Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten denied parole by California Gov. Gavin Newsom

US

California Gov. Gavin Newsom overruled a parole board’s decision to free Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten on Monday, marking the third time a governor has stopped the release of the youngest member of Manson’s murderous cult. Van Houten, 69, is still a threat, Newsom said.

“While I commend Ms. Van Houten for her efforts at rehabilitation and acknowledge her youth at the time of the crimes, I am concerned about her role in these killings and her potential for future violence,” he wrote in his decision. “Ms. Van Houten was an eager participant in the killing of the LaBiancas and played a significant role.”

She has spent nearly half a century behind bars and received reports of good behavior and testimonials about her rehabilitation.

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  • Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members stabbed to death wealthy Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in August 1969. The slayings came the day after other Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in violence that spread fear throughout Los Angeles and riveted the nation.

    No one who took part in the Tate-LaBianca murders has been released from prison. It was the first time Newsom rejected parole for Van Houten, while former Gov. Jerry Brown denied her release twice.

    Manson Follower parole
    In this Sept. 6, 2017, file photo, Leslie Van Houten attends a parole hearing at the California Institution for Women in Corona, Calif.

    AP

    Earlier this year, Newsom reversed a parole recommendation to free Manson follower Robert Beausoleil for an unrelated murder. Beausoleil was convicted of killing musician Gary Hinman.

    At parole hearings, Van Houten described a troubled childhood that led her to use drugs and hang around with outcasts at school. When she was 17, she and a boyfriend ran away to San Francisco during the so-called Summer of Love in 1967.

    She later encountered Manson while traveling the coast. Manson had holed up with his “family” at an abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles when he launched a plan to spark a race war by committing a series of random, terrifying murders.

    Manson and his followers were sentenced to death in 1971, though those punishments were commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972. Van Houten’s case was overturned on appeal and she was later convicted and sentenced to seven years to life in prison.

    Manson died in 2017 of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence.

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