Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten released from prison a half-century after grisly killings

by Ryan Lee
Manson killings

Leslie Van Houten, a former follower of Charles Manson, has been released from prison after serving over 50 years of a life sentence for her involvement in the gruesome killings of a wealthy couple in Los Angeles. Van Houten, now 73 years old, left the California Institution for Women and was transferred to transitional housing under parole supervision.

Governor Gavin Newsom decided not to challenge a state appeals court ruling granting Van Houten parole, stating that an appeal to the state Supreme Court was unlikely. Originally sentenced to death, her sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment when California overturned its death penalty law in 1972. Although the death penalty was reinstated, it did not apply retroactively.

Van Houten participated in the August 1969 murders of Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, on Manson’s orders. She described her role in holding down Rosemary while others stabbed her, and then proceeded to stab her herself. These killings occurred a day after Manson’s followers murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others, although Van Houten did not take part in those crimes.

After spending approximately a year in a halfway house to adjust to the significantly changed world of the past 50 years, Van Houten, who obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling during her imprisonment, hopes to find employment. She also plans to utilize her education to support others in need. Van Houten’s release was granted after a parole hearing in July 2020, which was initially blocked by Governor Newsom but later overturned by the Second District Court of Appeal.

The court judges found that Van Houten had made significant efforts at rehabilitation, showed remorse, had a realistic parole plan, received support from loved ones, and had favorable institutional reports. They disagreed with the governor’s concerns about her future behavior and lack of insight into her past actions. However, one dissenting judge sided with Newsom, pointing out some evidence of Van Houten’s lack of understanding regarding the heinous crimes.

While Van Houten’s release brings closure for her, it has caused pain for the families of the victims. The governor’s office acknowledged the ongoing impact of the Manson cult’s brutal killings on the victims’ families. Van Houten had been recommended for parole five times since 2016, but those recommendations were repeatedly denied by Newsom and former Governor Jerry Brown.

Van Houten’s involvement with the Manson cult began when her life spiraled out of control after her parents’ divorce at the age of 14. She fell into drug abuse and became pregnant, eventually being forced by her mother to have an illegal abortion. She met Manson at a movie ranch near Los Angeles, where he had gathered a group of followers.

During her 2016 parole hearing, Van Houten revealed that the murders were part of Manson’s belief in an impending race war called “Helter Skelter.” Manson had instructed his followers to prepare for the war, including learning survival skills and storing food.

Charles Manson passed away in prison in 2017, and other convicted followers, such as Tex Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel, have been repeatedly denied parole. Susan Atkins, another Manson follower, died in prison in 2009.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Manson killings

Who is Leslie Van Houten?

Leslie Van Houten is a former follower of cult leader Charles Manson. She was involved in the gruesome killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in 1969.

How long was Leslie Van Houten in prison?

Leslie Van Houten served more than 50 years of a life sentence for her involvement in the Manson killings. She was recently released on parole.

Why was Leslie Van Houten released?

Leslie Van Houten was granted parole after a court ruling and Governor Gavin Newsom decided not to challenge it. The court found evidence of her rehabilitation, remorse, and realistic parole plans.

Did Leslie Van Houten participate in the Sharon Tate murders?

No, Leslie Van Houten did not participate in the Sharon Tate murders. She was involved in the killings of the LaBianca couple, which occurred the day after the Tate murders.

What will Leslie Van Houten do after her release?

Leslie Van Houten plans to spend time in a halfway house to adjust to the changed world and hopes to find employment. She earned degrees in counseling during her imprisonment and aims to use her education to help others.

How do the victims’ families feel about Leslie Van Houten’s release?

The families of the victims are heartbroken by the possibility of Van Houten’s release. They collectively suffer the pain and loss caused by the Manson cult’s actions.

How many times was Leslie Van Houten recommended for parole before her release?

Leslie Van Houten was recommended for parole five times since 2016 but was denied each time until the recent parole decision that granted her release.

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HistoryBuff99 July 12, 2023 - 1:41 am

The Manson Family murders were a dark and disturbing chapter in American history. Leslie Van Houten’s involvement in those crimes cannot be overlooked. The parole decision has sparked debates on rehabilitation, justice, and the impact on the victims’ families.

BookLover82 July 12, 2023 - 6:47 am

This text provides an update on Leslie Van Houten’s release from prison. It’s sad to see how she was involved in such gruesome killings. The parole decision has definitely stirred up emotions and divided opinions.

JohnDoe47 July 12, 2023 - 8:12 am

omg, i cnt blieve Leslie Van Houten is out of prson aftr all those yrs! its so wrng! she shldnt have been release! its a slap in the face to the victims’ families!!

DreamerGirl July 12, 2023 - 10:05 am

It’s unbelievable that Leslie Van Houten spent more than 50 yrs behind bars. She must have faced significant challenges adjusting to the outside world. I hope she has truly changed and can find a way to make amends for her past actions.


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