c994d02922b4f232d0dcff70499775a7084fa52a Former Manson family member Leslie Van Houten released from California prison
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Former Manson family member Leslie Van Houten released from California prison

Leslie Van Houten
(Getty images)

Leslie Van Houten, a former member of Charles Manson's murderous cult, has been released from a California prison after serving nearly half a century behind bars. According to an official statement, Van Houten was released from prison on parole on Tuesday after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed that she was eligible for parole.

Van Houten, 68, was sentenced to life in prison in 1971 for her role in the brutal killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, a wealthy Los Angeles, California couple who were stabbed to death in their home in August of 1969. She was just 19 years old at the time of the murders, which were carried out at Manson's command by his followers, who became collectively known as the Manson family.

Van Houten was not present during the notorious Tate-LaBianca killings, which saw pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others viciously murdered in their Los Angeles home. However, she participated in the LaBianca murders the following night, playing a direct role in the stabbing of Rosemary.

Van Houten has been denied parole numerous times over the years, as authorities cited her role in the killings, as well as her continued refusal to fully disavow Manson's teachings. However, her most recent parole hearing in November 2021 saw a two-person panel recommend her release, stating that she had shown remorse and had participated in therapy and educational programs while in prison.

The decision to release Van Houten has already sparked controversy, with some arguing that she should have remained behind bars for her role in the grisly murders. Others, however, have praised the decision, citing Van Houten's efforts at rehabilitation and her age as evidence that she no longer posed a danger to society.

Regardless of the differing views on the matter, Van Houten's release marks the end of a long and painful chapter in American criminal history. The Manson family's killings shocked the nation in the late 1960s and early 1970s and continue to fascinate and horrify people today. For Van Houten, it represents a chance at redemption and a hope for a more positive future after decades of being associated with one of the most infamous crimes in American history.

Who is Leslie Van Houten?

Leslie Van Houten is a name that has become infamous in the annals of American true crime. She is one of the members of the Manson Family that were responsible for the brutal deaths of nine people in 1969. Despite being granted parole by the California Board of Parole Hearings multiple times, her release is still being blocked by California governors. In this article, we will take a detailed look at her life, her crimes, and her attempts to be released.

Early Life

Leslie Van Houten was born in Altadena, California, on August 23, 1949. She was the youngest of three children of Paul Van Houten and Betty Van Houten. Growing up, Leslie was a good student, did well academically, and was a cheerleader in high school. However, she struggled with issues like bulimia and depression, which led to her dropping out of school in her junior year.

In 1967, Leslie met Charles Manson and became a member of his cult, known as the Manson Family. The Manson Family was a group of about 100 people who lived together in a commune, following Manson's teachings about an impending race war called Helter Skelter. Manson convinced his followers that he was a messianic-like figure, and they were to do his bidding to bring about this war.

The Murders

Leslie Van Houten was one of the Manson Family members who was involved in the gruesome murders that took place on August 8-9, 1969. On these nights, Manson directed several of his followers, including Van Houten, to go to the homes of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and murder everyone there.

Van Houten participated in the killing of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca on August 10, 1969, the day after Sharon Tate and four others were murdered. Van Houten held down Rosemary LaBianca while another member of the Manson Family, Charles "Tex" Watson, stabbed her repeatedly. She then took a knife and stabbed Leno LaBianca multiple times.

Van Houten was apprehended on December 1, 1969. During her trial, she was described as a willing participant in the murders. She was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.

Life in Prison

In 1972, California abolished the death penalty, and Van Houten's sentence was commuted to life in prison. Since then, she has been housed in the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.

Van Houten has been a model prisoner and has completed many educational courses and counseling programs, as well as participating in various social and cultural events. She has repeatedly expressed remorse for her role in the crimes and has apologized to the victims' families.

Parole Hearings

Van Houten has been eligible for parole since 1978 but has been denied release by the California Board of Parole Hearings 22 times. In each of these hearings, the Board acknowledged Van Houten's good behavior in prison and her expressions of remorse but ultimately denied her parole due to the incredibly gruesome nature of the crimes.

However, in 2017, a two-member panel of the Board recommended Van Houten for parole based on her excellent behavior in prison and efforts towards rehabilitation. However, California Governor Jerry Brown blocked her release, citing the "horrific nature" of the crimes she committed. The following year, Governor Gavin Newsom similarly blocked her release, stating that "she remains an unreasonable danger to society if released."

Van Houten's current attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, argues that Van Houten has served enough time in prison and has demonstrated that she is not a threat to society. He has claimed that her repeated parole hearings and subsequent denials are simply "political retribution" for the Manson murders' notoriety.

Leslie Van Houten played a significant role in the Manson Family's crimes and was found guilty of first-degree murder. Since then, she has spent more than half a century in prison and has repeatedly expressed remorse for her actions. Despite her good behavior in prison and efforts at rehabilitation, multiple California governors have blocked her release from prison due to the gruesome nature of the crimes.

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