A woman who once lived at a ranch with Charles Manson testified that former Manson follower Leslie Van Houten was “extremely docile” before the 1969 killings of grocers Leno and Rosemary La Bianca at their Los Feliz home and that she believed Van Houten would have done anything the cult leader asked.
“Do you know if Leslie succumbed to Manson’s control?” Van Houten’s latest attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, asked Catherine Share.
“Do I know? I believe so. Because she was extremely docile at the time and anything he said she would just do,” Share replied. “The thing with me is I would sometimes hesitate or say something back.”
Van Houten’s next parole hearing is less than a week away.
Share’s testimony came during a hearing in downtown Los Angeles to present mitigating evidence now allowed under state law because Van Houten was 19 at the time of the killings.
Van Houten, now 68, was not in court for the hearing, with her attorney explaining that she had recently broken her kneecap.
Van Houten was convicted of murder and conspiracy for participating with fellow Manson family members Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel in the Aug. 9, 1969, killings of Leno La Bianca, 44, and his 38-year-old wife, Rosemary, who were each stabbed multiple times.
The former Monrovia High School cheerleader and homecoming princess did not participate in the Manson family’s killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in a Benedict Canyon mansion the night before.
A state parole board had recommended in April 2016 that Van Houten — who had previously been denied parole 19 times between 1979 and 2013 — be paroled.
But Gov. Jerry Brown subsequently rejected parole two months later, finding that “the evidence shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.”
Van Houten’s appellate attorney has vowed to continue to fight for Van Houten’s release.
Share — who was called to the stand by the defense — testified that she felt like she almost left her body when Manson beat and kicked her after the top of a barrel of food broke off when she and another woman rolled it down a ravine at his behest. She also said Manson had asked another follower at one point if he would track her down and drag her back to the ranch behind a car if she left.
Share said she didn’t feel that she was free to leave and did not think Van Houten believed she could leave, either.
Share — who said she was known by the name “Gypsy” at the time — said she lived with Manson for about three years, testifying that she initially thought he was “really smart and really knew a lot about life.”
“I said, ‘There’s lots of really good-looking guys at this ranch I live at and this great man, Charlie.’ I just thought it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said, noting that Van Houten showed up at the ranch after meeting her in San Francisco and traveling through California for a time with fellow Manson follower Bobby Beausoleil.
Share testified that the atmosphere at the ranch changed “almost overnight” in the summer of 1969, and that she “found out later it was because Charlie thought he killed someone, a black man, over a drug deal.”
“When Charles Manson started to change, did the activities change?” Van Houten’s attorney asked.
Manson began talking a lot about how “the cities were going to explode” and there was “going to be a race war” and that they needed to find a place to hide, Share said, noting that the idyllic atmosphere of the ranch changed drastically.
She said Manson was more clever than ordering his followers to do something and instead manipulated them into thinking that it was their own idea, calling him “probably the most intense manipulator I’ve ever met.”
Share — who served time in prison for armed robbery — testified that she saw Van Houten become “very withdrawn and not talking to anybody and just staying by herself a lot” after the killings, and that Van Houten seemed to her to be “the most remorseful person that I had met in that prison” while the two women were behind bars.
Manson and many of his other former followers have repeatedly been denied parole.
–City News Service