California governor rejects parole for Manson family member

Posted at 6:54 AM, March 30, 2022 and last updated 6:54 AM, March 30, 2022

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday blocked parole for Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, reversing a panel’s recommendation that she be freed after spending a half-century in prison.

FILE – In this March 29, 1971, file photo, is Leslie Van Houten in a Los Angeles lockup. (AP Photo/File)

Van Houten, 72, “currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at this time,” Newsom said in his parole review. It was the fifth time that a California governor has rejected her release.

>>>WATCH ON DEMAND: Manson Family Parole Hearings

Her attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, disputed that view and said the decision will be appealed in court. He accused Newsom of rejecting parole because he is worried about “his political future” and noted that Van Houten has a spotless prison disciplinary record.

“We’re not fighting (over) Leslie being a good person. She’s proven that through her actions for half a century,” he said.

Van Houten is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and others kill Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in August 1969. Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members fatally stabbed the LaBiancas and smeared the couple’s blood on the walls.

The day before, other Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others.

In his rejection letter, Newsom noted that Van Housen had undergone therapy, earned educational degrees and taken self-help classes in prison and had shown “increased maturity and rehabilitation.”

FILE – In this Sept. 6, 2017, file photo, is Leslie Van Houten at her parole hearing at the California Institution for Women in Corona, Calif.  (Stan Lim/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool, File)

But Van Houten also has “gaps in insight” that continue to make her a danger to society, Newsom said.

Van Houten has had 21 parole hearings since 1982. Most parole boards denied her bid for freedom. But five panels have recommended her release since 2016, saying she had expressed remorse and was no longer a threat to public safety.

Newsom rejected a recommendation made last November.

He previously reversed parole recommendations in 2019 and 2020. In February, the California Supreme Court refused to hear Van Houten’s appeal of the 2020 rejection.

Previous Gov. Jerry Brown rejected Van Houten’s parole in 2016 and 2018.

Manson died in 2017 of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence.

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