California Governor Gavin Newsom has decided not to block the parole of Leslie Van Houten, a follower of the infamous Charles Manson. This means that after serving 53 years in prison for her involvement in two murders, Van Houten may soon be released.
In a statement from the governor’s office, it was acknowledged that it is unlikely that the state’s high court would consider an appeal to keep Van Houten in prison. Governor Newsom expressed disappointment, recognizing that even after more than five decades, the impact of the Manson cult’s brutal killings is still felt by the victims’ families.
Van Houten, who is now in her 70s, received a life sentence for her role in the 1969 murders of Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife, Rosemary. Her release could come in approximately two weeks, pending the parole board’s review of her record and the processing of her paperwork for release from the California Institution for Women in Corona.
Despite being recommended for parole five times since 2016, Van Houten’s parole requests were rejected by both Governor Newsom and former Governor Jerry Brown. However, a state appeals court decided in May that Van Houten should be released based on her “extraordinary rehabilitative efforts, insight, remorse, realistic parole plans, support from family and friends,” and positive behavior reports during her time in prison.
Van Houten’s attorney, Nancy Tetreault, expressed her client’s joy and gratitude for the recognition of her growth and transformation since the time of the murders. Tetreault also shared that after her release, Van Houten will spend around a year in a halfway house where she can learn basic life skills, such as using an ATM machine and navigating a cell phone or computer.
The gruesome LaBianca murders took place in August 1969, with Van Houten and other Manson followers smearing their victims’ blood on the walls of their home. Van Houten herself admitted to holding down Rosemary LaBianca with a pillowcase over her head while others stabbed her. She also stabbed the woman multiple times.
Cory LaBianca, Leno LaBianca’s daughter, expressed her heartbreak over the decision to release Van Houten. She explained that her family has been robbed of the opportunity to have her father and stepmother present in their lives. LaBianca emphasized the void this has created for herself, her children, and her grandchildren.
It should be noted that the LaBianca murders occurred a day after Manson’s followers killed actress Sharon Tate and four others. Van Houten did not partake in the Tate killings. Manson himself died in 2017 at the age of 83 while serving his sentence in prison.
By allowing Van Houten’s parole to proceed, Governor Newsom has sparked debate and controversy surrounding the handling of Manson’s followers who were involved in these horrific crimes. The impact of this decision on the victims’ families and the wider public is yet to be fully understood.