A former Charles Manson follower, Leslie Van Houten, was released from prison on Tuesday after serving 53 years.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she was released to parole supervision and “will have a three-year maximum parole term with a parole discharge review occurring after one year”.
Her release came after California Governor Gavin Newsom last week said that he will not ask the state’s Supreme Court to block her parole.
Newson had previously reversed Ms. Van Houten’s parole grant three times since taking office and defended against her challenges of those decisions in court.
According to Erin Mellon, communications director for the Office of the Governor, “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.”
19-year-old Van Houten was among the members of Charles Manson that murdered Leno LaBianca, a wealthy grocer, and his wife, Rosemary LaBianca, at their Los Angeles home on Aug. 10, 1969.
The LaBiancas were both stabbed to death and the word “war” was carved on Leno LaBianca’s stomach.
In an interview with ABC News in 1994, Van Houten said that she and another Manson follower took Rosemary LaBianca into a bedroom, and “the sounds of Mr. LaBianca dying came into the bedroom — horrible, guttural sounds. She started calling out to him and yelling for him.
And at that moment, for a brief moment, I realized, you know, these are people that love each other.”
She then said another Charles Manson follower, Charles “Tex” Watson, handed her a knife so she too can partake in the killing, and she proceeded in a stabbing frenzy.
“He said, ‘Do something,’ because Manson had told him to make sure that all of us got our hands dirty,” Van Houten said. “And I stabbed Mrs. LaBianca in the lower back about 16 times.”
Manson commanded his followers to commit the killings but did not participate to do so. He died in prison in 2017 of natural causes at 83 years old.
Prosecutors said he gave out knives and told his followers to go out and kill high-profile people around Los Angeles in a bid to start a race war.
Manson spent nearly five decades in jail since his 1971 conviction. He was housed in a protective unit at a California state prison in Corcoran prior to his death.
The “Manson family” were also responsible for the murder of actress Sharon Tate and four others, who were killed at another Los Angeles home one night earlier. Van Houten did not participate in them.
Pregnant actress Sharon Tate, hairstylist Jay Sebring, heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski and teenager Steven Parent, were killed at Tate’s rental home on Aug. 9.