Tate murders, her lawyer, unsuccessfully, tried to give her a separate trial. On March 29, 1971, Van Houten was convicted for her part in the LaBianca murders. She was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Van Houten was sentenced to death. The death penalty was later commuted to life imprisonment.

Related: The LaBianca Murders