She would do anything for Manson, except murder

the story of Linda Kasabian (the little Hippie Girl)

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a mugshot image of Linda Drouin Kasabian

In the summer of 1969, the group known as the Manson Family (led by ex-con Charles Manson) were living at Spahn Ranch, a 500-acre property in Chatsworth, California. Formerly used as a backdrop for Western films and television shows, the ranch was in poor condition by the late ’60s and the owner was in debt. The Manson Family offered to help clean up the property and help the owner, 79-year old George Spahn (who was blind) rent out the ponies and horses to help him pay his bills.

The Family had been growing for two years by this point, and consisted mainly of young women. The eldest of these women, Catherine ‘Gypsy’ Share was 26-years old, a musician and occasional actress. As the oldest, she took on a mentoring or grooming role with many of the younger women and she heeded Charlie’s advice on how to attract other women to the Family — particularly women who had money.

Leslie Van Houten, who was later convicted of murder in the Tate/LaBianca killings, told author Nikki Meredith that Gypsy later visited her (years after she was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole) and apologized for bringing her into the Family:

Gypsy was scouting girls, pretty girls or girls who had cars or cash or their parents’ credit cards. “Gypsy called me in prison in the early nineties to apologize for recruiting me. That was the word she used. ‘Recruit’… I was stunned. I had no idea that it was that well planned.”

Monsters, Morality, and Murder: The Manson Women and Me by Nikki Meredith ©2018 Citadel Press

Charles Manson was, in fact, a sex trafficker who used drugs and coercion to break down the moral thresholds of the young women he attracted and then forced them to have sex with the men he was trying to curry favor with.

Gypsy, as the eldest woman in the Family, often felt a kind of kinship with Manson (who was 34-years old in 1969) and often tried to win his approval by emulating his own behavior.

From my book, The Manson Family: More to the Story

On June 27th, Gypsy visited (Family friend) Charlie Melton in Topanga Canyon. She brought a guitar to the gathering, which she began playing and then struck up a conversation with a petite blonde woman.

Linda Kasabian, a 20-year old from New Hampshire, was with her husband Bob and their 15-month old daughter, Tanya. They were living with Melton in his trailer. Melton and Bob Kasabian were friends, and they were planning a trip to South America along with another couple.

Linda had already been married twice in her young life. She was the epitome of the seeker, the flower child. She was looking for transcendent experiences, willing to pursue any avenue to find it — sex, drugs, mysticism.

But Linda and Bob, who’d been married for two years, were having marital woes. They would split up, reconcile, split up, reconcile. Linda confided her troubles to Gypsy that afternoon. Then Gypsy told Linda about Spahn Ranch.

“I told Linda that we were a group of people that took care of each other and loved each other and we were all one,”[1] Share confirmed, years later.

Linda left with Gypsy that day. She brought Tanya with her.

Linda was especially happy to see other kids at the ranch. She was initially dismayed to learn that they separated children from parents but agreed to let Tanya go with Ouisch and Katie to the back of the property. She accepted the statement that kids were better off not being molded by their own parents, to prevent adults from imprinting their egos on them. Linda said, “I was comfortable leaving my daughter because they had other children there.”[2] But she missed Tanya.

(Family member) Barbara Hoyt verified Linda’s bond with her little girl: “I babysat the Family children… Linda Kasabian visited her little girl several times a day. She brought her food and treats and toys. She fed her, played with her, loved her…”[3]

Linda and Gypsy then went to meet the rest of the Family. Charlie wasn’t there that day, but Linda found herself surrounded by attention and much affection. That first night, in a shack on the Spahn property, Linda and Tex (true name Charles Watson) made love. “Tex was gruff and greasy, but he just always had this beautiful smile and these beautiful eyes. I was attracted to him and he kinda had me, that first night.”[4]

After sex, Linda told Tex about the trip that she, Bob and… Charlie (Melton) were planning. Tex asked how they could afford that. Linda said that Melton had an inheritance, about $23,000 (some of which he’d already given away). Tex told her that money wasn’t something any one person could own. That possessions, including cash, were meant to be shared. Money belonged to anyone, everyone. Of course, he was trained to say those things by Manson. Watson was as prostituted as the women were. He was the primary stud at Spahn Ranch and knew what Charlie wanted in a new girl.

He didn’t come out and ask her to take the money, but Linda understood what he was implying. She wanted to leave her husband and these people had welcomed her and Tanya with open arms. She felt a debt of loyalty to them.

