Manson Follower Denied Parole Again

The Associated Press/June 29, 2002
By Linda Deutsch

Frontera, Calif. -- Former Manson disciple Leslie Van Houten was denied release for the 14th time after a parole board concluded she has not shown sufficient remorse for her role in the cult killings that shocked the nation in 1969.

The Board of Prison Terms commended Van Houten's behavior in prison - from working as a chapel clerk to making audio tapes to help other inmates - but Commissioner Sharon Lawin said those positive aspects "do not yet outweigh the factors of unsuitability.''

"The panel feels that she has not fully explored and accepted these issues as evidenced by her minimalization and superficial expressions of remorse at today's hearing,'' Lawin said.

The ruling Friday came after a prosecutor and the family of the victims urged the board never to grant parole to the now 52-year-old woman who was described as a model prisoner.

Charles Manson, his chief lieutenant Charles "Tex'' Watson and three women - Van Houten, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkle - were convicted and sentenced to death for their roles in the 1969 slayings of actress Sharon Tate, Leno and Rosemary La Bianca, and four others. The sentences were later commuted to life when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in the 1970s.

All five Manson "family'' members are still behind bars.

Asked at Friday's hearing if she had stabbed Mrs. La Bianca, Van Houten replied: "Yes I did, in the lower torso approximately 14 to 16 times.''

Friday's hearing had appeared to represent Van Houten's best chance to get out, coming a month after a judge ruled the parole board has failed repeatedly to give her guidance on what she can do to make herself suitable for release.

Such action, Superior Court Judge Bob N. Krug said, ignores Van Houten's accomplishments in prison and turns her sentence into life without parole, in violation of the law.

He noted that Van Houten has successfully completed every rehabilitation program offered in prison and that her psychiatric evaluations indicate she is not a danger to society and should be found suitable for parole.

At Friday's hearing, Leno La Bianca's nephew demanded Van Houten never been released.

"Miss Van Houten should already be dead for her part in these unprovoked murders,'' said Louis Smaldino. "Society has been very merciful.''

Turning to Van Houten, who sat handcuffed and shackled at the waist, he said: "There is no way to make it right. Serve your life sentence with acceptance of what you have done.''

Van Houten, clad in a gray sweat shirt and sweat pants, said she will always bear sorrow for her victims.

"One of the hardest things in dealing with having contributed to murder is that there's no restitution, there's no making it right,'' she said.

Her attorney, Christie Webb, said Van Houten was disappointed, frustrated and saddened by the ruling.

"It's very difficult to be a 52-year-old woman, a decent person and to be treated in that room like the 19-year-old cult victim she was,'' Webb said. "It's very difficult to hear someone say you should be dead.''

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