Former Manson Cult Member Van Houten Is Denied ParoleFrom a Times Staff Writer
September 8, 2006
A two-member panel of the state parole board refused Thursday to release former Manson cult member Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1969 deaths of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in Los Feliz. It was the 15th time her parole had been denied.
Although the commissioners praised Van Houten's spotless disciplinary record at the California Institution for Women in Corona and her work tutoring inmates, they said they would wait a year and review her record.
Van Houten, 57, was not involved in the murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her houseguests at the beginning of the Charles Manson cult's notorious crime spree.
But her eyes filled with tears when she expressed remorse for the deaths of the LaBiancas. She addressed the members of the victims' families who opposed her release at the hearing.
"It's very hard to know there's never going to be a way to make it OK. I just want them to understand that when they voice their sorrows, I'm listening," she said.
Decision suggests hope for Van Houten parole
10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, September 7, 2006
Leslie Van Houten, the former homecoming queen and the youngest of the Manson Family killers, will spend at least one more year behind bars, a parole board ruled Thursday.
The 57-year-old inmate has served almost 37 years for her role in the infamous cult killing spree that left seven people dead, including actress Sharon Tate. Thursday marked the 16th time a parole board has denied Van Houten's bid for freedom.
Thursday's decision offered a glimmer of hope for Van Houten,
who transformed herself from a "brainwashed" drug addict to a "model prisoner," said her attorney, Christie Webb. Since her conviction in 1978 for the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, boards have tended to deny her parole for two-year increments, Webb said.
"Certainly, a one-year denial is an indication of something positive," Webb said. "At some point we have to have a (parole) decision based on who she is now. She can't do anything to change the day of the crime, but she improved herself and she is no longer a danger to society."Patrick Sequeira, of the Los Angeles district attorney's office, said he's disappointed the board decided to let Van Houten try again next year.
When Van Houten was convicted, the courts weren't allowed to sentence inmates to life without the possibility of parole as they do now, he said.
"If the crime had been committed today, we wouldn't be here," Sequeira said.
For several of the people crowded into the stuffy, wood-paneled conference room at the California Institution for Women near Chino, the hearing was part of a macabre routine. Neither Van Houten nor the four relatives of the victims cried as the parole board commissioner read the bloody details of the slayings.
No one disputed the details of the murders, which were largely random and part of a larger effort by Charles Manson to incite a race war between blacks and whites.
Leno LaBianca was stabbed 42 times with a bayonet and a carving fork. The word "war" was carved into his chest. Rosemary LaBianca struggled to free herself as she listened to her husband's death gurgles. Van Houten held her down before taking her turn in stabbing LaBianca 16 times.
She later told a friend it got more fun with every stab, Sequeira said.
Van Houten, slight of frame with gray hair coiled into a bun behind a girlish headband, sat stoically. Only her nervous feet betrayed her mood as her Converse high-tops tapped rapidly beneath the table.
Years of therapy have helped her to overcome her drug addictions and penchant for destructive relationships, she said. The two parole board members reviewed files the size of phonebooks, including several letters of support for Van Houten from corrections psychiatrists as well as people offering jobs and housing to Van Houten.
In a soft-spoken voice, Van Houten described her prison journey through narcotics anonymous, a bachelor's degree in English literature, and her work as a tutor and counselor for other inmates.
"I do what I do in here because that's how I live with myself," she sobbed.
A few feet away, nephews of the LaBiancas and Tate's sister sat with guarded expressions.
"It is always a painful process for us to relive the moment Miss Van Houten and her terrorist gang visited upon our family," said Louis Smaldino, the LaBianca's nephew.
Riverside County resident Debra Tate is the only surviving member of Sharon Tate's family. She's attended dozens of Manson family parole hearings as a voice for the victims.
"It seems to be getting harder to keep the board in the mindset of the spirit in which these crimes were committed," said Tate. "The perpetrators get to dance their prison victories before the board, but (the board) doesn't hear from the people who were murdered
Manson Follower Van Houten Denied Parole
Former Charles Manson Disciple Leslie Van Houten Denied Parole for 16th Time in California
The Associated Press
FRONTERA, Calif. - Leslie Van Houten, the former Charles Manson follower convicted of taking part in a murderous rampage that terrorized Los Angeles 37 years ago, was denied parole Thursday for a 16th time.
The once raven-haired homecoming princess, now a gray-haired 57-year-old prison inmate, was convicted of murder and conspiracy for her role in the 1969 slayings of wealthy grocers Leno and Rosemary La Bianca.
The La Biancas were killed in August 1969, one night after Manson's followers killed actress Sharon Tate, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, filmmaker Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of the Tate estate's caretaker.
Van Houten did not participate in the Tate killings, but went along the next night when the La Biancas were slain in their home. Prosecutors said at Thursday's hearing at Frontera's California Institute for Women that she had felt "left out" of the first night's carnage.
As she has during past hearings, Van Houten apologized to the victims' families, but the parole board wasn't swayed. Board members determined she was an "unacceptable public safety risk and a danger to society" and unsuitable for parole, said board spokesman Tip Kindel.
Van Houten, Manson and two other followers of the cult leader were originally sentenced to death, but their sentences were reduced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after California's death penalty was briefly suspended in the 1970s. None of them have been released.
Although Thursday's ruling keeps her in prison, Van Houten won one small victory when the board told her she may reapply for parole in one year rather than the usual two.
"She can't do anything to change the day of the crime, but she improved herself and she is no longer a danger to society," Van Houten's attorney, Christie Webb, said afterward.
Former Manson Disciple Denied Parole
Last month, a two-member parole panel split on whether former Manson Family member Bruce Davis should be released from prison. Davis was convicted in 1972 of the murders of musician Gary Hinman -- whose left ear Manson chopped off -- and stagehand Donald "Shorty" Shea.The split meant the entire parole board will decide whether Davis should be released from prison.
When asked why she thought about these developments Rosemary LaBianca replied "Gurgle....arggh...blackbook...no....ouchas...husband....
newlamp....why...arrrgh ptup flankusch."