CORONA, Calif. – Parole board officials turned aside Patricia Krenwinkel's claims of being a changed woman and ordered the Charles Manson follower to remain in prison, saying the deaths of seven people in the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders still "remain relevant."
The two member panel said Thursday that the viciousness and notoriety of her crimes outweighs her efforts at rehabilitation behind bars.
"This is a crime children grow up hearing about," said parole commissioner Susan Melanson. She said they had received 80 letters from around the world advocating Krenwinkel's continued incarceration. "These crimes remain relevant."
Melanson and deputy parole commissioner Steven Hernandez not only refused Krenwinkel's parole bid but made her ineligible for reconsideration for another seven years., the longest denial handed down so far to any Manson family convict. Her four decades behind bars has made her the longest incarcerated woman in the California prison system.
Melanson and Deputy Commissioner Steven Hernandez issued their decision after the intense hearing and more than an hour of deliberations .
Krenwinkel, now gray haired and grandmotherly looking at 63, wept and apologized.
"I'm just haunted each and every day by the unending suffering of the victims, the enormity and degree of suffering I've caused," Krenwinkel said.
She was soft spoken and contrite in response to board members' questions, describing the downward spiral of her life after she met Manson and came under his spell.
"He sang to me and made love to me," she said. "...I left everything and went with him. He seemed like the answer to my salvation.".
Because of him, she said, "Everything that was good and decent in me I threw away."
It was her late father, she said, who helped her realize during his visits to her in prison, "what had happened, and the monster I became."
The panel had the option to deny parole for up to 15 years. Melanson said they felt that was unnecessary and commended Krenwinkel for her self-improvement and community service in her four decades at the California Institution for Women.
But they dismissed Krenwinkel's explanation that she was seeking approval from Manson by following his orders to kill.
"The panel finds it hard to believe a person can participate in this level of crimes and can't identify anything but 'I wanted him to love me,'" Melanson said.
Krenwinkel's claim that she is rehabilitated was met by anger and opposition from a prosecutor and families of the victims.
"If Patricia Krenwinkel has remorse, I don't see how she could walk into this room," said a tearful Anthony Di Maria, the nephew of Jay Sebring, who was killed along with Tate. "No punishment could atone for the cold-blooded murders in this case."
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira also suggested that if Krenwinkel was remorseful she would waive her parole hearings and accept her punishment.
Krenwinkel was convicted along with Manson and two other female followers in the seven murders. One of her co-defendants, Susan Atkins, died of cancer last year. The board's commitment to keep the Manson killers in prison was evident when they refused her compassionate release as she was dying.
Krenwinkel admitted during her trial that she chased down and stabbed heiress Abigail Folger 28 times at the Tate home on Aug. 9, 1969, and participated in the stabbing deaths of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the following night. Both homes were defaced with bloody scrawlings. She was convicted along with Manson, Leslie Van Houten and Atkins. Another defendant, Charles "Tex" Watson was convicted in a separate trial.
All were sentenced to death after a tumultuous nine-month trial. But their sentences were commuted to life when the U.S. Supreme Court briefly outlawed the death penalty in 1972.
None of those convicted in the Tate-LaBianca killings has ever been paroled. Parole boards have repeatedly cited the callousness, viciousness and calculation of the murders.
Van Houten, 61, the youngest of the women convicted, was long thought to be the most likely to win eventual release. But she was denied a parole date last summer.
Manson, now 75, refused to appear at his most recent parole hearings where he was denied a release date, and it is likely that he will never be released.
Manson followers convicted of other murders remain behind bars.
Debra Tate, sister of Sharon Tate, who also tearfully testified during the hearing, said outside the prison afterward that she will continue attending parole hearings for Manson family members to assure that they are not released.
"People want to forget. I want to forget and forgive and I have forgiven," Tate said. "I want them to have full lives in a controlled setting. I would never trust them in a free society."
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