The youngest member of Charles Manson's murder cult has been granted parole in California, meaning she is a step closer to being released. Leslie Van Houten, 68, was 19 when she killed for Manson. She stabbed and murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in August 1969 on the second night of the two-night killing spree in which Manson and his followers killed seven people, including actress Sharon Tate.
Van Houten, who has been in prison for 47 years, was appearing in front of a parole board for the 21st time yesterday and had tried to convince them that she was reformed and therefore deserving of release, the Daily Mail reported. She has reportedly been a model prisoner during she years she has been inside.
Van Houten’s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said she was "very thankful and relieved" to have been found suitable for release. “She’s going home. There’s no question she’s going home. The only question is when," he added.
The panel's verdict will now be reviewed by state officials over a 120-day period, after which Van Houten's fate will be put in the hands of California governor Jerry Brown. He will then have 30 days to take one of five routes: he could uphold, reverse or modify the decision, he could send the decision to the full Board of Parole, or he could take no action, which would allow the decision to stand, reported the LA Times.
A similar panel granted Van Houten parole last year but Brown overruled the decision. He said she had not sufficiently explained how she became a killer, given her privileged upbringing, which saw her be crowned homecoming queen.
Van Houten said she had been affected by her parents' divorce at the age of 14, after which she began spending time with "outcasts" at her school in the LA suburb of Monrovia. She began smoking marijuana and taking LSD and became pregnant at 17. Her mother forced her to have an abortion and Van Houten then began a trip along the California coast, during which she met Manson.
Manson, 82, and others involved in the murders also remain behind bars. Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel have been denied parole several times. Meanwhile another, Susan Atkins, died in prison in 2009 after being denied parole 13 times.