For your consideration - Thom Barker

For your consideration - Thom Barker

Summertime and the eating is… difficult

Thom embarks on an effort to lose weight

There are some people who should never get out of jail.

But Leslie Van Houten is probably not one of those people.

When she hooked up with Charlie Manson and his cult of psychedelic drug-induced free lovers in the late 1960s, she was a disenfranchised, impressionable 19-year-old.

When she walked out of prison a couple of weeks ago, she was a mild-mannered 73-year-old. She had previously been recommended for parole on several occasions, but her release was blocked by California governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom.

Even in the incarceration-crazy United States, it is unusual for murderers to spend 53 years in prison as Van Houten did.

But the “Manson Family” murders in the summer of 1969 were not the usual kind of mayhem our southern neighbors are so famous for.

In the summer of 1969, Van Houten along with several other Manson drug-addled acolytes committed some of the most sensational and grisly in crimes in United States history.

As the details unfolded after the fact, it had all the hallmarks of a you-can’t-make-this-kind-of-stuff-up story.

In a nutshell, it was sex and drugs and rock n roll taken to a macabre delusional extreme.

It’s impossible not to shudder at the absolute gruesomeness of the killings, but equally impossible not to be fascinated by the story.

Charles Manson was essentially a charismatic grifter with delusions of grandeur. He was a petty criminal, who after getting out of prison in 1967, managed to befriend famous musicians such as Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, Neil Young, Mama Cass and actor Angela Lansbury.

Although personally the antithesis of the peace and love counterculture of the 1960s, he managed to lure close to 100 people into his “family” on an abandoned movie set in the California desert.

He orchestrated the murders, but didn’t directly order or participate in them. In prison, he reportedly alternated between claiming innocence and boasting about the crimes.

Charles Manson was one of those people who should never get out of jail. In fact, he was one of those people who make a good case for the death penalty, which he actually received as a sentence in 1971. But in 1972, California (rightfully) abolished capital punishment and the sentence was commuted to life in prison.

He died there in 2017.

Susan Atkins also never got out of prison having died in 2009.

That leaves Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson.

Last year, Krenwinkel (now 75) was actually granted parole, but Newsom blocked it saying she still poses an “unreasonable risk to public safety.”

Watson, now a 77-year-old minister (ordained in 1981) has been denied parole 18 times.

And the debate rages on.

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