To Free or Not to Free – That is the Question

***UPDATE*** – Looks like the parole board has approved her request for parole.

In the court room today, during her 21st parole board hearing, former Manson girl, Leslie Van Houten, described in graphic detail about how she held a pillow over the head of  Rosemary La Bianca and tied it with a lamp cord  while Tex Watson stabbed her to death in the summer of 1969. Then, after being pressured by another girl that was there, Leslie stabbed the dead body about a dozen times.

“I don’t let myself off the hook. I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself,” she said.

The request for parole still has to go through the governor, but as of now, Leslie Van Houten is one step closer to freedom.

After Bruce Davis was approved by the parole board last year, Governor Jerry Brown rejected his parole, stating that the “horror of the murders committed by the Manson Family in 1969 and the fear they instilled in the public will never be forgotten”, so it seems unlikely that he would approve Leslie’s parole either.  However – at this point, we just have to wait and see.


We all know about the horrific killings that took place at the hands of the Manson Family back in the summer of 1969.  They are considered to be the most famous murders in America’s history, so how could we not know?  We know that Charles Manson had a cult of both women and men, and even though he did not participate in the killings himself, he sent his minions out to do his dirty work for him.  These murders happened almost 50 years ago, so why are we talking about it today?

LeslieVH 2


Meet Leslie Van Houten, the youngest member of the Manson Family.  A former Homecoming Queen, Leslie was just 19 years old when she (along with several other Family members) broke into the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.  Leslie held Rosemary down, while Tex Watson killed her husband.  Then, after Tex killed Rosemary too, Leslie stabbed her dead body several times.

Originally, Leslie was convicted and sentenced to death, making her the youngest woman to ever be sentenced to death in the state of California.  This conviction was eventually overturned on appeal, and after she was retried, Leslie was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, which brings us here.

image via ABC7

Today – April 14th, 2016 – Leslie Van Houten is up for parole, again.  Will she get it?  Who knows…probably not.  I can’t imagine anyone ever letting a member of the Manson Family go free.  Patricia Krenwinkel and Tex Watson have been denied several times, and Susan Atkins died in prison in 2009.  Last summer, a parole board actually recommended parole for former Manson Family member Bruce Davis, but his release was blocked by the Governor.

Leslie’s followers and her attorneys say that she is the least to blame for the murders, having not actually killed anyone herself.  Since she has been in prison, she has been a model citizen and has a spotless prison record.  She’s earned two college degrees and she spends her time helping others.  She teaches the illiterate how to read, records audiobooks for the blind, and makes bedding for the homeless.  She has taken responsibility for what she did and she looks back on the murders with shame and guilt.  Her attorneys say that she has served her time and she should be freed.

“The only violent thing she has ever done in her entire life was this crime and that was under the control of Charles Manson,” her attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, has said. “She is just not a public safety risk, and when you are not a public safety risk, the law says you shall be released.”

But should she?

She may not have been directly responsible for killing the LaBiancas, but she did restrain Rosemary LaBianca while Tex Watson killed her and her husband.  She claims that she never would have done this if she hadn’t been on LSD, and that may be true.  However, if she is forgiven for committing crimes while she was on drugs, then an argument can be made for anyone who has ever killed someone while they were high.  No, she didn’t kill them herself – but then again, neither did Charles Manson.

Image via California Department of Corrections

If ANY of the Manson Family members were to ever be released, it would probably be her.  In all honesty, she probably isn’t a threat to society.  If she were to be released, she probably wouldn’t go on to commit another crime, much less a murder.  Is the parole board making a statement and using her as an example if they say no?  Maybe.  If these were simply just some random killings and not a part of the most famous murder spree in American history, they may be more likely to say yes and give her the freedom she thinks she deserves.

So, what do you think?  To free, or not to free?  That is the question, and my vote is no.


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