Wow. Having grown up obsessed with the Tate-LaBianca murders, this one really touches a nerve. Leslie Van Houten was a Charles Manson follower who admitted in court testimony to stabbing one of the victims of the "family" -- Rosemary LaBianca -- 14 times in 1969. Van Houten says she and another woman first held Rosemary down as Charles “Tex” Watson stabbed to death husband Leno LaBianca before turning the knife on Mrs. LaBianca. Watson then handed the knife to Van Houten, whose stabbing frenzy may have occurred post-mortem.
Van Houten admitted holding a pillow over the head of Rosemary La Bianca, left, while other cult members stabbed her and husband Leno, right, to death
On Thursday, a review board recommended parole for her, which is awaiting a final decision by Gov. Jerry Brown. I have ambivalent feelings about this. While I understand prison is supposed to be a place to rehabilitate criminals -- even though we know it's so dysfunctional it often makes them worse -- and I can imagine a 66-year-old convict with an exemplary prison record poses little threat to the general population, I'm not sure a crime this heinous warrants parole. (Or any crime this violent.) That being said, if she was sentenced with having the chance at parole, what message are we sending by not granting it if someone does everything right after doing something so wrong? Apparently she was originally sentenced to death when she was convicted in 1971 but then had that changed to life with the possibility of parole when the California Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty. (She later was retried twice and eventually was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, hence where we are today.) What I would have liked to have seen is the Manson family members being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and save the option for people who have not committed violent offenses. Thoughts?
Leslie Van Houten, 19, is escorted by two deputy sheriffs as she leaves the courtroom in Los Angeles, Dec. 19, 1969
Van Houten, right, along with fellow Manson family members Susan Atkins, left, who died in prison in 2009,.and Patricia Krenwinkel, center, arrive in court in August 1970