F or almost five decades, Leslie Louise Van Houten prisoner W-I at the California Institution for Women in Chino has appeared, with relentless regularity, before the California parole board in pursuit of her freedom. Along with Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, Van Houten was convicted of murder in the two-day killing spree orchestrated by Charles Manson 50 years ago this month. Van Houten was originally sentenced to die in the San Quentin gas chamber after her conviction in the sensational trial, which I covered as a British newspaper correspondent, that began in July and ended almost a year later.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles — a fact which I am immensely proud of.
We were all in our early to mid-twenties. As dusk fell over the eucalyptus and lemon trees surrounding the house, we dropped acid. As it turned out, this was not the right night for this group of people to do that. All afternoon the news had been filled with reports of a grisly and bizarre quintuple murder that had taken place after midnight in a mansion at Cielo Drive off Benedict Canyon in Bel-Air, an exclusive residential area of Los Angeles about eighty-five miles southeast of Santa Barbara.
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