Friday Firesmith – The Sins of Leslie Van Houten

In November of 1979, I turned nineteen. In January of 1980, I was arrested on the charge of being drunk in public, which I was, but the police didn’t know why I was where I was, or what I was doing. They suspected I was up to no good and they were right. I had gone with two “friends” of mine to break into a laundry mat.  Long story short, I tried to talk them out of it, but when the car stopped, I walked away, but the cops arrived, so I ran. I got caught, charged with being drunk, and later released. The incident taught me a valuable lesson about the company to keep. 

Leslie Van Houten, in 1969, just a decade prior to the Great Laundry Mat Caper, went inside a home owned by Leo LaBianca, and his wife, Rosemary. Her cult leader, Charles Manson, had gone into the house a few minutes before, tied the couple up with a cord from a lamp, then sent Van Houten and two other people in to murder the helpless couple. They wrote on the walls of the home with the victims’ blood and carved the word, “PIG” on Leo’s chest. 

I’ve done LSD. I’ve done stronger drugs than that, and I’ve done so while listening to the Beatles. I’ve been talked into doing things I knew I shouldn’t have done, even while high, even while so drunk I could barely remember what I had done, or why I had done it. It’s amazing I’m still alive through all that I did between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five, but here I am. 

In my worst times, under the influence of the strongest drugs, I never hurt anyone. 

Leslie Van Houten had been denied parole for decades due to no other reason she was involved in the most heinous of crimes the state of California has ever seen. If she had simply murdered two people, even for no good reason at all, she would have walked in fifteen or twenty years, and no one would remember who she was or what she had done. But she killed two people for Charles Manson. Five other people, at least, were murdered because he told someone to do it, and in this, Van Houten bought herself a ticket to one of the longest stays in prison anyone could ever imagine. 

Susan Denise Atkins, the woman who stabbed Sharon Tate to death while Tate was nine months pregnant, died in prison. Manson’s favorite, Atkins was considered the worst of the lot and was denied clemency even as she lay dying of cancer. 

Individually, it is certainly possible Van Houten is reformed. It’s possible she would live out the rest of her years in peace and never bother a soul. She might be one of those people who would be invisible to the rest of the world, dying unnoticed one day, perhaps even in the company of those she loved, and who loved her, in peace, and no one would speak of the event. 

But Leslie Van Houten denied that sort of peaceful death to a happily married couple who owned their own business, who had raised a family, and who had hurt no one. 

Tied, terrified, and struggling to live, two people were slaughtered by this woman. 

We should deny her a death in peace and freedom because she denied that to two innocent people. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

4 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – The Sins of Leslie Van Houten”

  1. I don’t believe there’s a drug or drink that makes you kill, not one.
    If you want to kill they will cloud your fear of repercussions.
    The California Legislative Analyst’s Office say 52 years x $106,131 = $5,518,812 spent keeping this scumbag in prison. She was living with better food, better healthcare, and better lodging that millions of homeless people.
    Where’s the guillotine when we need it.

    • Bruce, if we are going to execute other human beings, we ought to do it in a manner that is humane and undramatic. I think you are right in that if you don’t have it in you to murder then nothing you ingest will cause you to kill. But we have to be better than those we sentence to death.

    • I don’t think we should be treating drug or alcohol use as a criminal problem. it’s a health and education issue.

      if a person on drugs or alcohol commit other crimes they are certainly responsible for THOSE crimes but simple posession or use of drugs or alcohol should be considered a health & education issue. no need to compound the problem with the lifetime stigma of a conviction for something that shouldn’t be a crime at all.

      the ‘drug war’ causes much bigger problems than the drugs do.

      I view the death penalty as ‘removing a cancer from society’ and we have other options for that. I am not a fan but also not a fan of the for profit prison industrial complex either but it is a far better choice than killing them.

      Execution is quite possibly justified in some circumstances but I haven’t got nearly enough confidence in our judicial system to be willing to trust their verdicts to justify possibly murdering an innocent person.

      • Keith, I agree that drugs, alcohol, and other abused substances should be considered mental health issues, not criminal events. I also lack the confidence any state in the union or the federal judiciary is competent enough to have fair trials that always end up with the right person being executed for a crime. Van Houten, however she arrived at murdering in the name of Charles Manson, should stay put.

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