Patricia Dianne Krenwinkel is a notorious female criminal. She is the longest serving female inmate across the prisons in California. She is a former member of the infamous Manson Family headed by tarnished criminal Charles Manson. She was a devout follower of Charles Manson and often carried out his instructions in a dedicated manner. She continued her association with Charles Manson and the ‘Family’ for many years even after her incarceration but slowly distanced herself from the cult. Her breaking away from the cult was a result of Manson’s denial to the abetment of murders carried out by Patricia and the fellow members of the Manson Family. After distancing herself from the cult, Patricia has made sincere efforts to maintain a clean record as a prison inmate. She continued her education from prison graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from the University of La Verne. She is an active participant in several prison programs and teaches other prison inmates. Since her imprisonment in 1969, the jury denied her a parole for record 14 times with the recent denial of parole in 2017. Patricia Krenwinkel’s life has been portrayed on the silver screen for an umpteen number of times since the 1976 made-for-TV film ‘Helter Skelter’, wherein Christina Hart portrayed the role of Patricia.
Childhood & Early Life
Patricia Krenwinkel was born in California on 3 December 1947. Her father was an insurance salesperson and her mother was a homemaker. Her parents divorced when Patricia was 17 years old and thereafter she was under the care of her father.
She is an alumnus of University High School and later graduated from Westchester High School. She also attended Spring Hill College in Alabama to pursue a degree but dropped out after the first semester to relocate to California.
After relocating to California, she initially taught Catechism, the religious education under the Roman Catholicism and contemplated to become a nun. Later, she joined a clerical job.
During her school days, she claims to have suffered from a low self-esteem resulting from frequent bullying due to her overweight and excessive bodily hair.
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Life With Manson Family
Krenwinkel’s life took a major turn in 1967 when she met Charles Manson, who mesmerized her with his charm and gave her the attention she craved for throughout her life. She joined Lynette Fromme and Mary Brunner, also followers of Manson, and the group moved to San Francisco embarking on journey of debauchery. The Charles Manson ‘Family’ started expanding during their hippie movement tour indulging in excessivedrugs and sex.
In 1968, Patricia along with fellow Manson member Ella Bailey, was spotted by Dennis Wilson of the ‘Beach Boys’ band. This led to the Manson family making a forced entry into his house making it their new home and leaving only after inundating Wilson with huge debts.
By the latter half of 1969, Patricia along with the Manson family moved to Spahn's Ranch near the San Fernando Valley by convincingGeorge Spahn to allow their stay at his ranch. Krenwinkel became the motherly figure for the illegitimate children of the Manson family owing to her immense devotion to Charles Manson.
Infamous Murders & Trial Thereafter
On 9 August 1969, Patricia Krenwinkel participated in gruesome murders along with other members of the Manson family Charles Watson and Susan Atkins, killing popular actor Sharon Tate and her director husband Roman Polanski. The murderers also killed other people present at the actor’s house at the time of murder including a teenager Steven Parent and coffee heir Abigail Folger.
On 10 August 1969, Krenwinkel, together with Watson and Atkins, willingly participated in another series of murders at the behest of Charles Manson. The trio barged killed Leno LaBianca, a grocer based in South California and his wife Rosemary in the most gruesome fashion.
On 16 August 1969, Manson, Krenwinkel and others were taken into custody on the grounds of suspicion for automobile thefts, but were later released due to a clerical error in the date mentioned on the warrant. Later, the Manson family relocated to Barker Ranch, where they continued their illegal activities of auto theft and converting the stolen automobiles into buggies.
On 10 October 1969, Patricia Krenwinkel was arrested along with Watson and Atkins, for the first time following a police raid at the Barker Ranch. She was bailed out of jail by her father and was instructed by Charles Manson to stay with her mother until he sent a word for her to return.
On 01 December 1969, Krenwinkel’s involvement in the murders was disclosed and the police arrested her from Alabama when Susan Atkins confessed her crimes to fellow inmates at the prison. She was charged with first-degree murder on seven counts and conspiring to murder on one count.
Initially, Patricia dodged the law enforcement authority’s efforts to extradite her to California for the murder trial, but in February 1970 voluntarily agreed to stand trial in California along with Manson, Leslie Van Houten and Susan Atkins.
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In March 1971, the courts awarded a death penalty to Krenwinkel after convicting her of all charges leveled against her along with Van Houten and Atkins. Neither Krenwinkel nor any other convict showed any type of remorse for the crimes.
Patricia Krenwinkel arrived in prison as an inmate on death row in April 1971. Her death sentence was changed to life imprisonment following a landmark decision from the California Supreme Court nullifying all death sentences awarded before 1972 in California.
Initially, Krenwinkel pledged her loyalties to the Manson family, but eventually started breaking away from the notorious group. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Human Services while serving in prison.
She actively participates in various prison programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous; keeps herself engaged in propagating literacy amongst other inmates, writes poetry, composes music, plays guitar and teaches dance. She is also a prominent player in the prison volleyball team.
In some of the later interviews, Patricia expressed remorse and guilt for killing people and regrets her wrongdoings. She claims that over the years, she gained the type of maturity and thoughtfulness, which she lacked when she carried out the murders.
The gruesome nature of the murders carried out by Krenwinkel in 1969 continues to haunt her despite her disciplined behaviour as a prison inmate. Every time her case comes up for a parole hearing, the panel quotes around 80 letters received from across the world pleading to continue her imprisonment.
In 2017, during her latest parole appeal, her counsel had presented the case claiming she suffered from ‘battered woman syndrome’ at the time of the murder being physically abused and mentally controlled by Charles Manson.Patricia can appeal for another parole after five years.
In Popular Culture
Helter Skelter’, a made-for-television movie in 1976 captured the life of Patricia Krenwinkel and Christina Hart portrayed the role. In the remake, nearly three decades later, Allison Smith played the role of Krenwinkel.
In the 2003 movie ‘The Manson Family’, Leslie Orr played Krenwinkel while Kaniehtiio Horn essayed the role in 2009 film ‘Leslie, My Name Is Evil’. In the 2013 film ‘Manson Girls’, the role was played by Vanessa Zima and Serena Lorien played the role in in the 2014 movie ‘House of Manson’.
In 2014, Olivia Klaus made a short film titled ‘Life after Manson’ and featured Patricia’s interview, her first in almost 20 years. The short film premiered at 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and received rave reviews.
In the 2015-16 television series ‘Aquarius’, Madisen Beaty played Krenwinkel and the role was reprised by Leslie Grossman in the latest season of ‘American Horror Story: Cult’ in 2017.