Who is Leslie Van Houten? Manson family murderer released from prison after 53 years
Leslie Van Houten, a follower of late mass murderer Charles Manson was released from prison on Tuesday (July 11) after spending 53 years behind bars. Houten was 19 when she was charged with two murders in 1969.
Houten has been recommended for parole five times since 2016. She was sentenced for being involved in the murders of Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife Rosemary.
Her attorney Nancy Tetreault confirmed the news and said her client will be under parole supervision.
Nancy told The Guardian, "She’s really thrilled, but she’s been in prison for 53 years and turns 74 next month so this is a huge change."
She added, "She’s gratified that people are recognising that she’s completely reformed because she really is. I’ve never had a client who has dedicated herself to reform like she has. She spent 40 years in therapy and 30 years in what they call rehabilitative programming."
Admitting that Leslie fell under the influence of Charles Manson and participated in the brutal murders, Nancy said that Leslie worked really hard to get past that cult and to understand and take responsibility for the future.
California Governor Gavin Newsom had said last week that he won't be asking the state's Supreme Court to block her parole.
Erin Mellon, communications director for the Office of the Governor, had said, "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."
A representative from Newsom's office told the news outlet, "More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal offences, the victims’ families still feel the impact, as do all Californians."
Who is Leslie Van Houten?
Leslie Louise Van Houten was born on August 23, 1949.
At the age of 14, she began taking LSD and Benzedrine and using drugs after her parents got divorced.
In 1966, she moved to Northern California where she met Catherine Share, Bobby Beausoleil, and another woman, and moved in with them.
They all joined Manson's group, who controlled every aspect of their lives, from food to drugs.
On August 9, 1969, Van Houten, along with Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian, Clem Grogan, and Manson, went to Rosemary and LaBianca's house and killed the couple. Manson allegedly sent other people in the group to kill an actor.
When asked, Manson denied all responsibility and never explained the motive for the murder.
However, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi suggested that Manson wanted to start a racial civil war.
Manson died behind bars in 2017 at the age of 83 after nearly 50 years in prison.
Van Houten's Parole
In the most recent parole denial, Newsom said that Houten still poses a danger to society. Rejecting her parole, he said she offered an inconsistent and inadequate explanation for her involvement in the killings.
However, the second district court of appeal ruled 2-1 to reverse Newsom's decision, stating that there is no evidence to support the governor's conclusion.
In the May decision, the judges took issue with Newsom's claim that Houten did not adequately explain how she fell under Manson's influence.
At her hearings, she explained how her parents' divorce, her drug and alcohol abuse, and a forced illegal abortion led her down a path that left her vulnerable.
They argued, "Van Houten has shown extraordinary rehabilitative efforts, insight, remorse, realistic parole plans, support from family and friends, favourable institutional reports, and, at the time of the governor's decision, had received four successive grants of parole."