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Member of the Family: Manson, Murder and Me

Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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24 Reclaiming My Name (#litres_trial_promo)

25 My Day in Court (#litres_trial_promo)

Epilogue (#litres_trial_promo)

Acknowledgments (#litres_trial_promo)

Photos Section (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

AUTHOR’S NOTE (#ulink_35b2962a-1f13-5a5c-975d-10d82c90d9d9)

It is time for me to exorcise my own demons and to face the truth as much as I can remember it. In this book, I have shared what I can re-create through straining my memory muscle, research, corroboration from people who knew me, and my own words from trial and interrogation transcripts. They tell only my piece of the story from personal experience and perception. I was with the Manson Family from the age of fourteen until my arrest at Barker Ranch at the age of sixteen. My memories by necessity reflect the mind of a teenager. Everything in this book is true. Some of the names and identifying details have been changed to protect people’s privacy. Some conversations are re-created to the best of my ability, as no memory is perfect. This is my perspective. This is my story and this is my confessional.

PROLOGUE (#ulink_29225559-b78f-56f8-a612-a27e0fc72fe6)


It began, as these stories often do, with a phone call, one that I had been dreading for decades.

“Are you Dianne Lake?” the voice asked.

The question stopped me in my tracks. I hadn’t heard that name for years. This could be about only one thing.

“Uh-huh,” I said hesitantly. “What do you want?”

Immediately after the words left my mouth, I regretted saying them. I’d done nothing wrong, committed no crimes, but I had a reason to hide. So many people out there had looked for me over the years—reporters writing about the crimes, journalists seeking sources for books about the Family—and of course the worst were the crazies obsessed with Charles Manson. For the most part, I’d been able to evade them all—flying under the radar all these years, hiding in plain sight with my husband’s last name. I immediately wished I had hung up the phone right at that moment, but it happened too fast, my answer a reflex. Even after all these years, I still wasn’t prepared.

I had buried my history so well I’d almost forgotten that once I was someone else: a young girl named Dianne Lake who was only fourteen when Charles Manson had inducted her into his Family of followers. A girl who had spent almost two years being manipulated by him before a moment of clarity broke the spell, and who then went on to testify against him on November 3, 1970, helping to put him in prison forever. Over the course of the eight years that followed, I’d been in and out of the courtroom through the Manson trial and two retrials of fellow Family member Leslie Van Houten, coming of age on the witness stand and telling my story to the juries and the judges, as well as to the gawkers who obsessed over the gruesome acts that were committed by Charles Manson and members of his Family on two nights in August 1969. I’d told stories of life with the Family, of the things we’d done and the drugs we’d taken, of how I’d joined with the blessing of my parents, hippies themselves, thinking that I was in control of my life, only to discover a reality darker than I ever could have imagined.

And in 1978, after my final appearance on the witness stand for Leslie Van Houten’s retrial, I put away these stories of Charles Manson and the Family and left them behind for good. In a case that had captured the attention of people around the world, where spectators waited all night for one of the fifteen seats in the courtroom, I was the last witness.

From then on, Charles Manson and his Family were a part of my past—they had nothing to do with my present or my future. By that point, I was already being courted by my husband, with whom I spent the next thirty-five years. He knew about my past, but we decided to create a life without ties to that former identity. We never told his family or the three children we went on to have together about what I’d been through. Even when my daughter brought in a stray cat and named it Charlie, I never acknowledged why I suggested she call him something else.

Over time, my memories of the Manson Family became watercolors, the lines soft and blurry without clear definition. Whenever I was reminded of the Family, either because of events in the news or anniversary retrospectives, I disconnected, all too willing to forget the events of my own life. Until the phone rang.

“I am Paul Dostie,” the voice said. “I am a detective and my partner is a cadaver dog named Buster.”

“What is this about?” I asked.

“I know that you told investigator Jack Gardiner that you thought there were more bodies buried up by Barker Ranch.”

Barker Ranch. It was where we’d hidden out after the murders, in Death Valley, the middle of nowhere and as far away as Charlie could take us. A place where they weren’t supposed to find us. Only they did. Two months after the killings, with a warrant for an unrelated charge of vandalism, the police raided Barker Ranch, rounding up all of us. In the interim it was Family member Susan Atkins, one of the killers, then in jail on another charge, who made the connection between these crimes and Charlie. I kept my identity secret as I shared a cell with the other girls in the Family. When it came time to testify before the grand jury, I admitted my real age of only sixteen and gave them my true name. Confessing my true age made me a ward of the court and landed me in a mental institution, an interesting twist for a teenage girl who’d experienced all that the counterculture of the 1960s had to offer.

