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California governor blocks release of Manson disciple Leslie Van Houten

A disciple of Charles Manson who is serving a life sentence for his role in the gruesome double murder of a Los Angeles couple more than 50 years ago has lost her latest release attempt after the governor of California overturned a parole board decision granting his release.

Convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten was 19 when she and the other members of the so-called Manson family broke into Rosemary and Leno LaBianca’s home and stabbed them dozens of times on August 10, 1969.

The murder of the LaBiancas took place one night after five people were murdered at Benedict Canyon, home of director Roman Polanski – including his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. The bloodshed, carried out under the leadership of Mr. Manson, terrorized Los Angeles and beyond.

Ms Van Houten, 71, qualified in July for release from a state prison, but California law gives the governor the final say on an inmate’s desirability for parole.

And on Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, overturned the parole board’s decision, calling Van Houten “danger” in a release review document.

“SP. Van Houten’s explanation of what made her vulnerable to Mr. Manson’s influence remains unsatisfactory,” Mr. Newsom said. “She described herself at the time of her involvement in the Manson family as a ‘very weak person who took advantage of someone who wanted to take control of my life, and I put it back.’ ‘

This is the second time that Mr. Newsom has blocked Ms. Van Houten’s parole and the fourth time that a governor has done so.

Rich Pfeiffer, an attorney for Ms Van Houten, said in an interview on Sunday that he plans to appeal the governor’s decision to Los Angeles Superior Court and that the case would likely end up in an appeals court.

“There is no evidence to support the governor’s overthrow,” Pfeiffer said.

Mr Pfeiffer said the stigma of being associated with Mr Manson, who was one of the 20th century’s most notorious murderers, influenced Mr Newsom. Mr Manson, who spent most of his life behind bars, died in 2017 at the age of 83.

“A lot of murderers have come out of prison and have done very well, but these are not high profile cases,” he said.

At a 2002 parole board hearing, Ms Van Houten admitted that she pinned Ms LaBianca, owner of a clothing store, while another member of the Manson family, Patricia Krenwinkel, l ‘stabbed in the collarbone. Ms LaBianca unsuccessfully attempted to break free upon hearing her husband, a supermarket executive, being stabbed in another room of the couple’s home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.

When the blade of the kitchen knife that was used on Ms LaBianca bent, another central figure in the attack, Charles D. Watson, stabbed Ms LaBianca with a bayonet eight times, authorities said. Ms Van Houten told the parole board in 2002 that she stabbed Ms LaBianca in the abdomen 14 to 16 times.

The phrases “Death to the Pigs”, “Rise” and other references to Helter Skelter, the name given by Mr. Manson to his apocalyptic race war, were scrawled in the blood of the victims on the walls and the refrigerator, it said. investigators.

At the scene of the crime, Van Houten wiped fingerprints on surfaces, changed clothes and drank chocolate milk from the couple’s refrigerator, according to parole review records. She was arrested more than three months after the murders and has been jailed for about 50 years.

“I remain concerned with Ms. Van Houten’s characterization of her participation in this gruesome double murder, which is one of the most infamous and frightening series of crimes in California history,” said Mr. Newsom.

At the same time, Mr Newsom said Ms Van Houten had an exemplary disciplinary record, participated in self-help programs and obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree while incarcerated.

“Taken as a whole,” he said, “I find the evidence to show that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at that time.”

Mr Pfeiffer, Ms Van Houten’s lawyer, said on Sunday evening that his client could be exposed to the coronavirus if she remained in prison.

“At her age, she’s at high risk,” he says.