Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten was recommended again for parole on Wednesday after serving more than four decades of a life sentence for her role in the cult’s grisly murders in 1969, marking newly inaugurated California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first chance to decide her fate.
Van Houten, 69, had been found suitable for release twice previously by the California Board of Parole Hearings. Each of those times then-Gov. Jerry Brown blocked her release after determining she still laid too much of the blame on Manson.
Van Houten’s fate will rest in Newsom’s hands if her case withstands a 150-day review process. Since being blocked by Brown, Van Houten has taken “full responsibility” for the crime, which could help her achieve parole, according to her lawyer, Richard Pfeiffer.
The youngest of Manson’s “family,” Van Houten was among the followers in Manson's murderous cult who stabbed to death wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in 1969. She testified to stabbing LaBianca in the back at least 14 times and using the couple’s blood to smear messages on the walls of their home, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Van Houten was 19 during the killings, which came a day after other Manson followers killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in Los Angeles.
Tate’s sister attended the hearing Wednesday and hoped the governor would deny Van Houten’s freedom.
"I just have to hope and pray that the governor comes to the right decision" and keeps Van Houten behind bars, Debra Tate said. Newsom's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
No one who played a direct role in the Tate-LaBianca murders has been released from prison.
Manson died in 2017 of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.