Charles Manson follower denied parole again

Leslie Van Houten, then aged 19, was one of a trio of Charles Manson followers who broke into the home of Leo and Rosemary La Bianca. She stabbed the latter 16 times

Los Angeles (AFP) - California's governor has blocked the release of Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, marking the fourth time a governor has reversed parole for the notorious cult murderer.

Governor Gavin Newsom said Van Houten, 71, would still pose a danger to society if released after more than five decades behind bars, citing her lack of "insight or candor" into her role in the gruesome 1969 slaying of a Los Angeles couple.

"Given the extreme nature of the crime in which she was involved, I do not believe she has sufficiently demonstrated that she has come to terms with the totality of the factors that led her to participate in the vicious Manson family killings," Newsom wrote.

The decision came after a parole board in July approved the release of Van Houten, who is serving a life sentence.

At the age of 19, she was among a trio of Manson followers who broke into the home of Leo and Rosemary LaBianca. Van Houten stabbed the latter 16 times.

She was accompanied in the crime by Charles Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel, who the previous night had stabbed to death actress Sharon Tate and four others, in one of the 20th century's most notorious massacres -- directed by Manson.

At the LaBianca crime scene, the phrases "Death to Pigs" and "Rise" were smeared in victims' blood on the walls and refrigerator, while "War" was scratched into Leo LaBianca's stomach -- all references to Manson's crazed "Helter Skelter" agenda to trigger a race war.

In his decision published Friday, Newsom acknowledged Van Houten's youth at the time of the murders, and her exemplary disciplinary record in prison.

But Newsom noted Van Houten had changed her account of the murders at her 2020 parole hearings, describing the stabbing as a "horrible, predatory feeling" despite previously calling her involvement "fun."

He also noted her prior history of violence and substance abuse.

"When considered as a whole, I find the evidence shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at this time," wrote Newsom.

Van Houten had been approved for parole three times previously. Newsom reversed an earlier decision, and previous governor Jerry Brown did so twice.

Van Houten's lawyer said he planned to appeal Newsom's decision.

An online petition launched by Tate's sister to oppose the release of Van Houten has garnered 170,000 signatures. 

Manson died behind bars in 2017.

© Agence France-Presse