A woman once under the spell of Charles Manson testified Thursday that the violent and manipulative cult leader threatened a painful death if she left the ranch where they lived. Catherine Share told a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that Manson once severely beat her and got a male cult member to vow that if she ever fled the man would hunt her down and drag her back behind a car. The unusual testimony nearly 50 years after Manson's followers terrorized Los Angeles during two nights of bloody rampages that killed seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, was to support a parole bid by fellow "family" member Leslie Van Houten, the AP reports.
A recent change in California law enables those who committed crimes when they were younger than 23 to seek a hearing on the role their youth may have played. Van Houten's lawyer wants to show a state parole board that his client was under the sway of the twisted leader and more likely to make bad choices at the age of 19. Van Houten, now 68, was the youngest Manson follower to take part in the killings after joining the cult in the 1960s. Share acknowledged in her testimony that she didn't know for a fact that Van Houten had been prohibited from leaving the cult, or hadn't actually left at some point. She also acknowledged that others had left the Manson clan without being harmed. Still, "I don't think (Van Houten) felt like she was free to leave," Share said. (Read more Leslie Van Houten stories.)