Leslie Van Houten, a former follower of Charles Manson who played a role in the gruesome double murder of a Los Angeles couple in the summer of 1969, was released on parole Tuesday after more than half a century in prison, The Associated Press reported.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told The Associated Press that Ms. Van Houten had been released under parole supervision, and her lawyer, Nancy Tetreault, said she had been taken early Tuesday morning to transitional housing.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said this month it would not challenge her release. Mr. Newsom has overturned Ms. Van Houten’s parole three times since taking office, at the latest in March 2022.
“The Governor is disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s decision to release Ms. Van Houten but will take no further action as efforts to further appeal are unlikely to be successful,” a spokesman for the governor said.
Mrs. Van Houten was 19 when she and other members of the so-called Manson family broke into the home of wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, and stabbed them ten times on August 10, 1969.
The LaBiancas were murdered one night after five people were killed at the home of film director Roman Polanski – including his pregnant wife, the actress Sharon Tate. The murders were carried out at the direction of Charles Manson, one of the most notorious killers of the 20th century, who died in 2017 at the age of 83.
In 1971, Mrs. Van Houten was convicted of two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. She was initially sentenced to death, but her sentence was reduced to life in prison when the death penalty was outlawed in California the next year.
Ms. Van Houten was not shy about her role in the killings, telling an interim committee in 2002 that she pinned Ms. LaBianca while another Manson family member, Patricia Krenwinkel, stabbed her in the collarbone. Charles D. Watson, another figure in the attack, stabbed Ms. LaBianca with a bayonet eight times before Ms. Van Houten then stabbed her in the abdomen 14 to 16 times.
At the crime scene, Ms. Van Houten wiped down surfaces for fingerprints, changed clothes and drank chocolate milk from the couple’s refrigerator, promissory records showed.
Years later, Ms. Van Houten said she regretted participating in the murders and that she was mentally ill, a condition made worse by the use of LSD.
“I believed he was Jesus Christ,” Ms. Van Houten said of Mr. Manson. “I bought into it lock, stock, and barrel.”
Orlando Mayorquin contributed reporting.