A California panel recommended parole Thursday for former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten more than four decades after she and other cult members went to prison for the notorious killings of a wealthy grocer and his wife, reports AP. The now-66-year-old Van Houten was "numb" after the panel announced its decision following a five-hour hearing at the California Institution for Women in Chino, said her attorney Rich Pfeiffer. "She's been ready for this for a long time," Pfeiffer said outside the prison, adding that those who signed an online petition opposed to her release don't know the woman she is today. The decision will now undergo administrative review by the board. If upheld, it goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has final say on whether Van Houten is released.
Van Houten, a one-time homecoming princess, participated in the killings of Leno La Bianca and his wife Rosemary a day after other so-called "Manson family" members murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in 1969. The killings were the start of what Manson believed was a coming race war that he dubbed "Helter Skelter" after a Beatles song. Van Houten said the group planned to retreat to the desert and hide in a hole. Van Houten was the youngest Manson follower to take part in the killings after she descended into a life of drugs and joined Manson's cult in the 1960s. Since then, she has completed college degrees and been commended for her behavior as a model prisoner. "Your behavior in prison speaks for itself. Forty-six years and not a single serious rule violation," Commissioner Ali Zarrinnam told Van Houten Thursday. (Read more Leslie Van Houten stories.)