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Manson Follower Leslie Van Houten Loses Latest Attempt to Be Released

Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten Friday lost her latest attempt to be released on parole, with a state appeals court panel declining to reverse former Gov. Jerry Brown's most recent rejection of her release.

Van Houten, 70, has been recommended for parole three times, but those recommendations have all been reversed -- twice by Brown and once earlier this year by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

George Brich/AP, File
In this Aug. 20, 1970, file photo, Charles Manson followers, from left, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten walk to court to appear for their roles in the 1969 cult killings of seven people in Los Angeles.

Manson and three followers — Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel — were sentenced to death but later had their punishment reduced to life in prison for their roles in the 1969 cult killings of seven people in Los Angeles.

On that first night, Aug. 8, 1969, Manson sent a handful of his young, mostly female followers to the palatial hilltop estate of actress Sharon Tate with orders to kill everyone there. The 26-year-old actress and four friends were bludgeoned, shot and stabbed scores of times, and their blood used to scrawl the words "Pigs" and "Helter Skelter" on the walls.

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Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, was 8½ months pregnant, and her killers later testified that she pleaded in her last moments for her unborn baby's life. Others killed were coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring and Wojciech Frykowski, an aspiring screenwriter and friend of Polanski, who was out of town.


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Follower Atkins died while serving her prison term, in 2009.

Van Houten, whose attorney vanished during the first trial and was later found dead under mysterious circumstances, was granted a retrial in 1976. 

Van Houten was convicted and returned to prison, where she has earned bachelor's and master's degrees in counseling and leads programs to rehabilitate fellow inmates. She was recommended for parole three times in recent years, but each time the governor blocked the recommendation.

"I admit that she's a model prisoner, and I commend her for that, and I think she should keep doing her good work in prison," prosecutor Stephen Kay said. "But you know, the victims in this case were dead and buried in 1969. They don't get any parole."

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