Robert Beausoleil has been recommended for parole by a panel in California after being previously turned down 18 times.
The 71-year-old was not involved in the notorious murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others in August 1969 but was convicted over the killing of musician Gary Hinman a few weeks before.
Hinman was tortured for three days, according to testimony at previous parole hearings, with Charles Manson cutting his face and ear with a sword.
Beausoleil was given a death sentence in 1970 but that was changed to life in prison in 1973 after California temporarily suspended the death penalty.
The victim’s cousin, Kay Hinmam Martley, was at Thursday’s parole hearing and wants incoming California governor Gavin Newsom to block the release.
“I constantly have hope that they’ll do the right thing and keep these people in prison, and now my hopes have to go with the governor,” she said.
Outgoing governor Jerry Brown, whose term ends on 7 January, consistently blocked the release of Manson’s followers.
Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, also attended the parole hearing and has started a campaign to keep the killer behind bars.
Her petition, signed by 36,00 people, states: “After two days of torture and continuous bleeding from this wound, Bobby Beausoleil had Gary Hinman sign over his two cars, then stabbed Gary Hinman in the chest twice, killing him on July 27, 1969.
“Bobby Beausoleil wrote in blood on the wall ‘Political Piggy’ & drew a panther paw print in blood to try to blame the murders on the Black Panthers.”
Members of the so-called “Manson Family” committed nine murders in July and August 1969 at the cult leader’s request.
Manson himself died in prison in November 2017, age 83.
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