Charles Manson cult follower Leslie Van Houten released from prison

Manson family killer Leslie Van Houten, 73, is released from prison after serving 53 years of a life sentence

  • Leslie Van Houten walked out of a California prison on Tuesday
  • She was driven to transitional housing, her attorney Nancy Tetreault said
  • It comes after governor Gavin Newsom said he would not fight the release 

Leslie Van Houten walked out of a California prison Tuesday after serving 53 years of a life sentence for her participation in two of the infamous Manson murders.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Van Houten, the youngest member of the cult, ‘was released to parole supervision’ and driven to transitional housing.

The convicted killer is expected to spend about a year in transitional housing, learning basic skills such as how to go to the grocery store and get a debit card, according to her attorney Nancy Tetreault. 

‘She´s still trying to get used to the idea that this real,’ the lawyer said. ‘She’s been in prison for 53 years. … She just needs to learn how to use an ATM machine, let alone a cell phone, let alone a computer,’ the attorney said.

Van Houten’s release comes just four days after Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom announced he would not fight a state appeals court ruling that Van Houten should be granted parole. He said it was unlikely the state Supreme Court would consider an appeal.

Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten walked out of a California prison Tuesday after serving 53 years of a life sentence for her participation in two infamous murders

The 73-year-old was serving a life sentence for helping Charles Manson´s followers carry out the 1969 killings of Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. Manson is pictured above

Leslie Van Houten, seen being transported to jail in 1977, had been originally sentenced to death before being resentenced to life imprisonment after California briefly ended the death penalty

Newsom had rejected parole for Van Houten on three previous occasions during his time in office, but a state appeals court in May rejected his most recent denial of parole.

Newsom is disappointed, the statement said. ‘More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal killings, the victims´ families still feel the impact.’ 

The 73-year-old was serving a life sentence for helping Charles Manson´s followers carry out the 1969 killings of Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife, Rosemary.

Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members knifed the couple as part of Manson’s deranged plan to incite a race war by terrifying Los Angeles with a killing spree. 

She has shared how she held Rosemary down as she was murdered before stabbing her in the stomach 16 times and how she helped Patricia Krenwinkel, Tex Watson, and Clem Grogan carve up Leno’s body before smearing the couple’s blood on the walls.

The slayings happened the day after Manson followers killed actress Sharon Tate and four others. Van Houten did not participate in the Tate killings. 

Van Houten was first sentenced to death for her crimes but her sentence was reduced to life in prison after capital punishment was outlawed in California in 1972.

Several relatives of the Manson victims spoke out against Van Houten’s release.

‘My family and I are heartbroken because we’re once again reminded of all the years that we have not had my father and my stepmother with us,’ Cory LaBianca, Leno LaBianca’s daughter, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday.

‘My children and my grandchildren never got an opportunity to get to know either of them, which has been a huge void for my family.’

Kay Hinman Martley spoke out against the recent court order granting Manson Family murderer Leslie Van Houten parole in an interview with 

Kay Hinman Martley, 85, whose cousin Gary Hinman was savagely murdered in July 1969 by members of Manson’s cult, said she fears the release could lead to the freedom of the other four surviving Manson killers.

Krenwinkel is currently locked up in the same prison Van Houten was just released from. Davis is at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, Watson is at the RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, and Beausoleil at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

Speaking exclusively to, she said: ‘I can’t believe California would do this, that they would let a killer who tortured several people… I mean the Manson Family has got a terrible reputation.

‘I don’t care what this woman says, if she says she’s sorry.

‘She was given a death sentence and then it was turned to life imprisonment and they forgot [to add] that darn “without parole”.

‘I’m just livid. I don’t know what else to do.’

A state appeals court ruled in May that Van Houten should be released, noting what it called her ‘extraordinary rehabilitative efforts, insight, remorse, realistic parole plans, support from family and friends’ and favorable behavior reports while in prison. 

Tetreault, Van Houten’s lawyer, said her client was ‘thrilled and overwhelmed.’

‘She’s just grateful that people are recognizing that she’s not the same person that she was when she committed the murders,’ she added.

The Manson Family claimed at least seven victims – among them pregnant actress Tate and coffee heiress Abigail Folger. 

Manson died in prison in 2017 of natural causes at age 83 after nearly half a century behind bars. 

This is a developing story 

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