California governor won't free Manson follower Van Houten

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom overruled a parole board's decision to free Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten on Monday, marking the third time a governor has stopped the release of the youngest member of Manson's murderous cult.

Van Houten, 69, is still a threat, Newsom said, though she has spent nearly half a century behind bars and received reports of good behavior and testimonials about her rehabilitation.

"While I commend Ms. Van Houten for her efforts at rehabilitation and acknowledge her youth at the time of the crimes, I am concerned about her role in these killings and her potential for future violence," he wrote in his decision. "Ms. Van Houten was an eager participant in the killing of the LaBiancas and played a significant role."

Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members stabbed to death wealthy Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in August 1969. She said they carved up Leno LaBianca's body and smeared the couple's blood on the walls.

The slayings came the day after other Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in violence that spread fear throughout Los Angeles and riveted the nation.

No one who took part in the Tate-LaBianca murders has been released from prison. It was the first time Newsom rejected parole for Van Houten, while former Gov. Jerry Brown denied her release twice.

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Leslie Van Houten through the years
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Leslie Van Houten through the years
FILE - This March 29, 1971, file photo shows Leslie Van Houten in a Los Angeles lockup. The youngest follower of murderous cult leader Charles Manson will ask a state panel to recommend her for parole. Van Houten, who is now 69, is scheduled for a parole hearing Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019 at the California Institute for Women. Van Houten was previously recommended for parole twice by a state panel but former California Gov. Jerry Brown blocked her release. (AP Photo, File)
Charles Manson followers, from left: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, shown walking to court in Los Angeles, Calif., Aug. 20, 1970., to appear for their roles in the 1969 cult killings of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate. (AP Photo/George Brich)
Leslie Van Houten, looking despondent, peers through the window of the sheriff's car taking her back to jail in Los Angeles after a judge declared a mistrial on her retrial of murder charges in the 1969 deaths of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, Aug. 6, 1977. The jury reportedly was split even for first degree murder charges and five favoring manslaughter. (AP Photo/Jeff Robbins)
Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten is led to the courtroom in Los Angeles in which a jury found her guilty again of first degree murder and conspiracy in the 1969 Tate LaBianca killings, July 6, 1978. It was the third time Van Houten had been tried for the murders. The man with Miss Van Houten is unidentified. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Leslie Van Houten, a Charles Manson follower, sits in court during her parole hearing at the California Institution for Women at Frontera, Calif., May 22, 1986. The hearing was abruptly recessed and no decision was made after parole board members conceded they had failed to give her attorney adequate notice that the hearing was to take place. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
Leslie Van Houten reacts to hearing that the three-member parole panel had denied her seventh bid for parole in Frontera, Calif., July 30, 1987. Ms. Van Houten, the homecoming princess who killed for Charles Manson, was also told that the parole board would not consider her for release again for three years. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
CORONA, CA - JUNE 28: Sheron Lawin (L), a member of the Board of Prison Terms commissioners, listens to Leslie Van Houten (R), after her parole was denied 28 June 2002 at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. Van Houten, 53, has served over 30 years in prison for her involvement in the Tate-LaBianca killings. Van Houten's attorney Christie Webb is at center. (Photo credit should read DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AFP/Getty Images)
Leslie Van Houten headshot, convicted in Tate-LaBianca murders, at parole hearing, photo
CORONA, CA - JUNE 28: Leslie Van Houten expresses remorse in the killings of the LaBianca couple to members of the Board of Prison Terms commissioners during her parole hearing 28 June 2002 at the California Institution for Women in Corona, Califonia. Van Houten, 52, who has served over 30 years in prison for her involvement in the Tate-La Bianca killings, was denied parole. (Photo credit should read DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AFP/Getty Images)
CORONA, CA - JUNE 28: Former district attorney Stephen Kay shows how Leslie Van Houten held a knife as he addresses members of the Board of Prison Terms commissioners during a parole hearing 28 June 2002, at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. Van Houten was convicted for her role in the Manson family's 1969 murders of Leno LaBianca, a wealthy grocery store owner, and his wife, Rosemary. At right is Angela Smaldino, niece of the La Bianca couple. Prosecutors said Van Houten stabbed Rosemary between 14-16 times in the back, although Van Houten has maintained Rosemary was already dead when she began stabbing her. Van Houten was denied parole by the board. (Photo credit should read DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AFP/Getty Images)
Leslie Van Houten reacts after she was denied parole in Corona, California, June 28, 2002. A California state parole board said Van Houten, 52, who has spent 30 years in prison for one of the most shocking killing sprees in U.S. history, should not be paroled because of the "calculated pre-planned manner" of her crime, her history of drug abuse when a teenager, and a tendency to form "destructive relationships. REUTERS/Damian Dovarganes/POOL DD/SV
Leslie Van Houten waits for the start of her parole board hearing at the California Institution for Women in Corona, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Van Houten, the youngest of Charles Manson's murderous followers, was granted parole by a California board Wednesday. (Stan Lim/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool)
FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2017 file photo Leslie Van Houten reacts after hearing she is eligible for parole during a hearing at the California Institution for Women in Corona, Calif. Charles Manson follower Van Houten is getting another chance at getting out of prison. Van Houten’s attorney will argue that she deserves to be paroled at a hearing before California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. The 69-year-old Van Houten is not expected in court herself. (Stan Lim/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool, File)
Leslie Van Houten appears during her parole hearing Wednesday June 5, 2013, at the California Institution for Women in Chino, Calif. Houten was denied parole. A California panel rejected Van Houten's bid for release from state prison Wednesday at her 20th parole hearing. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten confers with her attorney Rich Pfeiffer, not shown, during a break from her hearing before the California Board of Parole Hearings at the California Institution for Women in Chino, Calif., Thursday, April 14, 2016. A California panel recommended parole Thursday for former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten more than four decades after she and other cult members went to prison for the notorious killings of a wealthy grocer and his wife. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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"Nobody wants to put their name on her release, but when they're speaking honestly or off the record, everyone wants her to go home," said Van Houten's attorney, Rich Pfeiffer.

