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Parole again recommended for Manson follower Leslie Van Houten

A California parole panel on Tuesday recommended for the fifth time that Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten be freed from prison, decisions previously rejected by two governors.

Van Houten, 72, is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and other cult members kill Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in August 1969.

She was 19 when she and other followers fatally stabbed the LaBiancas and smeared their blood on the walls.

The slayings came the day after other Manson followers, but not Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others.

A two-person panel of parole commissioners first recommended in April 2016 that she be freed. But her release has been consistently blocked, twice by then-Governor Jerry Brown and twice by Governor Gavin Newsom, both Democrats.

The latest recommendation is likely headed back to Newsom after a 120-day procedural review. Van Houten is still challenging Newsom's rejection of her parole a year ago in two courts, said her attorney, Rich Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer said the commissioners on Tuesday addressed every reason governors have given for blocking her release the first four times, "which will make it more difficult for Governor Newsom to do it again, but he wants votes so I predict he will reverse this grant as well."

Newsom said last year that Van Houten still "poses an unreasonable danger to society" if released from the California Institution for Women in Riverside County outside Los Angeles.

Van Houten and her boyfriend ran away to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury District during the city's Summer of Love when she was 17. She was traveling along California's coast when friends introduced her to Manson, who was living at an abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles. There he recruited what he called a "family" to survive what he predicted would be a race war that he planned to start by committing a series of random, terrifying murders.

Manson died in 2017 of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence.

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