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California governor rejects parole for Manson follower Van Houten

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Leslie Van Houten, the youngest follower of Charles Manson, at a parole hearing in 2007

California Governor Gavin Newsom has denied parole for Leslie Van Houten, the youngest follower of convicted murderer and cult leader Charles Manson. It’s the third time a governor has overruled the parole board.

Newsom, a Democrat who took office on January 7, announced his decision on late Monday afternoon. It comes just over four months after the California Board of Parole Hearings found that Van Houten, who is 69 years old, is suitable for parole.

Van Houten was initially sentenced to death in 1971, but her sentence was reduced to life in prison when the state Supreme Court abolished the death penalty. Her conviction was later overturned and a second trial led to a mistrial. In a third trial, she was sentenced to 7 years to life.

As a result, Van Houten became eligible for parole in 1977, but the parole board denied her requests for release 18 times. She was finally granted parole in 2016, and again in 2017, but both decisions were overturned by then-Governor Jerry Brown.

Charles Manson, who died in November 2017, was one of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century. He was convicted in 1971 for his involvement in killings of nine people in 1969, including actress Sharon Tate and her unborn baby.

The brutal murders were carried out by his followers – the so-called “Manson Family” – which consisted of mostly runaways and outcasts.

Manson had preached on the streets of San Francisco and claimed to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, which attracted a devoted group of followers who dedicated their lives to him. “When I stand on the mountain and say ‘do it,’ it gets done,” he once said about his followers.

Prosecutors said Manson, who had a swastika tattooed on his forehead, instructed his followers to kill some of the rich and famous in Los Angeles in an attempt to start a race war. Their crimes shocked the world and Manson’s name would eventually become synonymous with evil.

Van Houten has apologized to the families of the victims, unlike Manson. “I never broke nobody’s will. I never told anybody to do anything other than what they wanted to do,” he once said in an interview.

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