A former disciple of the notorious 1960s cult leader Charles Manson has been recommended for parole for the third time, but it will be up to California’s new governor to decide if Leslie Van Houten will go free after serving more than 40 years in prison for murder.
The California Board of Parole commissioners concluded that Van Houten, now 69, is suitable for release following a parole hearing on Wednesday.
During the hearing, the sister of murdered actress Sharon Tate asked the panel to keep Van Houten behind bars.
“I just have to hope and pray that the governor comes to the right decision,” Debra Tate told the Associated Press following the hearing.
Twice the board had previously recommended Van Houten, considered by authorities to be a model prisoner, be paroled, but former Gov. Jerry Brown rejected the board’s recommendation both times.
Brown last denied Van Houten parole in January 2018, saying she still lays too much blame on Manson, who died in prison in November 2017, at age 83.
With the board recommending parole, a 150 day review process begins, according to the California Department of Corrections. The first 120 days are for the parole board to review “all the facts and matters of law” related to the decision, the DOC said. If the board’s decision “withstands scrutiny,” as the DOC calls it, it will then be sent to newly-elected Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
Gov. Newsom will have five options, according to the DOC. He may uphold, reverse or modify the decision, he could send it back for a full board review or he may take no action at all, which would result in Van Houten being granted parole.
Van Houten is the second former Manson follower the parole board has recommended for release this month. On Jan. 3, the commissioners said Bobby Beausoleil, now 71, is suitable for parole. Beausoleil was convicted of the July 27, 1969, murder of music teacher Gary Hinman.
Newsom has yet to say how he will rule in Beausoleil’s case.
Van Houten was just 19 years old when Manson ordered her and two other cult members to kill grocery store owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their Los Angeles home on Aug. 10, 1969.
During the grisly killings, the LaBiancas were stabbed multiple times and the killers used their blood to scrawl on the couple’s walls the words “Rise,” “Death to Pigs” and “Helter Skelter” in an apparent reference to The Beatles’ song with the same name.
Manson had hoped the murders would lead to a race war in the United States, investigators said.
The murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca came a day after other Manson followers killed “Valley of the Dolls” actress Sharon Tate, who was more than eight months pregnant, and four of her friends at her Los Angeles home.
During the 2018 parole hearing, Van Houten told the commissioners that the remorse she feels for helping commit the murders is what has driven her to make amends in prison, where she has helped other inmates get their education and adjust to life in confinement.
“I think most of what I do is out of guilt for what I’ve done,” Van Houten told the board.