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Panel Recommends Parole for Youngest Manson Follower

Governor could still deny Leslie Van Houten parole
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 24, 2020 12:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – A California panel on Thursday recommended that Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten be paroled after serving nearly five decades in prison, the AP reports. After a hearing at the women’s prison in Chino, California, commissioners of the Board of Parole Hearings found for the fourth time that Van Houten was suitable for release, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. After a 120-day review process, her case will again rest with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who could deny parole, although that move could be challenged in court. Newsom blocked her release once and his predecessor Jerry Brown did it twice. Van Houten, 70, is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and others kill Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in August 1969.

Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members fatally stabbed the LaBiancas, carved up Leno LaBianca’s body and smeared the couple’s blood on the walls. The slayings came the day after other Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others. Details of the parole hearing weren't immediately released but Van Houten’s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said in an email that it “went really well.” Pfeiffer said he expects Newsom to reverse the decision again, “but the courts will have a harder time denying a writ than they did in the past.” In May, an appeals court denied Pfeiffer's request to release Van Houten on bail or her own recognizance. His motion argued that her age put her at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and noted that another prisoner in her housing unit had been infected.

(Read more Leslie Van Houten stories.)

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