California governor to stop fighting against parole for Manson follower


By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday announced he would give up trying to deny parole to one of Charles Manson’s murderous “family” of followers, clearing the way to let Leslie Van Houten out of prison after more than 50 years.

In May a California appeals court overruled Newsom and found Van Houten, 73, was entitled to parole from her life sentence. The governor could have appealed the decision to the California Supreme Court.

“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,” Erin Mellon, the governor’s communications director, said in a statement.

Van Houten’s attorney, Nancy Tetreault, said she would be paroled in weeks, NBC News reported.

Van Houten was 19 when the murders were committed, making her the youngest of Manson’s devotees. The parole board recommended her for early release five times since 2016, but she was denied three times by Newsom and twice by his predecessor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown.

Manson died in prison in 2017 at age 83, having become one of the 20th Century’s most notorious criminals for directing a killing spree that terrorized Los Angeles in the summer of 1969.

Manson directed his mostly young and female followers to murder seven people, including actress Sharon Tate, in August 1969 in what prosecutors said was part of a plan to incite a race war.

Van Houten was convicted of fatally stabbing grocery owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in their Los Angeles home on Aug. 10, 1969. The words “Death to Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” – a misspelled reference to a Beatles song – were found scrawled in the victims’ blood on the walls and refrigerator.

The previous night, members of Manson’s cult broke into the Los Angeles hillside home that Tate shared with her husband, filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was away in Europe at the time.

Tate, who was 26 and eight months pregnant, was slain along with four friends of the celebrity couple, including coffee heiress Abigail Folger and hairstylist Jay Sebring.

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