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Manson murderess denied parole

Former Charles Manson follower and convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten has been denied parole for the 20th time.

A California panel rejected Van Houten's bid for release from state prison.

Van Houten, now 63, was convicted of murder and conspiracy for her role in the August 1969 killing of wealthy Los Angeles grocers Leno and Rosemary La Bianca. They were stabbed to death the night after Manson's followers killed actress Sharon Tate and four others. The killings are among the most notorious murders of the 20th century.

Van Houten earlier told the parole board in unprecedented detail how committed she was to the murders Manson ordered, but said she had changed. "I know I did something that is unforgivable, but I can create a world where I make amends," Van Houten said. "I'm trying to be someone who lives a life for healing rather than destruction."

Van Houten did not participate in the Tate killings but went along the next night when the La Biancas were killed in their home. During the penalty phase of her trial she confessed to joining in stabbing Mrs La Bianca after she was dead.

With survivors of the La Biancas sitting behind her at the California Institution for Women, Van Houten acknowledged participating in the killings ordered by Manson. "He could never have done what he did without people like me," said Van Houten, who has been in custody for 44 years.

After years of therapy and self-examination, she said, she realised that what she did was "like a pebble falling in a pond which affected so many people". "Mr and Mrs La Bianca died the worst possible deaths a human being can."

Arguing to the board, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequiera said some crimes may be an exception to the law guaranteeing the possibility of parole. "There are certain crimes that are so heinous, so atrocious, so horrible that it should cause denial of parole," he said.

Van Houten's lawyer, Michael Satris, said his client "sank to the depths of Dante's inferno and she put herself there by consorting with the devil himself, Charles Manson". But he said she had totally reformed. "Leslie committed a great sin, a great crime in 1969, and in that time (in prison) she has developed into the equal of a saint," he said. "Everything she does is for humanity."

Manson, now 78, has stopped coming to parole hearings, sending word that prison is his home and he wants to stay there.

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