Convicted murderer and Manson Family member Patricia Krenwinkel was denied parole by Governor Gavin Newsom over the weekend, marking the 15th time since first being incarcerated in the California prison system in 1971.
Krenwinkel was arrested in 1969 at age 21 for helping Manson Family leader Charles Manson, as well as others in his cult, in killing actress Sharon Tate and others at the 10050 Cielo Drive house in Los Angeles, followed two days later in the murder of Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. In the Cielo Drive murders, Krenwinkel specifically stabbed Abigail Folger to death, later recalling “I stabbed her and I kept stabbing her.” She also noted later that she felt nothing during the attack, admitted to being the one who wrote ‘Helter Skelter’ on a wall in a victims blood, and expressed “Nothing, I mean, what is there to describe? It was just there, and it was right.” Krenwinkel also admitted to helping kill the LaBianca couple in the groups next attack two days later.
Following the attacks, the group switched locations several times before Manson told Krenwinkel to go back home to Alabama, where police eventually arrested her in Mobile in December of 1969. Following a long trial in 1970 and 1971, Krenwinkel, along with two other Manson family members who also committed murder in the LA attacks, was sentenced to death the next year. However, her death sentence was commuted to life in prison following the People v. Anderson decision that commuted most death sentences in the state, and was later reinstated.
Starting in 1978, Krenwinkel tried every several years to be paroled, with her 14th denial coming in 2017 following a year long investigation into her claims of having committed the murders due to suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome at the hands of Manson. While she has been moved around at times, Krenwinkel has spent most of her time behind bars at the California Institute for Women in Corona.
More recently, in May, the California Board of Parole Hearings found Krenwinkel to be suitable for parole for the first time. While Governor Newsom, who has the power to block paroles of those locked up for murder, has resisted allowing high-profile murderers from receiving parole, such a denial of RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan coming earlier this year and two denials of fellow Manson Family member Leslie van Houten, there was some concern that Newsom would pardon Krenwinkel due to claims of her being a model prisoner who has helped others through programs in the prison such as alcoholics anonymous and teaching the illiterate how to read.
Krenwinkel denied parole for 15th time
However, Newsom rejected the parole during the weekend, highlighting in a statement that while she has “matured” in prison and helped many inside, her efforts have not erased her dangerousness if released.
“Ms. Krenwinkel fully accepted Mr. Manson’s racist, apocalyptical ideologies,” said the Governor in a statement during the weekend. “Ms. Krenwinkel was not only a victim of Mr. Manson’s abuse. She was also a significant contributor to the violence and tragedy that became the Manson Family’s legacy. Beyond the brutal murders she committed, she played a leadership role in the cult, and an enforcer of Mr. Manson’s tyranny. She forced the other women in the cult to obey Mr. Manson, and prevented them from escaping when they tried to leave.
“While Ms. Krenwinkel has matured in prison and engaged in commendable rehabilitative efforts and has demonstrated effusive remorse, her efforts have not sufficiently reduced her risk for future dangerousness. She and other followers of the cult leader terrorized the state in the late 1960s, committing crimes that were among the most fear-inducing in California’s history. She still has a lack of insight into the causative factors of her crime or her triggers for antisocial thinking and conduct during bad relationships.”
In addition to the psychological insight, many family members of victims had come forward before his decision, urging the Governor to block her release. Many commentators also noted some more pressing reasons for Newsom’s denial.
“We have only a few weeks until the election,” said criminal law advisor Benny Forbes to the Globe on Monday. “If news came out that Newsom just let her walk, I mean, it wouldn’t sink him in the Governor’s election this year, but it would sting any future election for himself, as well as hurt some close races this year due to association with Newsom. Plus with crime being high right now and a lot of cases of released prisoners commiting crimes again once out, it just wouldn’t look good. Not to mention that most Californians see keeping her behind bars as the right thing to do for what she did to all those people in 1969. It’s way too much at risk. He doesn’t need any more heat on himself or other candidates right now. Plus, imagine him trying to fumble the question of why he released a Manson Family member in a debate.”
To date, despite hundreds of parole requests by Manson family members, including Charles Manson himself, dating back to the 1970’s, only one, Steve “Clem” Grogan, has been released. As of 2022, Grogan’s 1985 release has been the only time a Manson Family member ever walked out of prison a free person. Krenwinkel is currently the longest-serving woman in prison in the United States, having been behind bars for over 50 years.
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