'Sad day' Manson follower Leslie Van Houten ‘poses danger to society’ after release, says model who avoided becoming cult’s victim

July 11, 2023

By Luke Kenton

Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten still poses a serious danger to society and should never have been allowed to walk free from prison, says a furious friend of cult victim Sharon Tate.

Van Houten, 73, left the California Institution for Women in Corona, east of Los Angeles, on Tuesday after serving 53 years of a life sentence for her participation in the infamous Manson Murders.

In a statement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said that Van Houten was "released to parole supervision" in the early morning hours and driven to transitional housing.

Van Houten, the youngest member of the cult, participated in two nights of mayhem and murder orchestrated by Manson in the summer of 1969 that saw seven people butchered across Los Angeles.

On August 9, 1969, Van Houten, then 19, Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian, Susan Atkins, Clem Morgan, and Charles Manson massacred grocery store proprietor Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary inside their home in Los Angeles.

The night prior, Manson had also ordered the brutal killings of Sharon Tate, the 26-year-old pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and four others inside the couple's Cielo Drive home in what would later become known as the "Helter Skelter" murders.

Ava Roosevelt, a friend of Sharon Tate's who narrowly avoided becoming a victim of the Manson gang herself, told The U.S. Sun that she is furious and upset over the news of Van Houten's release.

"It's a sad day," said a dejected Roosevelt, reacting minutes after the news of Van Houten's release became public knowledge.

"I don't believe a person that's capable of committing such a heinous crime can ever be rehabilitated, that kind of thing is ingrained in your DNA.

"It's a sad day for me, it really is, because I don't think justice has been served for Sharon and the other victims at all."

Roosevelt added that every time she thinks of what happened to Tate, she is overcome with overwhelming feelings of anger.

The former model and actress believes anyone who participated in the Manson murders should've been sentenced to death decades ago, rather than permitted to live full lives behind bars or otherwise.

"Sharon didn't get to live the full life she was supposed to, so why should any of them?" continued Roosevelt.

"I'm angry. I think [Van Houten] should've stayed in there until her day comes and have to think about what she did, not just to the people who died but to the lives of their families and friends that they also destroyed.

"It's not right," she added. "I don't know if she's mentally prepared to be free at this point [...] but I think she definitely still poses a threat to society and I don't think she should've been given a chance to even try to adjust to the outside world.

"As a society, we have to set some standards about what you can't get away with. I don't care if she was in prison for 53 years. She still has the ability to watch television, to talk to people, and this was not a privilege awarded to Sharon and those others who perished.

"It's shocking and I just worry what knock-on effect this will all have.

"I wish the governor had stuck to his guns."


Days before Van Houten's release was ordered, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would not fight a state appeals court ruling that Van Houten should be granted parole.

Newsom said it was unlikely the state Supreme Court would consider an appeal.

Van Houten will now spend the next year at a halfway house, learning basic skills such as how to drive a car, go to the grocery store, and use a debit card, according to her attorney Nancy Tetreault.

“She has to learn to use the internet. She has to learn to buy things without cash,” Tetreault said.

“It’s a very different world than when she went in [...] She’s still trying to get used to the idea that this is real."

Van Houten, who will likely be on parole for about three years, hopes to get a job as soon as possible, Tetreault added.

She earned a bachelor's and a master's degree while in prison and worked as a tutor for other incarcerated people.

Van Houten was found guilty in the LaBianca murders in 1971 and sentenced to death, becoming the youngest person ever to be condemned to death in California history.

Her and her accomplices' death sentences were all automatically commuted to life in prison after the state outlawed executions the following year.

Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were butchered in their home and their blood smeared on the walls.

Van Houten later described holding Rosemary LaBianca down with a pillowcase over her head as others stabbed her, before she stabbed the defenseless woman more than a dozen times as well.


The double murder came less than 24 hours after a group led by Tex Watson massacred the heavily pregnant Tate and four of her friends inside her Beverly Hills mansion.

