Who Were The LaBiancas, And Why Did The Manson Family Target Them?

Just hours before their death, Manson Family victims Leno and Rosemary LaBianca had been talking about the Sharon Tate murders that happened the night before.

Oxygen/August 12, 2019

By Brittany Du Bois

The Manson Family’s most infamous crimes were the Sharon Tate murders of Aug. 9, 1969 which claimed the lives of the actress, three of her friends and one teenager outside the home. However, on Aug. 10, an Italian-American couple was also brutally stabbed to death by followers of Charles Manson. Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, 44 and 38 respectively, had been resting in their Los Feliz home after a family trip when they were jolted awake by Manson.  

On Oxygen’s upcoming documentary special, “Manson: The Women,” attorney, author and Manson Family expert Deborah Herman described the senselessness of the LaBiancas’ slaughter.  

"Their lives were taken, and only because their house happened to be in the same neighborhood as a house [Family members] used to go to and party with someone they knew," Herman said, adding that the Family knew only that "rich people" lived in the neighborhood — people who had the things that Manson never had.  

"He's not getting things that he wants," she said. "So, this is the result, and it's really horrifying, and it's still horrifying and haunting today."  

Charles Manson had no personal connection to the LaBiancas. Manson had been disappointed with how sloppily the Sharon Tate murders were executed, CNN reported, and so he and several of his followers went hunting for their next victims. Manson led the group to the former house of Harold True, an old friend that had hosted the Manson family in the past. Ultimately, Manson chose the house next door: Leno and Rosemary LaBianca’s.  

The LaBiancas were fairly ordinary people. They were well-off — Leno was the corporate executive of State Wholesale Grocery Company, according to former Los Angeles County Prosecutor Stephen Kay, featured on “Manson: The Women.” Leno met and fell in love with his wife, Rosemary, while she was working as a waitress at a restaurant. 

They “were really nice people,” Kay said. 

The LaBiancas had just returned from a family trip, although before they went home, they stopped by the newsstand of John Fokianos, according to the book “Helter Skelter,” by former Los Angeles County District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi. 

Bugliosi wrote that Fokianos said he and the LaBiancas talked “about Tate, the event of the day. That was the big news,” and that Rosemary seemed disturbed by the murders. Fokianos may have been the last to see the couple alive — hours later, the Manson Family would drive up to their home. 

Manson Family members Patricia Krenwinkel, Tex Watson and Leslie Van Houten entered the LaBiancas’ home under the cover of darkness, after Manson himself had already been inside the home, tying the couple up, before leaving the scene, according to the Los Angeles Times. It was Van Houten’s first time participating in a murder, while the other three had been a part of the Tate massacre the night before. 

Van Houten and Krenwinkel put a pillowcase over Rosemary’s head and wrapped a lamp cord around her neck, according to Kay. During the attack, Rosemary could hear Leno being stabbed to death nearby. 

“The thing I had the hardest time with, with the LaBiancas’ murder, was Mrs. LaBianca hearing her husband being killed in the next room,” author Nikki Meredith said on the Oxygen special. 

Rosemary was stabbed 42 times — far beyond how many wounds it would have taken to kill her — Kay said on “Manson: The Women.” 

"Eight of the stab wounds would've been fatal in and of themselves," Kay said. "Seven of the eight fatal stab wounds were in Rosemary's back. One of the stab wounds ... severed her spinal cord." 

Written in blood on the walls were the words “Death to Pigs,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “Healter [sic] Skelter” was also written on the couple’s refrigerator, referring to the Beatles’ song. The word “War” was also carved into Leno’s abdomen. 

All of the Manson Family members involved in the killings — Leslie Van Houten, Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel — were sentenced to life in prison once the state of California ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972.  Though Charles Manson did not have a hand in the actual murder of the LaBiancas, he was also charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. None of the Family members who participated in the Sharon Tate or LaBianca murders have been released from prison.

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