The sister of Sharon Tate, the actress murdered by followers of Charles Manson during a brutal two-day rampage across Los Angeles in 1969, had hoped to see California Gov. Jerry Brown in person on Monday.
“Let him look into our eyes, feel our pain,” Debra Tate said as she stood in the hallway outside Brown’s office in the state Capitol.
Instead, Tate met with two top Brown aides and left them with copies of an online petition signed by some 139,000 people that urges the governor to deny parole to a former member of the Manson cult, Leslie Van Houten.
“This is not a person we want out,” Tate said as she shepherded a group that traveled to Sacramento toting three boxes of signatures — a small group that included family members of victims Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
Let him look into our eyes, feel our pain.
Van Houten, 66, was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Rosemary LaBianca. A state review board recommended her for parole in April. She had petitioned for parole 19 times prior to that decision.
In all, seven people were killed over the course of two August nights almost 47 years ago. Van Houten was not implicated in the murder of Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of film director Roman Polanski, but did enter LaBianca’s Los Feliz home the following night.
Five people were convicted in the Tate-LaBianca killings, part of Manson’s infamous promise to incite a race war that he said was inspired by The Beatles’ song, “Helter Skelter.”
“These are serial killers,” Debra Tate, 63, said in an interview as she waited to walk into the Capitol. “These are, as far as I know, the original domestic terrorists.”
Brown has until mid-September to either accept or reject the parole board’s recommendation, and others also have urged him to keep Van Houten behind bars.
Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the case file had not yet arrived in Brown’s office. “Every case is reviewed carefully on its own merits,” she told The Times in an email.
The families of the Manson group’s victims have become forever linked in their quest to ensure that none of the men and women are ever released from prison. Tony LaMontagne, a grandson of the LaBiancas, said the murders resemble the feeling of “having a wound, and keep tearing off the Band-Aid before it ever heals.”
“Ever since I was a little kid,” said the 42-year old LaMontagne as he carried a large box of petitions into the Capitol, “my memories of my grandfather are this.”
Family members said the signatures protesting Van Houten’s parole were gathered over weeks through the online petition site Change.org.
Van Houten, 66, was originally sentenced to death along with Manson and three others. When the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972, their sentences were commuted to life in prison. Van Houten has told parole board officials through the years that she was ashamed of what happened and that she doesn’t shirk her responsibility.
But Tate said on Monday that none of the convicted Manson group killers has ever expressed remorse to the family members of the victims.
Two others convicted in the LaBianca murders, Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel, have both been previously denied parole several times. Manson, now 81, remains in prison. One member of his group, Susan Atkins, died in prison in 2009.
Tate briefly made her case in person to two of the governor’s legal affairs aides. She said she hopes Brown will again look past existing policies for releasing older prisoners who have maintained clean records behind bars.
“He’s had a long, long political career,” Tate said of the governor. “And it would just be a horrible note of legacy to go out on.”