Leslie Van Houten

Leslie Van Houten

Infobox Criminal
subject_name = Leslie Van Houten

image_size = 200px
image_caption = Leslie Van Houten during the Tate/LaBianca trial
date_of_birth = birth date and age|1949|08|23|mf=y
place_of_birth = Altadena, California
date_of_death =
place_of_death =
alias =
conviction =
penalty = Death, reduced by abolition of death penalty to life in prison
status =
occupation =
spouse =
parents =
children =

Leslie Louise Van Houten (born August 23, 1949 in Altadena, California) is a former member of Charles Manson's "Family" who was convicted of the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Early life

Van Houten was born in Altadena, California to an automotive auctioneer and a schoolteacher. She grew up in a middle class household with an older brother, along with a younger brother and sister adopted from Korea. Van Houten attended Monrovia High School, where she was twice elected homecoming princess.

In 1963, her parents divorced. Her father moved out and the children stayed with their mother. Van Houten took the divorce very hard and later started experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs and marijuana. At 15, she became pregnant and her mother arranged an abortion. She wanted to keep the child, and the abortion was performed against her will. Van Houten was deeply angered, and the relationship with her mother became extremely difficult.

Van Houten graduated from high school in 1967. She moved in with her father and began attending a business college, studying to become a legal secretary. She became very interested in spiritualism and planned to become a nun in a yogic spiritual community.

Life with Manson

In the summer of 1968, Van Houten met Catherine Share and Bobby Beausoleil in San Francisco. It was through them that she heard of Charles Manson and his community. She was told that Manson was "like Jesus Christ and that he had the answers." When she met Manson, she was immediately captivated by him and the people associated with him. His way of life intrigued her, and she joined his cult in September of 1968, moving to the Spahn Ranch.

Although Van Houten worshipped Manson, he was never very interested in her and treated her as "Bobby Beausoleil's woman," since she had been Beausoleil's girlfriend when she arrived at the ranch in 1968. Manson's attitude left her with a strong need to prove herself to him and the rest of the "family."

Like the other members of Manson’s group, Van Houten was a heavy user of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs, which rendered her susceptible to Manson’s concept of "Helter Skelter," an apocalyptic race war that he envisioned occurring between blacks and whites and that he believed -- or claimed to believe -- would put him in a position of leadership.

The murders

On the night of August 10, 1969 Manson drove Van Houten, Charles 'Tex' Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Steve Grogan, and Linda Kasabian to an address in Los Feliz, the home of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. Manson entered the house with Watson and handed him the ropes around his neck; he then left the house, instructing Krenwinkel and Van Houten to go inside and join Watson. The house had previously been cased by the Manson family in a process they called "creepy-crawling."

Krenwinkel and Van Houten found Rosemary LaBianca in a bedroom, to which she had retired while her husband had fallen asleep while reading in the living room. Van Houten put a pillowcase over Mrs. LaBianca's head, and the two women tied the electrical cord from a lamp around her neck. Mrs. LaBianca panicked when she heard her husband, who had been tied up in the living room, screaming as Watson began stabbing him. She reached for the lamp and swung it at Van Houten, who fought with her and knocked the lamp away. Van Houten then held Mrs. LaBianca down while Krenwinkel tried to stab her in the chest, but the blade bent on LaBianca's collar bone. Van Houten called for assistance from Watson, who entered the bedroom and took charge. Van Houten exited the room and stood in the hallway, staring into an adjacent empty room.

Watson stabbed Mrs. LaBianca several times, found Van Houten, handed her the knife, and told her to "do something." Van Houten proceeded to stab Mrs. LaBianca 16 times in the lower torso. (The autopsy showed that several of the wounds had been inflicted post-mortem.) Van Houten then wiped the premises down for fingerprints, changed into Mrs. LaBianca's clothes, and took food from the refrigerator before leaving the house.


