Former Manson follower Leslie Van Houten out of prison after 50 years

Leslie Van Houten in 2017.
(Image credit: Stan Lim / Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool, File)

Leslie Van Houten, a onetime follower of Charles Manson who participated in the 1969 murders of husband and wife Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, was released from a California prison on Tuesday after more than 50 years behind bars.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had denied Van Houten's parole three times, but after being overruled by an appeals court in May, he declined to challenge the decision. In a statement, his office said Newsom is "disappointed" by Van Houten's release.

The LaBiancas were murdered inside their Los Angeles home by Van Houten, then 19, and several other members of the Manson Family. The killings took place one day after Manson followers murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others at her Los Angeles property. Van Houten was originally sentenced to death, but when capital punishment was ruled unconstitutional in California in 1972, her sentence was commuted to life in prison. A third trial was held after her case was overturned on appeal, and Van Houten was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

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Rich Pfeiffer, one of Van Houten's attorneys, said it has been "a long battle" to get Van Houten out of prison, and "it's been emotional for her at times. All of these hearings have been hard." His client earned a master's degree in humanities while incarcerated, and has received job offers. "She'll do just fine," Pfeiffer said, adding that Van Houten has the support of relatives and friends.

Van Houten has not made a public statement and has no intention of doing so, Pfeiffer said, as she is "afraid if she says anything, it'll offend the victims. She has respect for them."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.