Manson family killer Leslie Van Houten will be paroled, lawyer says, after Gov. Newsom drops fight

Leslie Van Houten waits for the start of her parole board hearing at the California Institution for Women in Corona, Calif., on Sept. 6, 2017. (Stan Lim / AP file)
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Leslie Van Houten, a follower of Charles Manson who was convicted in two killings, will be paroled in weeks, her attorney said Friday after California’s governor said he would not challenge it at the State Supreme Court.

“She’s thrilled,” Van Houten’s attorney Nancy Tetreault said.

Van Houten, now 73, will be paroled in the next several weeks after spending more than five decades in prison, Tetreault said.

An appeals court ruled in May that Van Houten is eligible for parole, reversing a decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom to reject parole.

Newsom, who has repeatedly blocked efforts for Van Houten to be paroled, had until Monday to file a challenge with the state Supreme Court.

Newsom, a Democrat, said Friday he would not do so.

“The Governor is disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s decision to release Ms. Van Houten but will not pursue further action as efforts to further appeal are unlikely to succeed,” Erin Mellon, spokesperson for the governor’s office, said in a statement.

“The California Supreme Court accepts appeals in very few cases, and generally does not select cases based on this type of fact-specific determination,” the governor’s office said.

Van Houten is serving a life sentence after being convicted along with other cult members of the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in Los Angeles.

A jury convicted Van Houten in 1971 of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. She was initially sentenced to death, but that was overturned and she has spent 52 years in state prison.

Van Houten has had 23 hearings before the Board of Parole. The panel has recommended Van Houten be paroled five times since 2016, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Newsom had reversed Van Houten's parole grant three times. Before him, Gov. Jerry Brown reversed it.

In August 1969, Manson and cult member Charles “Tex” Watson went inside the LaBianca home and tied up the couple.

Manson then went to a car and told Van Houten and another person to go inside and follow Watson's directions, according to court records. Watson told them to kill Rosemary LaBianca, and Watson killed Leno LaBianca.

The day before the LaBiancas were killed, Watson and other cult members, but not Van Houten, killed actress Sharon Tate and others in Tate’s home.

Manson, serving life in prison, died at a hospital in 2017. Watson is serving life in prison.

Tetreault said that Van Houten no longer presents a threat to society. Van Houten has been working on her rehabilitation and been in therapy for decades, she said.

“There’s no evidence, there’s nothing in her current record that shows she is dangerous,” Tetreault said, adding, “She’s an elderly woman, and she’s really quite sweet.”

Tetreault would not say where Van Houten plans to live once she is paroled. Van Houten will have a three-year maximum parole term with a parole discharge review after one year, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

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