Charles Manson had a plan in mind when he and his followers entered two Beverly Hills homes in 1969.

Manson, a drug-crazed criminal with a rap sheet a mile long, sought to ignite a race war. The charismatic leader of a "family" of equally drugged-out souls envisioned a plan in which a struggle between whites and blacks would leave him and his followers in charge of society.

On Aug. 9, Manson sent members of his family into the home of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski.

Two days later, Manson's followers infiltrated the home of Rose and Leno LaBianca.

What happened in those two homes is the stuff of nightmares: Seven adults and Tate's unborn baby lost their lives in a slaughter that horrified a nation.

Among those responsible for the gruesome deaths was Leslie Van Houten, a Manson disciple who was convicted on Jan. 24, 1971, of two counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

Van Houten and her three fellow defendants each received the death penalty.

In 1972, the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty -- leaving Van Houten to serve a life sentence.

Fifty-two-year-old Van Houten made her 14th appearance before the Board of Prison Terms last Friday, seeking a release after 33 years behind bars.

The Board wisely denied her parole, citing the "cruel and calculated" nature of Van Houten's crimes.

The Associated Press reported a judge castigated the board for focusing on Van Houten's crimes instead of taking into account her accomplishments in jail.

One wonders which of Van Houten's accomplishments would erase the pain she inflicted on the LaBianca family.

Ultimately, each of us has the same potential for great good or great evil. It all boils down to the choices we make.

Van Houten and her comrades made evil choices. They showed an utter disregard for human life and labeled their victims as "pigs" with graffiti written on the victims' homes in blood.

If anyone ever deserved life in prison, it's Van Houten.

The system that gives her a parole hearing -- forcing the LaBianca family to dredge up painful memories -- is in itself cruel and unusual.

Parole serves a purpose, giving reformed felons the opportunity to re-enter society and make something positive of their lives. But we must point out that some murderers, who have distinguished themselves by their brutality, don't deserve parole hearings.

We wish Van Houten and her former leader, Charles Manson, long lives -- in prison



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