Leno and Rosemary LaBianca
August 6, 1925|
Los Angeles, California, USA
August 10, 1969 (aged 44)|
Los Angeles, California, USA
|Occupation||businessman in the supermarket industry|
December 15, 1930|
August 10, 1969 (aged 38)|
Los Angeles, California, USA
Pasqualino Antonio "Leno" LaBianca (August 6, 1925 – August 10, 1969) and his wife Rosemary LaBianca (December 15, 1930 – August 10, 1969) were victims of the Manson Family murders.
Rosemary LaBianca was born in Arizona to parents who divorced. Her birth name was Ruth Katherine Elliott. Her mother took her and her brother, William, to live with her, and her father took her two older sisters.
However, her mother was not able to support her two children and placed them in an adoption home. Ruth and her brother were separated at the adoption home when Ruth, age 8, was adopted by the Harmons, a California couple in Fullerton, who had lost their own daughter to disease. The Harmons renamed her, after their deceased daughter, and thus Ruth became Rosemary.
Rosemary eventually met a man named Frank Struthers and the couple married in 1953, a union that produced two children, Suzan and Frank Jr. Rosemary and Frank divorced in 1956.
Pasqualino Antonio LaBianca was born in Los Angeles, California to Italian immigrant parents. He was called Leno by his family. His father, Antonio, owned two grocery businesses: Gateway Ranch Markets and State Wholesale Grocery Company. The latter purchased food at wholesale prices and distributed it to a group of grocers. LaBianca's mother, Corina, stayed at home taking care of Leno and his two older sisters, Emma and Stella. At Franklin High School, Leno was an exceptional student, which led him to skip a grade. He was also active in his school's track team, earning him the nickname "Flash." People constantly mispronounced Lino's name, so he decided to change the spelling from "i" to "e." From then on, he was known as "Leno." Outside of school, Leno worked for his father at Gateway Ranch Markets and spent time with his girlfriend, Alice Skolfield.
In 1940, Leno's father bought a house on Waverly Drive and moved the family to the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles. Leno, missing his girlfriend Alice, forged his father's name on a change of address form and went back to Franklin High School to be with Alice.
After graduation, Leno enrolled in Los Angeles City College studying Business Administration and began working for State Wholesale Grocery Company. After one semester at Los Angeles City College, Leno transferred to the University of Southern California and went to work at Gateway Ranch Markets.
In November 1943, Leno was inducted into the Army. The following month, he and Alice became engaged, and were married in March 1944. In September, LaBianca was ordered to Europe to serve in World War II. He returned home in March 1946.
Leno and Alice's first child, Corina Jane LaBianca, was born in the spring of 1948. In 1951, Leno was elected to the Board of Directors and was named Vice President of both Gateway Markets and State Wholesale Grocery Company. That December, Leno and Alice had their first son, Anthony Carl LaBianca. The same year, LaBianca's father, Antonio, died making Leno the President of both grocery companies. He then moved his family into the house on Waverly Drive.
By 1955, Leno and Alice had grown apart and separated in January. Both moved out of the Waverly Drive house and found apartments in the Los Feliz area. In September, Leno became a father for the third time when Alice gave birth to Louise LaBianca. Alice and Leno officially divorced in 1955.
After his divorce, Leno decided to sell the wholesale business that he had inherited from his father and focus on the expansion of Gateway Markets. During that time, he also graduated from USC with a degree in finance. In 1958, LaBianca met Rosemary while she was working as a waitress. The two fell in love and were married in 1960 in Carmel, California.
Leno had begun living out his dream of breeding and racing thoroughbred horses and began distancing himself from the grocery business. In 1967, Rosemary and a partner began a successful high-end women's clothier called the Boutique Carriage. The couple bought a home in Los Feliz that was previously owned by Walt Disney, but sold it in 1968. The same year, Leno bought the Waverly Drive home that he had grown up in from his mother and settled in with Rosemary and her son, Frank.
In the summer of 1969, a number of odd occurrences frightened the LaBiancas. The couple noticed when they returned from being away, items from their home were missing and their dogs were outside the house when they had been left inside. It was later learned that Manson and his "family" members had "creepy-crawled" several houses in the area while the residents were away.
On August 9, 1969, the LaBiancas, along with Rosemary's daughter, Suzan, drove to Lake Isabella to pick up Rosemary's 15-year-old son Frank, who was spending a week vacationing with a friend. Earlier in the week, Leno had driven up to the lake and dropped off his boat for the boys to use. Frank was having such a good time that the LaBiancas decided to let him stay another day and return to Los Angeles with his friend's family. At around 9 p.m., Leno, Rosemary and Suzan left Lake Isabella and headed back to Los Angeles.
