Manson follower Leslie Van Houten loses latest attempt at parole

Los Angeles Times/September 20, 2019

By Colleen Shelby

A California appeals court Friday rejected Leslie Van Houten’s latest bid for release from prison.

The 70-year-old Charles Manson follower has been recommended for parole three times, and each has been rejected — twice by former Gov. Jerry Brown and most recently by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

During oral arguments in June before a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, Van Houten’s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said his client should be released because she has been fully rehabilitated and is no longer a threat.

Jill Alicia VanderBorght, a representative of the state attorney general’s office, argued against Van Houten’s release, citing the “extreme gravity” of the crimes and her continued “minimization” of her role in them.

The appeals court declined to reverse Brown’s decision from January 2018. Since Brown made his ruling nearly two years ago, the Board of Parole Hearings again recommended Van Houten for parole, which Newsom rejected in June.

Fifty years ago, in August 1969, the former homecoming princess was one of three who stabbed to death Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at the direction of Manson. She was 19 at the time.

The slayings followed the killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate, hairstylist Jay Sebring, recent high school student Steven Parent, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and her boyfriend, Voytek Frykowski.

The parole hearings have been a constant for decades. In 1972, a California Supreme Court ruling found the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional. The sentences of the convicted killers were changed to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

At the time, the victims’ families were assured that the change was just a technicality. But in the years since, they’ve come to learn that release is not out of the realm of possibility.

In addition to Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel, 71; Bobby Beausoleil, 71; Charles “Tex” Watson, 73; and Bruce Davis, 76; remain in prison. Davis was recently cleared for parole. His pending release could still be blocked by Newsom. Manson died in 2017.

Kay Hinman Martley, the cousin of Gary Hinman — the first Manson victim, killed weeks before the August 1969 rampage — and Debra Tate, the sister of Sharon Tate, have a website dedicated to the status of the so-called Manson family behind bars.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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