Tate was stabbed 16 times - at least five times fatally - and was found laying on the living room floor with a rope wound twice around her neck.

Her unborn baby boy was also killed in the attack.

Found nearby her body was the lifeless corpse of celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, who also had a rope around his neck and was murdered in a similarly brutal fashion.

Coffee heiress Abigail Folger and her actor boyfriend Wojciech Frykowski were found dead in the yard, having both tried and failed to escape from the home in separate attempts.

Folger escaped from Patricia Krenwinkel and fled out of a bedroom door to the pool area, where Krenwinkel tackled her and stabbed her multiple times.

Tex Watson joined in on the assault, and Folger was stabbed by her frenzied attackers a total of 28 times.

Similarly, Frykowski attempted to flee from Watson but the Manson acolyte caught up to him and shot him numerous times before stabbing him over and over again.

In addition to suffering a sickening 51 stab wounds and numerous gunshot wounds, Frykowski was struck in the head 13 times by the butt of Watson's gun.

Also killed in the rampage was Stephen Parent, a man visiting the property caretaker who happened to be driving by the Tate-Polanski home at the wrong time.

Watson stabbed Parent before shooting him several times with a 22-caliber revolver. The gunshots killed Parent, and Watson left him lying on the ground as the killers made their way inside the home.

The brutal killings would later become collectively known as the "Helter Skelter" murders, getting their name from a song by The Beatles that Manson believed contained secret messages about an impending race war that would end civilization.


Ava Roosevelt was narrowly spared from becoming the sixth person to be butchered to death by Manson's acolytes inside Tate's home.

She told The U.S. Sun in an exclusive interview last year how she had been driving to Cielo Drive late on August 8, 1969, when the fuel light started flickering on the dashboard of her beloved 1955 Silver Dawn.

Showing that her gas tank was almost empty, Ava, then 21, sighed and looked down at her watch to glance at the time. It was 11.30pm.

Believing that her car could break down any second, and realizing that there wasn't a gas station around for several miles, Ava headed back home and opted to have an early night instead.

Around 15 minutes after Ava turned her car back toward the direction of home, Watson and Co. broke into Tate's mansion under the instructions of Manson.

She went to bed that night and awoke early the next morning, completely unaware of the horror from which her car trouble had spared her.

It turned out the tank of her ailing car was almost completely full.

But that misleading glitch on her dashboard had actually saved her life.

The next day, after wrapping on a commercial shoot, the model and aspiring actress was leaving the stage lot when her manager pulled up in her blue convertible with an ashen face.

"She was sheet-white," Ava remembered. "She intercepted me as I was walking and just said, 'sit down.'

"So I did and she said, 'You know they're all dead, right?'

"And I said 'who is dead?' This was before the times of instant news, and she told me, 'They're all dead - Sharon, all of them.'

"I just couldn't believe it."


Even today, almost 54 years on, Ava says she cannot look at a picture of Sharon Tate without tears welling in her eyes.

Remembering her dear friend, she told The U.S. Sun earlier this year: "I just cannot let go of that feeling that she was just such a good person.

"She was an angel in every respect, not speaking only about her looks, her eyes, her hair, but her kindness too; she was just an incredibly kind human being.

"This was a life cut so short, completely needlessly.

"The whole thing was just so unjust [...] and talking about it even now, I'm about to cry."

Van Houten was originally found suitable for parole after a July 2020 hearing, but her release was blocked by Governor Newsom, who maintained that she was still a threat to society.

The Manson acolyte filed an appeal with a trial court, which rejected it. She then turned to the appellate courts.

The Second District Court of Appeal in May reversed an earlier decision by Newsom.

She had been recommended for parole five times since 2016 and all of those recommendations were rejected by either Newsom or former Governor Jerry Brown.

At the time of the reversal, a spokesperson for Newsom's office said he was disappointed by the court's decision.

“More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal killings, the victims’ families still feel the impact,” Newsom's office said on July 7.

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