The record is clear: Neither Charles Manson nor any of his murderous followers in the Tate-LaBianca killings have been released from prison so far, but attorney Rich Pfeiffer is hoping to change that.
Pfeiffer represents Leslie Van Houten, 68, who has spent more than 40 years in prison.
She and others were convicted in the murders of Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in their home on Aug. 9, 1969.
A two-member panel in Chino, Calif., recommended Wednesday that Van Houten be paroled, saying she has radically changed her life and is no longer a threat to society.
It was the 21st time that Van Houten has appeared before a parole board and the second time that commissioners found her suitable for release.
The ruling must still be approved by the state parole board and Gov. Jerry Brown, who reversed another panel’s ruling last year.
“I feel absolutely horrible about it, and I have spent most of my life trying to find ways to live with it,” Van Houten told the panel.
Looking frail and on crutches after injuring her knee in a recent fall, she told the panel, “To tell you the truth, the older I get, the harder it is to deal with all of this, to know what I did, how it happened.”
On the night of the attack nearly five decades ago, she said she held Rosemary LaBianca down with a pillowcase over her head as others stabbed her dozens of times. Then, ordered by Manson disciple Charles “Tex” Watson to “do something,” she picked up a butcher knife and stabbed the woman more than a dozen times.
Van Houten, who was 19 at the time, was not with Manson followers the night before when they killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others during a similar bloody rampage.
Because she has been a model prisoner, Van Houten’s attorneys have argued that it’s time she be released. Many others, including the families of the victims, oppose her release.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
“State officials will begin a 120-day legal review of the panel’s finding, and after the process concludes, the decision goes to Brown. The governor would have 30 days to take one of five options. He could uphold, reverse or modify the decision, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“Brown could also send the decision to the full Board of Parole, or he could take no action, which would allow Wednesday’s decision to stand.”
Manson, 82, and others involved in the slayings are still behind bars. Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel have each been denied parole several times. Susan Atkins, who was denied parole 13 times, died in prison in 2009.
Rich Pfeiffer, an attorney for Van Houten, told The Associated Press that his client was relieved by Wednesday’s ruling, adding he believes she will be released eventually.
“I’m getting her out of here. That’s not an issue. The question is when,” he said.