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Charles Manson follower seeks freedom, more than 40 years after LaBianca murders

July 6, 2010 |  8:01 am

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/images/2008/10/30/vanhouten.jpgLeslie Van Houten will ask before a parole board on Tuesday to be released from prison -- four decades after being convicted in the Manson murders.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/photos/uncategorized/2009/03/18/charles_manson1968_2009_2.jpgVan Houten, 60, was convicted in the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their home in Los Feliz. She has sought parole more than a dozen times -- and has always been rejected.

Leslie Van Houten, a former homecoming princess from Monrovia, became alienated from her family as a teenager and said she was introduced to Manson by a boyfriend. She said she came to view Manson as Jesus Christ and believed in his bizarre plan to commit murders and blame African Americans in hopes of sparking a race war.

"I'm deeply ashamed of it," she told a parole board in 2002. "I take very seriously not just the murders but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson."

Van Houten has been characterized by supporters as the least culpable member of the so-called Manson family. She did not take part in the Aug. 9, 1969, killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others at Tate's rented Benedict Canyon home.

Leslie Van HoutenShe did, however, willingly join Manson and others the following night when they invaded the LaBianca home, chosen at random. She held down Rosemary LaBianca while she was stabbed by an accomplice and, when told to "do something" by cohort Charles "Tex" Watson, she stabbed the woman about two dozen times in the back.

Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Stephen Kay told a parole board in 2002 that such "vicious" acts make parole for Van Houten at any time unwise. Kay, who took part in four of the Manson trials, has attended all 58 parole hearings for each of the five imprisoned murderers.

-- Shelby Grad

Photos, from top: Charles Manson, then and now. Credits: Los Angeles Times / State of California.  Leslie Van Houten at her 2002 parole hearing. Credit: Los Angeles Times. From left, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten enter court on Feb. 11. 1971, during the penalty phase of their trial. Credit: Associated Press