Manson Clan Member May Win Parole
CHINO, Calif. (AP) — Leslie Van Houten, the youngest of Charles Manson’s murderous followers, was recommended for parole Wednesday by a state panel that concluded she has radically changed her life during the more than 40 years she has been in prison for two brutal murders she helped commit 48 years ago and is no longer a threat to society.
The two-member panel’s ruling must still be approved by the state Parole Board and Gov, Jerry Brown, who reversed another panel’s ruling last year.
In blocking her release then, Brown said Van Houten had failed to adequately explain to the panel how a model teenager from a privileged Southern California family who had once been a homecoming princess could have turned into a ruthless killer by age 19.
On Wednesday, the panel grilled her for two hours on how she could address those concerns.
“I’ve had a lot of therapy trying to answer that question myself,” she said.
“To tell you the truth, the older I get the harder it is to deal with all of this, to know what I did, how it happened,” added Van Houten, now a frail-looking 68-year-old who appeared before the panel on crutches, her gray hair pulled back in a bun.
She went on to say that she was devastated when her parents divorced when she was 14. Soon after, she said, she began hanging out with her school’s outcast crowd in the Los Angeles suburb of Monrovia. She started smoking marijuana and graduated to LSD at 15. When she was 17, she and her boyfriend ran away to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District during San Francisco’s summer of love.
When they returned, she said, she discovered she was pregnant. When her mother found out, she ordered her to have an abortion and bury her fetus in their backyard.
Soon after, she was traveling up and down the California coast, trying to find peace within herself when acquaintances led her to Manson, who was holed up at an old abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles where he had recruited what he called a “family” to survive what he insisted would be a race war he would launch by committing a series of random, horrifying murders. His disaffected youthful followers became convinced that the small-time criminal and con man was actually a Christ-like figure and believed him.
As she did at her parole hearing last year, the soft-spoken Van Houten went on to candidly describe how she joined several other members of the “Manson Family” in killing Los Angeles grocer Leno La Bianca and his wife, Rosemary, in their home on Aug. 9, 1969, carving up La Bianca’s body and smearing the couple’s blood on the walls.