After serving more than 50 years of a life sentence for two heinous murders, Leslie Van Houten, a former follower of renowned cult leader Charles Manson, was granted parole.
A member of the “Manson family” at the age of 19, Van Houten, 73, participated in the 1969 slaying of a Los Angeles grocery store owner and his wife.
The governors of California rejected her parole requests five times in the past.
A state appeals court eventually overturned that judgment.
Former homecoming queen Van Houten was found guilty of murder for her part in the deaths of California grocery store owner Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, making her the youngest Manson supporter to do so.
Van Houten held Rosemary LaBianca down throughout the killings, which happened just days after the actress Sharon Tate and four other people were killed. She eventually acknowledged that she had stabbed the victim after she had passed away.
Nancy Tetreault, Van Houten’s attorney, told the BBC that Van Houten was expected to be on parole for three years after she was released from a California women’s jail early on Tuesday morning.
She had a difficult time separating herself from the cult mentality and taking ownership of her misdeeds, according to Ms. Tetreault. She needed a lot of time. She received counseling for years. So she had intense regret and guilt.
One of America’s most notorious cult leaders, Charles Manson, instructed his followers to carry out nine murders in the hopes that they would spark a race war dubbed “Helter Skelter” after a popular Beatles song. In 2017, he passed away within.
After receiving a life sentence, Van Houten studied for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in jail, where she also tutored other prisoners.
Van Houten ultimately received a recommendation for release in 2016 after being rejected for parole numerous times throughout her incarceration. Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, and Jerry Brown, his predecessor, both rejected the proposals.
She had previously been denied parole, but a California appeals court ultimately overturned that decision in 2020.
However, Mr. Newsom announced on July 8 that he would not object to her parole this time, which allowed for her release on Tuesday.
The governor expressed his disappointment with her release in a statement last week, claiming that the California Supreme Court was unlikely to consider his argument if the legal dispute went on.
The statement read, “More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal killings, the families of the victims still feel the impact.”
Van Houten, who is currently free from jail, is anticipated to spend around a year at a halfway house, where her attorney said she would have to learn to negotiate a reality very different from when she was first imprisoned.
She needs to gain online literacy. She needs to get used to making purchases without using currency, Ms. Tetreault told the AP. “Compared to when she entered, the world is very different.”
Van Houten expressed regret for her involvement in the murders and her relationship with Manson during numerous parole hearings, ultimately admitting that she had allowed him to dominate her “individual thinking.”
In a 2002 parole hearing, she referred to her belief in his teachings as “I bought into it lock, stock and barrel.” “I believed it to be true”
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