Van Houten was tried in Los Angeles along with Manson, Krenwinkel, and Atkins for her part in the murders. Watson was later tried separately, since he was in Texas fighting extradition at the time. Van Houten was the youngest of the defendants and considered the least committed to Manson, so she was thought to be the most likely to receive a recommendation for mercy. Throughout the trial, however, she was disruptive, uncooperative, and inclined to giggle when listening to testimony, particularly when the deaths of the LaBiancas and that of Sharon Tate were discussed. As a result, she quickly lost the sympathy of the jury.

All of the defendants were found guilty of murder and were sentenced to death on March 29, 1971. The death sentences were automatically commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court's "People v. Anderson" decision resulted in the invalidation of all death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972. Van Houten won a retrial in 1977 on the grounds that her counsel had not effectively represented her at the original trial. Her lawyer, Ronald Hughes, disappeared during the trial and was later found dead. It is alleged that members of the Manson Family killed Hughes, but this has never been proven. Van Houten's second trial ended in a hung jury. She was tried a third time, during which she was free on bond, and found guilty of felony robbery, murder, and conspiracy to commit murder. Once again, she was sentenced to life in prison.

Parole requests

With one exception, Van Houten has had an uneventful prison record. In 1981, she married an ex-convict, who was subsequently found to be in possession of a uniform used by pregnant prison employees. Van Houten quickly divorced him and ended the association, stating that she had known nothing about any plans he might have had to break her out of prison.

In 2002, Van Houten filed an appeal of her 2000 parole rejection, which received a hearing in Superior Court. [cite news | last =Deutsch| first =Linda| title =Hearing held for Manson follower| publisher =Associated Press| date =2002-05-24| url =http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-53199155.html| format= fee required| accessdate =2008-04-02 ] Superior Court Judge Bob Krug ordered a new parole hearing, [cite news | title =Judge orders new parole hearing for Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten| publisher =Associated Press| date =2002-06-05| url =http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-53413206.html |format= fee required| accessdate =2008-04-02 ] He noted that Van Houten's continued incarceration involved serious legal considerations, and stated she "has proven to be a model prisoner in the 30 years since her incarceration for the brutal murder, completing all available prison programs and assisting other inmates with these programs. She has earned two college degrees and has maintained a clean disciplinary record in prison [and] she is effectively serving a life sentence without parole, a sentence unauthorized by law. [...] Other than the finding as to the gravity of the offense, there is a complete lack of any evidence to support the decision of the board. The board failed to make a finding that [Van Houten's] institutional behavior was a factor tending to show her suitability for parole. To fail to do so is an arbitrary and capricious consideration." Krug pointed out that, at the 1977 retrial, Van Houten was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, but having served eight years in prison, she was already eligible for parole by 1978. Krug's ruling for Van Houten was overturned on appeal in 2004. [cite news | author = Staff writer| title =High Court Spurns Leslie Van Houten’s Bid for Release| work =Metropolitan News-Enterprise| date =2004-06-24| url =http://www.metnews.com/articles/2004/vanh062404.htm| accessdate =2008-04-02 ]

She was denied parole again in 2006;cite news| author = Staff writer| title =Former Manson disciple Leslie Van Houten denied parole| work =San Diego Union-Tribune| publisher =Associated Press| date =2006-09-06| url =http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/state/20060907-1809-ca-mansonfollower.html| accessdate =2008-04-02 ] at this hearing, she was informed that she could apply again in one year instead of the usual two years, but was denied parole on August 30, 2007 for the 18th time. She was given a two year denial, meaning that she will be eligible to apply for parole again in 2009. [cite news | author = Staff writer | title=Manson follower denied parole for the 18th time | date=2007-08-31 | publisher=Associated Press | url =http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-9985611.html | work =Charleston Daily Mail| format = fee required| accessdate = 2008-04-02]

Van Houten remains housed in the California Institution for Women in Corona, along with Krenwinkel.


External links

* [http://www.mansonfamilytoday.info The Manson Family Today]

NAME= Van Houten, Leslie
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Convicted murderer
DATE OF BIRTH= August 23, 1949
PLACE OF BIRTH= Altadena, California

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