Newsom is "going to have more political aspirations that go well beyond the state of California, and he doesn't want this tagging behind him," he added. "Not a surprise. I would have been shocked if he would have said 'Go home.'"

Earlier this year, Newsom reversed a parole recommendation to free Manson follower Robert Beausoleil for an unrelated murder. Beausoleil was convicted of killing musician Gary Hinman.

Newsom's decision on Van Houten outlined her participation in graphic detail, noting that after the killings, she "drank chocolate milk from the LaBiancas' refrigerator" before fleeing.

"The gruesome crimes perpetuated by Ms. Van Houten and other Manson Family members in an attempt to incite social chaos continue to inspire fear to this day," Newsom wrote.

Van Houten is still minimizing her responsibility and Manson's "violent and controlling actions," he said, and she continues to lack insight into her reasons for participating.

Van Houten's lawyer said in January after her latest release recommendation that the parole board found she had taken full responsibility for her role in the killings.

"She chose to go with Manson," Pfeiffer said. "She chose to listen to him. And she acknowledges that."

Van Houten has described a troubled childhood that led her to use drugs and hang around with outcasts. When she was 17, she and a boyfriend ran away to San Francisco during the so-called Summer of Love in 1967.

She later encountered Manson while traveling the coast. Manson had holed up with his "family" at an abandoned movie ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles when he launched a plan to spark a race war by committing a series of random, terrifying murders.

Brown rejected parole for Van Houten in 2017 because he said she still blamed the cult leader too much for the murders. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge upheld Brown's decision last year, finding that Van Houten posed "an unreasonable risk of danger to society."

An appeals court will decide whether to uphold or reject that ruling by the end of July.

"No governor's ever going to let her out," said Pfeiffer, Van Houten's attorney who's pinning his hopes on the appeals court. "They are bound by law to enforce the law independently. They have to do it whether or not it's popular with the public ... and the law is that she should be released."

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Charles Manson and the Manson family cult
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Charles Manson and the Manson family cult

Photo of Charles Manson

(Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Bruce Davis is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. California Governor Jerry Brown denied parole on March 1, 2013, for a member of the Manson Family cult who was sentenced to life in prison for two murders in the 1970s, saying that he remained a danger to the public. In rejecting parole for Davis, who is now 70, Brown reversed the decision of a state parole board that had found him eligible for release after his 27th parole hearing last October.

(REUTERS/California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Handout)

Charles Manson is escorted to court for preliminary hearing on December 3, 1969 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by John Malmin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Here's Charles Manson and his 26-year old girlfriend, who he just got a license to marry: http://t.co/tmLhvgqnlO http://t.co/NU9UuBNz2a

In this handout photo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Charles Manson, 74, poses for a photo on March 18, 2009 at Corcoran State Prison, California. Manson is serving a life sentence for conspiring to murder seven people during the 'Manson family' killings in 1969. The picture was taken as a regular update of the prison's files.

(California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images)

The three female defendants in the Tate/LaBianca murder trial leave the Los Angeles courtroom after being convicted of first degree murder, 25th January 1971. From left to right, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten were found guilty of the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six other people, in collaboration with Charles Manson. (Photo by Bride Lane Library/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Charles Manson who led a cult that committed murders in Los Angeles in the sixties is clean shaven in closeup photo.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Charles Manson talks during an interview August 25, 1989.

(STR New/Reuters)

The three female members of Charles Manson's 'family' ham it up for photographers through the window of the sheriff's van as they arrive at the courthouse to continue the murder trial in the Tate-LaBianca case. Patricia Krenwinkle (left) makes a face as Leslie Van Houten and Susan Atkins (right) smile. August 5, 1970.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Charles Manson clowns around as he is led to his cell upon the conclusion of his exclusive interview with Reuters August 25, 1989.

