By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Manson Family killer Leslie Van Houten on Wednesday was denied parole for the 20th time since she was sentenced to life in prison for her role in sensational cult murders nearly 44 years ago.
California prison officials declined to release Van Houten, 63, following a parole board hearing at the California Institution for Women in Chino, east of Los Angeles, where she is an inmate.
She is eligible to seek parole again in five years.
Van Houten was convicted of murder and conspiracy in connection with the Manson Family murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, who were stabbed to death in their Los Angeles home on August 9, 1969.
The killers used their blood to write "Rise," "Death to Pigs" and "Healter-Skelter", a misspelled reference to a Beatles song, on the walls and a refrigerator door.
"Given the brutality of the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and Van Houten's willing and active participation in this evil, pre-planned and violent crime, we are pleased with the parole board's decision to continue to hold Van Houten accountable for her heinous actions," Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a written statement.
Van Houten was found guilty of the LaBianca murders in 1971 and sentenced to death, but that conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal. She was retried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1978.
Manson became one of the 20th century's most infamous criminals in the summer of 1969, when he directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people in what prosecutors said was part of a plan to incite a race war between whites and blacks.
Among the victims was actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski. She was stabbed 16 times by members of the cult in the early-morning hours of August 9, 1969.
Four other people were stabbed or shot to death at Tate's home that night by the Manson followers, who scrawled the word "Pig" in blood on the front door before leaving. Van Houten was not involved in the Tate murders.
Manson was originally sentenced to death but was spared execution after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972.
Now 78, he is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison in California for the seven Tate-LaBianca killings and the murder of another man, Gary Hinman, in July 1969. He repeatedly has been denied parole.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Xavier Briand)