Parole recommended for Leslie Van Houten, Manson follower

CHINO, Calif. -- A California parole board granted parole for Leslie Van Houten, the youngest member of the murderous "Manson Family."

Van Houten, who was 19 when she killed for Charles Manson during a series of murders that terrorized Los Angeles over the summer of 1969, was tentatively granted parole last year before it was overruled by Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown now has a 120-day period to affirm, reverse or take no action on the latest decision.

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In this Aug. 20, 1970 file photo, Charles Manson followers -- from left, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten -- walk to court to appear for their roles in the 1969 cult killings of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, in Los Angeles.

AP Photo/George Brich

Van Houten has candidly described how she joined several other followers of Manson in killing Los Angeles grocer Leno La Bianca and his wife, Rosemary, in their home on Aug. 9, 1969.

She was not with Manson followers the night before when they killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others during a similar bloody rampage. 

At her parole hearing last year, Van Houten said she helped hold down Rosemary La Bianca while another Manson follower stabbed her repeatedly. She then took up a knife herself and added more than a dozen stab wounds.

"I don't let myself off the hook. I don't find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself," she said.

Since she was incarcerated more than 40 years ago, Van Houten has been a model prisoner and earned college degrees.

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Leslie Van Houten, 19, is escorted by two deputy sheriffs as she leaves the courtroom in Los Angeles, Dec. 19, 1969.

AP

Van Houten was both the youngest and also seemingly the most unlikely member of Manson's so-called family.

She had been a high school homecoming princess, athlete and cheerleader before dropping out of school and joining the rag-tag band of ersatz hippies who considered Manson, a career con man and petty criminal, to be a Christ-like figure.

She has testified that the trauma of her parents' divorce, her teen pregnancy and other problems led her to drop out of school, run away from home, become involved in drugs and eventually join Manson's cult.

In an attempt to bolster her chances for release, Van Houten's attorney put another former Manson follower, Catherine Share, on the witness stand at a court hearing in Los Angeles last week at which she testified Van Houten was so young and impressionable that she was afraid to leave the cult.

"Some people could not leave. I was one of them that could not leave," said Share, who added Manson threatened to have her tortured and killed if she tried.

Share, who didn't take part in the killings, added she believes Van Houten was also afraid to leave. She said she regretted encouraging her to join the cult. 

Members of the Tate and LaBianca families have argued against parole for Manson and his followers who took part in the killings. Manson, 82, remains in prison. One of his followers, Susan Atkins, died in prison in 2009.

Earlier this year, officials denied parole for Manson Family member Patricia Krenwinkel, who recounted in Dec. how she chased down and repeatedly stabbed Abigail Folger, 26, heiress to a coffee fortune, at Tate's home on Aug. 9, 1969, and helped Manson and other followers kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary the following night.