Leslie Van Houten sat before the California panel that would soon recommend her parole as a slight woman with shoulder-length gray hair, a wrinkled face and glasses, a far cry to from the rebellious teen she was when she joined the cult of Charles Manson more than 40 years ago and helped kill a wealthy grocer and his wife.
At a five-hour hearing she described in detail how she descended from an idyllic childhood into psychedelic drug use and eventually found Manson, whom she described as a "Christ-like man that had all the answers" for a young woman whose parents' divorce had left her feeling abandoned and angry.
On Thursday she convinced the state panel that the murderous young woman she had been was a long-distant memory and that she was now fit to be paroled. She has completed college degrees and been a model inmate.
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