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Leslie Van Houten Released 50 Years Since Killings

After serving 50 years of a life sentence for her involvement in two murders, Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten was released from a California prison Tuesday to parole supervision, said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Her attorney, Nancy Tetreault, said she left the California Institution for Women in Corona and was driven to transitional housing. "She’s still trying to get used to the idea that this is real," Tetreault said. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would not fight a state appeals court ruling that Van Houten should be granted parole, Scripps News reports. He said it was unlikely the state Supreme Court would consider an appeal. She is expected to spend about a year at a halfway house, learning basic skills such as how to drive a car, go to the grocery store, and get a debit card. "She has to learn to use the internet. She has to learn to buy things without cash," Tetreault said. "It's a very different world than when she went in." Van Houten, who will likely be on parole for about three years, hopes to get a job as soon as possible. She earned a bachelor's and a master's degree while in prison and worked as a tutor for other incarcerated people.

Van Houten, now in her 70s, received a life sentence for helping Manson's followers carry out the August 1969 killings of Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife, Rosemary. The LaBiancas were killed in their home, and their blood was smeared on the walls afterward. Van Houten later described holding Rosemary LaBianca down with a pillowcase over her head as others stabbed her before she stabbed the woman more than a dozen times as well. The killings happened the day after Manson followers killed actress Sharon Tate and four others. Van Houten, who was 19, did not participate in the Tate killings. After being found suitable for parole in 2020, her release was blocked by Newsom, who maintained she was still a threat to society. She filed an appeal with a trial court, which rejected it. The Second District Court of Appeal in May reversed the earlier decision by Newsom. She had been recommended for parole five times since 2016 and all of those recommendations were rejected by either Newsom or former Gov. Jerry Brown. Newsom was disappointed by the appeals court decision, "More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal killings, the victims' families still feel the impact," the governor’s office said.

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