Parole was denied Thursday for convicted killer Patricia Krenwinkel, a follower of cult leader Charles Manson and California's longest serving female inmate.
After a hearing at the California Instiution for Women in Corona, where Krenwinkel is incarcerated, the parole panel deliberated more than an hour before announcing its decision, informing Krenwinkel that she could apply again in five years.
Krenwinkel, 69, was previously denied parole 13 times for the 1969 slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people in Southern California. The next night, she helped kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in what prosecutors say was an attempt by Manson to ignite a race war.
Commissioners postponed the latest parole hearing in December while officials investigated whether Krenwinkel suffered from battered women's syndrome at the time of the slayings. The hearing resumed Thursday at the California Institution for Women east of Los Angeles.
Tate's sister, Debra Tate, worried the parole panel would recommend release. A decision by the parole panel to release Krenwinkel could have been blocked by Gov. Jerry Brown.
State law appeared to favor Krenwinkel, the longest serving female inmate in California. It creates a greater presumption that she could be freed because she is considered legally elderly now and was legally youthful and thus less culpable at the time of the slayings, when she was 21.
If commissioners had decided she suffered from what is formally known as intimate partner battering, "she would have three statutes in her favor," Debra Tate said before the hearing. "That gives her the perfect trifecta, so I expect the worst and I will be pleasantly pleased if they deny her her parole date."
Afterward the ruling, Tate expressed relief.
"I felt that the commissioners saw through the ruse, and came to the decision to protect the public."
Krenwinkel's attorney Keith Wattley expressed frustration that her efforts to take responsibility, reform herself, and become a model prisoner remain overshadowed by the horror of the murderous rampage.
"At the end of the day, they don't want to grant her parole because of the circumstances of the crime," Wattley said.
State law requires commissioners to give "great weight" to whether physical, emotional or mental abuse affected offenders to the point that "it appears the criminal behavior was a result of that victimization."
Krenwinkel is "not painting herself as the victim, but the abuse tht she experienced was a factor in her decision to be a part of this group, to participate in these crimes," Wattley said after the hearing.
During her time to speak to the parole panel, Tate read a letter from former Manson follower Barbara Hoyt, stating she had never seen Manson strike Krenwinkel.
She was a 19-year-old secretary living with her older sister and already abusing alcohol and drugs when she met the then-33-year-old Manson at a party. She testified that she left everything behind three days later to follow him because she believed they had a budding romantic relationship.
She testified in December that her feelings faded when she realized Manson was routinely sleeping with other women, including underage girls, became physically and emotionally abusive, and trafficked Krenwinkel to other men for sex.
She said she left him twice only to be brought back, that she was usually under the influence of drugs and rarely left alone.
"I thought I loved him. I thought -- it started with love, and then turned to fear," she said.
She recounted how she chased down and repeatedly stabbed Abigail Folger, 26, heiress to a coffee fortune, at Tate's home on Aug. 9, 1969, and helped Manson and other followers kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, the following night.
Manson and his right-hand man, Charles "Tex" Watson, told her to "do something witchy," she said, so she stabbed Leno La Bianca in the stomach with a fork, then took a rag and wrote "Helter Skelter," "Rise" and "Death to Pigs" on the walls with his blood.
Prosecutors say the slayings were intended to spark an apocalyptic race war that Manson called "Helter Skelter," after a Beatles song.
Intimate partner battery was also briefly discussed during the last parole hearing for Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, 67, in 2016. The commissioners recommended that she be paroled, but Brown blocked her release.
Krenwinkel became the state's longest-serving female inmate when fellow Manson follower Susan Atkins, the third woman convicted in the series of slayings, died of cancer in prison in 2009.
Anthony DiMaria, the nephew of victim Thomas Jay Sebring who died during the first massacre, criticized commissioners' consideration of intimate partner battering, part of what he said "has become the twisted metamorphosis of a killer into victim."
"Sadly, there are millions of intimate partner battery victims in this country," he said in remarks prepared for Thursday's hearing. "But fortunately, it's safe to say, that almost none of them suddenly become a maniacal predator that stalks, pounces, butchers and mutilates her victims."
William Portanova, a defense attorney and former prosecutor who is not affiliated with the case, said commissioners would seem justified in denying Krenwinkel's parole even if they conclude she was a victim of domestic violence.
"It was such a calculated act of insanity perpetrated by people that were so weak that they followed a madman into murder, and I think the parole board is justified in worrying that such weak-mindedness may be permanent and therefore the danger of reoffending, if released, is too high to take the chance," he said.