A relative and a friend of victims who were murdered by the Manson Family in 1969 slammed Leslie Van Houten’s release from prison, calling it “mind-numbing, nauseating” and a “sad day” in which justice was lost.
Anthony DiMaria, the nephew of victim Jay Sebring, told the Los Angeles Times that Van Houten’s release didn’t come as a surprise but that didn’t “make it any less painful.”
“It doesn’t lessen the blow,” DiMaria said. “It’s just as mind-numbing, nauseating, gut-wrenching and painful to think that this release is real.”
Van Houten, 73, a member of the Manson Family who was convicted of committing two of the cult’s murders, was released from prison Tuesday.
The California Parole Board had recommended Van Houten be released in 2022, a recommendation California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed. On May 30 of this year, an appeals court overturned Newsom’s veto and ordered Van Houten to be freed.
Newsom had until July 12 to challenge that ruling, but ultimately opted not to do so.
Ava Roosevelt, a friend of Manson Family victim Sharon Tate’s who was also nearly killed by the gang, said she was angry and dejected by Van Houten’s freedom.
“I don’t believe a person that’s capable of committing such a heinous crime can ever be rehabilitated, that kind of thing is ingrained in your DNA,” Roosevelt said in an interview with The U.S. Sun. “It’s a sad day for me, it really is, because I don’t think justice has been served for Sharon and the other victims at all.”
Roosevelt added that she was in favor of the death penalty for the perpetrators of the Manson murders and that she wished Newsom had “stuck to his guns.”
“It’s not right,” Roosevelt told The Sun. “I don’t know if she’s mentally prepared to be free at this point […] but I think she definitely still poses a threat to society and I don’t think she should’ve been given a chance to even try to adjust to the outside world.
“As a society, we have to set some standards about what you can’t get away with. I don’t care if she was in prison for 53 years. She still has the ability to watch television, to talk to people, and this was not a privilege awarded to Sharon and those others who perished.
“It’s shocking and I just worry what knock-on effect this will all have.”
Van Houten was convicted in 1971 of killing Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, whose murders were just two of those carried out in August 1969 by followers of cult leader Charles Manson. She was originally sentenced to death, but her sentence was commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court ruled the state’s death penalty unconstitutional.
Van Houten was granted two retrials later in the decade, and was once again sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Since 2016, she has been recommended for parole five times, and each time the recommendation was vetoed, first by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 and 2017, and three more times by Newsom.
In its ruling overturning Newsom’s now-final veto, the appeals court’s majority said in May that “Van Houten has shown 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.” Read more about it here.
Manson died in prison in 2017.