GOVERNOR NEWSOM’S RULING ON PATRICIA KRENWINKEL’S 2022 PAROLE RECOMMENDATION
Oct. 14 – In 1967, 19-year-old Patricia Krenwinkel met 33-year-old Charles Manson and became his girlfriend and a member of his cult, “the Family.” The cult believed that an apocalyptic race war, which they called “Helter Skelter,” was imminent. They planned to hide in the desert until it ended, at which point they planned to seize control of the world. In 1969, Mr. Manson decided it was the cult’s responsibility to initiate Helter Skelter by killing white victims, thereby inciting retaliatory violence against Black people.
On August 9, 1969, Ms. Krenwinkel, who was then 21 years old, and three other Family members drove to the home of actress Sharon Tate where she was hosting three guests: Abigail Folger, Wojiciech Frykowski, and Jay Sebring. Ms. Krenwinkel and her crime partners broke into the home and one of Ms. Krenwinkel’s crime partners shot Mr. Sebring in the head. Ms. Folger and Mr. Frykowski tried to escape but Ms. Krenwinkel and a crime partner chased them, and Ms. Krenwinkel caught Ms. Folger and stabbed her 28 times, killing her. A crime partner then fatally shot Mr. Frykowski. Ms. Krenwinkel or one or more of her crime partners tied ropes around the necks of Mr. Sebring and Ms. Tate and her two crime partners stabbed them repeatedly, killing them. Ms. Tate was eight months pregnant when she was killed. The group wrote “pig” in blood on the front door before fleeing.
The next night, Mr. Manson, Ms. Krenwinkel, and four crime partners drove to the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Mr. Manson entered the home, then he left. One crime partner put a pillowcase over Mrs. LaBianca’s head and attempted to strangle her with an electrical cord. Ms. Krenwinkel stabbed Mrs. LaBianca in the neck and struck her collar bone, which bent the knife’s blade. Ms. Krenwinkel’s crime partners then repeatedly and fatally stabbed Mrs. LaBianca. Ms. Krenwinkel’s crime partners also fatally stabbed Mr. LaBianca. Before leaving the crime scene, Mr. Manson had told Ms. Krenwinkel to do something “witchy,” so she stabbed Mr. LaBianca’s body with a fork and used blood to write “Death to Pigs,” “Rise,” and “Healter [sic] Skelter” on the walls. The next morning, Mrs. LaBianca’s teenaged son discovered Mr. LaBianca’s body with a knife stuck in his neck, a carving fork protruding from his stomach, and the word “war” carved into his skin.
After the murders, Ms. Krenwinkel fled to Alabama until she was extradited to California in February 1970.
The Board of Parole Hearings (The Board) has conducted 16 parole hearings for Ms. Krenwinkel since she became eligible for parole in 1977. The Board has found Ms. Krenwinkel unsuitable for parole 14 times and she stipulated to unsuitability once in 2002. The Board found her suitable for parole at her hearing on May 26, 2022. This decision follows.
The California Constitution grants me the authority to review proposed decisions of the Board. (Cal. Const. art. V, § 8, subd. (b).) I am given broad discretion to determine an inmate’s suitability for parole and may affirm, reverse, modify, or refer back to the Board any grant of parole to a person convicted of murder serving an indeterminate life sentence. (Id.; Pen. Code, § 3041.2; see In re Rosenkrantz (2002) 29 Cal.4th 616, 625-26; In re Dannenberg (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1061, 1080, 1082, 1088.) I am authorized to identify and weigh all “factors relevant to predicting ‘whether the inmate will be able to live in society without committing additional antisocial acts.’” (In re Lawrence (2008) 44 Cal.4th 1181, 1205-06, quoting In re Rosenkrantz, supra, 29 Cal.4th at p. 655.)
When the Board proposes that an inmate convicted of murder be released on parole, I am authorized to conduct an independent, de novo review of the entire record, including “the facts of the offense, the inmate’s progress during incarceration, and the insight he or she has achieved into past behavior,” to determine the inmate’s suitability for parole. (In re Shaputis II (2011) 53 Cal.4th 192, 221.) My review is independent of the Board’s authority, but it is guided by the same “essential” question: whether the inmate currently poses a risk to public safety. (Cal. Const. art. V, § 8, subd. (b); Pen. Code, § 3041.2; In re Shaputis II, supra, 53 Cal.4th at pp. 220-21.)
The circumstances of the crime can provide evidence of current dangerousness when evidence in the inmate’s pre- or post-incarceration history, or the inmate’s current mental state, indicate that the crime remains probative of current dangerousness. (In re Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 1214.) In rare cases, the aggravated nature of the crime alone can provide a valid basis for denying parole, even when there is strong evidence of rehabilitation and no other evidence of current dangerousness exists. (Ibid.)
