CHINO, California — After 19 denials, Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten is a step closer to being free, after a parole board panel recommended her release, a spokesman for the California department of corrections said Thursday.
The full Board of Parole Hearings will review the decision during the next four months, then could send the case to California Gov. Jerry Brown, according to corrections spokesman Luis Patino.
Brown will have 30 days to decide whether to approve or deny the recommendation.
Van Houten and others were convicted for the 1969 murders of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. Van Houten was sentenced to death in 1971 but one year later the death penalty was overturned. Her first conviction was overturned, too, because her lawyer died before that trial ended.
She was tried twice more (one ended in a hung jury) and in 1978 was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1994, Van Houten described her part in the killings in a prison interview with CNN’s Larry King.
“I went in and Mrs. LaBianca was laying on the floor and I stabbed her,” said Van Houten, who was 19 at the time of the murders. “In the lower back, around 16 times.”
Van Houten reportedly has apologized to the LaBianca family.
She was not directly involved in the killings of five people at the home of film director Roman Polanski, near Hollywood. Among the victims that night was Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate.
Van Houten, 66, was convicted of being involved in the conspiracy of those killings and for the murders of the LaBiancas the next night.
She has been described as a model prisoner who worked with other inmates and who earned a college degree.
What happened to the rest of the Manson family
Charles Manson — The 81-year-old remains at a California state prison in Corcoran. He, like Van Houten, had received the death penalty, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Charles “Tex” Watson — He, along with Van Houten, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, murdered the LaBiancas. At age 70, Watson remains at Mule Creek State Prison. He has been denied parole 16 times.
Susan “Sadie” Denise Atkins — She was implicated in the Tate and LaBianca murders. She died in prison in 2009.
Patricia Krenwinkel — She also had her death penalty commuted. The 68-year-old remains at the California Institution for Women. She has been denied parole 13 times.
Bobby Beausoleil — He was convicted of the murder of Gary Hinman. He is serving a life sentence and currently at a Vacaville, California, medical facility.
Bruce Davis — He was convicted of the murders of Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea. He is serving a life sentence and had his parole reversed by Gov. Brown in 2014.
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme — She was convicted in 1975 of pointing a gun at then-President Gerald Ford. She was sentenced to life in prison and was released on parole after serving 34 years in 2009.
Steven “Clem” Grogan — He was released on parole after revealing the location of the body of ranch-hand Donald “Shorty” Shea, who was killed in 1969.