(STR New/Reuters)

Steve Grogan (left) and Bruce Davis (right), defendants in the murder of movie stunt man, Donald (Shorty) Shea are taken into court December 23. Davis, along with Charles Manson (not present) was accused of both the Gary Hinman and Shea murders, while Grogan was a defendant in the Shea case only. Grogan was later paroled, the only member of the 'Manson Family' to be paroled from a murder conviction.

Pittsburg Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht, MD, JD. is seen in this photo taken January 22, 1998. Dr. Wecht is a nationally-known forensic pathologist who is often consulted on high-profile murder cases such as the John F. Kennedy assassination, O.J. Simpson case, Jon Benet Ramsey and the Helter Skelter murders of Charles Manson. The first non-governmental forensic pathologist to be granted access to autopsy materials in the 1963 Kennedy assassination, he said there was not enough information to challenge the Warren Commission's conclusion that a lone gunman killed the president and that investigators failed to find all those responsible for the killing.

(STR New / Reuters)

Charles Manson is led to court on March 29, 1971.

(Photo by Rick Browne/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Leslie Louis Van Houghten, (yellow dress), is taken by policewomen to a jail cell in the Hall of Justice, after she and two other girls waive arraignment on murder charges in connection with the Tate-LaBianca slayings. The three allegedly were members of a hippie cult led by Charles Manson.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Charles Manson on his way to court in 1970.

(Photo by Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Leslie Van Houten listens during her parole hearing in Corona, California, June 28, 2002. Los Angeles' top prosecutor on June 28, 2016, urged California Governor Jerry Brown to keep former Charles Manson follower Van Houten behind bars, despite the recommendation of a parole board that she be released.

(REUTERS/DamianDovarganes/POOL)

Charles Manson prior to his appearance in Dept. 106 on March 6, 1970 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by Frank Q. Brown/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

One of many historic photos that is part of L.A.'s longest mural, depicting 150 years of history in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Building a.k.a. the Criminal Courts Building, Wednesday afternoon in downtown L.A. The mural covers 2,300 square feet, 18 walls, two floors and has 625 images. This is a photo of Charles Manson as he's escorted back to his cell after his arraignment.

(Photo by Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A trio of suspects in the Sharon Tate murder case sing as they march to court for a hearing. Left to right: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten march abreast along a corridor toward the courtroom where Judge William Keene set April 20th as the date for their trial with fellow suspect, Charles Manson.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Charles 'Tex' Watson. Watson was convicted of murder for his part in the killings of Sharon Tate and others while a member of the 'Manson Family'

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Three days before he ran away from Boy's Town, Charles Manson poses in a suit and tie.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

(Original Caption) Bruce Davis, the Manson Family 'X' carved in his forehead, walks with his attorney Daye Shinn (right) after he surrendered himself to authorities outside the Hall of Justice. Davis is under indictment by the Grand Jury for the 1969 murder of Gary Hinman.

A TV picture of American musician, cult leader and murderer Charles Manson, September 1975. The image was broadcast around the time that Manson acolyte Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme was arrested after an attempt to kill US President Gerald Ford.

(Ernst Haas/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Charles Manson as an adolescent. He would later become infamous for attempted to foment social chaos by murdering prominent celebrities.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Accused murderer being led to and from court house in Inyo County, California. He is Charles Miller Manson, aged 34 years. 

(Photo by Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Accused murderer being led to and from court house in Inyo County, California. He is Charles Miller Manson, aged 34 years.

(Photo by WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Charles Manson sits in the courtroom during his murder trial in 1970 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

American actress Sharon Tate, on her wedding day to film director Roman Polanski. She was murdered by Charles Manson in California, 1969.

(Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Charles Manson, accused leader of a hippie cult charged with the Tate-LaBianca murders, is heavily guarded as he leaves the Hall of Justice following arraignment December 11th. He is shown being taken to a police van for removal to a jail cell and peering through the barred windows of the police van. Bearded, short of stature, he is wearing a fringed buckskin outfit.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Polish film director Roman Polanski with his wife actress Sharon Tate in London. Sharon Tate was murdered in 1969 by Charles Manson and his followers.

(Photo by Hulton-Deutsch/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)

Charles Manson, convicted hippie leader, is sullen as he is led back into the courtroom to hear the penalty he and this three female followers must pay for the Tate-LaBianca murders of August 1969. Manson and his followers, Denise Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten were decreed the gas chamber by the jury following a nine month trial.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

A portrait of American criminal Charles Manson. 1970s

(Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Susan Atkins testified before the Los Angeles Grand Jury in December 1969, which indicted five individuals, including Atkins, and Charles Manson for the Tate-LaBianca killings.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

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Manson and his followers were sentenced to death in 1971, though those punishments were commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972. Van Houten's case was overturned on appeal and she was later convicted and sentenced to seven years to life in prison.

Tate's sister, Debra Tate, has routinely shown up to parole and court hearings to oppose the release of any Manson follower. Even though Van Houten didn't take part in her sister's murder, Tate said she didn't deserve release under any circumstances.

Supporters of Van Houten said she had been a model prisoner who mentored dozens of inmates and helped them come to terms with their crimes.

Manson died in 2017 of natural causes at a California hospital while serving a life sentence.

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