The California Board of Parole Hearings recommended for the fifth time in five years on Tuesday that convicted murderer and “Manson Family” member Leslie Van Houten, 72, be set free. Governors JMerry Brown and Gavin Newsom have each rejected that recommendation twice before, and Van Houten’s lawyer doesn’t believe that the fifth time will be a charm.
The case will now go to the board’s legal division for a 120-day review, after which Newsom will have 30 days to make his decision.
Last year, Newsom wrote that Van Houten posed “an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at this time,” adding, “Given the extreme nature of the crime in which she was involved, I do not believe she has sufficiently demonstrated that she has come to terms with the totality of the factors that led her to participate in the vicious Manson Family killings.”
Van Houten’s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, tells KTLA that the commissioners at Tuesday’s hearing—the 24th for Van Houten—addressed all the reasons the governors have given for keeping her locked up, “which will make it more difficult for Governor Newsom to do it again, but he wants votes so I predict he will reverse this grant as well.”
Van Houten and fellow Family members Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel were convicted of the August 10, 1969 murders of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in their Los Feliz home the night after Watson, Krenwinkle, Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian killed actress Sharon Tate and her unborn child, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski, and teenager Steven Parent.
Initially sentenced to death, Van Houten’s sentence was commuted to life when California briefly outlawed the death penalty in 1972.
Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi theorized that Manson was out to start race war by staging murders that would be blamed on Blacks; that Manson named his plan “Helter Skelter” after a Beatles song about a carnival ride and/or sex; and that he and his followers planned to wait it out in a “hole” in the desert before emerging as rulers of a new world order.
Others (including convicted Manson Family murderer Bobby Beausoleil) say it all started when Tex Watson ripped off a Black drug dealer named Bernard Crowe earlier that summer for $2500, leading Manson to shoot Crowe, who survived, causing Manson to fear that the Black Panthers would wipe out his crew in retaliation—which in turn led Beausoleil to murder their friend Gary Hinman while trying get cash to pay off the drug debt, and that it was this killing Manson tried to cover up with his race war scheme.
Pfeiffer tells CNN that Van Houten is “relieved” by the decision and that, “These hearings are very hard on her.”
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