Leslie Van Houten, a member of the infamous "Manson Family" cult, was denied parole yet again on Friday. Van Houten was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder back in 1971, following the cult's 1969 murder spree which left nine dead in total. Now 71 years old, Van Houten has been denied parole four times in four years.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote Van Houten's parole release review, which was obtained by CNN. Newsom wrote that he believes Van Houten "currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at this time." He went on: "Given the extreme nature of the crime in which she was involved, I do not believe she has sufficiently demonstrated that she has come to terms with the totality of the factors that led her to participate in the vicious Manson Family killings."
"Before she can be safely released, Ms. Van Houten must do more to develop her understanding of the factors that caused her to seek acceptance from such a negative, violent influence, and perpetuate extreme acts of wanton violence," Newsom concluded. This was Van Houten's 23rd appeal in total.
Van Houten was one of several women arrested at Manson's commune in 1971, and given life sentences. At the time, the state of California had temporarily banned the death penalty, but if that hadn't been the case the cult members likely would have been sentenced to execution.
Van Houten stands out among the Manson cult members because she was granted a retrial in 1976. Her lawyer disappeared during her initial trial, but this ended up making no difference in Van Houten's case. She was found guilty again in her retrial and received another life sentence, beginning in 1978. Today, she is serving time at the California Institute for Women in Corona.
Van Houten reportedly met Charles Manson when she was 19 years old, fresh out of life as a homecoming princess. She became close to the cult leader, and ended up taking part in the two-day killing spree he led in August of 1969. It was then that Manson and his followers murdered 26-year-old pregnant actress Sharon Tate, along with six others.
Authorities were able to tie Manson and his followers to two more murders, bringing the total up to nine for their convictions. Manson's fanatical belief was that their killing spree would start a race war, to which he affixed some kind of religious or spiritual significance.
Manson himself died in 2017 at the age of 83, while also living in a California state prison. He was serving nine consecutive life sentences.