Manson Follower Freed After 53 Years

Leslie Van Houten is now in transitional housing, lawyer says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2023 7:00 AM CDT
Updated Jul 11, 2023 3:29 PM CDT
Lawyer: Manson Family Member 'Thrilled' at Latest News
Leslie Van Houten attends her parole hearing at the California Institution for Women on Sept. 6, 2017, in Corona, California.   (Stan Lim/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool, File)
UPDATE Jul 11, 2023 3:29 PM CDT

Leslie Van Houten has been released from a California prison after serving more than 50 years for her role in some of the most notorious murders in American history. Attorney Nancy Tetreault says the 73-year-old former Charles Manson follower left the California Institution for Women in Corona Tuesday morning and was taken to transitional housing, where she is expected to spend around a year, the AP reports. Tetreault says Van Houten is "still trying to get used to the idea" that this is real after 53 years in prison. Van Houten was 19 years old when she took part in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, who were stabbed dozens of times in the August 10, 1969 attack at their home.

Jul 8, 2023 7:00 AM CDT

For more than a half-century, Leslie Van Houten has been behind bars for her roles in the killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, two of the victims of the Manson family's murder spree in August 1969. Now, the 73-year-old is on the cusp of freedom. Her attorney said Friday that she's set to be released on parole, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom has indicated he's finally giving up the fight against it. "She's thrilled," lawyer Nancy Tetreault says, adding that Van Houten will walk out of prison in just weeks, per NBC News. In May, a California appeals court reversed Newsom's move to block Van Houten's parole, which he'd done three times.

Before him, former Gov. Jerry Brown had done the same. All in all, Van Houten had appeared before the state's Board of Parole Hearings more than 20 times over the years, with the board greenlighting her release five times since 2016. "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," a Newsom spokeswoman said in a statement Friday, per CNN. She added that "more than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal offenses, the victims' families still feel the impact, as do all Californians."

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Van Houten has been serving a life sentence in state prison after her original death sentence was overturned. She, along with other Manson family members, killed the LaBiancas in their home on Aug. 10. 1969. get used to the outside world again. "She's been in prison for 53 years," the attorney says. "She ... needs to learn how to use an ATM machine, let alone a cellphone, let alone a computer." Tetreault assures the public that they don't have to fear her release, which CNN notes will take place after a final behavioral hearing. "There's nothing in her current record that shows she is dangerous," Tetreault says, per NBC, adding, "She's an elderly woman, and she's really quite sweet." (More Leslie Van Houten stories.)

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