California governor blocks Charles Manson follower’s parole

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California governor on Friday blocked the parole of Charles Manson follower Patricia Krenwinkel, more than five decades after she scribbled “Helter Skelter” on a wall with the blood of one of their victims.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Krenwinkel, now 74, still poses too great a risk to public safety to be released.

“Mrs. Krenwinkel fully accepted Mr. Manson’s racist, apocalyptic ideologies,” Newsom said. Krenwinkel wasn’t just a victim of Mr. Manson’s abuse. She was also a major contributor to the violence and tragedy that became the legacy of the Manson family.”

A two-member parole panel first recommended that Krenwinkel be released in May, after her previous parole was refused 14 times. Newsom has previously rejected parole recommendations for other followers of Manson, who died in prison in 2017.

Krenwinkel became the state’s longest-serving female inmate when Susan Atkins, a follower of Manson, died in prison of cancer in 2009. Her attorney, Keith Wattley, said he understands Krenwinkel is the longest serving woman in the United States.

She and other followers of the cult leader terrorized the state in the late 1960s, committing crimes that Newsom said were “among the most terrifying in California history.”

She was convicted of the 1969 murder of pregnant actor Sharon Tate and four other people. She helped murder grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary the following night in what prosecutors say was Manson’s attempt to start a race war.

Newsom agreed that she behaved well in prison, completed many rehabilitation and education programs, and “showed effusive remorse.” But he concluded that “her efforts have not sufficiently reduced her risk of future dangers.”

She still doesn’t have enough insight into what drove her to commit the crimes or her “triggers for antisocial thinking and behavior” during bad relationships, Newsom said.

“In addition to the brutal murders she committed, she played a leading 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,” he said.

Wattley did not immediately respond to phone and email messages requesting comment on Newsom’s decision.

But Anthony DiMaria, cousin of Jay Sebring, one of Krenwinkel’s victims, had urged Newsom to block her release “because of the rare, serious and egregious nature of her crimes.” He said her actions instigated “the entire legacy of Helter Skelter that has left permanent historical scars” and inspired at least two ritualized murders years later.

New laws since Krenwinkel was last denied parole in 2017 forced the parole panel to consider that she committed the murders at a young age and is now of age.

Also, for the first time, Los Angeles County prosecutors were not present at the hearing to object, according to District Attorney George Gascón’s policy that prosecutors should not be involved in deciding whether inmates are ready for release.

She and other participants were initially sentenced to death. But they were sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after the California death penalty was briefly declared unconstitutional in 1972.

Krenwinkel was 19 and living with her older sister when she met Manson, then 33, at a party at a time when she felt lost and alone.

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“He seemed a little bigger than life,” she testified in May, beginning to feel “that somehow his view of the world was the right one, the right one.”

She said she left with him for what she thought would be a relationship with “the new man in my life,” who, unlike others, told her that he loved her and that she was beautiful.

Manson “had answers I wanted to hear…that I would be loved, that I would get the kind of affection I looked forward to in my life,” she said.

Instead, she said Manson had physically and emotionally abused her and others while demanding that they trust him without question, a testimony that led the parole panel to conclude that Krenwinkel was the victim of an intimate partner battery at the time.

It took about two years of travel and drug use before he started emerging as “the Christ-like figure who led the cult” who started talking about unleashing a race war, asking his followers, “Would you kill for me? And I said yes.”

During her 2016 parole hearing, Krenwinkel recounted how she repeatedly stabbed Abigail Folger, 26, heiress to a coffee fortune, at Tate’s home on August 9, 1969.

The next night she said Manson and his right-hand man, Charles “Tex” Watson, had told her to “do something witchy,” so she stabbed La Bianca in the stomach with a fork, then grabbed a rag and wrote “Helter Skelter,” ‘Rise’ and ‘Death to Pigs’ on the walls with his blood.

The fork with the bone-shaped handle “was part of a kit we used on vacations…to cut our turkeys,” the couple’s cousin, Louis Smaldino, told parole officers, calling Krenwinkel “a vicious and uncaring killer” .

Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, the last surviving member of her immediate family, was one of the victims who rejected Krenwinkel’s statement that she had been guided by alcohol consumption and an unsupportive family while growing up to Manson.

“We all come from troubled families and have not decided to go out and brutally kill seven strangers,” Tate told probation officers.

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