I think that one of the most overlooked relationships amongst the people connected with the Tate-LaBianca murders was (and is) the one between Charles Watson and Linda Kasabian. Going further, I would also contend that the personal interaction between Watson and Kasabian had much more to do with the murders on Cielo and Waverly Drives than any sinister plan on the part of Charles Manson.
Charles "Tex" Watson
Linda "Yana" Kasabian
Charles Watson and Linda Kasabian had one of the more identifiable relationships of all of the characters living at Spahn's Movie Ranch in July and August of 1969. That relationship was based on two things: sex and criminality.
That Watson and Kasabian were bonded by sex is well known, because by both of their accounts their lovemaking was profound. In his book Will You Die For Me? Watson remembered Kasabian's arrival at Spahn's Ranch on July 4, 1969 and their subsequent night together: "Linda joined the Family that same day, without even meeting Charlie, and that night I introduced her to our truth. Linda later said that when we made love it was like being possessed. For me it was a more complete sensation of oneness than I'd ever known with a woman. It was as if our two bodies literally became one and it was no longer possible to feel where I ended and she began. Linda and I talked very late that night, just the two of us in a little room in the ranch house. I told her she should steal some money that the man she'd been staying with had inherited, and when she protested that she couldn't do that, since he was a good friend who trusted her, I quoted Charlie and told her that there was no wrong, no sin; everything anyone had was meant to be shared. Linda had already given the Family whatever she owned and the next day she went back to Topanga and returned a little while later with $5,000 she'd ripped off according to my instructions." (all emphasis added)
At his murder trial Watson elaborated on why he thought he was such an impressive lover of Kasabian:
Sam Bubrick (Watson's defense attorney): "The first time you saw Linda, wasn't it about three or four minutes later that you were making love to her?"
Charles Watson: "That is correct."
SB: "What was it about Linda that caused you to be so amorous?"
CW: "Well, I guess the fact that she was a new girl there and that all the other girls, they kind of looked down upon me because they were all with the family before I was and they saw how straight I was when I first got there, and that was always in my mind and their mind too, I believe."
Kasabian was equally impressed by her initial tryst with Watson. Talking to Vincent Bugliosi while preparing her testimony for the murder trial, Kasabian recalled that when she was having sex with Watson she felt as though she was "possessed," and during her testimony at the murder trial (transcript pages 5570-5571) she said:
LInda Kasabian: "Well, first I will have to explain to you the night of July the 4th."
Paul Fitzgerald (Attorney for Patricia Krenwinkel): "Okay."
LK: "I met Tex, and Tex took me into a dark shed, shack, whatever you want to call it, and he made love to me, which was an experience that I had never had before."
PF: "You had never had sexual intercourse before?"
LK: "No. I'm saying that the experience I had in making love with Tex was a total experience, it was different."
PF: "In what respect?"
LK: "That my hands were clenched when it was all over and I had absolutely no will power to open my own hands, and I was very much afraid, I didn't understand it.
"And I questioned Gypsy about it later and she told me it was my ego that was dying."
It's certainly true that a short or even singular sexual relationship can affect a person for the rest of their lives. That is what I think happened here. I think that Charles Watson and Linda Kasabian bonded through their sexual interaction and that a special relationship existed between them. And I also think that that relationship endured throughout the murder trials and indeed continues to this day.
Watson and Kasabian were also bonded by their shared criminality. Watson's criminal inclinations are well known, from his days in Texas when he drunkenly broke into his old high school and stole some typewriters as part of a fraternity initiation, through his time in Hollywood when he supported himself by low level drug dealing, to his lying to the army to get a deferment, to his amateurish ripoff of Bernard Crowe on July 1, 1969 (just three days before Linda Kasabian arrived at Spahn's Ranch), and finally to his ending up as one of the most notorious mass murderers in American history.
And Linda Kasabian was no stranger to the shady side of life either. She had been around quite a bit before she even arrived at Spahn's ranch. As her one-time panhandling partner Sandra Good later succinctly recalled, "She was experienced." After the murders at the Polanski and LaBianca residences Kasabian stole a car from a ranch hand at Spahn's to flee the Los Angeles area. Eventually arriving at her father's residence in Florida, he shortly thereafter evicted her because he suspected her of stealing items from his apartment and selling them to buy drugs. And before she was finally arrested at the beginning of December of 1969 she evasively never mentioned the crimes she was involved in to any member of law enforcement or "the Establishment" even though she had ample opportunities to do so.
Charles Watson and Linda Kasabian were partners and soul mates -- both in love and in crime.
