Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Mass Murderers: Major Cases and Motives

Helter Skelter

Leno LaBianca
Leno LaBianca

Shortly thereafter, a married couple, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were murdered in their home.  Pillowcases had been placed over the heads of both victims and a carving fork was immediately visible sticking out of Leno's abdomen. The killer or killers had crudely carved "War" into his chest and used his blood to write "Death to Pigs," "Rise," and "Healter Skelter (sic)" on the walls.  Leno was stabbed twelve times with a knife, which had been left in his throat, and he had fourteen puncture wounds from the fork.  Rosemary had been stabbed forty-one times.

Rosemary LaBianca
Rosemary LaBianca

In October, a young woman named Susan Atkins took credit for her involvement in the massacre.  That led the police to her associates on the movie ranch.  Eventually they arrested three of the women alleged to have been involved, Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, along with Charles Manson and a drifter called "Tex," as documented by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in his book, Helter Skelter.

Manson had urged several of the cult members to go on a killing spree, telling them to make it look like the job of black militants.  His vision of "Helter Skelter" (taken from a Beatles' song off their White Album) meant that blacks would rise up to massacre whites and reclaim the earth. However, the black race would need the help of a white tribal leader to govern things, and Manson was the man for the job. 

The jury accepted Bugliosi's theory about Manson being a mastermind and the girls willing actors.  In January 1971, they convicted Manson and two of the women, Atkins and Krenwinkel, of seven counts of first-degree murder.  Van Houten was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder.  In a separate trial later that year, "Tex" Watson was also convicted for his role.

Manson's girls
Manson's girls

Bugliosi argued that the three females involved in the murders possessed a syndrome of hostility and rage that preceded their encounter with Manson, and that was unleashed and manipulated by him.  Each had an inner flaw that Manson had exploited, focusing their innate ability to be sadistically violent on a common enemy.  His philosophy justified their actions and their own inner demons ensured that they would revel in it.  They certainly acted at the trial as if they had thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

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