Linda Darlene Drouin was born in Biddeford, Maine and raised in the New England town of Milford, New Hampshire. Her father, Rosaire Drouin, was a construction worker of French Canadian ancestry and her mother, Joyce Taylor, was a homemaker, and they struggled financially in a working class home. Her parents often didn't get along and her father abandoned the family when she was still a young child. Both of her parents remarried a short time later and her father moved to Miami, Florida. She was the eldest child, and her mother Joyce has remarked that with so many younger children and stepchildren to care for, she was not able to devote the necessary attention to her teenage daughter. "I didn't have time to listen to her problems. A lot of what has happened to Linda is my fault."
Linda was described by friends, neighbors, and teachers as intelligent, a good student, but a "starry-eyed romantic". She was known as kind and shy but "forced to grow up too soon". She dropped out of high school and ran away from home at the age of sixteen due to increasing problems with her stepfather, Jake Byrd, who she claimed mistreated her and her mother. Linda headed to the western states, "looking for God". At the age of 16, she married Robert Peasley, but divorced a short time later. She briefly moved to Miami and tried to reconnect with her father, who was tending bar, but they drifted apart before long. She then traveled to Boston and remarried, and gave birth to a daughter in 1968. When her second marriage, to Armenian American Robert Kasabian, began to sour, Linda and her baby daughter Tanya returned to New Hampshire to live with Linda's mother. Later, Robert Kasabian contacted Linda and invited her to meet him in Los Angeles. He wanted her to join him and a friend, Charles "Blackbeard" Melton, on a sailing trip to South America. Linda, who was hoping for a reconciliation, returned to Los Angeles to live with Robert in the Los Angeles hippie hangouts of Topanga Canyon.
By the time she had become pregnant with her second child, Linda was feeling rejected by her husband, who had left her behind for the South American trip. A friend of Melton, Catherine "Gypsy" Share, described an idyllic ranch where a group of hippies were establishing a "hole in the earth" paradise to escape the anticipated social turmoil. The "hole" sounded like the Hopi legends that she had read about as a girl, and Kasabian was intrigued. In 1969, she decided against attending the July 4th Malibu "Love-In", and instead—daughter Tanya in tow—followed Share to the Spahn Ranch in the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles, where she met Manson.
Kasabian was welcomed by group members, who greeted her with professions of peace and love and assurances that she and her daughter would be cared for, provided she proved loyal. Kasabian became privy to various events and statements that would later prove to be important to the criminal case. During her first night with the family, she met and had sexual relations with the high-ranking Manson follower Charles "Tex" Watson. Both of them have described their initial encounter as very intense. Watson persuaded Kasabian to steal a sum of money from her ex-husband's friend, Charles Melton.
Kasabian was then introduced to Manson, a dramatic event for her. She thought that he looked magnificent in his buckskin clothing, and that he seemed to be Christ-like. Manson talked with her about why she had come to the ranch, and after feeling her legs, he accepted her. That night, Manson and Kasabian had sexual relations in a Spahn Ranch cave. She thought that Manson could "see right through her" and that he was perceptive of her issues with her stepfather and her feelings of being "disposable" to the people in her life and to the world in general, as recorded in her trial testimony;
Kasabian adopted the attitude toward Manson that the other ranch girls held: "We always wanted to do anything and everything for him." She began joining family members on their "creepy crawls", quietly sneaking into random homes in Los Angeles to steal money while the occupants slept. These and other criminal activities were the means by which the members of the family supported themselves, and Kasabian was willing to participate. "Everything belongs to everyone," Manson would reiterate during his many philosophical campfire raps, lectures rendered more powerful by the ingestion of psychedelic drugs. When Mary Brunner was jailed for using a stolen credit card, Kasabian became the only member of the group to possess a valid California driver's license.
On August 8, 1969, Manson announced, "now is the time for Helter Skelter", a term taken from a Beatles song that Manson told his associates that he believed meant a revolution prophesied in the Book of Revelation. (The term "helter-skelter" means confusion or disorder, or something occurring haphazardly. In British English, it also refers to a popular spiral slide for people at fairs and carnivals.) Kasabian was directed by Manson to gather a knife, a change of clothing and her driver's license, then to accompany three other members of the family, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel, to the residence of the film director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. There, Kasabian saw Watson shoot and kill Steven Parent, a teenager who had come to visit the caretaker. Watson then ordered Kasabian to remain outside the residence, and she stood by the car while Watson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel entered the house and killed Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and the eight-month pregnant Sharon Tate.
