California Gov. Gavin Newsom overruled a parole board’s decision to free Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten on Monday, marking the third time a governor has stopped the release of the youngest member of Manson’s murderous cult.
Van Houten, 69, is still a threat, Newsom said, though she has spent nearly half a century behind bars and received reports of good behavior and testimonials about her rehabilitation.
“While I commend Ms. Van Houten for her efforts at rehabilitation and acknowledge her youth at the time of the crimes, I am concerned about her role in these killings and her potential for future violence,” he wrote in his decision. “Ms. Van Houten was an eager participant in the killing of the LaBiancas and played a significant role,” according to ABC News.
Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members stabbed to death wealthy Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in August 1969. She said they carved up Leno LaBianca’s body and smeared the couple’s blood on the walls.
The slayings came the day after other Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in violence that spread fear throughout Los Angeles and riveted the nation.
No one who took part in the Tate-LaBianca murders has been released from prison. It was the first time Newsom rejected parole for Van Houten, while former Gov. Jerry Brown denied her release twice.
Newsom’s decision on Van Houten outlined her participation in graphic detail, noting that after the killings, she “drank chocolate milk from the LaBiancas’ refrigerator” before fleeing.
“The gruesome crimes perpetuated by Ms. Van Houten and other Manson Family members in an attempt to incite social chaos continue to inspire fear to this day,” Newsom wrote.
Van Houten is still minimizing her responsibility and Manson’s “violent and controlling actions,” he said, and she continues to lack insight into her reasons for participating.