The next day she went back to Melton’s trailer (with Gypsy and Mary) and found it unoccupied. She confiscated $5,000 in cash. She also took some acid tabs she’d brought to California, and a buck knife.

“I was willing to take the money,” Linda confessed. “I didn’t do it to hurt my husband but for acceptance within the Family.”[5]

Returning to Spahn Ranch, Linda then met Manson for the first time. He was wearing his fringed buckskin suit, and working on a dune buggy.

(Author) Ed Sanders wrote, “Charlie asked her why she had come to them. Linda told him that her husband didn’t want her any longer and that Gypsy said she’d be welcome here. Charlie received the money. He scanned Linda’s legs: ‘He felt my legs; seemed to think they were okay,’ as she later testified with a smile.”[6]

But Charlie knew that Melton and Bob Kasabian would come looking for the money and sent Linda to one of the caves to hide. That night, Linda and Manson got it on, with Gypsy, Brenda (true name Nancy Pitman) and Ouisch (true name Ruth Ann Moorehouse) joining in.

The next day, sure enough, Melton and Kasabian came looking for Linda. Charlie told someone to get Gypsy and Linda, and went to greet the angry duo. When told that someone stole $5,000 and was on the property, Charlie feigned ignorance. ‘What’s money?’ he asked them. ‘Nothing is yours’. Then he defaulted to his standby: he handed his knife to Melton and said, ‘Go ahead, kill me’.

When Melton refused to palm the knife, Manson laughed and said, “Then maybe I should kill you to show you that there’s no such thing as death.”[7]

The family bought dune buggies and trucks with the money Linda stole. For a few days, she was fêted as the Family’s new sweet young thing. For all Charlie’s talk of ‘living in the Now’ and discarding establishment desires, he certainly loved people who were famous or even modestly wealthy.

Days after her arrival, Linda was the main star of a group orgy in the saloon. Everyone dropped acid and Linda found herself dancing with Leslie, and the two women shimmied down to the floor to bring each other to climax. “For me, having sex on LSD was actually a very spiritual feeling,” Linda admitted.[8]

Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, in a 2009 documentary, claimed that “The subversion of sexuality was one way he {Manson} broke down ego.”[9]

Linda participated in group sex and took acid with the Family. She creepy-crawled with the women and listened to Manson talk about the coming race war. “There was talk about Helter Skelter,” she recalled. “If not on a daily basis, on a regular basis. There was an excitement surrounding it. I guess it’s like when you know there’s an event that’s going to happen.”[10] — The Manson Family: More to the Story ©2019 Swann Publications (includes the following citations: [1] Catherine Share from the documentary “Manson” ©2009 The History Channel; [2, 4, 5, 8, 10] Linda Kasabian from the documentary “Manson” ©2009 The History Channel; [3] Barbara Hoyt, impact statement, from Susan Atkins’ 2009 special hearing; [6] The Family by Ed Sanders ©2002 Thunder’s Mouth Press; [7] Charles Manson quoted in The Family by Ed Sanders ©2002 Thunder’s Mouth Press; [9] Vincent Bugliosi from the documentary “Manson” ©2009 The History Channel

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Linda Kasabian with her husband Bob in the background

Helter Skelter was Charlie’s vision of armageddon: a global race war between blacks and whites which would ultimately result in Manson ascending to the seat of power for the entire world. When things continued to go awry personally and financially, he sent four of his followers: Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, Susan ‘Sadie’ Atkins, Patricia ‘Katie’ Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian, to kill people at 10050 Cielo Drive — the home where actress Sharon Tate lived.

Linda was the only person that night who did not kill anyone. She stood in horror as she watched her friends chase down and brutally murder five people, and then she accompanied those three plus Manson and two others the next night when Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were killed.

Again, Linda did not kill anyone. Charlie asked her to kill a man (an actor she had met earlier in the week) but she could not do it. She told Manson — I’m not like you. I can’t kill anyone.

But the prosecutor (Bugliosi) did not know that Linda didn’t kill anyone in November 1969 when he was assigned the case and the following month Linda was among those who were indicted by the grand jury. The indictments came largely thanks to Susan Atkins who was forced into testifying after she told several women at Sybil Brand (the main women’s jail in Los Angeles County) about her role in the Tate/LaBianca murders. She also won immunity against the death penalty, thanks to her court-appointed attorney.

But when Susan recanted her testimony and resumed her allegiance with Manson, that left the prosecutor scrambling for someone to testify about what actually happened at Cielo Drive, and the next night.

