Board recommends parole for Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten; victim's daughter outraged
Matt HamiltonContact Reporter
The decision was issued following a hearing earlier in the day at the California Institution for Women in Chino. Van Houten has been denied parole 19 times since she was convicted of murder in the deaths of Leno LaBianca, a wealthy grocer, and his second wife at their Los Feliz home.
After the ruling is reviewed by the parole board's legal team, it will be forwarded to Gov. Jerry Brown, who could decide to block Van Houten’s release.
Cory LaBianca, who was 21 years old when her father and stepmother were slain, told The Times that she strongly disagreed with the parole board's decision.
"Maybe Leslie Van Houten has been a model prisoner," Cory LaBianca said. "But you know what, we still suffer our loss. My father will never be paroled. My stepmother will never get her life back. There’s no way I can agree with the ruling today. I don’t seek revenge. I just think it's just for someone to do that to stay in prison."
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, whose office argued for Van Houten to remain behind bars, also expressed disapproval in a statement: "We disagree with the board's decision and will evaluate how we plan to proceed."
The youngest of Manson’s followers, Van Houten, 66, has been considered the least
blameworthy member of the group, and has been portrayed by supporters as a misguided teen under the influence of LSD on the night of the killings.
A former homecoming queen from Monrovia, Van Houten did not join in the Aug. 9, 1969, killings of Sharon Tate, the wife of film director Roman Polanski, and four others at the Benedict Canyon home that Tate was renting.
But the following day, then-19-year-old Van Houten joined in slaying the LaBiancas.
Van Houten and another woman held down Rosemary LaBianca as Charles “Tex” Watson stabbed Leno LaBianca. After Watson stabbed Rosemary LaBianca, he handed Van Houten a knife. She testified to stabbing Rosemary at least 14 more times.
The blood of the victims was used to scrawl messages on the walls, as had been done at the Benedict Canyon home.
In prior bids for parole, Van Houten's attorneys have characterized her as a model inmate who has obtained a college degree behind bars and has been active in self-help groups.
At a 2002 parole board hearing, Van Houten said she was “deeply ashamed” of what she had done, adding: "I take very seriously not just the murders, but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson."
Van Houten's attorney, Richard Pfeiffer, said he believed the two-member board was most persuaded by her exemplary behavior behind bars.
"Since 1980, there were 18 different doctors who did psychiatric evaluations of her. Every single one found she was suitable for parole," Pfeiffer said.
Van Houten told her attorney that she was left "numb" by the decision handed down Thursday. Pfeiffer said he's hopeful that Brown chooses to grant her parole.
Last summer, a parole board recommended parole for Manson associate Bruce Davis, who was convicted in the 1969 killings of Gary Hinman and Donald “Shorty” Shea.
But in January, Brown rejected parole for the 73-year-old, stating that “Davis' own actions demonstrate that he had fully bought into the depraved Manson family beliefs.” Davis was not involved in the killings of the LaBiancas, Tate and four others.