Leslie Van Houten, follower of cult leader Charles Manson, has taken a big step closer to freedom


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The governor of California announced Friday that he will not ask the state Supreme Court to block the parole of Charles Manson supporter Leslie Van Houten, paving the way for her release, after serving 53 years in prison for two notorious murders.

In a brief statement, the governor’s office said an appeal is unlikely to succeed.

Newsom was disappointed, the statement said.

“More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal murders, the victims’ families are still feeling the effects,” the statement said.

Van Houten, now in her 70s, is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and other followers in the 1969 murder of Leno LaBianca, a Los Angeles grocer, and his wife Rosemary.

Van Houten could be released in about two weeks after the parole board reviewed her record and processed the paperwork for her release from the California Institution for Women in Corona, her attorney Nancy Tetreault said.

She has been recommended five times parole since 2016, but Newsom and former Gov. Jerry Brown rejected all of those recommendations.

However, A state appeals court ruled in May that Van Houten should be released, citing her “extraordinary efforts at rehabilitation, insight, remorse, realistic probation plans, support from family and friends” and positive reports of behavior in prison.

“She’s thrilled and overwhelmed,” Tetreault said.

“She’s just grateful that people are realizing that she’s not the same person that she was when she committed the murders,” she said.

After her release, Van Houten will spend about a year in a transitional home learning basic life skills like how to go to the grocery store and get a debit card, Tetreault said.

“She has been in prison for 53 years. … She just needs to learn how to use an ATM, let alone a cell phone, let alone a computer,” her lawyer said.

Van Houten and other Manson supporters killed the LaBiancas in their home in August 1969 and subsequently smeared their blood on the walls. Van Houten later described how she held Rosemary LaBianca with a pillowcase over her head while others stabbed her, before stabbing the woman more than a dozen times herself.

“My family and I are heartbroken because we are reminded once again of all the years that we didn’t have my father and stepmother with us,” Cory LaBianca, Leno LaBianca’s daughter, said in a phone interview with The on Friday Associated Press.

“My kids and my grandchildren never got a chance to meet either of them, which was a huge gap in my family,” said Cory La Bianca, who is 75.

The LaBianca murders came a day after Manson supporters killed actress Sharon Tate and four others. Van Houten was not involved in the Tate murders.

Manson died in prison of natural causes in 2017 at the age of 83 after spending nearly half a century behind bars.

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