Manson Family murderer Leslie Van Houten released from prison after 53 years
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Manson Family murderer Leslie Van Houten has been released from prison after 53 years.
Manson – who died in 2017 at the age of 2017 – was convicted of nine murders in 1971, including the 1969 killing of actress Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time.
Manson was sentenced to death, but that was later changed to life in prison after the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 1972.
Van Houten was among the cult followers who took part in the murder of a California grocer, Leno LaBianca, and his wife Rosemary, which took place just days after Tate and four others were killed.
Van Houten held Rosemary down while another member stabbed her, also admitting she stabbed the woman after she was dead.
She was originally sentenced to death, but was later commuted to life in prison when the California Supreme Court overturned the state’s death penalty law in 1972.
In several parole hearings, Van Houten expressed her regret for her role in the murders, along with her association with Manson.
Explaining how she let him overpower her ‘individual thinking’, Van Houten said during a 2002 hearing: "I bought into it lock, stock and barrel. I took it at face value.”
She had been recommended for parole five times since 2016, but all of those recommendations were rejected by either Governor of California Gavin Newsom or former governor Jerry Brown.
However, the rejection of her parole in 2020 by Newsom was later reversed by a state appeals court in California, with Newsom saying he would not fight the ruling granting her parole but that he remained disappointed at her release.
"More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal killings, the victims' families still feel the impact," Newsome said.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said that Van Houten ‘was released to parole supervision’, with her lawyer Nancy Tetreault saying she left the California Institution for Women in Corona, east of Los Angeles, in the early morning hours and was driven to transitional housing.
Tetreault said: “She is still trying to get used to the idea that this real.”
Van Houten is now expected to spend a year at a halfway house, with Tetreault adding: "She has to learn to use the internet. She has to learn to buy things without cash.
"It's a very different world than when she went in."