California governor blocks parole of Charles Manson cult follower

‘Manson family’ cult follower Patricia Krenwinkel is the longest-serving woman prisoner in the United States.

California’s governor has blocked the parole of Charles Manson follower Patricia Krenwinkel — the longest-serving woman prisoner in the United States — more than 50 years after she scrawled “Helter Skelter” on a wall using the blood of one of their victims.

Krenwinkel was convicted in the 1969 slayings of pregnant actor Sharon Tate and four other people. She had helped kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in what prosecutors say was an attempt by Manson to start a race war.

Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday that Krenwinkel, now 74, is still too much of a public safety risk to be freed.

“Ms. Krenwinkel fully accepted Mr Manson’s racist, apocalyptical ideologies,” Newsom said.

“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,” he said.

In this 1970 photo, Charles Manson followers, from left: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, walk to court to appear for their roles in the 1969 cult killings of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, in Los Angeles, California [File: George Brich/AP]

A two-member parole panel for the first time in May recommended Krenwinkel be released — she had been denied parole 14 times previously.

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

Newsom, the governor, said that Krenwinkel and other followers of Manson had terrorised California in the late 1960s, committing crimes that he said “were among the most fear-inducing in California’s history”.

Newsom agreed that she had been well-behaved in prison, completed many rehabilitation and education programs and “demonstrated effusive remorse”.

But she still does not have sufficient insight into what caused her to commit her crimes, Newsom said.

“Beyond the brutal murders she committed, she played a leadership role in the cult, and [was] 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.

Anthony DiMaria, nephew of Jay Sebring, one of Krenwinkel’s victims, had urged Newsom to block her release “due to the rare, severe, egregious nature of her crimes”.

He said her actions incited “the entire Helter Skelter legacy that has caused permanent historical scars” and inspired at least two ritualised killings years later.

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

Debra Tate, the sister and last surviving member of Sharon Tate’s immediate family, was among victims who dismissed Krenwinkel’s explanation that she was led to Manson by alcohol use and a non-supportive family while growing up.

“We all come from homes with problems and didn’t decide to go out and brutally kill seven strangers,” Tate told parole officials.

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