In a decision announced earlier tonight, California Gov. Jerry Brown overturned the parole board’s ruling and will keep convicted killer and Manson family member Leslie Van Houten in prison, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Van Houten, 68, was 19 when she participated in the brutal August 10, 1969, murders of supermarket executive Leon LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Van Houten was the youngest member of the Manson family.
The murders took place one day after other Manson family members murdered eight-month pregnant actress Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, hair stylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent.
Brown’s decision marked the second time he has vetoed the parole board’s decision to release Van Houten. While the governor noted that Van Houten has been a model prisoner who has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, has been a tutor, and was involved in self-help programs for other inmates, he added that despite all of those factors working in Van Houten’s favor, the horrific nature of her crimes had to be considered.
“The aggravated nature of the crime alone can provide a valid basis for denying parole,” Brown said. The governor noted that Van Houten had never fully accepted responsibility for her role in the LaBianca murders, placing the blame on the control she said Manson exerted over her.
Van Houten stabbed Rosemary LaBianca in the back at least 14 times and drank chocolate milk before leaving the LaBianca residence.
Van Houten, Manson, Patricia Krenwrinkel, and Susan Atkins were put on trial and convicted in Los Angeles in 1970.
Manson and Van Houten were sentenced to death, but their sentences were commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was abolished in California.
Van Houten’s original conviction was overturned because the judge had not declared a mistrial when her attorney died and the jury was deadlocked in her second trial. At the third trial, which was held in 1978, Van Houten was convicted of murder and one count of conspiracy.
Even as mass murder totals have long surpassed the seven killings they committed, cult leader Charles Manson and his family have maintained their hold on the American imagination, with two movies made in the past two years detailing the cult and its murders.
Manson died of a heart attack on November 20 at age 83.
While Brown’s decision has thrown another roadblock in Van Houten’s bid for freedom, her lawyer Rich Pfeiffer said the battle is not over and that Brown’s decision would be challenged in court.
“I expect the courts to uphold the law and allow her to be released.”