Former Charles Manson follower Patricia Krenwinkel—the murderer who gave a title to the Tate-LaBianca murders when she misspelled the name of a Beatles song as “Healter Skelter” on a refrigerator door in her victims’ blood—has been given the okay for parole after more than 50 years in California prisons.
Although Krenwinkel, 74, has been locked up since she was arrested in December 1969 for her part in that August’s grisly murder spree in which she and some fellow members of “the Family”—the former cultists say only squares like prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi ever called them “the Manson Family”—stabbed, shot, and bludgeoned to death seven people and an unborn baby, this is the first time she has been recommended for release, KCRA reports.
“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,” Krenwinkel’s attorney, Keith Wattley, said.
Wattley was referring to a change in the law that he hopes will allow Krenwinkel to walk, unlike in 2017, when she was denied parole for the 14th time. The new rules mandate that the parole board take into consideration that Krenwinkel was young when she committed the crimes, and is now old.
Krenwinkel met Manson at a party when she was 19. When she was 21, on the night of August 9, 1969, she joined Manson’s chief henchman Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian (who stayed with their car and later received immunity as a prosecution witness) when they stabbed, shot, and bludgeoned to death actress Sharon Tate and her unborn child, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski, and teenager Steven Parent.
Abigail Folger was two days shy of her 26th birthday when Krenwinkel chased her onto the lawn of the Tate home on Cielo Drive, wrestled her down, and stabbed her repeatedly. According to Krenwinkel, Folger begged her to stop stabbing her, saying, “I’m already dead.”
The next night, Krenwinkel, Watson and Family member Leslie Van Houten broke into the Los Feliz home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. Manson and Watson had directed Krenwinkel to do something “witchy” so she stabbed Leno multiple times in the stomach with a two-tined serving fork.
Krenwinkel and Watson later disagreed about who carved the word “WAR” into Leno’s abdomen, but it is agreed that Krenwinkel is the one who wrote “RISE” and “Death to Pigs” on the walls in the couple’s blood, and “Healter Skelter” on the refrigerator door—misspelling a Beatles song about a carnival ride and forever giving a catchy brandname to the Family’s serial killings.
Prosecutor Bugliosi theorized that Manson was out to start a race war by staging murders that would be blamed on Blacks, and that Manson’s “Helter Skelter” scheme called for himself and his followers to wait out the race war in a “hole” in the desert before emerging as rulers of a new world order.
Others (including convicted Family murderer Bobby Beausoleil) say it all started when Tex ripped off a Black drug dealer named Bernard Crowe earlier that summer for $2500, leading Manson to shoot Crowe, who survived, causing Manson to fear that the Black Panthers would wipe out his crew in retaliation—which in turn led Beausoleil to murder their friend Gary Hinman while trying get cash to pay off the drug debt, and that it was this killing Manson tried to cover up with his race war plot.
Initially sentenced to death, Krenwinkel and the rest of the Tate-LaBianca killers had their sentences commuted to life when California briefly outlawed the death penalty in 1972.
Also for the first time, KCRA reports, Los Angeles County prosecutors weren’t at Krenwinkel’s parole hearing to object to her release, thanks to L.A. District Attorney George Gascón’s policy that prosecutors should not be involved in deciding whether prisoners are ready for release.
Krenwinkel became the state’s longest-serving female inmate when Susan Atkins died of cancer in prison in 2009. Leslie Van Houten was cleared for parole for the fifth time in five years last November, and was ultimately rejected again in March.
Krenwinkel’s parole recommendation will be reviewed by the state parole board’s legal division before likely going to Governor Gavin Newsom for a decision within five months.
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