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Manson follower Van Houten recommended for parole for fifth time

NBC News logo NBC News 11/10/2021 Dennis Romero
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A California parole board Tuesday recommended the release of convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten, who had been a follower of late cult leader Charles Manson.

It's the fifth time since 2016 that the 72-year-old was recommended for parole, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

The previous recommendations were rejected by former Gov. Jerry Brown and current Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Van Houten is serving a life sentence for her role in two consecutive days of violence carried out by the Manson cult’s followers in August 1969.

She was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the fatal stabbings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, and of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Parent, and Jay Sebring.

Van Houten was 19 at the time.

She was sentenced to death in 1971, but the conviction and punishment were reversed on appeal and she was subsequently sentenced to life.

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Van Houten has said she was traveling the California coast when she linked up with Manson's crowd and ended up squatting at an abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Manson, who died in 2017 while serving a life sentence, organized a "family" of followers to survive a race war he believed would come. Part of his response to the impending, imaginary war was to embark on a series of random murders in the Los Angeles area.

Van Houten's attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

He told Associated Press that concerns raised by previous rejections of the board's recommendations have been suitably addressed. Still, he said, he believes political expedience will mean this bid for freedom will also be reversed.

Tuesday's recommendation will be followed by a 150-day review process that will likely land on Newsom's desk.

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