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Manson cult killer granted freedom

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted of taking part in two killings as part of cult leader Charles Manson’s grisly rampage in 1969, will be paroled from prison in weeks, her attorney told AFP on Friday.

A spokesman for California Governor Gavin Newsom confirmed that he would not challenge Van Houten’s release.

Van Houten, 73, has spent more than five decades in prison for taking part in two stabbing deaths in 1969 at Manson’s direction.

“She will be released from prison on parole within the next few weeks,” Van Houten’s attorney, Nancy Tetreault, told AFP.

“She is, of course, thrilled, but beyond that, she is happy that her hard work at rehabilitation has been recognised by the board and court by finding that she does not currently pose a risk of danger to public safety,” Tetreault added. A spokeswoman for Newsom said he successfully reversed the granting of parole to Van Houten three times since taking office but will not do so a fourth time.

“The governor is disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s decision to release Van Houten but will not pursue further action as efforts to further appeal are unlikely to succeed,” spokeswoman Erin Mellon said.

Leslie Van Houten attends her parole hearing. PHOTO: AFP

‘‘The victims’ families still feel the brutal impact, as do all Californians of the Manson Family murders in 1969,’’ Mellon said.

Members of the Manson cult committed at least nine shocking and grisly murders in the Los Angeles area in July and August 1969 that struck dread into people all over southern California.

Among their victims was Sharon Tate, an actress and model married to director Roman Polanski. Van Houten was convicted in the killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca at Manson’s direction, and sentenced to death, a conviction later overturned, leading to a second trial that deadlocked, and a third trial.

Van Houten was eventually sentenced to seven years to life in prison.

The Board of Parole Hearings found Van Houten suitable for parole in 2016, 2017 and 2019 but her release was blocked in court.

A psychological evaluation of Van Houten submitted as part of her petition for parole noted that she had a nearly spotless disciplinary record while in prison but may face stress upon release because of her notoriety.

Tetreault said, “Van Houten, once free is considering continuing her work as an educational tutor, having earned bachelor and master degrees in prison.”