A former member of Charles Manson’s murderous cult is expected to get a court hearing to evaluate the role of her young age in the killing of a California couple four decades ago.
Leslie Van Houten was 19 when she stabbed to death Leno and Rosemary La Bianca in 1969 with fellow cult members.
She was sentenced to death for the murders, which was later downgraded to life in prison at the California Institution for Women.
But now the 68-year-old could go free, after being sent to prison in 1971, thanks to a change in California law.
Leslie Van Houten, 68 (pictured in April 2016), is expected to get a court hearing to evaluate the role of her young age in the killing of a California couple four decades ago
The former beauty queen was 19 when she held a pillow over the head of Rosemary La Bianca (left) while other cult members stabbed her to death. Her husband, Leno (right), was also stabbed to death and the word ‘WAR’ was carved into his stomach
Van Houten was the youngest member of a cult, led by Charles Manson (pictured being escorted to court in March 1971), in which disaffected young people living in a commune followed his orders and were ultimately turned into killers
A recent change in California law enables those who committed crimes when they were less than 23 years old to seek a hearing and for these issues to be later discussed at a parole hearing.
Van Houten was the youngest member of a cult led by Charles Manson in which disaffected young people living in a commune followed his orders and were ultimately turned into killers
Last year, Van Houten, who launched her first parole attempt in 1979 and has applied for parole 20 times, recounted her part in the killing of the La Biancas.
The former homecoming princess, who described herself as ‘a hippie’ at the time of the murders, told of how she looked off into the distance until another Manson follower told her to do something before she joined in the stabbing.
She went into graphic detail at a parole hearing last year about how she held down Rosemary La Bianca and secured a pillow with a lamp cord while another member of the Manson family stabbed her repeatedly.
Her husband, Leno, was also stabbed to death before carving the word ‘WAR’ in his stomach.
She said: ‘I don’t let myself off the hook. I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself.’
The La Biancas were killed a day after other so-called ‘Manson family’ members murdered actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and four others.
Van Houten has taken ‘self-help programs, classes and counselling’ and provided an ‘insight why she committed the crimes’, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections said.
The La Biancas were killed a day after other so-called ‘Manson family’ members murdered actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and four others (From left to right: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten in March 1971)
Manson has been behind bars for more than four decades after being put away for the series of infamous Manson family murders in 1969 (pictured, left in October 2014, and right in March 2017)
But not everyone agrees that the good behavior should warrant her release.
‘Maybe Leslie Van Houten has been a model prisoner,’ Cory La Bianca, Leno La Bianca’s daughter, told the Los Angeles Times. ‘But you know what, we still suffer our loss.’
Speaking about her father, she said: ‘He didn’t get to live his, and I’ll live it for him.’
She added that her grandson had recently asked her about her father, leaving her speechless.
‘How do you answer that to a six-year-old?’ La Bianca said. ‘It doesn’t end. This doesn’t end.’
Van Houten (right), along with fellow Charles Manson cult members Susan Atkins (center) and Patricia Krenwinkel (left), leaves court after being convicted of first-degree murder in January 1971
Van Houten has taken ‘self-help programs, classes and counselling’ and provided an ‘insight why she committed the crimes’, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections said (Van Houten, right, and her attorney, Richard Pfeiffer, during a break at her parole hearing in 2016)
It was later revealed that Van Houten received several letters from Manson during her 46 years behind bars, her attorney, Richard Pfeiffer, told the New York Post.
The last letter, which arrived a few years ago, ‘was condemning her for not supporting him and his whole movement,’ Pfeiffer said. ‘She wasn’t happy, no. We were all shocked.’
Manson, 82, and other followers involved in the killings are still jailed.
Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles ‘Tex’ Watson have each been denied parole multiple times, while fellow defendant Susan Atkins died in prison in 2009.
Former Manson follower Bruce Davis was approved for parole but California Governor Jerry Brown blocked his release in 2014, citing the gravity of his offenses and his refusal to fully accept responsibility for his role in the murders of a stunt man and a musician.
Davis was not involved in the Tate-La Bianca murders.