Leslie Van Houten participated in the 1969 murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca
She reportedly has apologized for the killings and has been a model prisoner
She still needs the full parole board and governor to approve her release
After 19 denials, Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten is a step closer to being free, after a parole board panel recommended her release, a spokesman for the California department of corrections said Thursday.
The full Board of Parole Hearings will review the decision during the next four months, then could send the case to California Gov. Jerry Brown, according to corrections spokesman Luis Patino.
Brown will have 30 days to decide whether to approve or deny the recommendation.
“It remains unclear how and why Van Houten drastically transformed from an exceptionally smart, driven young woman, class secretary and homecoming princess, to a member of one of the most notorious cults in history,” Brown wrote in his decision.
She was tried twice more (one ended in a hung jury) and in 1978 was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1994, Van Houten described her part in the killings in a prison interview with CNN’s Larry King.
“I went in and Mrs. LaBianca was laying on the floor and I stabbed her,” said Van Houten, who was 19 at the time of the murders. “In the lower back, around 16 times.”
Van Houten reportedly has apologized to the LaBianca family.
She was not directly involved in the killings of five people at the home of film director Roman Polanski, near Hollywood. Among the victims that night was Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate.
Van Houten, 66, was convicted of being involved in the conspiracy of those killings and for the murders of the LaBiancas the next night.