Thomas Elias: Manson ‘family’ parole efforts just keep coming
They simply are not content to leave Californians alone, these once-murderous followers of racist guru Charles Manson, who has himself tried and failed 12 times to get parole.
Like a plague that’s all but impossible to eradicate, the multiple members of this killing crew keep trying to win their freedom. Some have become prison preachers and academic stars while behind bars. Others have more or less vegetated. But their consistent theme as they try for freedom is “We’re old now, and harmless; let us go.”
It should never happen to even one more of this bunch.
Bad enough that back in the early 1970s, prosecutors bargained with Manson acolyte Linda Kasabian, who allegedly never personally wielded a knife or gun during the evil troupe’s deadly raids, but admittedly was along on jaunts where the convicted killers broke in on their targets. Kasabian never did jail time.
Equally wrong that Steve (Clem) Grogan, a sometimes musician who helped as Manson, Charles (Tex) Watson and Bruce Davis murdered stuntman Short Shea, won parole in 1985 after drawing a map that allowed police to find Shea’s body.
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Shea had earlier befriended Grogan and often bought him clothes while Grogan lived on the now-defunct Spahn Movie Ranch above Chatsworth between Los Angeles and Simi Valley before the Manson gang began squatting on the ranch. (The late owner George Spahn once told this reporter he never wanted Manson or his followers on his picturesque acreage, where Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and many others made Western movies.)
Now come Davis and Patricia Krenwinkle, the most recent of these slayers of innocents to seek freedom. While Watson, Davis, Leslie Van Houten and Beausoleil have all been denied parole during the last three years (and fellow Manson acolyte Susan Denise Atkins died in prison), Krenwinkle’s lawyer Keith Wattley imaginatively argues that she suffered from battered woman’s syndrome at the time of the cult’s crimes. (A parole panel has just approved Davis for release for the fourth time; it’s again up to Gov. Jerry Brown to veto that.)
Krenwinkle was one of the crew that cut power and phone lines at the Beverly Hills-area estate of actress Sharon Tate in 1969, and then murdered her and four others there. Krenwinkle’s roles: Chasing coffee heiress Abigail Folger and stabbing her 28 times, then writing “Death to Pigs” in Folger’s blood on a wall.
The next night, she participated in the murders of grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in the Hollywood Hills, helping carve the word “WAR” into LaBianca’s stomach and scrawling a bloody “Helter Skelter” onto a wall.
Wattley’s battered-woman argument has never before been raised in a Manson Family parole proceeding, and the state Parole Board indicated it might take months to think about it.
Tate’s sister, Debra, said she doesn’t agree that Krenwinkle was a victim of any kind, noting she was free to leave the murder scenes at any time and helped in killings on consecutive nights. “She’s totally minimized her actions and blamed everything on other people,” Tate told a reporter.
Like Watson and Davis, Krenwinkle has led an exemplary life since her death sentence, which was commuted to life in prison when California’s Supreme Court in 1972 briefly ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. She’s earned a college degree in prison, trained service dogs and counseled other inmates at the women’s prison in Corona.
Is that enough to justify freeing her when jurors in 1971 made it clear they thought she didn’t deserve another moment of life, let alone years of freedom?
Other parole boards have said they thought other Manson killers had paid sufficiently for their crimes and posed no further danger. But no governor in more than 30 years has allowed any of this gang to go free.
For sure, if the Parole Board rules in Krenwinkle’s favor, Brown will again confront memories of the terror that afflicted the Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills where he lived at the time, just two canyons east of the Tate home in Benedict Canyon.
He surely knows any such parole would taint his legacy, perhaps even more than the several forms of corruption that he has steadfastly glossed over during his current, second administration.
Thomas Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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