California Gov. Gavin Newsom overruled a parole board's decision to free Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten on Monday, 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 a half-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. "Ms. Van Houten was an eager participant in the killing of the LaBiancas and played a significant role." It was the first time Newsom rejected parole for Van Houten. Former Gov. Jerry Brown denied her release twice.
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 Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others. No one who took part in the Tate-LaBianca murders has been released from prison. At parole hearings, Van Houten described a troubled childhood. When she was 17, she and a boyfriend ran away to San Francisco during the so-called Summer of Love in 1967. She later encountered Manson while traveling the coast. Manson had holed up with his "family" at an abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles when he launched a plan to spark a race war by committing a series of random, terrifying murders. Manson died in 2017 of natural causes.
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