Leslie Van Houten was only 19-years-old when she decided to join the Charles Mason murderous cult. It would quickly become the decision that would ruin her life. While allegedly high on LSD provided to her by Manson, she assisted him in a murder plot that would result in the deaths of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in 1969. Van Houten was later charged for her part in the murder and sentenced to death. However, when the California Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional in 1972, her sentence was changed to life in prison. Since then, she has attempted to seek out parole 22 different times, according to the Rolling Stone.
Manson’s infamous cult was known as “The Family.” As a group, they murdered nine people, including actress Sharon Tate who was pregnant at the time. Manson targeted women with difficult backgrounds or emotional issues and brainwashed them into carrying out his orders. Van Houten, like many others, was loyal to him to a fault.
Van Houten, who was considered one of the most prominent leaders of the cult, is now 69-years-old. She has spent five decades in jail and has just made her most recent attempt to plead for her release. The California Board of Parole Hearings believes she is no longer a threat and has recommended Governor Jerry Brown twice to order her release. Both times he has refused. He refusal was followed by a petition signed by 140,000 people encouraging her release.
If Van Houten’s most recent bid goes through, newly-elected Governor Gavin Newsom will be the one who makes the ultimate decision. Even if he does decide to release her, the process will still likely take 150 days. In the meantime, she will remain in the California Institute for Women.
Sharon Tate’s sister Debra attended the proceedings and strongly disapproves of the recommendation for parole. After what she did to her sister, Debra believes that Van Houten deserves to live out the rest of her days behind bars. “I just have to hope and pray that the governor comes to the right decision and keeps Van Houten behind bars,” she said according to the Daily Mail.
Van Houten’s lawyer, Rich Pfeiffer, believes she might finally have a good chance to get released. “She chose to go with Manson. She chose to listen to him. And she acknowledges that,” Pfeiffer said. He feels it “will be much more difficult” for Newsom to block parole than it was for Brown.