Linda Kasabian had fled Spahn Ranch just after the two nights of murder, even leaving her young daughter behind when she realized there was no way to take the toddler without rousing suspicion. She came back and claimed young Tanya a few weeks later when the children were taken from Spahn Ranch (during a raid on auto theft charges) and placed in foster care. She and Tanya then left the state. Linda turned herself in to police when she was indicted and returned to California. She was several months pregnant when she flew back to Los Angeles in police custody. Later, author Joan Didion befriended Kasabian, even taking her shopping for a dress to wear at trial (this is discussed in Didion’s book The White Album)

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A pregnant Linda Kasabian is photographed at a pre-trial hearing in early 1970. Defendant Leslie Van Houten (in striped coat) walks behind Kasabian

In July 1969, the trial against Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten began (each defendant had separate representation). Linda Kasabian was the star witness, testifying for eighteen harrowing days.

Again, from The Manson Family: More to the Story

During her testimony, Linda endured the verbal assaults from Charlie and his attorney. As Linda’s attorney Gary Fleischman explained, “Manson… picked the worst lawyer he could have gotten — Irving Kanarek. He was famous around town as an obstructionist. If I’d been cross-examining Linda Kasabian, I’d have shoved that immunity agreement up her nose… Then I’d have gotten her off the stand. But Kanarek kept her up there. He’d ask Linda, ‘How many times have you taken LSD?’ She’d say, ‘Fifty.’ He’d ask, ‘Do you remember the first time?’ She’d say, ‘Yes.’ He’d ask, ‘Do you remember the last time?’ She’d say, ‘Yes.’ Then he’d ask, ‘Do you remember the 37th time?’ Vince would yell, ‘Objection,’ and there’d be a dozen lawyers at the bench… Manson sought him out for that reason — to foul up the trial. But it didn’t work. Linda’s testimony stood up.”[1]

There are many who feel Linda should have been convicted of being an accessory, at the very least. She herself said, “I felt guilty. I felt as though I carried the guilt that nobody else had guilt for.”[2]

There are things she might have done to mitigate what was happening, the nights of the murders, but there was no clear resolution to the problem she found herself in. They say that none of us should be judged based upon what we did in one moment, or even on the worst day of our lives, but how about eighteen days? Linda Kasabian was present for the murder of five human beings but a year later, she spent nearly three harrowing weeks on the stand bearing witness so that the killers could be convicted. She spoke truthfully, she spoke tearfully, she showed remorse while the accused killers laughed and sang in court.

The fact that this young woman stood up to eighteen days of questioning by Kanarek and the other defense attorneys, laid bare the truths of her life including the unsavory ones and did not break, is testament to her honesty. She was technically guilty of not seeking help but she clearly did not plan the murders and did not condone them….

She didn’t fight extradition like Tex or (briefly) Pat Krenwinkel. She didn’t try to shock the jurors, as Susan had during the Grand Jury. She never sold her story or tried to capitalize on her notoriety (although the garnishment by {Cielo Drive victim} Frykowski’s son may have been a factor — Linda was later held civilly liable along with the others present at Cielo Drive). She went before the jury and the defendants months after delivering a baby, believing that the truth would allow her to live in this world and raise her children without hopelessness.

I believe that Linda was truly seeking a transcendent experience, as a young woman. There was little she was unwilling to try until it came to murder. Fun and games, orgies and creepy-crawlies were okay, a part of her extended adolescence. The night that she witnessed five innocent people murdered, her youth ended.

Linda Kasabian isn’t a hero, just a human being who did what she could, after the fact. It isn’t enough — she has said so herself. Linda has paid a price for the five or six weeks she spent with the Manson Family. She’s still living in fear and yes, she’s had problems with addiction and the law, as have her children. In 2009 she told CNN’s Larry King, “I went through a lot of drugs and alcohol and self-destruction. I probably could have used some psychiatric counseling and help, forty years ago and never received it.”[3] — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications (includes the following citations: [1] Gary Fleischmann quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine; [2, 3] Linda Kasabian on “Larry King Live” ©2009 CNN {Cable News Network})

Linda after the trials

Today Linda lives in the Pacific Northwest. She is 72-years old.

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A recent photograph of Manson Family trial star witness Linda Kasabian

You can read more about the trial here:

and more about the murders at Cielo Drive here:

Written by

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series. https://www.mansonfamily.net/

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