I am also required to give “great weight to the diminished culpability of youth as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of the prisoner” when determining a youthful offender’s suitability for parole. (Pen. Code, § 4801, subd. (c).) I further must afford special consideration to whether age, the amount of time served, and diminished physical condition reduce the inmate’s risk of future violence. (See Feb. 10, 2014 order issued in Coleman v. Brown, Case No. 2:90-cv-0520 LKK-DAD (PC) (E.D. Cal.) and Plata v. Brown, Case No. C01-01351 TEH (N.D. Cal.).)
After an independent and thorough review, the evidence establishes that Ms. Krenwinkel is not suitable for parole and cannot be safely released from prison at this time. She currently poses an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.
In the cases of inmates who commit their crimes when they are under 26 years old, I am required to review the record for evidence of factors relevant to their diminished culpability as youthful offenders and any subsequent growth and increased maturity. Ms. Krenwinkel was 21 years old when she committed the life crimes. She had graduated high school and completed a semester of college. She left school, started to use drugs, and decided to follow Mr. Manson. The psychologist who evaluated her in 2022 wrote that Ms. Krenwinkel “exhibited several hallmark features of youth,” including “impulsivity, immaturity, excessive risk taking, recklessness, low self-control, an imperviousness to negative outcomes, a susceptibility to Mr. Manson’s influence, coercion, and abuse, indoctrination into a cult, and a lessened ability to extricate herself from her environment at home and in the Manson group.”
I have also examined the record for all evidence of Ms. Krenwinkel’s subsequent growth and increased maturity in prison as set forth in youth offender laws. Ms. Krenwinkel has demonstrated positive institutional conduct. She has never been disciplined while in prison and only twice cited for minor infractions, last in 2005 for violating a posted housing unit rule. Ms. Krenwinkel has also engaged in considered reflection on her crime. During her risk assessment and at her parole hearing she demonstrated effusive remorse for her leadership role in the Family that empowered Mr. Manson, and her violent criminal conduct. Ms. Krenwinkel has also made efforts to improve herself in prison. She earned an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree in prison and completed four vocations, including recently earning a certificate in dog training. She has engaged in significant self-help programming. Since her last parole denial in 2017, she has focused on programming that addresses her history of antisocial thinking.
After assessing Ms. Krenwinkel and giving great weight to the relevant youthful offender factors, I conclude that these mitigating factors are outweighed by negative factors that demonstrate she remains unsuitable for parole at this time. While Ms. Krenwinkel has matured in prison and engaged in commendable rehabilitative efforts, her efforts have not sufficiently reduced her risk for future dangerousness.
Specifically, Ms. Krenwinkel has not developed sufficient insight into the causative factors of her crime and her triggers for antisocial thinking and conduct in the context of maladaptive relationships. Ms. Krenwinkel committed her life crimes in the context of a romantic relationship with Mr. Manson, which was marked by coercive control and violence. The psychologist who evaluated Ms. Krenwinkel in 2022 wrote, “Ms. Krenwinkel had historical problems with relationships and traumatic experiences, both of which are highly relevant to mitigating risk of future violence…. Her relationship with [Mr.] Manson involved abuse and manipulation on his part as well as infidelity, all of which she permitted and tolerated.” Ms. Krenwinkel fully accepted Mr. Manson’s racist, apocalyptical ideologies, and told the psychologist, “He was a survivalist to the max…racist to the max…we all accepted that. I believed in him…. I was in it completely. I was whatever he wanted it to be, was what I wanted it to be so I could be accepted.” She told the psychologist, “I felt he had control and I let him. I was completely dependent on him. I had no idea where we were going to or what we were doing. I let him take the wheel.” She asked why she stayed involved with the Family after Mr. Manson started exhibiting violent and disturbing conduct, she said, “It was tangled up with love…. I never felt strong enough to stand up to it. He would shut down feelings I had.” Ms. Krenwinkel demonstrated inadequate insight into why she was drawn to Mr. Manson, and so willing to follow him.
Ms. Krenwinkel was not only a victim of Mr. Manson’s abuse. She was also a significant contributor to the violence and tragedy that became the Manson Family’s legacy. Beyond the brutal murders she committed, she played a leadership 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. As Ms. Krenwinkel told her evaluating psychologist, “No one can be a leader unless someone props them up. I’m responsible for that…propping this man up, for giving him power. By agreeing and saying yes, I created this monster. I’m responsible.”
Ms. Krenwinkel’s candor about the corrosive dynamics of her relationship with Mr. Manson is an encouraging sign of her developing insight. It also, however, reveals the extreme degree to which her distorted thinking in toxic relationships and her susceptibility to negative influences remain highly relevant risk factors. Given the close nexus between these risk factors and her violent conduct, Ms. Krenwinkel’s current gaps in insight into these risk factors, and lack of related coping skills, make her unsuitable for parole at this time.
