California: Court rules in favor of parole for Charles Manson cult killer Leslie Van Houten

The member of the hippie group murdered the LaBianca couple in 1969 and has been serving a prison sentence since 1971.

A California appeals court ruled Tuesday in favor of granting parole to Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten, convicted of murdering two people in 1969. The crime was carried out on the orders of the bizarre hippie cult leader Charles Manson and took the lives of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

The California courts thus defy the veto of Governor Newsom, who in 2020 refused to grant Van Houten parole. It was the fifth time since 2016 that a governor vetoed the potential release of the LaBianca killer. Newsom followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Jerry Brown in this case.

The crimes committed by the Manson Family against actors and Hollywood personalities forever tainted the history of Los Angeles. The governor assured that Van Houten remains a danger to society as long as she fails to clarify her role in the Charles Manson cult, according to the Associated Press.

Van Houten's attorney, Nancy Tetrault, said the Court of Appeals ruling opens the door to a new court battle to overturn Governor Newsom's decision. Van Houten was tried three times and was initially convicted and sentenced to capital punishment, however, in a subsequent constitutional challenge, she was given life imprisonment with the option of parole. She has been serving a sentence since 1971.

The Court of Appeals voted two to one that there is "no evidence to support the governor's findings" to deprive Van Houten of parole. “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' ruling asserts, according to the documents accessed by the Associated Press.

The LaBianca murder

The events for which Van Houten was convicted took place in August 1969. In that year, Van Houten was 19 years old and part of the Manson Family, the cult that recruited hippies to blindly follow and worship the psychopathic and manipulative Charles Manson.

After murdering Abigail Folger; Wojciech Frykowski; Steven Parent; Jay Sebring and pregnant actress Sharon Tate at 10050 Cielo Drive, Charles Manson was reportedly unhappy with the performance of his henchmen in that crime. So the next night they looked for a new target at 3301 Waverly Drive. There, they entered the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, a wealthy couple who owned a supermarket chain. After manacling the couple, the killers repeatedly stabbed their victims with a bayonet. According to the findings of the investigation, Leslie Van Houten stabbed Rosemary about 16 times in the back. In her defense, Van Houten claimed that Rosemary LaBianca was already dead when she received her 16 stab wounds.