Leslie Van Houten

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Leslie Van Houten
Leslie Van Houten 1999.jpg
Mug Shot taken in 1999
Born Leslie Louise Van Houten
(1949-08-23) August 23, 1949 (age 65)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. [1]
Criminal penalty
Death, commuted to life imprisonment
Criminal status Incarcerated
Conviction(s) Robbery, murder, and conspiracy

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

Life with Manson[edit]

In the summer of 1968, Leslie Van Houten met Catherine Share and Bobby Beausoleil in San Francisco. It was through them that she heard of Charles Manson and his community. When she met Manson, she was immediately captivated by him and the people associated with him. She moved to the Spahn Ranch.

Although Van Houten was devoted to Manson, he was never very interested in her and treated her as if she "belonged to Bobby"[2] since she had been Beausoleil's girlfriend when she arrived at the ranch in 1968.


On the night of August 9, 1969, Manson drove Van Houten, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Steve Grogan, and Linda Kasabian to 3301 Waverly Drive in Los Feliz, the home of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. Manson entered the house with Watson and handed him the leather thongs from around his neck telling the LaBiancas that it was a robbery and no harm would come to them; he then left the house, instructing Krenwinkel and Van Houten to go inside and join Watson. The house had previously been cased in a process they called "creepy-crawling."[3]

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. Watson put a pillowcase over Leno and Rosemary LaBianca's heads, and then tied the electrical cord from a lamp around their necks. Rosemary LaBianca started struggling; meanwhile, her husband, who had been tied up in the living room, started screaming as Watson began stabbing him. Rosemary grabbed the lamp and swung it at Leslie, who fought with her and knocked the lamp away. Van Houten then held LaBianca down while Krenwinkel tried to stab her in the chest, but the blade bent on LaBianca's clavicle. Van Houten called for assistance from Watson, who entered the bedroom and took charge.

Watson then stabbed Rosemary LaBianca several times, found Van Houten, handed her the knife, and told her to "do something" since Manson had instructed Watson to make sure everyone got their hands dirty.[2] Leslie proceeded to stab Rosemary 16 times in the lower back. The autopsy showed that several of the wounds had been inflicted post-mortem.


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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Van Houten won a retrial in 1977 on the grounds that her counsel had not effectively represented her at the original trial. The lawyer at her first trial, Ronald Hughes, had disappeared during the trial and was later found dead. It was 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. She was found guilty of felony robbery, murder, and conspiracy to commit murder. Once again, she was sentenced to life in prison.[citation needed]

Parole requests[edit]

In 2002, Leslie Van Houten filed an appeal of her 2000 parole rejection, which received a hearing in Superior Court.[4] Superior Court Judge Bob Krug ordered a new parole hearing,[5] pointing out that at the 1977 retrial, Van Houten was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, but by 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.[6]

Van Houten was denied parole on August 25, 2004. She was again denied parole on September 7, 2006, her 16th unsuccessful application.[7] At this hearing, she was informed she might apply again one year later as opposed to the usual two years.[7][8] She was once again denied parole on August 30, 2007, but would be allowed to have a hearing again in two years. Van Houten's August 2009 scheduled parole hearing[9] was postponed until August 2010 after she requested a postponement due to then current legal issues being pursued in court. The legal issues concerned her challenge of the 2004 parole denial in federal court.[10] Van Houten appeared before the parole board for a 19th time on July 6, 2010 and was denied.[11][12] Van Houten told a parole board on June 5, 2013, during her 20th parole hearing, she has changed and is trying to live a life for healing, however she was once again denied parole.[13] Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel both will next be eligible to apply for parole in 2018.

Leslie Van Houten remains housed in the California Institution for Women in Chino, along with Krenwinkel. Filmmaker John Waters has actively advocated for Van Houten's parole.[14][15]

In the media[edit]

Leslie Van Houten was portrayed by actress Cathey Paine in the highly acclaimed made-for-TV film Helter Skelter. The 2009 film Leslie, My Name Is Evil (released in some countries under the titles Manson Girl and Manson, My Name Is Evil) is partially based on Van Houten's early life and stars actress Kristen Hager as Van Houten. In Helter Skelter (2004 remake of the 1976 film) Van Houten was portrayed by actress Catherine Wadkins. A year earlier, in 2003, Amy Yates portrayed Leslie Van Houten in the film The Manson Family. Tania Raymonde will portray Van Houten in the 2014 film, "Manson Girls".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Family" by Ed Sanders - page 74
  2. ^ a b "CNN Larry King Weekend, Encore Presentation: Interview With Leslie Van Houten". Cable News Network LP, LLLP. 2002-06-29. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  3. ^ Linda Kasabian 2009 Larry King CNN Interview Sept 04, 2009
  4. ^ Deutsch, Linda (2002-05-24). "Hearing held for Manson follower". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  5. ^ "Judge orders new parole hearing for Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten". Associated Press. 2002-06-05. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  6. ^ "High Court Spurns Leslie Van Houten’s Bid for Release". Metropolitan News-Enterprise. 2004-06-24. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  7. ^ a b Former Manson disciple denied parole. The Age. (September 8, 2006). Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  8. ^ "Former Manson disciple Leslie Van Houten denied parole". San Diego Union-Tribune. Associated Press. 2006-09-06. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  9. ^ "Manson follower denied parole for the 18th time". Charleston Daily Mail. Associated Press. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  10. ^ "In re Leslie Van Houten" (PDF). Biennial Report Major Activities 2007-2008. California Department of Justice. 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  11. ^ "Manson follower faces parole board for 19th time". MSNBC.com. 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2010-07-05. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Manson Follower Leslie Van Houten Denied Parole for 19th Time". Fox News. 2010-07-06. 
  13. ^ "Leslie Van Houten faces 20th parole hearing". Yahoo News. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "John Waters: Manson Family Member Should Be Free". NPR.org. 2009-08-05. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  15. ^ "Leslie Van Houten: A Friendship". 2009-08-03. Retrieved 2009-09-08.