Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten released from prison after 53 years

Van Houten was 19 when she participated in two murders in August 1969.

July 11, 2023, 8:05 PM

Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten was released from prison on Tuesday after serving 53 years behind bars, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

According to her attorney, Van Houten is now in a "transitional living facility."

She was released to parole supervision and "will have a three-year maximum parole term with a parole discharge review occurring after one year," the department said.

Her release comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that he wouldn't ask the state's Supreme Court to block her parole.

"Governor Newsom reversed Ms. Van Houten's parole grant three times since taking office and defended against her challenges of those decisions in court," Erin Mellon, communications director for the Office of the Governor, said Tuesday.

Mellon continued, "The Governor is disappointed by the Court of Appeal's decision to release Ms. Van Houten but will not pursue further action as efforts to further appeal are unlikely to succeed. The California Supreme Court accepts appeals in very few cases, and generally does not select cases based on this type of fact-specific determination."

Van Houten was 19 when she participated in the Aug. 10, 1969, murders of Leno LaBianca, a wealthy grocer, and his wife, Rosemary LaBianca, at their Los Angeles home. The LaBiancas were both stabbed to death and the word "war" was carved on Leno LaBianca's stomach.

Leslie Van Houten attends her parole hearing at the California Institution for Women Sept. 6, 2017 in Corona, Calif.
Stan Lim/AP, FILE

Van Houten told ABC News in 1994 that she and another Manson follower took Rosemary LaBianca into a bedroom and "the sounds of Mr. LaBianca dying came into the bedroom -- horrible, guttural sounds. She started calling out to him and yelling for him. And at that moment, for a brief moment, I realized, you know, these are people that love each other."

She said Manson follower Charles "Tex" Watson handed her a knife.

"He said, 'Do something,' because Manson had told him to make sure that all of us got our hands dirty," Van Houten said. "And I stabbed Mrs. LaBianca in the lower back about 16 times."

Charles Manson speaks with reporters as he is escorted by a deputy sheriff and his lawyer, Irving Kanarek, from a Santa Monica courthouse following a hearing in the Gary Hinman murder case.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images, FILE

Van Houten did not participate in the "Manson family" murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others, who were killed at another Los Angeles home one night earlier.

While Manson didn't commit the killings himself, he commanded his followers to do so. Manson died in prison in 2017.

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