California governor Jerry Brown has denied former Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten parole, even though the Board of Parole Hearings recommended her release earlier in the year.
In his decision, Brown explained, “Both [Van Houten’s] role in these extraordinarily brutal crimes and her inability to explain her willing participation in such horrific violence cannot be overlooked and lead me to believe she remains an unreasonable risk to society if released.” Brown’s ruling marked the 20th time Van Houten’s parole has been denied, BBC reports.
Van Houten, the youngest convicted member of the Manson Family as she was 19 when the group orchestrated the Tate-LaBianca murders in August 1969, has admitted to stabbing Rosemary LaBianca, although Van Houten argued in court that she stabbed LaBianca only after she was already dead.
Relatives of both Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas lobbied against Van Houten’s release in recent years, and a petition asking for Brown to reject the latest parole reached 140,000 signatures. Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey also “strongly” opposed Van Houten’s release.
“She clearly lacks insight, genuine remorse, and an understanding of the magnitude of her crimes,” Lacey wrote in June, adding that Van Houten still maintained “a disturbingly distorted view of Charles Manson,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Lacey also accused Van Houten of manipulating the parole board by having a longtime friend submit a psychological assessment on her behalf.
Ultimately, Brown elected Friday to deny Van Houten’s parole, writing “it remains unclear how and why Van Houten drastically transformed from an exceptionally smart, driven young woman, class secretary and homecoming princess, to a member of one of the most notorious cults in history.”
Van Houten was initially sentenced to death in 1971 for her role in the Tate-LaBianca murders, but that sentence was overturned to life imprisonment the following year. Her first conviction was later overturned after her lawyer disappeared during the trial. She was tried two more times for the murders: The first trial ended in a hung jury, the second, in 1978, ended with a guilty verdict and a sentence of life in prison.
Three other members of the Manson Family were charged in the Tate-LaBianca murders: Susan “Sadie” Atkins died behind bars in 2009, while both Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson remain in prison after having their paroles denied. Charles Manson, now 81, is also serving a life sentence.