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Manson follower denied parole for 19th time

LOS ANGELES - Leslie Van Houten, the one-time Charles Manson follower long seen as the most likely of his ex-acolytes to win freedom someday, was denied parole yesterday for a 19th time in the killings of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca.

At the conclusion of the emotional three-hour hearing, the chairman of the parole board, Robert Doyle, said Van Houten was not yet suitable for parole because she had failed to gain complete insight into her crime and its motivation.

While commending her for her adjustment to prison and her work on behalf of other prisoners, Doyle and deputy commissioner Carol Bentley said the crimes involved were so atrocious and heinous that they must be considered in the decision.

Doyle particularly noted that in the past, Van Houten has suffered from dependence on strong male figures who were able to control her. He suggested she needs more counseling on how to deal with men.

Van Houten, who last appeared before a parole board in 2007, showed no response to the decision and was taken back to her cell.

During the hearing, she read a statement apologizing to the victims' family and gave them a private written apology. She said she understood the enormity of her crime and makes no excuses for her actions. She said she has gained insight during her 41 years in prison that is helping her to understand "so it does not happen again."

Debra Tate, sister of the slain Sharon Tate, whose killing is not involved in this case, appeared on behalf of another La Bianca family member, Angela Smaldino. Tate said Smaldino believes Van Houten should be commended for her growth but thinks her behavior would be unpredictable in a changed world.

Van Houten's attorney, Brandie Devall, asked the panel to consider Van Houten's age, 19, when she joined in the La Bianca killings. She noted Van Houten came under the influence of Charles Manson, "who had a knack for finding lost young people and manipulating them."

The La Biancas were stabbed to death in August 1969, one night after Manson's followers killed actress Sharon Tate and four others. Van Houten did not participate in the Tate killings but went along the next night when the La Biancas were slain in their home.

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