Leslie Van Houton was convicted of murder in 1971 after her involvement with the notorious Charles Manson killings. Now, decades later and after over 20 denials, Van Houton may be getting a new parole hearing.
The new parole hearing comes after a recently-passed California law that established “a process for the board to provide a parole consideration hearing for the purpose of reviewing the parole suitability of any life or determinately sentenced inmate who was under  years of age at the time of his or her controlling offense.”
Van Houton was one of the Manson Family members who was involved in the stabbing of Rosemary LaBianca after the infamous murder of Sharon Tate the night before. She was 19 years old at the time.
According to Jezebel, Van Houten's lawyer, Rich Pfeiffer, is preparing testimony from former cult member Catherine Share and a psychological expert to help explain the decisions that could lead one to joining such a dangerous group. He is also hoping to convince a judge to allow for the release of recordings of a conversation between former cult member Charles “Tex” Watson and his attorney to help convince the jury.
“Everyone is confused about how someone who grew up like she did could end up there,” said Pfeiffer. “This hearing will help explain that."
Van Houten had been approved for parole by a panel last year, but the decision was reversed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who characterized her as “an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.”
“They are still sociopathic individuals and capable of great brutality. The heinous crimes that were committed in the past, in 1969, will repeat themselves again. I am quite sure," said Debra Tate, Sharon's sister, who has urged judges and prosecutors to keep all Manson Family members behind bars for as long as possible.
Van Houten's case was highlighted by beloved underground cinema icon John Waters in his 2010 book "Role Models." In it, Waters penned an empassioned and empathetic plea on behalf of Van Houten.
"I have a really good friend who was convicted of killing two innocent people when she was nineteen years old on a horrible night of 1969 cult madness," the director wrote. "Her name is Leslie Van Houten and I think you would like her as much as I do. She was one of those notorious 'Manson girls' who shaved their heads, carved X’s in their foreheads and laughed, joked, and sang their way through the courthouse straight to death row without the slightest trace of remorse forty years ago. Leslie is hardly a 'Manson girl' today. Sixty years old, she looks back from prison on her involvement in the La Bianca murders (the night after the Tate massacre) in utter horror, shame, and guilt and takes full responsibility for her part in the crimes. I think it’s time to parole her."
Here's Waters discussing the situation with Joy Behar:
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.