Leslie Van Houten stabbed Rosemary LaBianca 14 times. Will Manson follower go free?
Leslie Van Houten was a Charles Manson follower who admitted in court testimony to stabbing one of the victims of the “family” 14 times in 1969.
On Thursday, a review board recommended parole for her. A final decision will be made by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Here is a primer on Van Houten from the pages of The Times:
Who is Leslie Van Houten?
A former homecoming queen from Monrovia, Van Houten became involved with the Manson family. Supporters describe her as a misguided teen under the influence of LSD on the night of the killings.
She was involved in the second of the Manson family murders -- the killings of Los Feliz grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their home in 1969.
Van Houten and another woman held down Rosemary LaBianca as Charles “Tex” Watson stabbed Leno LaBianca. After Watson stabbed Rosemary LaBianca, he handed Van Houten a knife. She testified to stabbing the woman at least 14 more times.
“And I took one of the knives, and Patricia had one a knife, and we started stabbing and cutting up the lady,” Van Houten testified in 1971. (Patricia Krenwinkle was a co-defendant and family member).
In chilling detail, Van Houten described the killing of Rosemary LaBianca, who offered anything to have her life spared.
She said she got into a fight with LaBianca, prompting Krenwinkle to collect knives and other utensils from the kitchen. She said LaBianca kept promising not to call the police.
“And it seemed like the more she said police, the more panicked I got,” she testified.
Van Houten went through three trials for her role in the killings. The first led to her conviction and a death sentence, which was overturned on appeal because her lawyer disappeared before the verdict.
The second trial ended with a hung jury, and the third led to her murder conviction and sentence of seven years to life with the possibility of parole.
What has the victims’ family said?
In 1998, the ex-wife of Leno LaBianca spoke out against parole for Van Houten in a letter to the parole board.
“Sympathy, understanding and compassion should be given to the victims of murder and not the killers,” she wrote.
Alice LaBianca wrote that it did not matter that Van Houten had been a model prisoner and that she had said she played a minimal role in the fatal events.
LaBianca’s four children — three of whom live in Orange County, according to a family spokesman — had to grow up without a father, LaBianca, who wrote the book “No More Tomorrows,” wrote in the statement.
“My children ... have had to face the realities of life without the help of their father,” LaBianca wrote.
What has Van Houten said?
At a 2002 parole board hearing, Van Houten said she was “deeply ashamed” of what she had done, adding: “I take very seriously not just the murders, but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson.”
Has she had supporters over the years?
Yes. In 1982, Van Houten’s backers presented the parole board with 900 signatures urging her release. Three years later, she appeared on the cusp of winning parole when the chairman of her hearing panel told her she was “much closer than she might realize” to going home. But her numerous attempts at parole have been rejected.
In the 1990s, a Christian group backed parole for her and fellow Manson family member Susan Atkins.
The group described Van Houten as a “gentle, kind woman who quietly waits for her freedom” and said she was a victim of Manson’s “mind control.”
Alice LaBianca responded to Van Houten’s supporters in the 1998 letter.
“Leslie Van Houten chose her own path,” she wrote. “She chose to follow the instructions of Charles Manson. She chose drug-crazed killers as her family and she became one of them. But what about my family? When do we get our parole? When does Leno get his parole?”
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.