It won’t be the first time that Leslie Van Houten tried to open the door of freedom, but her persistence may finally pay off. Her previous attempt was blocked by Governor Brown in 2016, who said she still hadn’t explained why she turned from a model student to a murderer. Van Houten was found guilty of stabbing a grocer and his wife to death in 1967. She applied for parole 21 times over the years and according to Fox News, she was "deemed suitable for parole" on Wednesday 6th September. Following the announcement, there was heavy condemnation by Debra Tate, sister of Sharon Tate who was brutally murdered by the Manson clan in 1969.

Tate demanded that Van Houten stay in jail and she coordinated a petition with 140,000 signatures opposing her release.

Changing her ways

It may have taken several years, but 68-year-old Van Houten regrets her actions. Only 19 when she committed the gruesome acts, she had been an athlete, a cheerleader and a homecoming princess. But, she dropped out of school to join Charles manson’s cult, encouraged in part, by another Manson follower, Catherine Share. At the parole hearing on Wednesday, Share testified that she regretted bringing in Van Houten and admitted that the young girl was impressionable and too scared to leave.

Since her incarceration, Van Houten has visibly tried to portray another persona.

She has completed multiple degrees, helps elderly female inmates at the California Institution for Women and, according to prison sources, is a role model for other prisoners. She admits that nothing about her previous actions makes her feel proud of herself. She said her life was complicated back in 1969 and her parents’ divorce, her drug addiction and failed pregnancy had a lot to do with her joining the Manson clan.

Her lawyer insisted that Van Houten’s “value system is the complete opposite of 1969 when she was following the teachings of a false prophet.”

Deeply ashamed

When she was sentenced to be executed on March 29, 1971, she became the youngest woman to receive the death penalty in California. But when the state ruled the death penalty unconstitutional one year later, Van Houten’s sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Over the years, she revealed she was deeply ashamed of what she did. NBC reported that during her hearing she told panelists, "I feel absolutely horrible about it and I have spent most of my life trying to find ways to live with it.” The L.A. Times also quoted her as saying “I take very seriously not just the murders, but what made me make myself available, to someone like Manson.”

Cult leader, Charles Manson, is 82 years old and is still behind bars. He won’t be eligible for parole until 2027. Many of his followers are still locked up, including Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles Watson, who were both denied parole several times. They helped to kill Tate and four others in 1969. Members of both the Tate and La Bianca families have continuously argued against parole for Van Houten and any Manson follower.