Manson Follower Leslie Van Houten Denied Parole for 19th Time

Leslie Van Houten (AP)
Leslie Van Houten (AP)
Leslie Van Houten (AP)

LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) Leslie Van Houten, the one-time Charles Manson follower who was considered the most likely of his former acolytes to gain freedom, was denied parole for the 19th time Tuesday in the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca.

The 60-year-old Van Houten sat before the California parole board while her fate rested in her lawyer's hands. "People can and do change," said attorney Brandie Devall. However, two parole officials thought otherwise and at the end of the emotional three-hour hearing, chairman of the parole board, Robert Doyle, claimed that Van Houten was still not illegible for parole because she failed to fully grasp insight into her crime and its motivation.

Doyle acknowledged Van Houten for her adjustment to prison and her work that has benefited fellow prisoners. Van Houten has been discipline free since her incarceration in the early 1970s, has positive psychological reports and has been active in self-help groups at the prison including "Golden Girls," a group for elderly women inmates. But Doyle and deputy commissioner Carol Bently said it was imperative to consider her heinous and monstrous crimes in the decision.

"She does not look at herself to see what made her capable of this activity," said Doyle. Both he and Bentley said they were dismayed because Van Houten decided not to speak directly to them.

"It's been 15 years since I've seen you," said Bently, "and commissioner Doyle has never heard from you."

During the hearing, a remorseful Van Houten read a statement apologizing to the victim's family "for the pain I caused" stressing she understood their sorrow and gave them a private written apology.

She said she understood the severity of her crime and makes no excuses for her actions. She claimed she has gained insight during her 41 years in prison that is allowing her to comprehend "so it does not happen again."

Once denied, Van Houten, who last appeared before a parole board in 2007, showed no reaction to the decision and was taken back to her cell.

Doyle believes public safety concerns are not substantial enough to give Van Houten a 10 or 15 year denial and scheduled her next hearing in three years.

Debra Tate, sister of the slain Sharon Tate, whose killing is not involved in this case, appeared to represent another La Bianca family member, Angela Smaldino. Tate said Smaldino thinks Van Houten should be lauded for her growth but thinks her behavior would be impulsive in a changed world.

After the hearing, Devall said it's likely she will appeal the ruling.

Van Houten was 19 when she joined other members of the Manson cult in the killings of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca.

Van Houten was convicted of murder and conspiracy for her role in the slayings of the La Biancas who were stabbed to death in August 1969, one night after Manson's followers killed actress Sharon Tate and four others.

Van Houten did not participate in the Tate killings but did go along the next night when the La Biancas were murdered in their home. During the penalty phase of her trial, she confessed to joining in stabbing Mrs. La Bianca after she was dead.