CHINO, California — The youngest member of the Manson family cult that was responsible for seven ritualistic slayings in 1969 that terrorized Los Angeles and shocked the county has been granted parole by California authorities.
Leslie Van Houten, 68, had similarly been granted parole last year only to have the board’s decision overruled by California Gov. Jerry Brown, who decided she still posed a threat to society.
Van Houten, was 19 when she took part in the stabbing deaths of Los Angeles grocer Leno La Bianca and his wife, Rosemary, in their home on Aug. 9, 1969. She was not present for the killings of actress Sharon Tate — director Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife — and four others the night before by other member of Charlie Manson’s murderous cult.
She has admitted helping hold down Rosemary La Bianca while another Manson follower stabbed her repeatedly and then taking a knife and stabbing her a dozen more times.
She was initially sentenced to the death penalty, but had her original conviction and sentence overturned on appeal. She was retried and in 1978 sentenced to seven year to life in prison.
None of Manson’s murderous band has ever been paroled. Manson, who is now 82, is serving a life sentence. Another family member, Susan Atkins, died in prison in 2009.
Van Houten was the youngest member of the group and an unlikely one. A high school homecoming princess, athlete and cheerleader, Van Houten had dropped out of school and gotten into drugs before joining the ragtag hippy cult who considered Manson to be a Christ-like figure.
Since she was incarcerated more than 40 years ago, Van Houten has been a model prisoner and earned college degrees. This year’s hearing marked the 21st time Van Houten had appeared before the parole board.
It is unclear what Gov. Brown intends to do although he has several options. He could uphold, reverse or modify the decision or send the matter to the full Board of Parole Hearings, or take no action, in which case the decision to set her free would stand.
Relatives of Tate and the LaBianca’s have been vocal in their opposition to her being set free.