A member of the notorious Manson Family murder cult, Leslie Van Houten, 73, was released from a California state prison on Tuesday after being granted parole, Breitbart reported.
She had been convicted and given a life sentence in prison in 1971 in relation to the brutal stabbing murders in 1969, along with two other Manson followers, of grocery store executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, at the direction of cult leader Charles Manson, who died in prison in 2017 at the age of 83 while serving his own life sentence.
Van Houten, who was 19 at the time of the horrific crime, ultimately served 53 years of her life sentence for the double murder, and will now spend the next year in "transitional housing" as part of her parole program.
CNN reported that Van Houten had actually been sentenced to death when convicted in 1971 but that was changed into a life sentence when California abolished the death penalty.
She had also first become eligible for parole in 1977 and had made 22 separate appearances before the state parole board over the years, with that board first recommending that she be granted parole in 2016.
That recommendation and four others like it were reversed five times by California's governor -- twice by former Gov. Jerry Brown and thrice by Gov. Gavin Newsom -- but Newsom declined to fight against the latest recommendation earlier this year.
"More than 50 years after the Manson cult committed these brutal offenses, the victims’ families still feel the impact, as do all Californians," a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement. "Governor Newsom reversed Ms. Van Houten’s parole grant three times since taking office and defended against her challenges of those decisions in court."
"The Governor is disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s decision to release Ms. Van Houten but will not pursue further action as efforts to further appeal are unlikely to succeed. The California Supreme Court accepts appeals in very few cases, and generally does not select cases based on this type of fact-specific determination," the spokesperson added.
USA Today reported that Van Houten had once been a high school cheerleader and Homecoming princess but had begun to lead a troubled life at the age of 14, when she began to abuse drugs and get into trouble after her parents were divorced.
She ultimately ended up as one of around 100 followers in Charles Manson's death cult that lived on a ranch outside of Los Angeles, and was a willing participant in the gruesome slayings of the LaBianca couple. She was accused of initially holding down the wife while the others stabbed her before taking a knife herself and repeatedly stabbing the woman to death.
Van Houten had been last recommended for parole in 2020 but, as noted, Gov. Newsom had fought against that decision, which led to an appeal and a decision in May by an appeals court to allow her release on parole.
Despite Newsom's argument that the killer still posed a threat to society, the appellate judges that Van Houten had displayed "extraordinary rehabilitative efforts, insight, remorse, realistic parole plans, support from family and friends, favorable institutional reports, and, at the time of the Governor’s decision, had received four successive grants of parole."
USA Today noted that according to Van Houten's attorney, Nancy Tetreault, she will spend the next year in a halfway house, during which she will attempt to acclimate herself to a substantially different world than the one she knew 53 years ago when she was first locked behind bars.
Her first priority will be finding a job, per the attorney, and likely will try to make use of the bachelor's and master's degrees she earned while in prison, where she worked as a counselor and tutor for other inmates.