(NewsNation) — A California appeals court on Tuesday said Leslie Van Houten should be released from prison on parole. At the direction of cult leader Charles Manson, Van Houten participated in two killings.
Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra, called the court’s ruling “appalling” and said it’s “catastrophic” for families of victims.
Van Houten, now in her 70s, was 19 when she and other cult members stabbed Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, to death in August 1969. She said the group carved Leno’s body and smeared the couple’s blood on the walls.
The murders came the day after other Manson followers, not including Van Houten, killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others.
“I knew that we would get here one day,” Debra Tate said in an interview with NewsNation host Elizabeth Vargas. “Unfortunately, it’s appalling to me as a society, we would let predatory killers that have been categorized as domestic terrorists even be considered for parole, but that is the law as it stands.”
Debra Tate said she plans to fight Van Houten’s release since she has been appointed as a representative for the LaBianca family for more than two decades.
“They are in such an egregious situation emotionally and physically over this latest news,” Debra Tate said, in part. “This is catastrophic news to them, to the other victims of the Manson Family, as well as hundreds, possibly thousands of other victims’ families that I have heard from in the last 24 hours begging me to turn this train around because they know it will eventually affect their cases.”
Van Houten has been recommended for parole five times since 2016, and all of those recommendations have been declined.
The Second District Court of Appeal’s 2-1 ruling on Wednesday reverses Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest rejection of parole for Van Houten in 2020.
“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,” the judges wrote. “Although the Governor states Van Houten’s historical factors ‘remain salient,’ he identifies nothing in the record indicating Van Houten has not successfully addressed those factors through many years of therapy, substance abuse programming, and other efforts.”
Even with rehabilitative efforts, Debra Tate does not believe Van Houten is remorseful for her actions.
“The California Board wants rehabilitation to work, of course, we all do,” Tate said. “But there’s a certain category of person that is unlikely for that to happen.”
She continued: “She has never said she was sorry in a letter or a personal form to the LaBianca family. She will cry phony tears in the courtroom saying she’s sorry to the parole board but not to her victims’ families.”
Van Houten has been serving a life sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.