Manson follower Van Houten recommended for parole for fifth time

A California probation commission Tuesday recommended the release of convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten, who was a follower of the late cult leader Charles Manson.

It marks the fifth time since 2016 that the 72-year-old has been recommended for parole, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

The previous recommendations were rejected by former Governor Jerry Brown and current administration Gavin Newsom.

Van Houten is serving a life sentence for her role in two consecutive days of violence perpetrated by the followers of the Manson cult in August 1969.

She was convicted of two counts of first degree murder for the fatal stabbings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, and of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Parent and Jay Sebring.

Van Houten was 19 at the time.

She was sentenced to death in 1971, but the conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal and she was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

Van Houten has said she was traveling along the California coast when she interacted with Manson’s mob and ended up squatting on an abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Manson, who died in 2017 while serving a life sentence, organized a “family” of followers to survive a race war he believed was coming. Part of his response to the impending imaginary war was to commit a series of random murders in the Los Angeles area.

Van Houten’s lawyer Rich Pfeiffer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He told the Associated Press that concerns raised by previous rejections of the board’s recommendations have been appropriately addressed. Still, he said, he believes political expediency will mean that this pursuit of freedom will also be reversed.

Tuesday’s recommendation will be followed by a 150-day review process that is likely to land on Newsom’s desk.

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