On August 9, 1969, around 1 p.m., the LaBiancas arrived in Los Angeles. After dropping off Suzan at her Los Feliz apartment, they stopped at a newsstand on the corner of Hillhurst and Franklin streets. Leno, a regular customer, was recognized by the newsstand owner, John Fokianos, who readied a copy of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Sunday edition, and a racing form. Fokianos and Leno briefly discussed the Tate murders, which had occurred the previous night. Sharon Tate, an actress and pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, had been murdered along with four others in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 9, 1969 at her home on 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. Talk of the recent murders disturbed Rosemary. Fokianos was the last person, aside from the killers, to see the LaBiancas alive. After arriving home, Rosemary retired to her bedroom, while Leno fell asleep in the living room while reading the sports page.
Charles Manson, the leader of the Manson "family," orchestrated the murders for the sake of Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise from tension over racial relations between blacks and whites. Displeased with the previous night's messy events at the Tate residence, Manson insisted on accompanying the next Helter Skelter mission, which he scheduled for August 10. The four "family" members who had participated in the Tate murders, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian, were again summoned by Manson along with another Family member Leslie Van Houten. Manson ordered Kasabian to cruise the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, in search of potential victims, before settling on the home of the LaBiancas.
Manson had a previous connection to Waverly Drive. In March 1968, Manson and other "family" members had attended a party at the home of Harold True. True's house was located at 3267 Waverly Drive, next door to 3301 Waverly Drive, the LaBianca's house.
- LaBianca House 3301 Waverly Drive
In the early morning hours of August 10, 1969, Manson family members entered the LaBianca house. Manson and Watson awoke a sleeping Leno LaBianca, on the couch in his living room, at gunpoint. Leno was assured by Manson and Watson that he would not be hurt and that they only intended to rob him. Manson removed a leather thong from his neck and had Watson use it to tie up Leno's hands. Leno was then asked if there was anyone else in the house. He told Manson and Watson that his wife, Rosemary, was in the bedroom. Manson went to the bedroom and awoke Rosemary. He allowed her to put a dress on over her nightgown before leading her into the living room where Watson had Leno tied up. Manson and Watson reassured the couple that they wouldn't be hurt, and were just being robbed. After collecting all the cash in the house, Manson ordered Watson to take Rosemary back to her bedroom where Watson placed a pillowcase over her head, wound a lamp cord around her head, and gagged her with the lamp cord. He told her to stay quiet and remain in the room. Watson returned to the living room and Manson then left the house. Within a few minutes, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel entered the residence and were instructed by Watson to go to the bedroom.
Watson then began stabbing Leno repeatedly, only stopping briefly when Leno screamed, "Stop stabbing me!" Rosemary, hearing her husband screaming, began screaming and flailing around the room, still blinded by the pillowcase on her head. Krenwinkel and Van Houten called Watson for help. Watson left the badly bleeding Leno in the living room, and entered the bedroom to find Rosemary swinging the lamp still attached to the cord used to gag her. Tex lunged forward and stabbed her until she fell to the floor. By the time the stabbing ended, Watson, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten had stabbed Rosemary 41 times.
Leno was still alive when Watson came back to the living room and the stabbing resumed. After Watson finished stabbing Leno, one of the family members carved the word "WAR" into Leno's stomach. Krenwinkel then stabbed him a number of times and left a carving fork protruding from his stomach, and a steak knife from his throat. The girls then wrote messages in Leno's blood. "Death to pigs" and "Rise" were written on the living room wall, and "Healter Skelter" [sic] was written on the refrigerator door.
The following evening, Rosemary's son Frank returned from Lake Isabella and was dropped off at the house on Waverly Drive. He became concerned, however, when he noticed that all of the shades in the windows were drawn and neither his mother nor stepfather answered the front door. He called his older sister Suzan from a pay phone at a nearby hamburger stand, expressing concern. Suzan and her boyfriend picked up Frank at the hamburger stand and the three, upon arriving at the home, became further worried by the fact that Leno's boat was parked on the street instead of the driveway. They felt this to be out of Leno's character, and they gained entry to the house through a side door. Inside the kitchen, they saw the misspelled phrase "Healter Skelter" written in blood on the front of the refrigerator. Suzan remained in the kitchen, while her boyfriend and Frank went into the living room. In the living room they found Leno, bound, gagged and stabbed to death. They immediately fled the house and called the police from a neighbor's home. Police officers responding to the call entered the house and subsequently discovered Rosemary LaBianca, also stabbed to death, in the master bedroom.
