Leslie Van Houten, a former Charles Manson follower who killed for the mass murderer in 1969, was determined suitable for parole Wednesday in California.
Van Houten, the youngest of Manson’s followers, was scheduled to appear before a parole panel for the 21st time on Wednesday. She was 19 when she took part in a series of murders during the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles.
The parole panel's decision does not mean she's free just yet. Gov. Jerry Brown has a 30-day period to choose from several options including affirming, reversing or taking no action on the parole board's decision.
A similar panel at the California Institution for Women in Chino, where Van Houten is incarcerated, determined her suitable for parole last year, but was overruled by Brown.
Van Houten has candidly described her experience with the “Manson Family.”
She admitted to killing Los Angeles grocer Leno La Bianca and his wife, Rosemary, in their home in August 1969. At her parole hearing last year, she said she helped hold Rosemary down while another Manson follower stabbed her repeatedly. Van Houten then stabbed Rosemary an additional 12 times.
Van Houten was not with Manson followers the night before the La Biancas’ death, when they killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others during a bloody rampage.
“I don't let myself off the hook. I don't find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself," Van Houten said.
Since being jailed more than 40 years ago, Van Houten has earned college degrees and reportedly has been a model prisoner.
Members of both the Tate and La Bianca families have argued against parole for Van Houten, or for any Manson follower.
Tate's sister, Debra Tate, coordinated a petition with 140,000 signatures opposing her release.
In overruling the panel, Brown said Van Houten had failed to adequately explain how a model teenager from a privileged Southern California family could have turned into a ruthless killer.
Van Houten was the youngest member of the Manson’s so-called family. She was a former high school homecoming princess, an athlete and a cheerleader, before dropping out of school and joining Manson’s cult.
Van Houten has testified that she joined Manson’s cult, dropped out of school and started doing drugs from the trauma of her parents’ divorce and her teen pregnancy.
Another Manson follower, Catherine Share, was put on the witness stand by Van Houten’s attorney to testify that Van Houten was young, impressionable and too afraid to leave Manson’s cult, and said she regretted encouraging Van Houten to join Manson’s group of followers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.