SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California parole board on Thursday recommended the release of Patricia Krenwinkel for the first time, more than five decades after she and other supporters of cult leader Charles Manson terrorized the state and she wrote “Helter Skelter” on a wall co-written the blood of one of their victims.
Krenwinkel, 74, was previously denied parole 14 times for the 1969 murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people who sparked a race war.
The parole recommendation will be reviewed by the legal department of the state parole board before being sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom for a decision, likely within five months. He had previously rejected parole recommendations for other supporters of Manson, who died in prison in 2017.
New laws since Krenwinkel was last denied parole in 2017 have required the parole board to say she committed the murders at a young age and is now an elderly prisoner.
Also, for the first time, Los Angeles County prosecutors were absent from the parole hearing to raise an objection, in accordance with District Attorney George Gascón’s policy that prosecutors should not be involved in determining whether prisoners are ready for release.
However, Krenwinkel’s attorney, Keith Wattley, said their victims’ families raised the same objections at the hearing that prosecutors have made in the past.
What was different this time was that the parole board was willing to follow the law, he said, acknowledging that she suffered no disciplinary violations and is no longer a danger to society.
“She’s completely changed from who she was when she committed that crime, which is pretty much all it takes to get parole,” he said.
“I hope the governor realizes that he shouldn’t be playing political games with people’s lives,” Wattley said. “The governor would block her parole not because he’s scared 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.
The commissioners rejected her parole five years ago, despite arguments at the time that she was affected by battering syndrome while helping with the bloody murders.
Krenwinkel was a 19-year-old secretary living with her older sister when she met Manson, then 33, at a party. She testified in 2016 that she soon left everything to follow him because she thought they might have a romantic relationship.
But she said Manson physically and emotionally abused her and sold her to other men for sex. She said she fled twice only to be brought back and that she was rarely left alone and was usually under the influence of drugs.
At her last parole hearing, Krenwinkel recounted how on August 9, 1969, she repeatedly stabbed Abigail Folger, 26, heiress to a coffee fortune, at Tate’s home.
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 grabbed a rag and “Helter Skelter “Wrote”, “Rise” and “Death to Pigs” with his blood on the walls.
She and other participants were initially sentenced to death. But they were again sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole, after California’s death penalty was briefly ruled unconstitutional in 1972.
Krenwinkel became the state’s longest-serving female inmate when Susan Atkins, a Manson supporter, died in prison from cancer in 2009. Wattley said he understands that she is the longest-serving woman in the United States.