Leslie Van Houten's sexual letter relationship (lost letter communication between Manson Family member and unknown double murderer; pre-2016)
Leslie Van Houten is a convicted murderer most infamous for being a member of the Manson Family. On 10th August, 1969, she participated in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, which resulted in her and several other Family members being convicted and sentenced to death on 29th March, 1971, which was later reduced to a life sentence. Van Houten was incarcerated at the California Institute of Women for 53 years, with over 20 attempts for parole being denied over the years. During her time incarcerated, Van Houten was known to have been in a 15-year sexual letter relationship with an unknown double murderer.
Van Houten's time in the Manson Family has its origins back in her teenage years, where the divorce of her parents played a key factor in her becoming sexually active and a taker of acid at around 14. A few years later, she had travelled around California for sex and drugs, before meeting Manson Family members Bobby Beausoleil and Catherine Share in 1968. It would not be long before she would meet Charles Manson, leading to her becoming a member of the Family.
Despite her relationship with Manson being somewhat limited due to Manson feeling she "belonged to Bobby", Van Houten nevertheless became an influential Manson Family member. Therefore, while she did not participate in the Tate murders, where five people, including heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate, were murdered by Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, she was a key player in the subsequent LaBianca murders. The motive primarily stemmed upon her wanting to prove herself, and how she looked up to Krenwinkel, believing that if Krenwinkel was willing to murder, she could as well. On 10th August, 1969, she, alongside the murderers, Manson, driver Linda Kasabian, and Steven "Clem" Grogan, travelled to 3301 Waverly Drive. She along with Tex and Krenwinkel then proceeded to murder couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, with Van Houten stabbing the latter at least 14 times in the back and buttocks.
Van Houten, along with the rest of the involved Family members, would be arrested and charged with two counts of murder and one of conspiracy. On 25th January, 1971, Van Houten was convicted on those counts, and sentenced to death on 29th March, 1971. The removal of the death penalty in California in February 1972 meant her sentence was reduced to life in prison. While an appellate court decision overturned this conviction in 1976, another trial in 1978 led to her being convicted again and sentenced to seven years to life in prison.
The Sexual Letter Relationship
Van Houten was repeatedly recommended for parole during her incarceration, but her requests were repeatedly denied or overruled by the Governor of California until her release in 2023. In April 2016, the California Parole Board recommended Van Houten's parole request be granted. During Van Houten's parole hearing, Sharon Tate's sister, Debra, stated she believed Van Houten had not reformed since her time in the Manson Family, and also still had a proclivity for evil men. She used Van Houten's prison records to claim that the murderer was "allowed to have a 15-year sexual letter relationship with another double homicide individual in another state."
The identity of the double murderer is unknown, nor when the relationship began and ended as ultimately, the unidentified individual passed away prior to Van Houten's 2016 parole hearing. It is not believed to be William Syvin, a man Van Houten briefly married in 1982 but quickly divorced upon learning of Syvin's prison break plan for her that led to Williams being caught with a prison matron’s uniform in his apartment. While a convict, Syvin is not known to have committed any homicides. Aside from the fact the letters were sexually charged, very little else is known regarding the messages that were sent, including the frequency of messages. It is also unknown whether this revelation influenced then-California Governor Jerry Brown's decision to deny the parole request in June 2016, with Judge William Ryan upholding this ruling in October 2016, both men deeming Van Houten was still a threat to society.
The letters the unidentified double murderer sent to Van Houten most likely remains with the former Manson Family member. Because of their personal nature, it is unlikely for Van Houten to publicly release them, irrespective of whether she is ultimately paroled. Meanwhile, the location and fate of the letters Van Houten wrote to the unidentified individual remains unknown.
- Charles Manson's letters to Leslie Van Houten (lost prison letters from Manson Family leader to follower; 2013)
- Completion (unreleased Charles Manson album; 1984)
- Untitled Charles Manson Project (unreleased recordings; late 1960s)
- ABC News detailing how Van Houten's parents' divorce shaped the murderer's teenage years. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- All That's Interesting detailing how Van Houten met Bobby Beausoleil and Catherine Share, leading to her becoming a Manson Family member. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- CNN providing a transcript where Van Houten discussed her relationship with Manson. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- Oprah Daily detailing the Tate murders. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- Cieldo Drive detailing Van Houten's motivation for participating in the LaBianca murders. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- New York Times detailing Van Houten's participation in the LaBianca murders and subsequent trials. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- Los Angeles Times detailing Van Houten's various trials. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- CNN reporting on Van Houten's latest parole denial, in November 2020. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- Guardian reporting on Van Houten being recommended for parole in April 2016. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- RadarOnline reporting on the sexual letter relationship Van Houten allegedly had with an unknown double murderer. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- Inquisitr reporting on the sexual letter relationship Van Houten allegedly had with an unknown double murderer. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- Daily Entertainment News detailing Van Houten's relationship with William Syvin. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- NBC News reporting on Governor Jerry Brown's decision to deny Van Houten's parole request in June 2016. Retrieved 1 Dec '21
- Corrections1 reporting on Judge William Ryan upholding the decision to deny Van Houten's parole in 2016 Retrieved 1 Dec '21