Trials and convictions
Initially, the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were not linked to the Tate murders. The difference in lifestyles, circles of friends and lack of any apparent connection were important factors in the decision to split up the investigation. On August 12, 1969, the LAPD officially announced no link between the Tate and LaBianca murders.
In late August 1969, several members of the "family" were arrested for suspicion of auto theft. The charges were dropped and "family" members were released. However, Susan Atkins remained behind bars for questioning about her role in the murder of music teacher Gary Hinman. While in jail, Atkins began boasting to fellow inmates about her involvement in the still unsolved Tate murders. Eventually two of the inmates, Virginia Graham and Veronica "Ronnie" Howard, informed prison officials of her claims. In December 1969, Atkins provided testimony before a grand jury about the Tate-LaBianca murders in exchange for immunity from the death penalty.
Manson, who was already in jail for receiving stolen property, was indicted on sexual charges. "Family" members Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten were arrested and indicted for their part in the murders. Linda Kasabian, who was present both nights, but did not participate in murdering the victims, turned state's evidence in exchange for immunity.
On June 15, 1970, Charles Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, and Susan Atkins went on trial for the murders of the LaBiancas along with the victims at the Tate residence. Throughout the trial, the defendants were repeatedly banned from the courtroom for their outbursts and refusal to abide by the judge’s orders. Manson and his co-defendants were found guilty on January 25, 1971. Under California law, a second trial or penalty phase before the same jury then began to determine sentencing. After two months of testimony, the jury agreed with the prosecution's argument for the death penalty. On March 29, 1971, Manson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten were sentenced to death.
Susan Atkins also received the death penalty despite her initial agreement to testify for the prosecution. Prosecutors lost Atkins' cooperation in March 1970, three months before the case came to trial. After a brief meeting with Manson in jail, she retracted her confession and declared that she had invented the story implicating him, Krenwinkel and Van Houten before the grand jury.
On October 2, 1969, Charles "Tex" Watson had fled the ranch and headed back to his home state of Texas. On November 30, 1969, Watson was arrested in Texas for the Tate-LaBianca murders. He and his lawyers fought the extradition back to California for nine months. Upon returning to California, Tex began regressing to a childlike state. He stopped talking and eating, dropping 55 pounds. He was admitted to Atascadero State Hospital for a 90 day observation period to determine if he was able to stand trial. He stayed there until February 1970 when he was deemed able to stand trial.
On October 12, 1971, Watson was convicted of seven counts of first degree murder and one count conspiracy to commit murder. A week later, the same jury took only two and a half hours to determine that Watson was sane at the time of the murders. On October 21, Watson was sentenced to the gas chamber.
Commuted sentences and retrial
No Manson case defendants were ever executed. Their sentences were among those commuted to life imprisonment when the state of California temporarily outlawed the death penalty on February 18, 1972, in the case of California v. Anderson.
In 1976, Leslie Van Houten's murder conviction in the Tate-LaBianca trial was overturned by a state appellate court on the grounds that Judge Older erred in not granting Van Houten's motion for a mistrial following the disappearance of her attorney, Ronald Hughes (Hughes' badly decomposed body was found in early 1971. He was allegedly murdered by Manson family members). Van Houten's first retrial ended in a hung jury. Released on bond for a few months, Van Houten lived with a former writer for the Christian Science Monitor. She was tried a third time in 1978, and convicted of first degree murder after the jury rejected her defense of diminished capacity as the result of prolonged use of hallucinogenic drugs.
In 1987, Suzanne LaBerge (née Suzan Struthers), began visiting Charles "Tex" Watson in prison. LaBerge, the daughter of Rosemary LaBianca, attended Watson's 1990 parole hearing, telling the parole board that because of Watson's newfound Christianity, he was a new man, no longer dangerous and should be released. Sharon Tate's mother, Doris Tate, and other members of the LaBianca family made it clear that Suzanne wasn't speaking for the rest of the victims' families. Watson has been denied parole 13 times and remains in a California prison.
In 1999, Angela Smaldino became the first member of the LaBianca family to attend a parole hearing for Leslie Van Houten. In 2000, she was joined by her brother Louis Smaldino and another relative John DiSantis, who accompanied her to the hearing and made statements against Van Houten's release. Van Houten has been denied parole 19 times and remains in the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.
Manson and Krenwinkel also remain incarcerated in California for their roles in the Tate-LaBianca murders. Both have been considered for parole numerous times, but they have been denied repeatedly. Atkins remained imprisoned until her death from brain cancer on September 24, 2009.
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- Leno LaBianca on IMDb
- Rosemary LaBianca on IMDb
- Leno LaBianca at Find a Grave
- Rosemary LaBianca at Find a Grave