Los Angeles, USA - One-time Charles Manson disciple and convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten will go before a California parole board for the 17th time today, backed by supporters who say she no longer deserves to be behind bars.
Van Houten was one of five people, including Manson, sentenced to death for her participation in a drug-fueled murder spree ordered by Charles Manson in 1969 at the height of California's "Summer of Love." The sentences were later commuted to life in prison.
"Leslie, my God, is unbelievable," her father, Paul Van Houten, said. "I'll guarantee you there are people on the outside who haven't done as well."
Van Houten, 60, has been described by her supporters and prison staff as a model inmate. She is working as a college tutor while studying for her master's degree in humanities and has not had one prison infraction on her record in more than 40 years.
But Debra Tate , whose pregnant sister, Sharon Tate, was one of seven people slain by the so-called Manson family during two nights in August 1969, said she has collected 60 letters asking the parole board to keep Van Houten behind bars.
Tate, who has made a full-time job of advocating to keep Manson and his followers in prison, said she has no doubt that Van Houten has been a model prisoner, but pointed out that she thrived only in a tightly controlled environment.
"Is a tiger dangerous if it gets out of its cage? We proved that at the L.A. zoo," Tate said. "In the cage they are fine. You cannot let them out."
Tate said she still gets regular death threats from Manson supporters, at a rate of about three to four a year.