A follower of infamous killer Charles Manson, Leslie Van Houten, was released from a California prison after spending more than 53 years in custody for her role the Manson family killings.
Over 70 years old, Van Houten was "released to parole supervision” and will serve a three-year maximum parole term with a parole discharge review occurring after one year, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Van Houten was convicted in 1971 and handed concurrent sentences of seven years to life, according to CNN.
She participated in the 1969 killings of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their Los Angeles home, where she admitted to holding Rosemary LaBianca down with a pillowcase as others stabbed her. Van Houten stabbed the woman herself as well.
Afterward, the group smeared the victims' blood on the walls.
Van Houten had been previously recommended for parole five times between 2016 and 2023, but California Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom declined the recommendations, according to the New York Post.
However, Newsom announced on July 7, 2023, that he would not fight a state appeals court ruling that Van Houten should be released. Newsom's office did not take blame, however, but expressed disappointment and instead deferred to the court of appeals.
“More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal offenses, the victims’ families still feel the impact, as do all Californians. Governor Newsom reversed Ms. Van Houten’s parole grant three times since taking office and defended against her challenges of those decisions in court,” said Erin Mellon, the governor's spokesperson.
“The Governor is disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s decision to release Ms. Van Houten but will not pursue further action as efforts to further appeal are unlikely to succeed. The California Supreme Court accepts appeals in very few cases, and generally does not select cases based on this type of fact-specific determination,” Melton added.
Cory LaBianca, the daughter of the male victim, said she was "heartbroken" because she was "once again reminded of all the years that we have not had my father and my stepmother with us.”
“My children and my grandchildren never got an opportunity to get to know either of them, which has been a huge void for my family,” the 75-year-old told the Associated Press.
Charles Manson died in prison of natural causes in 2017.
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