Manson follower Patricia Krenwinkel seeks parole
Sacramento, Calif. — A parole hearing resumed Thursday for convicted killer Patricia Krenwinkel — a follower of cult leader Charles Manson — after officials investigated whether battered women’s syndrome affected her state of mind at the time of the murders nearly five decades ago.
Krenwinkel, 69, was previously denied parole 13 times for the 1969 slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people in Southern California.
The next night, she helped kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in what prosecutors say was an attempt by Manson to ignite a race war.
Commissioners postponed the latest parole hearing in December while officials investigated whether Krenwinkel suffered from battered women’s syndrome.
The hearing resumed Thursday at the California Institution for Women east of Los Angeles. A possible decision by the parole panel to release Krenwinkel could be blocked by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, expects the commissioners to recommend release.
State law could favor Krenwinkel, the longest serving female inmate in California. It creates a greater presumption that she could be freed because she is considered legally elderly now and was legally youthful and thus less culpable at the time of the slayings, when she was 21.
If commissioners decide she suffered from what is formally known as intimate partner battering, “she would have three statutes in her favor,” Debra Tate said before the hearing. “That gives her the perfect trifecta, so I expect the worst and I will be pleasantly pleased if they deny her her parole date.”
Krenwinkel’s attorney Keith Wattley did not respond to requests for comment.
State law requires commissioners to give “great weight” to whether physical, emotional or mental abuse affected offenders to the point that “it appears the criminal behavior was a result of that victimization.”
“It appears from all of Ms. Krenwinkel’s testimony that she seems to fit in many if not all of the elements,” deputy parole commissioner Nga Lam said at the December hearing.
Krenwinkel was a 19-year-old secretary living with her older sister when she met the then-33-year-old Manson at a party. She testified that she left everything behind three days later to follow him because she believed they had a budding romantic relationship.
She testified in December that her feelings faded when she realized Manson was routinely sleeping with other women, including underage girls, became physically and emotionally abusive, and trafficked Krenwinkel to other men for sex.
She said she left him twice only to be brought back, that she was usually under the influence of drugs and rarely left alone.
“I thought I loved him. I thought — it started with love, and then turned to fear,” she said.
She recounted how she chased down and repeatedly stabbed Abigail Folger, 26, heiress to a coffee fortune, at Tate’s home on Aug. 9, 1969, and helped Manson and other followers kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, the following night.
Manson and his right-hand man, Charles “Tex” Watson, told her to “do something witchy,” she said, so she stabbed Leno La Bianca in the stomach with a fork, then took a rag and wrote “Helter Skelter,” “Rise” and “Death to Pigs” on the walls with his blood.
Prosecutors say the slayings were intended to spark an apocalyptic race war that Manson called “Helter Skelter,” after a Beatles song.
Intimate partner battery was also briefly discussed during the last parole hearing for Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, 67, in 2016. The commissioners recommended that she be paroled, but Brown blocked her release.
Krenwinkel became the state’s longest-serving female inmate when fellow Manson follower Susan Atkins, the third woman convicted in the series of slayings, died of cancer in prison in 2009.
Anthony DiMaria, the nephew of victim Thomas Jay Sebring who died during the first massacre, criticized commissioners’ consideration of intimate partner battering, part of what he said “has become the twisted metamorphosis of a killer into victim.”
“Sadly, there are millions of intimate partner battery victims in this country,” he said in remarks prepared for Thursday’s hearing. “But fortunately, it’s safe to say, that almost none of them suddenly become a maniacal predator that stalks, pounces, butchers and mutilates her victims.”
William Portanova, a defense attorney and former prosecutor who is not affiliated with the case, said commissioners would seem justified in denying Krenwinkel’s parole even if they find that she was a victim of domestic violence.
“It was such a calculated act of insanity perpetrated by people that were so weak that they followed a madman into murder, and I think the parole board is justified in worrying that such weak-mindedness may be permanent and therefore the danger of reoffending, if released, is too high to take the chance,” he said.