Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel:
In the late 1960s, Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel became a member of the infamous Manson family and participated in Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969. Krenwinkel and co-defendants, Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, and Leslie Van Houten were found guilty and sentenced to death on March 29, 1971 and later automatically commuted to life in prison.
Krenwinkel's Teen Years:
Patricia Diane Krenwinkel was born in Los Angeles, California on December 3, 1947. Her father was an insurance salesman and her mother was a homemaker. Pat had an older step-sister, six and a half years her senior, was an influence on her when she was growing up. Throughout her childhood and into her teens Pat suffered from low self esteem, having once been over weight and because of a medical problem that caused an excess of body hair. She spent her teens feeling shunned and unattractive.
Krenwinkel Meets Charlie Manson:
After Pat's parents divorced when she was 17, she stayed in California with her father until graduating from high school when she then moved to Alabama to live with her mother and attend a catholic college. That lasted for only one semester and she moved back to California and roomed with her step-sister, Charlene, who at the time was a heroin addict. In 1967, at the age of 20, she met Charles Manson, Mary Brunner, and Lynette Fromme who were at her apartment visiting her sister.
Krenwinkel Becomes "Katie":
Manson zeroed in on Pat, possibly because he suspected that her lack of self esteem made her vulnerable and easily manipulated. The two had sex that evening and Manson told Pat how beautiful she was, tapping into her need to feel desired and loved. When Charlie invited Pat to join him and the others to go travel, she immediately accepted and remained in Manson's circle until her imprisonment in 1969. Manson often changed his followers' names. He decided on the name "Katie" for Pat Krenwinkel.
Katie remained in the inner circle of Manson's most devoted women and spent much of her time caring for the family's children. She had a quiet personality and listened to Manson's "visions" of Helter Skelter with intensity. The personal involvement in criminal activity did not seem to scare her, for she had no doubt been exposed to it through out her journeys with Manson. This made her a likely choice when Manson decided who would help him jumpstart what he called, Helter Skelter.
Jumpstarting the Race War:
Manson prophesized that the Beatles song "Helter Skelter" signaled the beginnings of a racial war of blacks against whites. Manson and his family would take refuge beneath Death Valley and when the war was over and the blacks were in power, they would come to Manson to lead the new nation. There were obvious problems with Manson's vision, but the biggest problem was that the race war wasn't happening fast enough. He decided that the blacks needed to be shown how to get things going.
Manson Gives His Orders:
To jumpstart the war, Charlie said that prominent white people needed to be butchered and racial slogans left in blood on the walls. He chose Tex, Katie, Leslie Van Houten and Linda Kasabian to do his first dirty deed. On August 8, 1969 he sent the four to the home of Sharon Tate with instructions to murder everyone inside, butcher them, and leave radical words written in blood on the walls. Katie worked eagerly right along side of Tex when the killing at the Tate home began.
The Tate Murders:
The first murder occurred outside the home when Tex shot 18-year-old Steven Earl Parent, who was visiting the caretaker. Once inside the home, Katie and Sadie rounded up everyone in the house including eight-month-pregnant, Sharon Tate. When the butchering began, Katie fought with house guest, Abigail Folger, who managed to escape out onto the lawn but was chased down and stabbed numerous times by Katie. Krenwinkel said Folger pleaded with her to stop by saying "I'm already dead."
The LaBianca Murders:
The next night Manson sent Krenwinkel, Tex, and Van Houten to the home of the LaBianca's. Manson went in and tied up the couple then left, instructing the others to go finish the job and leave "witchy" slogans in blood on the wall. Krenwinkel attacked Mrs. LaBianca and stabbed her repeatedly. She then stuck a carving fork into the stomach of Mr. LaBianca, and pinged it so she could watch it wobble back and forth. Before leaving, the group ate, showered and played with the coupleâs dogs.
Krenwinkel Is Found Guilty:
After the raids at Spahn Ranch and Barker Ranch, Manson told Krenwinkel to stay with her mother in Alabama. After Sadie "told all" about the Tate and LaBianca murders, Krenwinkel was arrested and extradited back to California to stand trial with Manson, Atkins, and Van Houten, on seven counts of first degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. She, along with the others, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death which was later commuted to a life sentence.
Prison Life: Over the many years that Krenwinkel has been in the California Institute for Women, she has maintained a prefect prison record, received a college degree and is active in prison support programs focused on alcohol and drug abuse. She has also taught fellow prisoners how to read.
A Life of Remorse: Patricia separated herself from Manson fairly quickly once in prison. Of the entire group, she seems the most remorseful about her participation in the murders. In an interview conducted by Diane Sawyer in 1994, Krenwinkel told her, "I wake up everyday knowing that I'm a destroyer of the most precious thing, which is life; and I do that because that's what I deserve, is to wake up every morning and know that." She has been denied parole 11 times and her next hearing is around July, 2007.
See Also: The Manson Family Photo Album
Desert Shadows by Bob Murphy
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
The Trial of Charles Manson by Bradley Steffens