Leslie Van Houten, once part of the “Manson family” cult, has been released on parole after 53 years in prison in the United States, her lawyer said.
Her release on Tuesday had been expected after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that he would give up trying to deny parole for Van Houten, 73, who was serving a life sentence.
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In May, a California appeals court overruled Newsom and found Van Houten was entitled to parole.
The governor could have petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the case but opted against that because “efforts to further appeal are unlikely to succeed”, a spokesperson said.
Van Houten is the first from the Manson family to receive parole, her lawyer Nancy Tetreault said. Led by Charles Manson, the “family” carried out a killing spree that terrorised Los Angeles in August 1969, resulting in seven murders.
Tetreault told US media that Van Houten left a prison in the southern California town of Corona on Tuesday and moved into a halfway house in a confidential location where she will stay for a year.
“She was a model prisoner from the day she entered prison,” Tetreault said. “She’s been involved in therapy for 40 years. She just she’s really a different person.”
Van Houten was 19 when the murders were committed, making her the youngest of Manson’s devotees.
The parole board recommended Van Houten for early release five times since 2016, but she was denied three times by Newsom and twice by his predecessor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown.
Manson died in prison in 2017 at age 83, having become one of the 20th century’s most notorious criminals. He directed his mostly young and female followers to murder seven people, including actress Sharon Tate, in what prosecutors said was part of a plan to incite a race war.
Van Houten was convicted of fatally stabbing grocery store owner Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in their Los Angeles home on August 10, 1969. The words “Death to Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” — a misspelt reference to a Beatles song — were found scrawled in the victims’ blood on the walls and refrigerator.
The previous night, members of Manson’s cult broke into the Los Angeles hillside home that Tate shared with her husband, filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was away in Europe at the time.
Tate, who was 26 and eight months pregnant, was slain along with four friends of the celebrity couple.