For nearly three decades, the family has kept silent, refusing most interviews, not testifying in repeated court and parole hearings, and living quietly in Orange County.
But the ex-wife of Leno LaBianca--one of the victims of the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders committed by Charles Manson's followers in 1969--is speaking out to oppose convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten's twelfth request for parole today.
In a statement sent to the Board of Prison Terms and posted on an Internet Web site, LaBianca's first wife, Alice LaBianca of Newport Beach, says sympathy for Van Houten "is misplaced."
"Sympathy, understanding and compassion should be given to the victims of murder and not the killers," she wrote.
Alice LaBianca wrote that it does not matter that Van Houten has been a model prisoner and that Van Houten has said she played a minimal role in the fatal events.
LaBianca's four children--three of whom live in Orange County, according to a family spokesman--had to grow up without a father, LaBianca, who authored a book, "No More Tomorrows," wrote in the statement.
"My children . . . have had to face the realities of life without the help of their father," LaBianca wrote in a letter that is expected to be read aloud at the 2:30 p.m. parole hearing at the California Institute for Women in Frontera.
But on another Web site, hosted by a Christian ministry, Van Houten receives support for her parole bid.
"Each time her parole is rejected, she is a victim of the system," states a Web site devoted to Van Houten and fellow Manson Family member Susan Atkins. "Leslie lives with guilt, remorse and shame every day of her life."
Leno LaBianca, a wealthy grocer, and his second wife, Rosemary, were stabbed to death in their Los Feliz home on Aug. 10, 1969, one night after Sharon Tate, then eight months pregnant, and four others were slain at the actress' Beverly Hills home.
Charles Manson and "family" members were convicted of the murders, which the group planned to blame on blacks in an attempt to start a race war, according to prosecutors. Leno LaBianca was murdered by cult follower Charles "Tex" Watson, while Rosemary was stabbed by Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkle. Their death sentences were later repealed and converted to life in prison.
Bill Nelson, a friend of the LaBianca family and author of the book, "Manson: Behind the Scenes," said that parole boards, in past decisions, have stated that Van Houten's chances for release are improving with each bid.
Van Houten has earned bachelor's and master's degrees in prison, has never had a disciplinary report filed against her and reportedly has job offers awaiting her, he said. Further, she has spent nearly 30 years behind bars, at a time when murderers receive lesser sentences, said Nelson, who personally opposes Van Houten's parole "because of the weight of what she was involved in."
None of the Manson Family members has yet been paroled, but Nelson said, "They are waiting for Leslie to crack open the door."
The LaBianca family has kept quiet until now, Nelson said, because they are private people, thrust into the media spotlight only because Leno LaBianca's murder was connected to the slaying of a movie star.
"We lost our privacy and our obscurity" in the publicity that followed the murders and trials, Alice LaBianca wrote. "My family never became vocal, we did not become activist, we relied on the justice system to seek and find the justice that was due to us."
When the murderers received the death penalty, "that was all our family could expect," she wrote. "But we can no longer remain silent. . . . "
On the Web site hosted by FreedomLink, Van Houten is called a "gentle, kind woman who quietly waits for her freedom." It says that Van Houten was a victim of Manson's "mind control," lists her accomplishments in prison and asks for public support.
Referring to the Web site, Alice LaBianca wrote that it is "unfortunate" that Van Houten has "friends who work for her freedom. . . . "
"Leslie Van Houten chose her own path. She chose to follow the instructions of Charles Manson. She chose drug-crazed killers as her family and she became one of them. But what about my family? When do we get our parole? When does Leno get his parole?. . . ."
Van Houten's parole also will be opposed by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Alice LaBianca's statement can be found at http://www.mansonmurders.com. The group supporting Van Houten's release has a Web site at http://www.freedomlink.org/. Click on "Free Leslie."