Monday, January 15, 2024

Louise LaBianca


Manson Family Murders: Victim's Daughter Reflects on Uneasy Journey Through Grief & Forgiveness

For me, the battle has always been one of trying to accept the unacceptable; to believe the unbelievable; and, hardest yet, to forgive the unforgivable


My father, Leno LaBianca, was killed by members of the Manson family in August 1969 when I was 13 years old. The LaBianca name became attached in the media as the Tate-LaBianca murders a few months later, which added doubly to my grief-stricken horror as a young girl. The infamous murders also ended the life of my stepmother Rosemary, a beautiful soul who had been in the LaBianca family for nearly 10 years. We spent holidays and summer vacations together every year. Dad was a proud father who took his responsibilities seriously and provided all of us with many privileged experiences — for me, private schools, beautiful clothes and gifts at Christmas and on my birthday in September every year.

I was living in Newport Beach at the time of the murders with my mother and siblings. It was a sad time for me as my 14th birthday was approaching. No more running to the front door to see my dad with his friendly, loving smile and the packages he brought to show his love. No more drives from Newport to L.A. as he sang to me a sentimental song or asked me how I was doing in school. No more greetings from Rose and her talking parrot upon our arrival. All gone because of one horrible night of bloody carnage — and for what purpose? 

According to the news reports, the Manson family had randomly targeted wealthy or famous individuals in order to gain worldwide attention. "Death to Pigs" scrawled on the walls of the family home, written in my father’s own blood. The facts were presented in daily news reports on television or in the papers, each one more baffling than the next for me. Our family was not known; had no fame or celebrity attached; and not particularly wealthy by comparison to others living in the Los Feliz area. Why did they single us out? I never could understand. I began to shut out the news but it was everywhere.

How did I cope? Mainly I turned to close friends and family members, though in all honesty I lost a few childhood friends in the beginning. We moved around; I changed schools several times; and my popularity skills were at an all-time low during those years except when I was with my family. Support groups for victims of violent crimes and their families were non-existent. Nobody knew what to say when they learned about my connection — a victim’s daughter. Their shocked looks told me all I needed to know.

A cloud of sorrow seemed to follow me everywhere I went for a while, except when I could find a quiet spot along the beach on any given day of the week. It may sound like a clichΓ© but I found peace in the warm California sun and ocean waves. There I could find solace, swimming in the water even on blustery days, or reading for hours as I stretched out on the sand — always present, in the moment, in my own peaceful reality where I never talked about it with new people I met. Fortunately, I inherited my dad’s warm, friendly smile and zest for life. Those qualities helped me find new pathways to explore, and life became good again. Sometimes I felt a little lost, unsure of where to go next academically. I eventually settled on a path of study in childhood development. For the next 25 years of my life, I spent most of my time enjoyably with young children — my own as well as in my chosen role as a teacher.

Then the various media reports about the Manson murders came to my awareness, especially those focused on parole hearings — a long, arduous process that has been going on for several years. As a group, the LaBianca family steadfastly opposed any releases on moral and ethical grounds. Some were more vocal than others and participated in the difficult process of attending parole hearings. My cousin Lou Smaldino was one of the most active and well-known members of the LaBianca family, while I personally stayed out of the discussion. I zealously guarded my privacy for many years. Yet something changed within me on a deep level of understanding when the first parole related to the Tate-LaBianca murders took place in July 2023. Leslie Van Houten may have earned her freedom according to California laws. Indeed, she may have worked very hard to earn it. I have no idea. It’s not the LaBianca family’s battle anymore, if it ever was. The California justice system has evidently been at the helm since day one. With the possibility of several more parole releases upcoming in the next few years, speaking out publicly weighs heavily on my mind.

Did the Tate-LaBianca murders become politicized so much over the past 50-plus years while I was busy raising a family and teaching classes in California schools? I never forgot my father but I certainly wanted to forget the circumstances surrounding his untimely death. For me, the battle has always been one of trying to accept the unacceptable; to believe the unbelievable; and, hardest yet, to forgive the unforgivable. For me, the passage of time changes nothing. As a group, the LaBianca family has been strong in terms of moving on with our lives — to pursue our individual life’s dreams without falling into a clump of tears every time the justice system disappoints us and we are again reminded of our losses. For me, it is an uneasy journey that demands an inner sense of balance and integrity. The farther along the path I travel, the stronger I become as a person and as a spiritual being. The journey continues. 

Original Article


Torque said...

Many thanks for sharing this very personal article.

orwhut said...

