See Manson Family Killer Leslie Van Houten, Who Was Just Released, Now at 73
After serving over 50 years in prison, the convicted murderer was released on parole.
A member of the Manson Family who was involved in the cult's murder spree was just released from prison after serving more than 50 years. Leslie Van Houten was convicted in 1971 for her participation in the killings of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca, along with other followers of Charles Manson. The 73-year-old's release comes after over 20 parole hearings, all of which saw her requests rejected—until now.
Read on to find out more about Van Houten, including her connection to Manson, her trial, and now, her re-entry into society.
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Van Houten was initially sentenced to death.
When Van Houten was 19 years old, she took part in the 1969 murders of the LaBiancas. These killings were carried out the day after the Manson Family killed five people, including actor Sharon Tate, at 10050 Cielo Drive. Van Houten was not present for those murders.
During trials that took place in the '70s, Van Houten was convicted of two counts of murder and one court of conspiracy to commit murder. She was sentenced to death, but due to a change in the law, her sentence was knocked down to life in prison.
She thought Manson "had all the answers."
Van Houten has been interviewed about her participation in the murders and joining the Manson Family. Speaking to ABC News in 1994, she said that she was influenced to join the cult after her father left her family and because she wanted "more living out of life than what was expected of young girls at that time."
She said of Manson, "He was like Christ, and he had the answers. For as twisted as it all got, I felt that I had met someone that by being around him would have a positive change." Van Houten continued, "It didn't happen overnight. He spent a lot of time taking middle-class girls and remolding them. I was an empty shell of a person that was filled up with Manson rhetoric."
She also said that Manson would reenact the crucifixion of Jesus when the members were on LSD. "Then the questions would begin: 'Would you die for me?,'" she remembered him saying.
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She was denied parole many times.
As reported by CNN, Van Houten first became eligible for parole in 1977. Since then, she has had over 20 parole hearings. The first time the parole board recommended her release was in 2016, but the decision was overturned by then-governor of California Jerry Brown. In total, recommendations for Van Houten's release have been rejected five times between Brown and current California governor Gavin Newsom. When Newsom rejected the parole board's recommendation in 2022, Van Houten said, "I'm disappointed and I'm going to pursue my legal avenues," which she did.
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She has now been released.
In May, an appeals court ruled in a 2-1 decision that Van Houten should be released, which reversed a decision made by Newsom in 2020. It was unclear at the time if this decision would hold, but Newsom declined to appeal it. On July 11, Van Houten was released from prison on a three-year maximum parole term, as reported by CNN. She is the second Manson Family member to be released from prison after being convicted of murder. The other is Clem Grogan, who was released on parole in 1985.
According to The New York Times, Van Houten's lawyer, Nancy Tetreault, said that Van Houten was taken to a transitional housing facility following her release. "She's going to have to learn to live in the world after 53 years in prison," Tetreault said. "So that's going to take some time."
Similarly, Tetreault told CNN, "If you think about it, she's never used an ATM, never had a cell phone … She said that she's just trying to get used to the idea that she's no longer in prison after all these decades, and just acclimate to her new life outside of prison." The lawyer explained that Van Houten hopes to get a job where she can put the bachelor and master's humanities degrees she earned in prison to use.