Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family

Leslie Van Houten

Leslie Van Houten
Leslie Van Houten

Leslie Van Houten is currently a prisoner at the California Institution for Women, Frontera.

According to CNN, on June 28, 2002, Van Houten, 52, was denied parole. It was her fourteenth application.

One central issue is that prosecutors claimed that she stabbed Rosemary LaBianca 14-16 times, whereas Van Houten maintains that Rosemary was already dead when the stabbing occurred. Rosemary LaBianca was stabbed 42 times. According to Court TV's John Springer, "after the murders, Van Houten wiped the house clean of fingerprints and changed into a pair of Rosemary LaBianca's shorts. She grabbed cheese and chocolate milk from the couple's refrigerator before the trio hitchhiked back to the ranch where the Manson family lived."

Van Houten told the board, "My heart aches and there seems to be no way to convey the amount of pain I caused. I don't know what else to say."

The parole board suggested that Van Houten needed more therapy "to further understand the enormity of her crime." However, Van Houten's psychiatric evaluations "clearly indicate that she is not a present danger to society and should be found suitable for parole."

Linda Deutsch of Associated Press writes, "Of all the members of Charles Manson's murderous "family," Leslie Van Houten was always seen as the different one — the youngest, the one most vulnerable to Manson's diabolical control."

According to CNN, this latest hearing was supposed to be Van Houten's best chance for winning release because Superior Court Judge Bob Krug said that Van Houten, "has proven to be a model prisoner in the 30 years since her incarceration, completing all available prison programs and assisting other inmates with these programs...She has earned two college degrees and has maintained a clean disciplinary record in prison...she is serving a life sentence without parole, a sentence unauthorized by law."

Deputy District Attorney Stephen Kay was present at the hearing to argue against parole for Van Houten: "This is not a garden-variety murder case and it should not be treated as such. I commend her for her good acts in prison and she appears to be a model prisoner. I think she should spend the rest of her life being a model prisoner. I feel because of what she did, she is not entitled to parole."

Judge Krug stated that it was the despicable nature of the crime that is preventing Van Houten from winning parole and gave the board two months to show evidence of why she should not be paroled and what exactly she must do to win parole.

Angela Smaldino and Louis Smaldino, relatives of the LaBiancas, were present at the hearing to voice their opposition to granting Van Houten parole. Also, some 30 letters were received by the parole board urging that parole be denied.

Christie Webb, Van Houten's lawyer, highlighted the fact that Van Houten was under heavy influence of drugs when the LaBianca murders occurred. "All that LSD changed the chemistry of her brain...I certainly have sympathies for the victims' families. But Leslie and her family are also among Charles Manson's victims. We are talking about one horrible night of violence in her life when she was clearly not in her right mind."

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