Leslie Van Houten, the Charles Manson follower who was convicted of murder in the stabbing deaths of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, is one step closer to being set free from prison. The parole board recommended she be paroled, after nineteen times of denying her request.
Leslie is sixty-six, grey haired, she wears glasses, she is not the nineteen year old strung out on drugs under the influence of a madman she was when the murders took place. She has been a model prisoner. She received her Bachelors degree then her Master’s while incarcerated, she organized self-help groups for women prisoners; she has shown appropriate remorse and contrition for involvement in the slayings. She was said to be the least involved in the slayings. She has testified to her great shame and sadness in reflecting on what she did, but should she be set free?
I guess the answer is yes, only because it follows the letter of the law. Her sentence includes the possibility of parole, hence the nineteen prior times coming before the parole board. Parole is supposed to be based on a prisoner’s behavior in prison, and their taking responsibility for their actions. She has never had an infraction in prison, she has shown remorse, she has done everything in her power to be granted parole…but the question still remains, should she be set free? Cory LaBianca, Leno’s son, will tell you, ‘no’, she shouldn’t, and certainly anyone can understand why he would feel that way.
My question would be, why would she want to be set free? She is sixty-six. I can’t imagine she has family to take her in, friends who would offer a safe harbor. What can the outside world hold for a woman who is so notorious, so loathed by so many, who hasn’t ever held a job in the real world, someone who knows nothing of life? I wonder where she would go, where she would live, who would hire her, who would call themself her friend? I could be wrong, there might be many people willing to help her, willing to give her a second chance, but at sixty-six, it wouldn’t be easy to find your way in a world you have been absent from since barely out of your teens.
I think it’s moot. I doubt Governor Jerry Brown will grant her parole. Politically it doesn’t make sense. The Manson murders are too notorious, too awful, too ingrained in the public’s conscience to allow one of the followers freedom. Maybe, I’m wrong, and he’ll grant her parole…
If he does, and I could say anything to Leslie, I would simply say, “be careful what you wish for.”