LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California appeals court said Tuesday that Leslie Van Houten, who participated in two killings at the direction of cult leader Charles Manson in 1969, should be released from prison on parole.
The appellate court’s ruling reverses an earlier decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who rejected parole for Van Houten in 2020. She has been recommended for parole five times since 2016. All of those recommendations were rejected by either Newsom or former Gov. Jerry Brown.
Van Houten, now in her 70s, is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and other followers kill Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife, Rosemary. “Van Houten has shown extraordinary rehabilitative efforts, insight, remorse, realistic parole plans, support from family and friends, favorable institutional reports, and, at the time of the Governor’s decision, had received four successive grants of parole,” the judges wrote. “Although the Governor states Van Houten’s historical factors ‘remain salient,’ he identifies nothing in the record indicating Van Houten has not successfully addressed those factors through many years of therapy, substance abuse programming, and other efforts.”
“I will, of course, vigorously oppose any stay,” Tetreault said. “And they could let her out during that process.”
Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members stabbed the LaBiancas to death in August 1969. She said they carved up Leno LaBianca’s body and smeared the couple’s blood on the walls.
The slayings came the day after other Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in violence that spread fear across Los Angeles and captivated the nation.
Anthony DiMaria, whose uncle Jay Sebring was killed along with Tate, said the judges’ ruling is the latest painful twist that the victims’ families have endured over the decades.
“To say the appellate court’s decision is a travesty of justice is a perverse understatement,” DiMaria said in an email to The Associated Press. “When you look at the profound, horrific nature of her crimes and the historic scars she has dealt American culture, it is unconscionable that an appellate court would make amends for Leslie Van Houten.”
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