* * *
Linda Kasabian came to Spahn's Ranch on July 4, 1969, brought there by Catherine "Gypsy" Share, who had met her at the home of mutual friend Charles Melton. (Kasabian had been briefly staying at Melton's while attempting a reconciliation with her husband Robert, but the reconciliation didn't work out.) Upon her arrival at the ranch one of the first persons she met was Charles Watson. On that first day the pair hung out together, made love, shared drugs, and at some point decided to steal $5,000 from Melton, a theft that Kasabian carried out the next day before she even ever met Charles Manson. (Kasabian says that Watson encouraged her to steal the money. Watson denied this while testifying at his own murder trial, but later, in his book, said that he suggested that she take Melton's money.)
That this $5,000 theft was a major indicator of Kasabian's criminal nature was recognized by Manson Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who succeeded in having any mention of the theft excluded from the Tate-LaBianca murder trial based on the legal principle that a witness's criminal history can only be mentioned if they have been convicted of a crime. In the case of the stolen $5,000 there was no legal process leading to a criminal conviction. But the technical fact that Kasabian never faced any legal consequences for the theft doesn't make the theft any less serious. (And to give the reader an idea of just how serious that theft was, consider that $5,000 in 1969 dollars would be worth a little over $33,000 today. In other words, Linda Kasabian stole a substantial amount of money.)
The primary driving motive for the Tate-LaBianca murders was to commit a series of copycat murders that would convince the police that Bobby Beausoleil didn't kill Gary Hinman. (You can say that it wasn't, but it was. There might have been other considerations in the minds of the people who killed on August 8 and 9, 1969, but the primary reason why they drove away from Spahn's Ranch on those two nights was to do something to help Bobby Beausoleil, who had been arrested for Hinman's murder only a few days previously.) Everybody at Spahn's Ranch wanted Bobby Beausoleil out of jail. But nobody did more so than Charles Manson, who knew that Beausoleil had killed Hinman to keep him from going to the police after Manson had cut his ear during an earlier violent underworld occurrence. When Manson wanted something done to free Beausoleil he summoned the people who owed him favors and told them to "do something."
All of the people at Spahn's Ranch owed Charles Manson generally for his shooting and presumed killing of Bernard Crowe to protect them from his threatened retaliation after being ripped off by Charles Watson. But some people owed Manson more than others. Charles Watson, of course, owed Manson because he was the one who put the drug burn in motion that led to Manson's shooting of Crowe in the first place. Susan Atkins owed Manson for times when he had resolved problems brought on by some of her careless social interactions, including her thievery involving hashish. Linda Kasabian owed him for when he smoothed over the problem of Robert Kasabian and Charles Meltion coming to the ranch and making a big stink about her stealing Melton's money and threatening to turn the theft into a huge law enforcement issue, or worse.
But the biggest debt by far was owed by Watson, who had forced Manson to (he thought) commit murder in order to straighten out the Crowe mess. Thus was Watson sternly assigned by Manson the task of "doing something" to get Beausoliel out of jail. Out of that command arose discussions around the ranch of what could be done. Out of those discussions arose the half-baked and stupid copycat motive. Was Linda Kasabian a part of those discussions? No one knows for sure, but it is not unreasonable to assume that she had some input into ways to deal with the demand that Manson put onto her lover and partner in crime.
At the murder trial Catherine Share testified that the "copycat motive" was Linda's idea. Certainly anything Share says should be taken with a Death Valley salt flat, but it is not too hard to imagine Kasabian being part of the discussion or planning that led to the ill-conceived copycat plan. She was, after all, criminally inclined, as her eager theft of Charles Melton's $5,000 demonstrated. Also, because of her intense and impressive sexual encounter with Charles Watson, she very possibly held him in a special regard, despite her denials during the trial that she loved Watson any more than she did any of the other men she made love with during her six weeks at Spahn's Ranch (including, not incidentally, Bobby Beausoleil). Thus she might have been especially interested in coming up a with a plan that would both free Beausoleil and get Watson off the hook with a furious Manson.
The prosecution has always claimed that the only reason ranch newcomer Kasabian went along on the murder nights was because she was the only person at Spahn's Ranch with a valid driver's license. But this contention is laughable and is in no way a credible reason for her being in the car. I mean, if you were sending people out to commit an atrocious crime would you really want to send with them a newcomer that you don't really know simply for the legal advantage of her having a valid driver's license? And if you were on your way to commit mass murder in a borrowed car bearing the wrong license plates, with a rope, bolt cutters, several knives, and a gun, would there really be any reason to have someone along with a valid driver's license? (In fact, having a real driver's license along on such an endeavor would be the exact opposite of what you would want to do if you thought there was a likelihood that you would encounter the police.) And what, really, is the likelihood that Kasabian even really was the only person with a valid driver's license amongst the fifteen or so "Manson Family members" who were present at Spahn's Ranch on those nights?
