Manson family member served 53 years
Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten was released from a California prison on Tuesday, four days after Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced it would no longer challenge her parole grant.
Newsom had rejected parole for Van Houten on three occasions during his time in office, but a state appeals court in May rejected his most recent denial of parole. His office announced on July 7 it would not further challenge the issue in court.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the now-73-year-old Van Houten was released Tuesday “to parole supervision.''
“Van Houten will have a three-year maximum parole term with a parole discharge review occurring after one year,'' according to a statement from CDCR. “For safety and security reasons, CDCR does not provide information on a person's time or location of parole release.''
Van Houten was being held at the California Institution for Women in Corona.
Her attorney told the Associated Press that Van Houten was released in the early morning hours Tuesday and driven to a transitional housing facility.
Van Houten was convicted of murder and conspiracy for participating with fellow Manson family members Charles “Tex'' Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel in the August 1969 killings of grocer Leno LaBianca, 44, and his 38-year-old wife, Rosemary, who were each stabbed multiple times in their Los Feliz home.
The former Monrovia High School cheerleader–who was 19 at the time–did not participate in the Manson family's killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in a Benedict Canyon mansion the night before.
Van Houten served more than 50 years of a potential life prison sentence.
A state parole board recommended parole for Van Houten in November 2021, marking the fifth time for such a decision. The four previous parole recommendations for Van Houten were rejected by governors, including Newsom.
In May, a California's 2nd District Court of Appeal panel, in a 2-1 decision, overturned Newsom's rejection of Van Houten's most recent parole grant.
“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,'' Associate Justice Helen I. Bendix wrote in the ruling.
“... Under these circumstances Van Houten's unchanging historical risk factors do not provide some evidence that she is currently dangerous and unsuitable for parole,'' Bendix wrote, with Associate Justice Victoria Gerrard Chaney concurring in the 58-page ruling that reversed the governor's 2022 decision and reinstated the grant of parole for Van Houten.
In a dissenting opinion, Presiding Justice Frances Rothschild concluded that “the record contains some evidence Van Houten lacked insight into the commitment offense’’.