Jack Gardiner, the cop who’d been my arresting officer, must have seen something in me worth saving, because when I was institutionalized he began visiting me there. When it was time for me to be released, he and his wife took me in as a foster child. They were the first people who helped me feel safe enough to speak about what I’d been through, what I’d seen and heard. I lived securely with them until I testified.

As I cradled the phone in my hand, I strained to recall what I might have said to Jack all those years ago. Maybe I had told him there were other bodies. There could have been. People would often come and go from the Barker Ranch, disappearing at random. Maybe they were passing through or maybe something more sinister happened to them; Charlie and the others were obviously capable of murder.

“Dianne, there are people who may never have been brought to justice. My dog has alerted to some possible human remains.”

I didn’t respond. While in the moment I couldn’t be sure if he was telling the truth, I’d later learn this was indeed the case. In February of 2008, a team of investigators including former Inyo County detective John Little, who had worked for Jack in the early 1970s, went with Dostie and others to see if they could find anything at the old Barker Ranch.

“Do you know that undersheriff Jack Gardiner back in 1974 sent Detective Little to Barker to investigate possible human remains buried there? He was your foster father during the trial. Now why would he do that if he had nothing to base it upon?”

My hands began to sweat. For the first time in many years, Charlie’s face appeared in my mind, along with the words: “Don’t talk to no one in authority.” I felt as though I was going into a tunnel and could hear the small voice of my sixteen-year-old self somewhere in the distance.

“What do you want with me, Mr. Dostie? I don’t remember anything I might have said to Jack back then.”

“I am calling you out of courtesy. We are going back there to dig. And we are going to tape it and show it on television. If anything is discovered out there, we are going to have to trace it back to tip-offs you likely gave to Jack Gardiner.”

“Please, I am not that person anymore,” I said. “I have a family and children. I go to church. I sing in the choir. I teach autistic children, for heaven’s sake. My children don’t know anything about my past.”

“That is why I am giving you a heads up,” he said coolly. “I know you were not a killer, but you were part of something bigger than you are. And it is news and it is history. I think we are going to find things out there that are going to be gruesome. It is up to you how you want to handle this with your family.”

“Can’t you just keep me out of this?”

“I am sorry, Dianne, but from what I have read, you became a part of it the second you got on that bus with Charles Manson.”

That night I told my husband about the call. We both knew this day would come—it had to. It was a terrible secret to keep from my children, but I knew that I couldn’t bring myself to tell them any other way; I’d buried the past too carefully. Nothing about their upbringing would suggest what I’d hidden. For most of my children’s lives, I enjoyed the privilege of being home with them, taking care of them. We lived modestly but well, and I made sure the house was clean, dinner was on the table, and I was in the front row at their every school function. My children never spent a day thinking I was not there for them. But now the front was going to collapse under the weight of my former life and the shame I’d concealed for years. Now I would have to tell my children what had really happened during those two treacherous years in California.

But first I myself would have to face the truth. Memories fade, but trauma remembers. It is stored in your body, your senses, your synapses and cells. It would take strength to tell my story, but more importantly, it would take strength to tell myself, and to remember.

PART I (#ulink_139ba251-6d01-5e14-91f8-2dd67a2a4415)

1 (#ulink_4ceb973c-96e0-5646-98f7-619ad5b42394)

A MINNESOTA CHILDHOOD (#ulink_4ceb973c-96e0-5646-98f7-619ad5b42394)

This is how my real story begins. Not with sunny southern california, hippies, and drugs, but as white-bread and middle class as it gets: 1950s Minnesota.

Born in 1953, I was my parents’ first child. My father, Clarence, was a sturdy man with a wide, crooked smile. He’d followed his father’s footsteps into the house painting trade to put the food on the table, but art was his passion. He began art school after his marriage, using painting as an outlet for his creativity—house painter by day, artist by night. My mom, Shirley, was a housewife who made every effort to look her best each day and keep a lovely home. As a little girl, I would follow her around the house and try to imitate everything she did. If she was washing a dish in the sink, I would beg to be picked up. “I do it!” I would squeal until she gave me my own sponge to wash with. I was her little shadow and became a “mini momma” when my brother, Danny, and then later my sister, Kathy, were born.

When I was in first grade, my parents must have felt prosperous enough to buy a sizable house outside Minneapolis with a huge backyard. Our neighbors had a greenhouse, in which they grew all kinds of fragrant flowers. When you opened the door, you were greeted with the smell of potted perennials, herbs, and colorful annual flowers for every season. I kept an eye on my younger brother and sister while my father worked and my mother took care of the house. Kathy was a baby, so I would wheel her in her stroller across the lawn or carry her in my arms so she could smell the blooms.

