July 22 (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday overturned the parole recommendation of Leslie Van Houten, who as a follower of cult leader Charles Manson, took part in one of the most notorious mass murders of the 20th century.
A two-member panel of California’s Board of Parole Hearings in April recommended parole for Van Houten, 66, who is serving a life sentence for stabbing to death Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their Los Angeles home on Aug. 10, 1969.
Manson, also serving a life sentence, directed Van Houten and his other mostly young, female followers - known as the Manson Family - to murder seven people that month in what prosecutors said was part of a plan to incite a race war between whites and blacks.
“I find the evidence shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison,” Brown wrote in his decision.
Van Houten was found guilty of the LaBianca murders in 1971 and sentenced to death but that conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal. She was retried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1978.
The La Biancas were stabbed to death, after which the killers used their blood to write “Rise,” “Death to Pigs” and “Healter-Skelter,” a misspelled reference to a Beatles song, on the walls and a refrigerator door.
Among the victims of the Manson Family in August of 1969 was actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski. She was stabbed 16 times by cult members.
Four other people were stabbed or shot to death at Tate’s home on Aug. 9, 1969, by Manson’s followers, who scrawled the word “Pig” in blood on the front door before leaving. Van Houten was not involved in the Tate murders.
Manson is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison in California for the seven Tate-LaBianca killings and the murder of another man, Gary Hinman, in July 1969.
Van Houten, who has been incarcerated for 46 years, has “developed greater maturity, independence and responsibility” and has “led a pro-social lifestyle,” Brown noted in his decision. She also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees while in prison, where she has received positive commendations from staff, Brown wrote.
However, Van Houten has said she committed the crime because she was manipulated by Manson and that she was following his orders, claims that were refuted by Brown in his decision.
“Van Houten’s statements give the false impression that she was a victim who was forced into participating in the Family without any way out,” Brown wrote. (Reporting By Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Tom Hogue)