Kasabian testified that at one point she heard the "horrible screams" of the victims and left the car. "I started to run toward the house, I wanted them to stop. I knew what they had done to that man [Parent], that they were killing these people. I wanted them to stop." Approaching the house from the driveway, Kasabian was met by Frykowski, who was running out the front door. Kasabian said in her testimony, "There was a man just coming out of the door and he had blood all over his face and he was standing by a post, and we looked into each other's eyes for a minute, and I said, 'Oh, God, I am so sorry. Please make it stop.' But then he just fell to the ground into the bushes." Then Watson repeatedly stabbed Frykowski and hit him in the head with a gun butt. Kasabian tried to stop the murderers by claiming that she heard "people coming" onto the Tate property, but Atkins had insisted that it was "too late". According to Watson and Atkins, Kasabian stood rooted to the front lawn, watching with a horrified expression as her companions committed murder. Kasabian testified that, while in a state of shock, she ran toward the car, started it up, and considered driving away to get help, but then became concerned for her daughter back at the Spahn Ranch.
The next night, Manson once again ordered the quartet to gather a change of clothing and get into the car, this time joining them to "show them how to do it," because he felt the deed the night before had been performed sloppily. This time joined by Leslie Van Houten and Steve Grogan, the group set off into the city, eventually coming to the LaBianca residence in Los Feliz. Kasabian witnessed Manson and Watson walk towards the house and return to the car a few minutes later, whereupon Manson reported that the occupants of the house were tied up. Manson instructed Watson, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten to enter the house. At that point, Manson, Kasabian, Susan Atkins, and Grogan drove off. Inside the residence, Watson, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. When asked why she went out with the group again, knowing this time that murders would occur, Kasabian responded that when Manson asked her to go with them she was "afraid to say no".
Later the same night, in the Venice Beach area of Los Angeles, Manson asked Kasabian to participate in the murder of an acquaintance, a Lebanese actor named Saladin Nader. Kasabian had met the actor a few days earlier with fellow "family" member Sandra Good. Atkins and Grogan waited a few feet away, with knife and gun in hand, prepared to kill, as Manson had told them to. Kasabian purposely knocked on the wrong apartment door in order to avoid causing any harm to Nader. When the occupant answered, Kasabian apologized and excused herself, thus preventing the crime. Two days after the LaBianca murders, she fled from the Manson "family", and she eventually returned to her mother's home in New Hampshire.
Atkins was arrested along with the rest of the remaining "family" members following a raid on the Spahn Ranch in October for car theft. The police had no idea that they were also rounding up the murderers in the Tate and LaBianca cases. The investigations of these were already in progress, along with the intensive news media coverage of the murders. Atkins gave the critical break in the search for the murderers when she told her fellow cellmates, two women named Virginia Graham and Veronica "Ronnie" Howard, about her role in the crimes. Howard and others from Los Angeles County women's jail told the criminal authorities what they had learned from Atkins. In early December 1969, Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, Van Houten, and Kasabian were indicted by a grand jury for the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Originally, Atkins had been offered a reduced sentence (life imprisonment instead of the death penalty) for her testimony, since she was the first defendant to be arrested, and she had agreed to tell her story at the grand jury hearings. However, Atkins relinquished this chance when she resumed her allegiance to Manson and repudiated all her incriminating statements. Next, the prosecutors turned to Kasabian, who had voluntarily turned herself in to New Hampshire authorities and returned to California. Kasabian was offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for turning state's evidence.
There have been reports that Kasabian wanted to tell her story to the prosecutors, with or without any kind of deal, to "get it out of my head", as chief prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi described it, but that her attorney, Gary Fleischman, insisted that she remain silent until the district attorney made an offer of immunity. Kasabian, who was then pregnant with her second child, agreed to the immunity offer.
The immunity agreement was seen at the time as a somewhat controversial option for the prosecution for a number of reasons. Some wanted her to be fully prosecuted for the crimes. However, though Kasabian had been an accomplice to the murders (their driver and lookout) and she had not prevented the crimes or contacted the police or the sheriff afterwards, she had not entered either residence and had not physically participated in any of the murders. She had been described as reluctant and extremely upset during the events of both nights, even challenging Manson ("I'm not you, Charlie. I can't kill anyone"), and she was the only member of the group to express remorse and sympathy for the victims. When brought back to the Tate residence to help reconstruct the crime there, Kasabian reportedly suffered an emotional breakdown. The prosecution was relieved to withdraw the deal from Atkins, whose behavior and statements reportedly seemed especially depraved.
Taking the witness stand, Kasabian was the chief witness for the prosecution, and she tearfully recounted the murders in vivid detail. She related to the trial jury all that she had seen and heard during her stay with the "family" and during the commission of the murders. Her testimony was considered to be the most dramatic segment of the very long trial, and it received an unprecedented amount of news media coverage. During the trial, unjailed members of the Manson "family" led a campaign of intimidation against Kasabian in an effort to prevent her from testifying. The actual defendants in the crime constantly disrupted her testimony with a blizzard of dramatic courtroom theatrics. Manson would run a finger across his throat, glaring at Kasabian as she testified, an act he would repeat during the testimony of other prosecution witnesses.
