The governor of California once again denied parole Friday for Leslie Van Houten.
Leslie Van Houten, the youngest follower of murderous cult leader Charles Manson, may have thought she could walk free after a parole board ruled in her favor. But, California Gov. Jerry Brown reversed the decision Friday.
In September, the Board of Parole Hearings found Van Houten, 68, suitable for release after she was convicted in the brutal slayings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in Los Angeles on Aug. 10, 1969. It was the 21st time Houten appeared before the parole board.
“The question I must answer is whether Leslie Van Houten will pose a current danger to the public if released from prison,” Brown wrote in his statement, released Friday night, adding that he had to consider Van Houten’s young age at the time of the crime, her dysfunctional upbringing, her abuse at the hands of Manson and other mitigating factors.
“However,” he wrote in his decision, “these factors are outweighed by negative factors that demonstrate she remains unsuitable for parole.”
Van Houten, who was 19-years-old when she was convicted of brutally murdering supermarket executive Leno and his wife Rosemary LaBianca, was arrested a couple of weeks after the incident and later convicted at the Charles Manson trial.
Van Houten’s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said Friday Brown’s decision showed an unprecedented and unlawful reliance to deny parole based on the circumstances of the crime, rather than the inmate’s fitness.
“We’re going to challenge this in court,” Pfeiffer said. “I expect the courts to uphold the law and allow her to be released.”
Pfeiffer added he has “dozens of clients who have done much worse deeds than Leslie has done and they’re out leading productive lives.”
This is the second time Brown has blocked parole for Van Houten after a state parole panel recommended she be freed.
Supporters have portrayed Van Houten as a misguided teen under the influence of LSD — and the twisted influence of Manson — on the night of the killings.
Brown wrote Friday that Van Houten “played a vital part in the LaBianca murders, one of the most notorious of the Manson family crimes. The devastation and loss experienced by the LaBianca family and all the victims’ families continues today.”
Van Houten “shifted blame for her own actions onto Manson to some extent,” after she took full responsibility for the crime in a September parole hearing. Brown recalled Van Houten saying she took responsibility for “Manson being able to do what he did to all of us. I allowed it. I accept responsibility that I allowed him to conduct my life in that way.”
A statement on a website devoted to keeping “the Manson Family Killers in Prison” said: “Ms. Van Houten should not be paroled and society cannot trust someone who committed such a heinous murder without showing any remorse for years.”
Manson, who is one of the most infamous criminals in American history, fostered a community of close followers in the 1960s and directed them to conduct the gruesome murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others over two days in August 1969. Tate, 26, the wife of director Roman Polanski, was 8 ½ months pregnant when she was stabbed to death at her Benedict Canyon, California, home alongside Jay Sebring, 35; Voytek Frykowski, 32; coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 25; and Steven Parent, 18. The following night, the so-called Manson family killed Leno LaBianca and Rosemary LaBianca in Los Feliz.
Manson died of natural causes on Nov. 20 at a Kern County Hospital while serving a life sentence.