A woman who was a follower of infamous cult leader Charles Manson and assisted him in killing two people has been released from prison after 53 years.
Leslie Van Houten was put behind bars in 1971 for her role in the Manson cult murders of Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife Rosemary.
She was initially sentenced to death, but it was later commuted to life imprisonment after California abolished the death penalty.
On Tuesday, Van Houten was “released to parole supervision“, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations said.
Lawyer Nancy Tetreault said her client left the women’s prison in Corona, east of Los Angeles, in the early hours of Tuesday morning and taken to transitional housing, where is she expected to spend the next year.
While there, she will learn basic skills such as going to the grocery store, getting a bank card, using the internet and buying items without cash.
“It’s a very different world than when she went in,” Ms Tetreault said, adding Van Houten wanted to get a job as soon as possible.
Van Houten will be on parole for around three years.
Days earlier, Governor Gavin Newsom said he would not oppose the state appeal’s court ruling that recommended Van Houten be offered parole, adding it was unlikely the state’s Supreme Court would consider an appeal.
Van Houten has been recommended for parole five times since 2016, but Mr Newsom or former governor Jerry Brown has blocked the move, arguing she was still a danger to society.
In a statement last week, Mr Newsom’s office said he was disappointed by the decision to parole Van Houten.
“More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal killings, the victims’ families still feel the impact,” it said.
Manson’s life and crimes
The LaBianca murders
Manson, as well as Van Houten and others, visited the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca on 10 August 1969 in Los Angeles.
When there, the LaBianca’s heads were covered with pillowcases and bound with power leads, and Manson ordered their deaths. Cult member Tex Watson repeatedly stabbed the couple with a bayonet.
Van Houten stabbed Rosemary LaBiance roughly 16 times in her buttocks, later claiming in court her victim was already dead by the time she’d begun her frenzy.
After the attack, Tex Watson showered while other members of the group wrote messages on the walls in their victims’ blood – notably the term “healter [sic] skelter” – a vision the Manson family subscribed too in which the leader prophesied there would be a race war.
The LaBianca murders came only a day after the Manson family killed actress Sharon Tate and four others.
Van Houten was 19 at the time.
Charles Manson died in prison in 2017 at the age of 83, after almost 50 years locked up.