SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California parole panel recommended the release of Patricia Krenwinkel for the first time Thursday, more than five decades after she and other followers of cult leader Charles Manson terrorized the state and she wrote “Helter Skelter” on a wall using the blood of one of their victims.
Krenwinkel, 74, was previously denied parole 14 times for the slayings of pregnant actor Sharon Tate and four other people in 1969. She helped kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary the next night in what prosecutors say was an attempt by Manson to start a race war.
The parole recommendation will be reviewed by the state parole board's legal division before likely going to Gov. Gavin Newsom for a decision within five months. He has previously rejected parole recommendations for other followers of Manson, who died in prison in 2017.
New laws since Krenwinkel was last denied parole in 2017 required the parole panel to consider that she committed the murders at a young age and is now an elderly prisoner.
Also, for the first time, Los Angeles County prosecutors weren’t at the parole hearing to object, under District Attorney George Gascón’s policy that prosecutors should not be involved in deciding whether prisoners are ready for release.
However, Krenwinkel’s attorney, Keith Wattley, said relatives of her victims offered the same objections at the hearing as prosecutors have in the past.
What was different this time was that the parole panel was willing to follow the law, he said, recognizing that she has had no disciplinary violations and is no longer a danger to society.
“She's completely transformed from the person she was when she committed this crime, which is all that it's supposed to take to be granted parole,” he said.
“I’m hopeful that the governor recognizes that he shouldn’t be playing political games with people’s lives," Wattley said. “The governor would be blocking her parole not because he’s afraid of her, but because he doesn’t like her. And the law doesn’t allow that.”
Krenwinkel remains incarcerated at the California Institution for Women east of Los Angeles.
Commissioners five years ago rejected her parole despite arguments then that she was affected by battered women’s syndrome when she helped in the bloody slayings.
Krenwinkel was a 19-year-old secretary living with her older sister when she met Manson, then age 33, at a party. She testified in 2016 that she soon left everything behind to follow him because she thought they might have a romantic relationship.
But she said Manson abused her physically and emotionally and trafficked her to other men for sex. She said she fled twice only to be brought back and that she was rarely left alone and usually was under the influence of drugs.
At her last parole hearing, Krenwinkel told how she repeatedly stabbed Abigail Folger, 26, heiress to a coffee fortune, at Tate’s home on Aug. 9, 1969.
The next night, she said Manson and his right-hand man, Charles “Tex” Watson, told her to “do something witchy,” so she stabbed 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.
She and other participants were initially sentenced to death. But they were resentenced to life with the possibility of parole after the death penalty in California was briefly ruled unconstitutional in 1972.
Krenwinkel became the state’s longest-serving female inmate when fellow Manson follower Susan Atkins died of cancer in prison in 2009. Wattley said he understands she is the longest-serving woman in the United States.
Don Thompson, The Associated Press