LESLIE Van Houten was a member of Charles Manson’s ‘family’ and has been behind prison bars for more than five decades.
The former Manson cult member Van Houten, now in her 70s, is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and other followers kill Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife, Rosemary in 1969.
Who is Leslie Van Houten?
Leslie Van Houten is an American convicted murderer and former “follower” of the Charles Manson cult family.
She is also known by various aliases such as Louella Alexandria, Leslie Marie Sankston, Linda Sue Owens, and Lulu.
After her parents divorced when she was 14 years old, she began using drugs and ran away from home.
Shortly after, she got pregnant and her mother allegedly forced her to have a late-term abortion and bury the child’s body in their backyard.
Van Houten was able to graduate high school and left for a commune in Northern California and eventually made her way to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury.
How did she become involved with Charles Manson?
During her time in San Francisco, Van Houten met Catherine Share and Bobby Beausoleil, an aspiring musician.
All three moved to southern California in 1969 and linked up with a 35-year-old musician with “followers”, named Charles Manson.
Van Houten became entranced with Manson and completely cut off communication with her family.
She, along with others, became part of the Manson Family and reportedly lived at the Spahn Ranch in the California desert.
Did she kill anyone?
Van Houten, who was 19 at the time, was arrested and charged in relation to the killing of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in 1969.
She was instructed by Manson to enter the couple’s home and murder them, alongside Tex Watson and Patricia Krenwinkle.
Watson allegedly tried strangling Rosemary but she was able to grab a lamp and launch it at Van Houten.
Van Houten allegedly held Rosemary down while Krenwinkle stabbed her in the chest several times.
The knife apparently jammed in Rosemary’s clavicle bone and Van Houten cried to Watson for help.
Watson had already murdered Leno, stabbing him repeatedly as he was tied up in the living room.
Van Houten allegedly stabbed Rosemary’s lower back and glute area over a dozen times.
She was arrested shortly after and cooperated with authorities about the LaBiancas murder.
The slayings came the day after other Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in violence that spread fear across Los Angeles and captivated the nation.
Van Houten admitted to direct knowledge of the LaBianca murders in a police interview.
Van Houten was found guilty of the LaBianca murder in 1970.
She was initially sentenced to death but it was commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
When her original conviction was overturned in 1978, she was found guilty yet again and was retried for the same crime.
Did Leslie Van Houten make parole?
Previously, parole requests have been denied four times despite her “good behavior” in prison.
Governor Gavin Newsom blocked the request saying: “Evidence shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.”
Her attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, told the Associated Press that he will appeal Newsom’s decision.
“This reversal will demonstrate to the courts that there is no way Newsom will let her out,” Pfeiffer said.
“So they have to enforce the law or it will never be enforced.”
On March 29, 2022, California Governor – Gavin Newsom – denied Van Houten’s fifth request for parole.
According to The Los Angeles Times, in Newsom’s parole review of the former Manson cult member, he stated that Van Houten “currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at this time.”
The murderer’s lawyer, Rich Pfeiffer, made a case for his client and stated: “We’re not fighting (over) Leslie being a good person. She’s proven that through her actions for half a century.”
On May 30, 2023, a California appeals court said Van Houten should be released from prison on parole.
The appellate court’s ruling reverses an earlier decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who rejected parole for Van Houten in 2020.
She has been recommended for parole five times since 2016.
All of those recommendations were rejected by either Newsom or former Gov. Jerry Brown.
Newsom could request that California Attorney General Rob Bonta petition the state Supreme Court to stop her release.
Newsom has said that Van Houten still poses a danger to society.
In rejecting her parole, he said she offered an inconsistent and inadequate explanation for her involvement with Manson at the time of the killings.
The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles ruled 2-1 to reverse Newsom’s decision, writing there is “no evidence to support the Governor’s conclusions” about Van Houten’s fitness for parole.
The judges took issue with Newsom’s claim that Van Houten did not adequately explain how she fell under Manson’s influence.
At her parole hearings, she discussed at length how her parents’ divorce, her drug and alcohol abuse, and a forced illegal abortion led her down a path that left her vulnerable to him.
They also argued against Newsom’s suggestion that her past violent acts were a cause for future concern were she to be released.
“Van Houten has shown extraordinary rehabilitative efforts, insight, remorse, realistic parole plans, support from family and friends, favorable institutional reports, and, at the time of the Governor’s decision, had received four successive grants of parole,” the judges wrote. “Although the Governor states Van Houten’s historical factors ‘remain salient,’ he identifies nothing in the record indicating Van Houten has not successfully addressed those factors through many years of therapy, substance abuse programming, and other efforts.”
The dissenting judge argued that there was some evidence Van Houten lacked insight into the heinous killings, and agreed with Newsom that her petition to be released should be denied.
Nancy Tetreault, an attorney for Van Houten, said she expects Newsom to request that Bonta ask the state Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision, a process that could take years.