At her parole hearing, Ms. Krenwinkel accepted responsibility for her direct crimes, yet she continued to shift disproportionate blame to Mr. Manson for decisions and conduct within her control. When the psychologist asked Ms. Krenwinkel, “Did you plan the murders? Was there any premeditation at all?,” she responded, “No. I didn’t premeditate what we were going to do. I was not taken into the conversation.” Ms. Krenwinkel’s statement that she did not premeditate these murders is inaccurate. While Ms. Krenwinkel may not have been physically present for the discussions about these particular crimes, she admitted that, in the months before the murders, she willingly participated in weapons training in order to perpetrate a race war. The night after the murders at the Tate home, Ms. Krenwinkel willingly traveled to the LaBianca home where the intent was to inflict extreme violence on innocent people. This amounts to premeditation, and her statements to the contrary demonstrate that Ms. Krenwinkel continues to minimize her role in these crimes.
Ms. Krenwinkel’s account of her time in the Family reflects a significant lack of insight into her own internal processes that led to her decision to join, support, and help execute Mr. Manson’s terror campaign. During her evaluation, the psychologist asked Ms. Krenwinkel, “Did you know what you were doing when you stabbed the victims?” She responded, “Yes, I knew I was stabbing, I just didn’t care about anyone else’s lives. I didn’t have/hold anything sacred. I was a monster. I had nothing in me.” Ms. Krenwinkel summed up her time with the Family to the Board by saying, “I just kept accepting and allowing myself to go all along for the ride.” The deputy commissioner at her hearing summed up her response by describing her as a “homicidal robot.” However, Ms. Krenwinkel was not a homicidal robot—she was an adult who catered to the will of a violent and disturbed man. She made a series of conscious decisions over several years to continue her relationship with Mr. Manson, help him consolidate his power, and carry out acts of violence, even when he was not present to enforce them. Ms. Krenwinkel cannot be safely released until she improves her understanding of the internal processes that drew her to Mr. Manson and allowed her to remain in the harmful relationship for several years.
Ms. Krenwinkel also externalizes and shifts blame to Mr. Manson for her drug and alcohol use, which is another causative factor of her crime. When asked why she used drugs and hallucinogens, Ms. Krenwinkel replied, “I had to do it. I couldn’t get away from doing it. We had to take it as a group. It was part of accepting being there…part of the cult…you would take it. It wasn’t asked if you wanted to or not.” Ms. Krenwinkel, however, has also reported that she had used drugs since she was 15 years old. She told the psychologist that she had used alcohol, Benzedrine, and marijuana in high school and discussed how a friend visiting her during her junior year of high school introduced her to LSD. Ms. Krenwinkel’s drug use is a relevant risk factor especially because she had a prior history of drug abuse separate and apart from her relationship with Mr. Manson. Ms. Krenwinkel may benefit from additional self-help programming in order to better understand her substance abuse history, a key factor in preventing relapse.
Ms. Krenwinkel’s gaps in insight also bear on her ability to manage the unique stressors and public safety challenges she will face on parole. Ms. Krenwinkel committed crimes that were among the most fear-inducing in California’s history. While the crime facts are a static factor, Ms. Krenwinkel’s ability to manage the consequences of committing a notorious crime remains a highly relevant risk factor. Ms. Krenwinkel has acknowledged the challenges of living in the community as former Manson Family member. She has indicated, for example, that she would possibly need to change her name if released on parole. She did not, however, demonstrate an adequate understanding of, and strategies for handling, the significant challenges she will have to navigate.I have concluded that she must do additional work to identify these challenges and develop the skills and parole plans to address them in a prosocial way.
I have also given special consideration to the Elderly Parole factors for inmates convicted of murder who are older than 60 and who have served more than 25 years in prison. Ms. Krenwinkel is 74 years old and has served approximately 53 years in prison. The evaluating psychologist analyzed Ms. Krenwinkel’s elderly parole factors and determined, “There is little to no evidence in the medical record suggesting Ms. Krenwinkel has experienced a significant decline in cognitive abilities with age…. She has experienced a decline in physical capacity due to comorbidities but remains mentally and physically capable of committing crimes similar to the instant offense.” While Ms. Krenwinkel’s life crime involved direct acts of brutal violence, as discussed above, her current physical condition is not the most relevant indication of her current risk level. Ms. Krenwinkel poses a risk to public safety because she lacks the insight and coping skills she will need to avoid maladaptive relationships and external influences. Any diminishment of her physical strength does not alone sufficiently mitigate her risk factors for antisocial conduct. Accordingly, the elderly parole factors in this case do not outweigh the other evidence that she remains unsuitable for parole at this time.
When I consider all of the evidence, as a whole, I find that Ms. Krenwinkel still poses an unreasonable danger to society if paroled at this time. Therefore, I reverse the decision to parole Ms. Krenwinkel.
October 14, 2022
Governor, State of California