After 53 years, ex-Manson follower Leslie Van Houten has been released from prison

Leslie Van Houten, a former member of the notorious cult led by Charles Manson and a murderer who was sentenced to life in prison for two gruesome murders, was recently granted parole and released from prison.

Van Houten, who is 73 years old today, was a member of the so-called "Manson family" in 1969, when she participated in the assassination of a Los Angeles grocer and his wife. She was just 19 years old at the time. Five prior petitions for her release on parole were denied by the governors of California. That verdict was subsequently overturned by an appeals court for the state.

Van Houten was the youngest Manson follower convicted of murder for her involvement in the deaths of California grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. During the murders, which occurred only days after the murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others, Van Houten held Rosemary LaBianca down while another person stabbed her. She subsequently confessed that she stabbed the woman after she was already deceased.

The attorney for Van Houten, Nancy Tetreault, told the Associated Press that she departed a California women's prison early on Tuesday morning. Ms. Tetreault added that she will likely be on parole for three years and that she hopes to find work shortly.

Charles Manson, one of the most notorious cult leaders in the United States, ordered his followers to perpetrate nine murders in the hope that they would spark a race war dubbed "Helter Skelter" after a popular Beatles song. He perished in prison in 2017. Van Houten obtained a bachelor's degree and a master's degree while serving her life sentence in prison, where she also tutored other inmates.

In 2016, Van Houten was ultimately recommended for parole, after being denied parole dozens of times during her imprisonment. However, California Governor Gavin Newsom and his predecessor Jerry Brown rejected the recommendations. The last time she was denied parole, in 2020, a California appeals court ultimately reversed the decision.

Tuesday's release was made possible by Mr. Newsom's announcement on July 8 that he would not obstruct her parole this time. The governor stated in a statement last week that he remained dissatisfied with her release and that it was unlikely that the California Supreme Court would consider her case if the legal battle continued.

According to the statement, more than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal homicides, the victims' families continue to experience repercussions. Now that she has been released from prison, Van Houten is expected to spend approximately one year in a halfway house, where, according to her attorney, she will need to learn how to navigate a vastly different reality than when she was first incarcerated.

She must understand how to utilize the internet. She must learn to make purchases without currency, Ms. Tetreault told the Associated Press. The world is very different from when she entered. In multiple parole hearings, Van Houten expressed remorse for her role in the murders and association with Charles Manson, later admitting that she had allowed him to dominate her "individual thinking." 2002 parole hearing: "I bought into it lock, stock, and barrel," she said of his beliefs. "I took it at face value"