Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted in two killings, was released on parole on Tuesday after serving more than five decades in prison.
Houten was originally sentenced to death for the Aug. 10, 1969, murders of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca. According to a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: “The original conviction and death sentence were reversed on appeal and she was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.”
An appeals court ruled in May that Van Houten, 73, was eligible for parole, reversing a decision by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to reject parole. The release of Houten comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Friday that he would not challenge Houten’s release in the state Supreme Court. Newsom had previously blocked parole efforts for Houten.
In 1969, Manson and fellow cult member Charles “Tex” Watson went inside the La Bianca’s home and tied them up. According to court records, Manson went outside and told Van Houten and another person to go inside and follow Watson’s directions; he told them to kill Rosemary LaBianca, and Watson killed Leno LaBianca. The previous day, Watson and other cult members (excluding Van Houten) killed actress Sharon Tate and others in her home.
Van Houten is the second of six Manson cult followers convicted of murder. She was initially sentenced to death to be paroled; however, most of the death sentences were commuted to life in prison under a 1972 court decision that outlawed capital punishment; the death penalty was later reinstated in California.
Manson died at a hospital in 2017 while serving a life sentence. Members of what was dubbed the “Manson Family” included Watson, who is serving life in prison; Susan Atkins, who died in prison in 2009, and Patricia Krenwinkel, who is serving a life sentence.
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