Susan Atkins also repeatedly whispered to Kasabian across the courtroom "You're killing us!", to which Kasabian responded, "I am not killing you, you have killed yourselves". Manson notoriously interrupted Kasabian's testimony by holding up a copy of the Los Angeles Times newspaper to the jury with the headline "Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares" referring to President Richard Nixon's statements to the press about the pre-verdict trial. He apparently hoped that this stunt would result in a mistrial, which the defense argued for, but lost. Judge Charles H. Older refused to allow the defendants to legally benefit from the antics.
For the majority of her 18 days of testimony, the defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to discredit Kasabian by bringing into account her extensive use of LSD and by attempting to perforate her story. Kasabian did not break under the intensive cross-examination, and her testimony matched all of the physical evidence that had been presented, in addition to being supported by the subsequent prosecution witnesses.
During Kasabian's cross-examination, Manson's defense lawyer Irving Kanarek showed her large color crime-scene photographs of the Tate murders. Kasabian's emotional reaction was in stark contrast to the other "family" members. Manson and Krenwinkel's defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald would later assert that Kanarek's tactic — meant to discredit Kasabian — was a grave error that completely backfired and exonerated the state's primary witness. Composing herself enough to look up from the color photo of the dead, bloodied Sharon Tate, Kasabian shot a look across the courtroom to the defendants. "How could you do that?", she asked. The female defendants laughed. Manson's defense attorney Kanarek asked Kasabian how she could be so certain, considering her LSD use, that she had not participated in the gruesome act. "Because I don't have that kind of thing in me, to do something so animalistic", she replied.
Although the Manson gang's murder trial lasted nine months, with testimony from numerous witnesses (including several other former "family" members), Kasabian's testimony, more than anything else, according to Bugliosi, led to the convictions of Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten.
On January 25, 1971, the defendants were found guilty on all counts by the jury, leading to the penalty phase of the trial, which would decide the punishments of the convicted. Various female witnesses, including the defendants and other loyal "family" members (all of whom carved bloody Xs into their foreheads as a sign of their allegiance to Manson), testified that Kasabian, rather than Manson, had masterminded the crimes. The trial jury completely rejected their testimony, however. More recently, these accusations have been publicly repudiated by many of the former "family" members who originally offered the tale, including Catherine Share, Susan Atkins, and particularly Tex Watson, who has since described those allegations as "patently ridiculous".
The heavy news media coverage of the Manson trial had made Linda Kasabian a well-known, if somewhat controversial, figure by the time the sentences had been handed down, with opinions about her ranging from sympathetic to hostile. Kasabian shortly returned to New Hampshire with her husband and her children, seeking to escape the glare of the media, and to raise her children quietly. She lived on a hippie commune for a time and worked as a cook later. Kasabian was called back to Los Angeles County several times after the first trial: she was a witness against Tex Watson in his separate trial in 1971, and also against Leslie Van Houten in her two retrials in 1977. Linda and Robert Kasabian later divorced; she eventually remarried.
Kasabian was later detained for numerous traffic violations, until an automobile accident left her partially disabled. Though she had severed all of her ties with the Manson "family", the Secret Service kept her under surveillance for a time after former Manson associate Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Kasabian was the target of scorn from the few remaining Manson "family" members.
Over the years, Kasabian has avoided and refused most news media attention. She appeared only once between 1969 and 2008, for an interview with the syndicated American television program A Current Affair in 1988.
Later, Cineflix, a production company in the United Kingdom and Canada, produced a docu-drama called Manson, in which Kasabian appears, telling her story in complete detail for the first time. This program was telecast in the UK on August 10, 2009, and also in the United States on September 7, 2009 and again on July 20, 2013, on the History Channel. In this interview, Kasabian recounts her four weeks spent with the Manson "family". Her image is slightly obscured to protect her identity.
In a September 2, 2009 live interview on CNN's Larry King Live, Kasabian recounted her memories of the murders at Sharon Tate's home. To help her maintain her now-quiet life, Kasabian wore a disguise provided by the program. She told King during the interview that after the trial she had been in need of, but had never obtained, "psychological counseling", and that during the previous 12 years, she had been "on a path of healing and rehabilitation." When asked about the degree of remorse she felt for her participation in the crimes, Kasabian said she felt as though she took on all the guilt that "no one else [who was involved in the crimes] felt guilt for", apparently referring to the fact that, even during her own court testimony, the co-defendants in the case showed extreme nonchalance when faced with such gruesome murders.In The White Album, Joan Didion wrote of her meetings with Kasabian during her stay in custody while testifying.
Kasabian has been portrayed in various movies by the actresses Clea DuVall, Marilyn Burns, Erin Marie Hogan, Michelle Briggs, Tamara Hope and MacKenzie Mauzy.
Kasabian, a British band, is named after Linda Kasabian.