My mother continued to let me help around the house, and in many ways, the housework was exciting to me. There were new household gadgets available and we had a top-of-the-line Hoover Constellation, a round, space-age-looking vacuum that was supposed to float on its own exhaust. You almost wanted to throw dirt on the floor just so you could see how it worked. Our home was always clean, but sometimes I vacuumed just to have something to do.

My mom taught me how to sew on the toy sewing machine I got one year for Christmas, setting me up at a table next to her Singer sewing machine, showing me how to thread the needle and guide the fabric to make the stitches stay straight. In the weeks that followed, she gave me scraps of fabric so I could create outfits for my dolls and little quilts. Eventually I got so good at this that she got me a pattern so I could sew clothes for myself.

From the outside, ours was a traditional family, but there was a restlessness beneath the surface. Before I was born, my father had served in the Korean conflict, and although I wouldn’t have known the difference, my mother always said it had changed him. A father’s dissatisfaction is not always expressed out loud, but it is certainly felt. Over time I came to understand how the currents of his behavior affected our family life. After coming home from work, he would disappear into the corner of the living room that he had set aside for painting, and we weren’t allowed to go near him when he was working. We had our own playroom, and whenever Danny and Kathy tried to bother him, I would catch them so he wouldn’t be disturbed. Even at that age, I understood that he needed room to create.

Even young as I was, I sensed that there was a distance to him, a detachment that made him different. When he smiled, the sun would shine, and my earliest memories are of him laughing and playing with me. But when he was depressed, it was as if the air had been sucked out of the room; he was sullen unless he was working on a project. On those sad days, he would sit quietly in a dark room staring off into space smoking cigarette after cigarette, the smoke thick in the air around him.

I must have taken my cues from my mother because she largely allowed him the space to indulge his whims. Despite his moodiness, he could do no wrong in her eyes. She interacted with him in a manner that bordered on worship and defined much of our domestic lives. She watched him closely, gauging his expressions before she would interact with him. When he got home from work she would wait until he settled in before beginning any conversation. She wouldn’t present him with our misdeeds the minute he walked in the door. Instead we were instructed to greet him cheerfully. He was the stoic king of our castle and we learned to wait until he addressed us before sharing too much with him. I wanted him to notice me, and if he did, I held on to the moment in my heart and in my memory. My remembrances of the times he would grumble and tease me about something that would make me feel bad or tell me “I’ll give you something to cry about” would be countered by his moments of playfulness even if they were not directed at me.

Perhaps because of my father’s unpredictability, my mother controlled the money in the house, as she was the more responsible person. At the end of the week my father handed her whatever money he’d earned painting houses, and I would watch as she paid all the bills. Each month my mom would make sure that the mortgage on the house was paid along with every other bill, spreading the envelopes on the table, writing out checks, and asking me to lick the stamps. Then she would take them to the post office in town to mail them.

Each week she would give my father an allowance in cash and set aside our money for our food. She did all the shopping for us and prepared all our meals. She would pack his lunch in the morning, sometimes putting a little note in his brown bag. She also made dinner every night. Though my dad always seemed busy, he did take time to have dinner with us. This was my favorite time of day because he led the discussion and included me just as if I were a grown-up.

“Dianne, what are you learning in school?” he’d ask me.

“Be right back,” I’d reply, running off to gather a stack of papers. “Look, Daddy, I got good grades on these.” I’d spread out my spelling tests, writing practice books, and math papers, showing him my schoolwork and my achievements and trying to impress him.

“That’s great. Keep up the good work.”

At dinner, my father would often bring up the books he was reading, eager to discuss them with my mother, and always somehow disappointed that she didn’t share his interest in them. For my part, I was excited in anything that interested him.

“I am reading a great book, Shirley. I think you should read it too,” he said one night while we were eating.

“You know I don’t have that much time to read,” my mother responded.

“What is it about, Daddy?” I asked. “I can read now.” I was in the top reading group in my class.

“Oh, honey, I think this is a little too old for you,” he said. “But I will tell you about it. It’s by this guy named Jack Kerouac, and it’s about two friends who go on this road trip to find out more about themselves.”

“Read it to me.” I liked hearing my father’s voice whether he was reading me Horton Hatches the Egg, which I could now read myself, or if he read to me from his own books that I didn’t really understand.

“Well, actually, I just got another book by Jack Kerouac,” he said, getting up from the table and reaching into the pocket of his jacket, which was hanging on a hook by the door. The book cover had funny writing and a man with a woman riding on him piggyback.
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