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50 years ago, Maine-born woman was driver in Manson murders

The onetime Manson 'family' cultist was born in Biddeford and grew up in Milford, New Hampshire.
Credit: AP Photo/David F. Smith, File
FILE - In this Aug. 19, 1970, file photo, Linda Kasabian speaks at a news conference she held at end of her 18 days on stand as a prosecution witness in the Manson Family murder trials in Los Angeles. Attorneys are Roland Goldman at her left, and Gary Fleischman at her right. Kasabian, the trial's key prosecution witness, was granted immunity from prosecution. She drove the killers to the Tate and LaBianca houses but didn't take part in the killings. Kasabian later changed her name and has for the most part lived out of sight for the past 50 years.

Thursday through Saturday mark the 50th anniversary of the brutal, two-night slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others, later found to have been led by Charles Manson, terrorizing Los Angeles in August 1969.

Linda Kasabian was 20 years old when she was arrested on Dec. 2, 1969, in Concord, New Hampshire, on a fugitive warrant from Los Angeles authorities, wanted for questioning in connection to the Tate-LaBianca murders.

She and four others – Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten – were indicted on seven counts of murder and one of conspiracy. But Kasabian would become the state's key witness.

After moving in with the Manson "family" a few weeks prior, Kasabian accompanied the killers to the Tate house and posted outside as a lookout, then remained in the car the next night outside the LaBianca house. She was the driver in both instances – the only one with a valid driver's license – and personally witnessed at least two of the first-night killings on Cielo Drive.

When asked during an interview with Larry King in 2009 why she didn't take her daughter and run away from the cult, Kasabian said she was afraid, and that, "it wasn't something that I could just turn around and walk out of there."

Three days after the murders, she would flee Spahn Ranch, leaving behind her daughter, who was put into foster care when arrests were made at the commune.

Born in Biddeford as Linda Darleen Drouin, Kasabian grew up in her divorced mother's home in Milford, New Hampshire. She dropped out of high school as a sophomore, got married, divorced, married again, and had her first child in 1968. She moved with her husband Bob Kasabian to the Los Angeles area, where she reportedly met a Manson "family" cultist at a Topanga Canyon restaurant.

A timeline of her testimony was detailed in "Helter Skelter," co-authored in 1974 by Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted the Manson "family" for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. It's the best-selling true crime book of all-time.

Bugliosi says an agreement was made for his office to petition the Superior Court for Kasabian's immunity after she had testified. In exchange, she would give a full and complete statement of her involvement, and lying or refusing to testify would result in prosecution, with no statements used against her.

The agreement was signed on Feb. 26, 1970. Two days later, on Feb. 28, 1970, Bugliosi writes that he interviewed Kasabian — the first time Kasabian had apparently discussed the murders with anyone connected to law enforcement.

During part of her marathon testimony, Bugliosi writes, Kasabian was shown photos of the Tate murder victims, and for one in particular, asked by criminal defense attorney Irving Kanarek how she knew she could not have committed the violent act. She responded: "Because I know. I do not have that kind of thing in me, to do such an animalistic thing." Bugliosi believes Kanarek may have wanted to "unnerve" Kasabian into making a damaging admission, but instead only "succeeded in emphasizing" that she was "a sensitive human being capable of being deeply disturbed buy the hideousness of [the] acts."

Kasabian's testimony lasted 18 days, ending Aug. 19, 1970.

Bugliosi writes that after testifying, Kasabian flew back to New Hampshire for a reunion with her two children. She'd later testify again.

Manson died behind bars in November 2017 at age 83.

In 2017, an exclusive Daily Mail report found that Kasabian at age 68 was living in Tacoma, Washington, using the last name Chiochios.

She's portrayed by actress Maya Hawke in the 2019 film "Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood," in which she's referred to as "Flower Child."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.