Sharon Tate is in the news this week after one of the members of the Manson Family — Leslie Van Houten — was denied parole yet again from a California prison.
Van Houten was the youngest member of the group and has spent the better part of her life behind bars. For the past 46 years, she has maintained a spotless record in prison and has earned college degrees for herself, but Governor Jerry Brown said on Friday that he doesn’t believe she is rehabilitated.
“She remains an unacceptable risk to society if released,” Brown said. “The shocking nature of the crimes left an indelible mark on society. The motive — to trigger a civilization-ending race war by slaughtering innocent people chosen at random — is equally disturbing.”
In 1969, Van Houten and several other young men and women participated in the gruesome murders of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate. Tate, who was married to film director Roman Polanski, was brutally stabbed along with four friends in her home. After the arrest of the Manson Family, they were originally sentenced to death, but before the sentences could be carried out they were overturned. Afterward, in fear that the murderers would be paroled, Sharon Tate’s mother, Doris, campaigned heavily to change California criminal law. In the early ’80s, amendments were made in order to allow crime victims and their families to make statements during the sentencing and parole hearings of those responsible. Over the course of her prison sentence, Leslie Van Houten has been denied parole 20 times. Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra, has also been very vocal about the possible release of the members of the Manson Family, saying the families of the victims deserve justice.
“These people need to remain in jail until their passing day, for justice to be served,” Debra Tate said.
Leslie Van Houten was just 19 when the murders were committed, and although she allegedly did not participate in the brutal killing of Sharon Tate, she did help fellow Manson Family member Tex Watson kill Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the day after.
“I don’t let myself off the hook. I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself,” Van Houten said during one parole hearing.
The Manson Family have been the subject of several books and movies, and even now — decades after the murders — they continue to intrigue and fascinate people of all ages. Charles Manson continues to find followers even from prison. In 2014, he and 25-year old Afton Burton announced they were getting married. Burton told the media that she first became interested in Manson when she was 16-years-old and living with her parents in Illinois. After reading some of his writings, she knew she was meant to be with him, she said. She would later move to California to be closer to him and spend her free time helping him at the prison.
“We talk about anything and everything, you know, like what’s going on today…who’s doing what. I try to help him file papers and stuff like that,” Burton said.
The pair never did get married. In 2015, news stories began to circulate that Burton and her friend, Craig Hammond, had planned to gain control of Manson’s corpse after his death and put it on public display in order to make money. Journalist Daniel Simone told the New York Post last year that Manson knew about the plan, but let Burton continue to think they were going to get married so she would keep buying him things.
“He didn’t give them a yes, he didn’t give them a no. He sort of strung them along,” Simone said.
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