Ex-Charles Manson Follower Must Get Past Governor to See Freedom

(CHINO, Calif.) — Getting the approval of a parole panel was the easy part for Leslie Van Houten, the youngest of Charles Manson’s murderous followers.

Between her and her release stands a governor who has shown zero willingness to allow anyone involved in the Manson killings to go free.

Van Houten, now 68, was found suitable for parole by the two-person state panel after a hearing on Wednesday.

Now, she must still be approved by the state Parole Board, which is likely, but then must hope Gov. Jerry Brown won’t block her release as he did last year.

In blocking her release then, as he has with several would-be parolees from the Manson “family,” Brown said Van Houten had failed to adequately explain to the panel how a model teenager from a privileged Southern California family who had once been a homecoming princess could have turned into a ruthless killer by age 19.

On Wednesday, the panel grilled her for two hours on how she could address those concerns.

“I’ve had a lot of therapy trying to answer that question myself,” she said.

“To tell you the truth, the older I get the harder it is to deal with all of this, to know what I did, how it happened,” added Van Houten, now a frail-looking 68-year-old who appeared before the panel on crutches, her gray hair pulled back in a bun.

Her attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said after the hearing that he believes Van Houten addressed the concerns the governor had when he denied her parole last year.

“My hope is he’s going to follow the law and let his commissioners do their job,” he said.

He added his client was relieved by Wednesday’s ruling, adding he believes she will be released eventually.

“I’m getting her out of here. That’s not an issue. The question is when,” he said.

No one who took part in the Manson clan’s two-night killing rampage has been released from prison so far.

Van Houten told the panelists she was devastated when her parents divorced when she was 14. Soon after, she said, she began hanging out with her school’s outcast crowd in the Los Angeles suburb of Monrovia. She started smoking marijuana and graduated to LSD at 15. When she was 17, she and her boyfriend ran away to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District during San Francisco’s summer of love.

When they returned, she said, she discovered she was pregnant. When her mother found out, she ordered her to have an abortion and bury her fetus in their backyard.

Soon after, she was traveling up and down the California coast,…

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