This is the first I remember of a talking parrot. I guess they only make good witnesses in crime fiction.

gina said...

So sorry for your loss Louisa. Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us.

TabOrFresca said...

Louise’s contribution this past year has been a unexpected pleasant surprise.

The words: gracious, modest, humble, and dignified seem to me to describe how Louise has handled herself as she communicates. She has kept her emotions and opinions under control.

Louise has been very kind when speaking of Rose[mary]. This is something I don’t really remember others expressing.

Maybe someday she will tell use more about Rose’s talking parrot.

Medium Patty said...

Thank you for sharing this, Louise.
I have really been enjoying your comments and perspectives these past few months. You make a great addition to this community.

brownrice said...

Thanks for sharing

Louise said...

Hi people, I haven't been on this site for a couple of weeks. Rosemary's talking parrot was at the Woking Way house before they moved to Waverly Dr. I believe she kept her parrot at her shop or with friends after they left Woking Way. I never saw him at Waverly. Wish I could remember his name πŸ€”

Louise said...

Thank you for the nice comments, too--I try!

Louise said...

Honestly, I do this partly for the surviving members of the LaBianca family. Many are just plain burnt out trying to explain this stuff to anyone out there in the public. As for Rose, I only know that she was really a kind, caring person during her years with my dad. And I will never forget driving to downtown LA with her in her '55 T-bird for a clothes shopping spree, c. Christmas vacation 7th grade. I really needed some new school clothes and had been wearing my sister's hand-me-downs lol! Rose had an amazing sense of style and fashion, a really memorable outing for me ❤️

klms said...

Hi Louise. - it's Kim
It's nice to see you again ( in an internet kind of way). I was really moved by your posts on the other side and I enjoyed interacting with you. I thought about you and your family and said a prayer over the holidays. I hope you guys are doing OK and I was still working on trying to get the book. . I was tempted to send you a hello message through the moderator of the other side but figured that might be intrusive in any case be well and it's nice seeing you . I hardly ever come to the site but I will check it out

Louise said...

Hi Kim,
I have been doing fine and had a quiet, introspective (!) holiday season. I didn't get much writing done except for the article in Los Angeles Magazine. I enjoy going through the family photos for ideas. I do not currently have any extra copies of my mom's book. I was hoping you could find one on Amazon. I am currently working on an abridged, online version of No More Tomorrows but it is not anywhere near completion. Thank you for your interest and I will keep you in the loop. Happy New Year 2024!

klms said...

Hi Louise
Thanks for your message. I’m glad that you had an OK holiday and being introspective is good. It sounds like you have a nice family over there with your partner and your two sons and I’m glad to hear that. It’s pretty generous of you to put up with all of us and our questions and so on. Thank you for sharing to the extent that you do, honestly I hope that you are getting something out of the participation. I think you must see that a lot of us are in awe of your generosity in sharing memories, feelings, and experiences. You mentioned writing, and as others have said, you write extremely well. I wasn’t aware that you had written an article recently. I’m actually in Canada more specifically in Quebec so it’s not something that I would easily come across or know about. Regarding these Manson boards I didn’t realize this one was so active in terms of people being able to write back-and-forth on different threads, so I’ll Likely hang out here a bit. Regarding the book I’m fairly determined once I get something in my head so overtime I’ll be able to get one. You seem like a very nice person Louise. I’m sorry I’m in a different country. Otherwise I’d offer to take you for a coffee or something. Being a private person myself I can understand that over the years your family was fiercely private, after being shoved into the public view and gawked at in the aftermath. I understand though the need to now speak up now as likely parole board may be letting more of them out. In all that you do though, take care of yourself

I’ll stop writing now as I’m realizing that I am babbling a bit. I woke up extremely early and wanted to respond to your message from a few days ago. I live with two cats and one of them just jumped on me, trying to convince me to open the “cat cafeteria “Please note that I use voice dictation so any spelling errors are not exactly mine. All the thoughts are though.
Take care Louise and drop me a line sometime

Louise said...

Thank you, Kim! I will keep you in my thoughts moving forward in this journey--cats are wonderful 🐈

klms said...

They are truly the best for sure. I would post pictures but I don’t think people come here for that. πŸ™„πŸ™ˆπŸ˜

Milly James said...

Hi Louise. Thank you.

Jeez Louise.

You've had a right heavy burden.


Louise said...

Thank you, Millie James! All is well 🌞

Louise said...

Thank you, Milly James--all is well 🌞

klms said...