Manson connections to the SGV


Sometimes it seems every major news story has a connection to the San Gabriel Valley.

Take the search for bodies Tuesday at a run-down ranch in a desolate corner of Death Valley.

The ranch, known as the Baker Ranch, was the last known hideout of Charles Manson and members of the Manson Family before their capture in October 1969. Some speculate that undiscovered victims of the Manson Family killers remain buried on the ranch after all these years.

A few months ago cadaver dogs searching the grounds had two significant hits, according to their handlers. The search scheduled for Tuesday will be a fairly scientific endeavor according to the Los Angeles Times:

PANAMINT SPRINGS — Spooky rumors have persisted for decades that there may be clandestine graves at a secluded ranch used as a hideout by the Charles Manson clan after a 1969 killing spree.

On Tuesday, Inyo County sheriff’s investigators and scientists packing portable ground-penetrating radar, magnetometers and shovels will convoy to the Barker Ranch on a mission to confirm or put to rest such speculation.


So what’s the local connection?

Leslie Van Houten. In the span of a couple years Van Houten went from Monrovia High School’s Homecoming Queen — to convicted murderer on Death Row.

Here’s some of what the Famous Trials Web site says about Van Houten:


Although described as being the least committed to Manson of the three female defendants, Van Houten nonetheless agreed to participate in the murderous raid on the LaBianca home on August 10, 1969.  She helped hold down Rosemary LaBianca while Tex Watson stabbed her to death.  In a November 1969 interview with police, Van Houten admitted to knowledge of the Tate-LaBianca murders, but denied participation. 

Van Houten’s first attorney, Donald Barnett, was dismissed after crossing Manson.  Her second lawyer, Marvin Part, wanted to show that Van Houten was “insane in a way that is almost science fiction.”  Part saw her crime as influenced by LSD and Charles Manson,  but Van Houten saw it differently:  “I was influenced by the war in Viet Nam and TV.”  At Manson’s urging, Van Houten fired Part and yet another attorney was appointed.  When Van Houten’s third attorney, Ronald Hughes, also began pursuing a strategy that ran counter to that favored by Manson (Manson opposed any strategy that suggested the other defendants acted under his influence), the Family had him killed.  No one has ever been charged with his murder.

Hughes is not among the potential victims buried at Barker Ranch. His body turned up in Sespe Hot Springs in Ventura County.

So who might be buried at the Barker Ranch?

Indians? Gold miners? Victims?

As for Van Houten, here’s some links of interest:

Classmates from Monrovia High School.

Van Houten’s 2007 parole hearing

Victim’s letter to parole board





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  • That parole hearing seems like something out of the ’50s and it was in 2007.

    Enter the over-politicization of the courts. No exit.

  • fair & balanced

    The Manson family is such an easy target for the media, why doesn’t the news ever mention their good points?

  • Joe Friday

    Joe Friday here.

    “Good points’? When someone does something good, after being forced to give up their freedom due to crimes like the Manson Family members committed, they have no “good points”.

    Joe Friday feels all the Manson Family members got a light sentence.

    Joe Friday with the facts.

  • Oh, I forgot to mention the wholesale unfairness of guilt by association.

  • Joe Friday

    Joe Friday here.

    Is Miss Havisham claiming that Leslie Van Houten was found guilty of her crimes due to her “association” with the Manson Family?

    That is not a fact. Joe Friday deals only with the facts.

  • Yes and no, Joe. Yes, she was (admittedly) guilty of helping Tex Watson murder commit murder. It’s so obvious to me now, in retrospect, how frightened we all were by the Manson Family. Her prison sentence was (and maybe still is, Joe) painted by the broad brush of public prejudice.

    Hippies were a frightening sight during the summer it happened. Suddenly it seemed they were everywhere and that was a scary new thing, at least to me. I was just a little kid in a swimsuit.

    The news came over the radio that this was a new type of family. The Mansons were a murder family. Read Linda Deutch. She reported on it, at the time. She captures the total weirdness of the time.

    It surprises me that the parole board or whomever should, doesn’t look at Leslie’s particular case with new eyes and without all of the baggage.

    You appreciate facts, Joe. The facts of her crime are not consistent with her sentencing.

  • Joe Friday

    Joe friday here. You apparently have only a selective memory of the Manson Family and the role Leslie Van Houten played in their crimes Miss Havisham. Here are facts you do not mention in your attempt to minimize her role or her actions at trial.

    1)On the night of August 10, 1969 Van Houten was part of the Manson Family that went to the Labianca residnece.

    2)Van Houten put a pillowcase over Mrs. LaBianca’s head and helped tie an electrical cord from a lamp around her neck. Mrs.

    3) She held Mrs. LaBianca down and Krenwinkel tried to stab her in the chest but the blade bent on LaBianca’s collar bone.

    4) Van Houten stabbed Mrs. LaBianca 16 times in the lower torso. Mrs. LaBianca’s autopsy showed that several of her wounds were inflicted post-mortem (like she knew that).

    5) Van Houten wiped the premises down for fingerprints, changed into “Mrs. LaBianca’s” clothes and took food from the refrigerator before leaving the home.

    6) Throughout her trial Van Houten was disruptive, uncooperative, and inclined to “giggle” when listening to testimony, particularly when the deaths of the LaBiancas and that of Sharon Tate were discussed.

    7) All of the defendants were found guilty of murder and were sentenced to death on March 29, 1971. The death sentence was automatically commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court’s People v. Anderson decision resulted in the invalidation of all death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972.

    8) Van Houten won a retrial in 1977 on the basis that her counsel had not effectively represented her at the original trial. Her lawyer, Ronald Hughes, disappeared during the trial and was later found dead. Her second trial ended in a hung jury. She was tried a third time, during which she was free on bond, found guilty of felony robbery, murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and sentenced once again to life in prison.


    Though she has been a model prisoner for the majority of her incarceration, what did you expect? She is no dummy Miss Havisham. She did however escape her death sentence which Joe Friday believes was the proper punishment.

    She should never be released based on the facts Miss Havisham. Her behavior in prison does not warrant we forget the Tate/LaBianca murders.

    Those are the facts. I’m Joe Friday.

  • My point is, there is something to be learned from Van Houten. Things are not always neat; open and shut; black and white.

    The facts like Friday are simple. Life like nature is chaotic. (somebody famous and smart said that but I’m too dumb to remember who it was)

  • Joe Friday

    Joe Friday here. There is nothing simple about me. My I.Q. is about 150. I’m sorry to dissapoint your cockeyed view of things.

    The facts are what they are. You can’t change them with words. The chaotic moments brought into lives of the people who were slaughtered by Van Houten and others has to be paid for.

    The ultimate crime deserves the ultimate penalty. Van Houten should be happy she is still alive. Any pleasure she gets is more than she left others Miss Havisham. Your empathy with killers and law breakers is noted by Joe Friday.

    Joe Friday with the facts.

  • Schnazzybo

    Joe Friday must think a lot about himself the way he talks about himself in the third person!

  • Casual Friday,

    Do you think the number given to you by LensCrafters pertains to your IQ?

  • Alright then, Mr. Friday. Have it your way.

    Vincent Bugliosi was/is one of those rare individuals that is so focused on what is in front of him that he sometimes does not see the forest for the trees.

    He out-gunned every defense attorney in his day while at the LADA’s office. He was a force (with an actual gift), unmatched.