California Governor Gavin Newsom shot down a parole board’s recommendation that Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten be released.
Van Houten, who is now 72-years-old, has been approved for parole by the board five times — with each approval blocked by the governor.
Newsom said in his latest parole review that Van Houten “currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at this time.”
Van Houten’s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, has said that they will be appealing the ruling and claimed Gov. Newsom’s decision was based on concern about his “political future,” according to a report from the New York Post.
Newsom wrote in his rejection letter that Van Housen had “undergone therapy, earned educational degrees and taken self-help classes in prison” and had shown “increased maturity and rehabilitation.” However, he ultimately decided that she has “gaps in insight” which continue to make her a danger to society.
“We’re not fighting (over) Leslie being a good person. She’s proven that through her actions for half a century,” Pfeiffer said, noting that she has a flawless disciplinary record.
In August 1969, when Van Houten was 19-years-old, she and other members of the Manson family fatally stabbed grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in their Los Angeles home.
The cult was trying to spark “Helter Skelter,” a race war Manson believed would be apocalyptic.
After telling the couple they were only being robbed, Rosemary was stabbed 41 times. The word “WAR” was carved into Leno’s torso. A carving knife was left protruding from his stomach and a steak knife from his throat.
The group used the couple’s blood to scrawl “Death to pigs,” “Healter Skelter [sic],” and “Rise” on surfaces around the home.
The grizzly murders took place one night after the group killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others. Van Houten was not present on that evening.
On March 29, 1971, Van Houten was sentenced to death. It was commuted to life imprisonment when California temporarily outlawed the death penalty the following year.
“Van Houten has had 21 parole hearings since 1982. Most parole boards denied her bid for freedom. But five panels have recommended her release since 2016, saying she had expressed remorse and was no longer a threat to public safety,” the Post reports. “In February, the California Supreme Court refused to hear Van Houten’s appeal of the 2020 rejection.”
Manson died in prison in 2017.