Charles Manson cult murderer Leslie Van Houten’s latest request for parole has been approved. Van Houten, a former beauty queen, now 66, was still a teenager when she and other members of the infamous “Manson Family” terrorized California with acts of grotesque violence that stunned the nation.
Chief among those inglorious acts were the 1969 murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate — along with four others — followed by the horrific slaying of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
Charles Manson, now 81, is the reputed architect behind the cult’s notorious killing spree. Manson recruited Van Houten, taking the then 19-year-old into his commune in 1968. According to Manson, Van Houten and other “family members” were saturated with the hallucinogenic drug LSD for purported purposes of mind control. Manson, who exercised absolute authority over his followers, claimed, “When you take LSD enough times, you reach a state of nothing, of no thought.”
The original 1971 conviction of Van Houten was a historical marker in California’s penal history. The once-staunch Manson follower was the youngest female in state history to receive a sentence of death. At the time, no death row for female inmates existed in California, so a special unit was built for Van Houten. However, due to the verdict of The People v. Anderson, all California death sentences ruled before 1972 were overturned to life sentences, per the state Supreme Court.
Due to this legal ruling, Van Houten, along with other Manson family members, became eligible for parole after seven years served. While earlier technicalities resulted in two retrials for Van Houten, the Manson follower was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1978, with the possibility of immediate parole due to time served.
“Leslie Van Houten was granted parole suitability today by commissioners of the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) meeting at the California Institution for Women in Corona… As is routine policy, the grant will be reviewed administratively by the BPH for a maximum of 120 days. If the decision is upheld, the matter will then be sent to the office of the Governor who will have a maximum of 30 days to either uphold, reverse or modify the decision.”
Much of the decision to grant Van Houten parole is due to her exemplary conduct while incarcerated. Van Houten’s Lawyer Richard Pfeiffer stated the following to the L.A. Times.
“The opposition to parole has always been the name Manson. A lot of people who oppose parole don’t know anything about Leslie’s conduct. Her role was bad. Everyone’s was. But they don’t know what she’s done since then and all of the good she’s done.”
Commissioner Ali Zarrinnam told Van Houten that her “behavior in prison speaks for itself … 46 years and not a single serious rule violation.”
Pfeiffer then extolled Van Houten’s record of being deemed fit for release by all 18 of her psychiatrists over the past three decades. This is in stark contrast to Charles Manson, who is noted for his inane ramblings and stark denial of wrongdoing in the atrocities.
Ultimately, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) will have the final decision in whether or not former Manson family member Leslie Van Houten is set free.
[Photo by George Birch/AP Photos]