Charles Manson family member, Leslie Van Houten, could possibly be paroled in 2016. However, the recommendation by the parole board still has to be reviewed by a legal team and approved by the governor. The parole is strongly opposed by the daughter of the victims. The specifics of the case have people divided over whether or not Ms. Van Houten should be released.
On Thursday, April 14, 2016, Leslie Van Houten, a former follower of Charles Manson, passed the first hurdle in her attempt to be paroled after serving 46 years for her crimes. Although she has been denied parole 19 times by the state parole board since her conviction for first-degree murder, a California review board finally recommended parole at her hearing at the California Institution for Women in Chino.
However, the two commissioners on the panel who issued their decision do not have the final say. Their recommendation will still need to be reviewed by the parole board’s legal team. If they uphold it, the recommendation will then go to Governor Brown who has not said whether he will accept the recommendation or block it.
Cory LaBianca, the daughter of the LaBianca’s, the couple who were murdered by Van Houten and other followers of Charles Manson in 1969, has vowed to fight the parole.
The LaBianca family is not alone in their opposition. Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whose office argued for Van Houten to remain in prison, also released his own statement: “We disagree with the board’s decision and will evaluate how we plan to proceed.”
Leslie Van Houten is now 66 years ago. She has spent most of her life serving a life sentence for her part in the high profile LaBianca murders. She is one of five people who were involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders, instigated by Charles Manson, in an attempt to start a race war which he believed was foretold in the popular song at the time, “Helter Skelter.”
Leslie Van Houten’s Part in the Tate-LaBianca Murders
Leslie Van Houten was still a teenager at the time of the crimes. She was the youngest of the group and under the influence of LSD during the murders. Because of these circumstances, some supporters have considered her the least blameworthy of the group of murderers.
In addition, she was not involved in the Aug. 9, 1969 murders of Sharon Tate (the pregnant wife of film director Roman Polanski) and four other people in Tate’s rented home in Benedict Canyon.
However, the day after the Tate murders, Leslie Van Houten was a member of the group that entered the LaBianca home and brutally murdered the couple. The leader of this group, Charles “Tex” Watson stabbed Leno LaBianca, while Van Houten and another woman held down Leno’s wife, Rosemary. After killing Leno, Watson stabbed Rosemary with a bayonet. He then handed Leslie Van Houten a knife and she admits stabbing Rosemary 14 times in the back.
The Court Cases Against Leslie Van Houten
Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Leslie Van Houten and two others, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins, were originally sentenced to death. However, when the death penalty was struck down by the California Supreme Court, their sentences were commuted to life in prison.
Susan Atkins died in prison in 2009. The other four members of the Manson family, including Charles Manson who is currently age 81, remain in prison. All of them have been denied parole a number of times in the past.
An appellate court overturned Van Houten’s original conviction in 1976. A second trial ended in a hung jury. In 1978, a third trial ended with her being convicted again and sentenced to seven years to life in prison. Since 1979, she has made regular appearances in front of a parole board but, until now, has been denied parole 19 times.
Leslie Van Houten Today
During the past few decades, Van Houten has been described as a model inmate. She has earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree while in prison and runs self-help groups for other imprisoned women. During her hearing, Parole Commissioner Ali Zarrinnam told Van Houten, “Your behavior in prison speaks for itself. Forty-six years and not a single serious rule violation.”
In referring to her participation in the LaBianca murders, she has stated, “I take very seriously not just the murders, but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson.”
At her recent parole hearing she said, “I don’t let myself off the hook. I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself.”
While the recent recommendation of the board supported the parole of Van Houten, in the past Gov. Jerry Brown denied a similar parole request for Bruce Davis, another member of the Manson family who was convicted of a different murder. As a result, it is quite possible that Ms. Van Houten will remain in jail despite the recommendation of the parole board and her good behavior during her years in prison.
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