Leslie Van Houten, an accomplice to the notorious murders ordered by Charles Manson in 1969, has been granted parole in California after more than 40 years in prison.
Van Houten, now 68, has been paroled for a second time after serving several decades in prison for the murder of grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in August 1969. Van Houten was 19 at the time and the youngest of the infamous Manson “family,” according to NPR.
The two-member panel granted parole for Van Houten, stating that she radically changed her life while in prison and sought to give back to other inmates. She received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree while incarcerated, as well as operating a counseling clinic for other female prisoners.
This is Van Houten’s second grant of parole, the first being granted in 2016 but struck down by Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown must reverse the parole board’s decision or take no action within 120 days.
Brown reversed Van Houten’s original parole grant after determining her progress as an inmate remained overshadowed by her horrendous crimes, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“[The] shocking nature of the crimes left an indelible mark on society,” said Brown after the first parole denial. He said the motive for the killings, to trigger a race war, “by slaughtering innocent people chosen at random — is equally disturbing.”
“I feel absolutely horrible about it, and I have spent most of my life trying to find ways to live with it,” Van Houten told the panel in Chino, California. “To tell you the truth, the older I get, the harder it is to deal with all of this, to know what I did, how it happened.”
Van Houten has been considered the least culpable of the Manson family, classified as a “misguided” teen by her supporters and remembered as under the influence of LSD at the time of the murders, according to the Los Angeles Times.
She held a pillowcase over the head of Rosemary LaBianca as others stabbed her dozens of times. She was then ordered by Manson follower Charles “Tex” Watson to “do something,” at which point she took a butcher knife and stabbed Rosemary 12 more times.
Charles Manson and all other Manson associates remain in prison serving life sentences, with several being denied parole multiple times.
“I don’t let myself off the hook,” Van Houten said at the last parole hearing. “I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself.”