Leslie Van Houten, a former Charles Manson follower, is on track to be released from prison after nearly half a century behind bars — unless the Los Angeles County District Attorney gets her way.
Jackie Lacey, the DA, has formally asked California Gov. Jerry Brown to keep Van Houten locked up — two months after the state Board of Parole Hearings deemed the convicted killer "suitable for parole."
"She clearly lacks insight, genuine remorse, and an understanding of the magnitude of her crimes," Lacey wrote in the letter dated Friday. "The viciousness of the murders, the relationship of those murders to the effort to incite the 'Helter Skelter' race war, and Van Houten's attempts to minimize her criminal responsibility, make her an unreasonable risk of danger to society."
Van Houten, 66, was convicted along with other cult members of the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. She has been denied parole 19 times.
Lacey said Van Houten is still under Charles Manson's spell.
"She simply does not see him for the brutal megalomaniac that he is," Lacey wrote, noting that Van Houten has in the past described Manson: as a "myth" and "caricature of horror."
Van Houten's lawyer, Rich Pfeiffer, told The Los Angeles Times Lacey was taking his client's quotes out of context. He said she used those words to describe Manson when asked at a parole board hearing whether the jailed cult leader's name "invokes fear in people."
Van Houten was the youngest of Charles Manson's fanatical followers.
By all accounts, Van Houten has been a model prisoner. She has used her time behind bars to edit a prison newspaper and counsel other inmates, and she has apologized for her role in the brutal killings and said she was "deeply ashamed" of her crime.
Van Houten was a 19-year-old hippie when she became a Manson minion. But she was not part of the murderous crew that struck on Aug. 9, 1969, killing actress Sharon Tate — the wife of Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski — and four others in a rented Benedict Canyon home.
But Van Houten volunteered to take part the next day in the LaBianca murders. She later admitted she was on LSD when she stabbed Rosemary LaBianca 14 times.
Manson, 81, the unrepentant leader of the killer cult, is serving nine life sentences at Corcoran State Prison in California.