• Manson Disciple Van Houten Denied Parole for 5th Time

Manson Disciple Van Houten Denied Parole for 5th Time

FRONTERA, Calif., May 16 — Former Manson family member Leslie Van Houten, serving a life prison term for the brutal 1969 slayings of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca, was denied parole Wednesday for the fifth time.

However, the chairman of the three-member panel that rejected her request said the release of Van Houten, 35, “is much closer than she might realize,” because of her flawless disciplinary record in prison.

Over the objection of Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Stephen Kay, a prosecutor in each of Van Houten’s three trials, members of the Board of Prison Terms said that Van Houten may renew her parole request next year.

Kay, who strongly opposed parole for Van Houten, had asked the board members to delay a new hearing until 1988.

The panel conducted Wednesday’s hearing at the California Institution for Women, where Van Houten is incarcerated, over the objection of Van Houten’s attorney, Dan Mrotek, who was hired on April 16. He said that he had not had time to read the 5,800-page transcript of Van Houten’s last trial, in 1978, and therefore was not prepared to proceed.

Citing that objection, Mrotek and Van Houten refused to answer questions from board members about her background and time in prison, an action that was lamented by Rudolph Castro, who acted as presiding hearing officer.

“It became a little disconcerting that the prisoner, under advice of counsel, was unable to speak,” Castro said after announcing the panel’s decision.

Mrotek said he will ask the full Board of Prison Terms to reschedule a hearing for Van Houten after he has finished reading the trial transcript. Failing that, Mrotek said, he might take the issue to San Bernardino County Superior Court on grounds that Van Houten’s right to due process of law was violated.

A former Monrovia High School homecoming queen with a reported IQ of 125, Van Houten was convicted at her last trial of murdering the LaBiancas and conspiring to kill actress Sharon Tate and four others who were shot, stabbed and strangled in Tate’s rented Benedict Canyon home on Aug. 9, 1969. The LaBiancas were attacked in their Los Feltz home the next night.

Five people were ultimately convicted of the so-called Manson family killings, including Van Houten and family leader Charles Manson, a wild-eyed ex-convict who, according to trial testimony, conceived of the murder spree as a means of inciting a race war. All five were originally sentenced to death, but their sentences were commuted to life in prison in 1972 when the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty.

Van Houten’s 1971 conviction was overturned five years later on grounds that a mistrial should have been declared after her original attorney disappeared. A second trial in 1977 ended in a hung jury.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Castro said the main reason for denying Van Houten parole was the brutal nature of the Manson killings — crimes, Castro said, “that literally shocked the conscience of society.”

“The prisoner’s willingness to join a marauding group of individuals whose purpose was to commit crimes against society requires continued monitoring of the prisoner, who was involved in one of the most heinous crimes on record,” Castro said.

Moments later, however, Castro suggested that the monitoring will not go on indefinitely. Noting that Van Houten earned a bachelor’s degree in prison, that her disciplinary record is unblemished and that a prison psychiatrist has concluded that Van Houten is no longer suffering from delusions or overwhelming feelings of guilt, Castro said: “If she continues the program in the way it’s been noted, her suitability for parole, the issue of suitability, is much closer than she might realize.”

Outside the hearing room, Kay repeated his belief that Van Houten is the only family member who stands a chance of ever being released.

But he told the board members that she is not ready yet.

“The degree of violence administered with the use of knives on the two murder victims in the sanctity of their own home revealed a callous disregard for human life,” he told the parole board.

Kay added that Van Houten’s 1982 marriage to ex-convict Bill Cymin, which later ended in divorce, is evidence that she continues to be attracted to unstable men who might again lead her to commit crimes.


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One Response to Manson Disciple Van Houten Denied Parole for 5th Time

  1. Joe D says:


    when is sharon tate , and all the others who were killed , those nites paroles come up ???

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