CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Manson family member Leslie Van Houten is another step closer to parole as governor will no longer challenge release

Jul 8, 2023, 8:00 AM

Manson family member Leslie Van Houten, seen here in 2017 in Corona, California, is one step closer...

Manson family member Leslie Van Houten, seen here in 2017 in Corona, California, is one step closer to parole. Photo credit: Stan Lim/AP

(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Friday announced it will not challenge a May state appellate court’s panel ruling that opened the possibility of parole for Leslie Van Houten, a former Charles Manson follower and convicted murderer.

Van Houten is serving concurrent sentences of seven years to life after she was convicted in 1971 for her role in the killings of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their home.

“More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal offenses, the victims’ families still feel the impact, as do all Californians. Governor Newsom reversed Ms. Van Houten’s parole grant three times since taking office and defended against her challenges of those decisions in court,” Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for the governor, said in a statement Friday.

“The Governor is disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s decision to release Ms. Van Houten but will not pursue further action as efforts to further appeal are unlikely to succeed. The California Supreme Court accepts appeals in very few cases, and generally does not select cases based on this type of fact-specific determination,” the statement adds.

Van Houten and her team are “thrilled” with the announcement, Nancy Tetreault, Van Houten’s attorney, told CNN.

“She’s just grateful that her rehabilitation, her hard work toward reforming her thinking, understanding the causative factors that led her to be influenced by Manson … She’s grateful that the court of appeals recognizes that,” Tetreault said.

Van Houten will be released on parole pending a final behavioral hearing, with the exact date to be kept confidential for her safety, according to Tetreault.

CNN has reached out to the California Board of Parole Hearings for comment.

 

Initially sentenced to death

 

Van Houten, now in her 70s, was 19 when she met Manson and joined the murderous cult that came to be called the “Manson family.”

The brutal killings began on August 9, 1969, at the home of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, famed movie director Roman Polanski. He was out of the country at the time. The first victims were Tate, who was eight months’ pregnant; a celebrity hairstylist named Jay Sebring; coffee fortune heiress Abigail Folger; writer Wojciech Frykowski; and Steven Parent, a friend of the family’s caretaker.

The next evening, the LaBiancas were stabbed to death at their home.

Although Manson ordered the murders, he didn’t kill anyone.

Van Houten, along with Manson and followers Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, were indicted in December 1969 for the murders of Tate, her friends and the LaBianca murders.

Following her conviction, Van Houten was sentenced to death, but the death penalty was later abolished in California and her sentence was commuted to life in prison. She first became eligible for parole in 1977.

Krenwinkel was denied parole again in 2022. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation hearings schedule, she has a hearing set for November 17.

Watson has been denied parole 18 times and will be eligible again in 2026. Atkins died in prison in 2009. Manson died in 2017 at age 83.

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Manson family member Leslie Van Houten is another step closer to parole as governor will no longer challenge release