Patricia Krenwinkel, former Manson family member who actively participated in the Tate-La Bianca murders in August 1969, is trying again for parole after 45 years in prison. She is now the longest-serving female inmate in California, and had initially been sentenced to death before capital punishment was temporarily ruled unconstitutional in the state in 1972; her sentence was then commuted to life in prison. The death penalty in California was re-instated in 1977.
Krenwinkel was a central figure in the murders ordered by Charles Manson. On August 9, 1969, she and members of the Manson family attacked and killed a group of people gathered at the home of celebrity couple Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, including the actress, who was eight months pregnant at the time. Krenwinkel personally stabbed coffee heiress Abigail Folger to death after chasing her through the house and property, continuing to wound the young woman after Folger begged her to stop, saying, “I’m already dead.”
Folger’s white nightgown was a solid red color when authorities discovered her body the next morning. The following night, Krenwinkel assisted Tex Watson in the torture and brutal murder of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. She carved the word “war” into Mr. Bianca’s abdomen, and wrote messages with the victims’ blood on the wall and refrigerator of their Los Feliz home: “Death to Pigs” and “Healter [sic] Skelter.”
Krenwinkel has been denied parole 13 times before, despite her efforts to rehabilitate herself and show remorse for the killings. Shortly after her incarceration, Krenwinkel disavowed Manson and went on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree. She also volunteers to teach illiterate inmates to read and offers dance lessons to prisoners. But Krenwinkel’s effusive declarations of having shunned the person that she was at age 19, when the murders took place, suggest she is less concerned about the lives she took than the impact the murders have had on her own life. At her 2004 parole hearing, Krenwinkel was asked who was at the top of the list of the people she had hurt. “Probably myself,” she answered.
Donna Tate, Sharon’s sister, has repeatedly insisted that Krenwinkel is unfit for release. She attended Krenwinkel’s most recent parole hearing, in 2011, and argued that she should remain behind bars — pointing out that Krenwinkel had never once contacted Tate’s family to express remorse for her role in the murders.
“I want to believe the human condition is capable of change,” Tate said. “I believe in the possibility of reform. But I know what I am looking at, and I don’t see it here.”
No member of the Manson family, including Manson himself, has been granted parole despite numerous hearings, and there is little expectation that any of them will. “Ms. Krenwinkel is fully aware of the difficulty she faces,” her attorney said in an email to the Associated Press this week.
[Photo: Mobile Police Department]