CHINO, CA — After 21 attempts, former Charles Manson disciple Leslie Van Houten won a grant of parole at the California Institution for Women in Chino, where she has been incarcerated since 1970.
At 19, Van Houten was the youngest of Manson’s followers convicted for taking part in the slaughter of Los Angeles grocer Leno La Blanca and his wife, Rosemary, in their home on Aug. 9, 1969.
Last year, a two-person panel granted Van Houten parole. Governor Jerry Brown overturned the decision, however, noting:
“Both [Van Houten’s] role in these extraordinarily brutal crimes and her inability to explain her willing participation in such horrific violence cannot be overlooked and lead me to believe she remains an unacceptable risk to society if released.”
At the parole hearing last year, Van Houten said she helped hold down Rosemary La Bianca while another Manson follower stabbed her repeatedly. Van Houten said she herself then picked up the knife and stabbed the victim over a dozen more times.
“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,” she said.
Since she was incarcerated more than 40 years ago, Van Houten has been a model prisoner, earning college degrees and co-editing the prison newspaper.
Van Houten has repeatedly expressed remorse for her crimes. Her attorney at her 2013 parole hearing argued that Van Houten’s value system was completely different from what it was in 1972.
Members of the Tate and La Bianca families have argued repeatedly, though, against granting parole to her or any other Manson follower who took part in the killings.
After Van Houten was tentatively granted parole, Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, gathered 140,000 petition signatures opposing her release.
Leslie Van Houten was a high school homecoming princess, athlete, and cheerleader before dropping out of school and joining the “Manson Family.”
She has testified that after her parents divorced and she became pregnant as a teen, she began using drugs. In time, she found her way to Manson.
Catherine Share, another former Manson followers who did not participate in the killings, testified at a court hearing in Los Angeles last week that Van Houten was afraid to leave the cult.
The panel’s decision will now go through a process of review, during which Governor Brown can uphold, reverse or modify the decision. He could also send the matter to the full Board of Parole Hearings. If he takes no action, the parole decision would stand.
Main photo: Leslie van Houten [NBC News (screenshot)]