Kasabian's activities at Cielo Drive are also inconsistent with the behavior of an innocent bystander. There, Watson sent her around the house to reconnoiter the layout and accessibility of the premises. Later, he had her stand lookout by Steven Parent's car while he and Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel entered the house. Neither of these tasks are assignments that would be given to a group's weakest link. After the murders, Watson chewed Kasabian out for abandoning her lookout post and returning to the car at the bottom of the Cielo Drive cul-de-sac after her nightmarish encounter with a bludgeoned and bloody Voytek Frykowski at the front porch of the Polanski house. And as the killers were fleeing the scene, Watson assigned her the task of ditching the murder weapons and had her hold the steering wheel while he changed out of his bloody clothing.
(Much of all of this, incidentally, is at variance with the testimony that Watson gave at his own murder trial in 1971. While completely uninformative as to why the group went out to commit murder on the first night, he says that Kasabian was driving the car while he rode in the back seat. He also says that Kasabian provided him with the bolt cutters that he used to cut the wires leading into the Polanski property on Cielo Drive and that she drove the car when the killers left the murder scene.)
Lending further credence to the possibility of a special Watson-Kasabian dynamic are the details of the killers' recollections of the second night of murder, when the carload of people from Spahn's Ranch went on a supposed city-wide search for potential murder victims. At his own trial for murder Watson testified that he didn't remember much of the ride that night before the group arrived at Waverly Drive. But by the time he wrote Will You Die For Me? seven years later his recollection accurately mirrored that of Linda Kasabian. Did Watson actually later remember the exact same chain of events that Kasabian did? Or was he merely parroting the story put forth by his former lover in order to provide her version of events with false corroboration?
And yet another bond between the Watson-Kasabian pair is an apparent affection that the two have demonstrated for the type of drug generally referred to as "speed."
Charles Watson's affinity for the drug is well known. He has recalled his extensive use of speed many times in his book and elsewhere. At his 2001 parole hearing he remembered, "There was a friend of mine across the street, that had the ranch across the street. He had obtained an ounce of it and had given me a jar of it. And Susan Atkins and myself and one other was sniffing the methamphetamine." Was the "one other" Charles Watson referred to at this parole hearing Linda Kasabian? And was Watson still being protective of her by not naming here over thirty years after the murders because he still had special feelings for her?
On Linda Kasabian's part there is not much contemporary evidence of her favoring speed in 1969, but the substance was Watson's drug of choice at that time and it is therefore highly likely that she indulged in it with him while they were together, perhaps even from the first night that they met. Also, Kasabian is known to have had experiences with speed later in her life, some of which experiences led her to have negative encounters with law enforcement.
In the 2009 History Channel "drama-documentary" Manson, Kasabian made her first extensive public statements about the murders in almost forty years. In the program she practically beamed when talking about her early idyllic days at Spahn's Ranch. She described Charles Watson as gruff and creepy but with beautiful eyes and a beautiful smile. She was attracted to him. Regarding their love-making she said, "He made me feel like I'd never felt before." Although Kasabian's theft of Charles Melton's money was recounted in the show there was no mention whatsoever of the Bernard Crowe burn and the resulting threatened and real violence. Thus, the "Family's" sudden transformation from a peace and love commune into a paranoid and armed camp was left unexplained. Kasabian did say that the killers in the car the first night had taken speed (white pills supplied by Charles Manson) and also that she took Steven Parent's wallet from his corpse after he was shot to death and scouted out the rear area of the Polanski house. In recalling the actual murders she affected weeping but there were no tears. At the conclusion of the program she said, "I could never accept the fact that I was not punished for my involvement in this tragedy. I feel then what I feel now, always, and forever, that it was a waste. It was a waste of life that had no reason. No rhyme. It was wrong. And it hurt a lot of people. Still now, today, and always forever."
Linda Kasabian -- was she really just a poor innocent hippie girl who accidentally fell in with a group of ruthless murderers? Or was she a tough, amoral, and criminally inclined individual who willingly participated in (or maybe even instigated) some of America's most infamous murders? And are she and Charles "Tex" Watson still engaged in a life-long special relationship based on their shared experiences at Spahn's Ranch? Are they like the characters in German folklore known as Doppelgänger (literally "double goers"), biologically unrelated persons who nearly or completely resemble one another? In the folklore when someone meets their Doppelgänger it is an omen of impending death. Perhaps Watson and Kasabian are life-long soul mates, and perhaps they are not. But whatever the true nature of the relationship between Charles Watson and Linda Kasabian was or is, no one can deny that death followed in the wake of their fateful introduction to each other on July 4, 1969.