||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2009)|
Patricia Krenwinkel after her arrest in 1969
|Born||Patricia Dianne Krenwinkel
December 3, 1947
Los Angeles, California, U.S
|Other names||Big Patty
Mary Ann Scott
|Criminal penalty||Death, commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty|
Patricia Dianne Krenwinkel (born December 3, 1947) is an American murderess and a former member of Charles Manson's commune, known as "the Family". During her time with Manson's group, she was known as various aliases such as "Big Patty", "Yellow", "Marnie Reeves" and "Mary Ann Scott", but to The Family she was most commonly known as "Katie".
Patricia Krenwinkel was born in Los Angeles, California to an insurance-salesman father and a homemaker mother. She attended University High School and then Westchester High School, both in the Los Angeles area. Patricia was often bullied at school by other students, suffered from low self-esteem, and was frequently teased for being overweight and for an excessive growth of body hair caused by an endocrine condition.
After her parents divorced, seventeen-year-old Krenwinkel remained in Los Angeles with her father until she graduated from Westchester High School. For a time she taught Catechism (Roman Catholic religious instruction) and considered becoming a nun. She decided to attend the Jesuit college, Spring Hill College, in Mobile, Alabama. Within one semester, however, Patricia dropped out and moved back to California. Moving into her half sister's apartment in Manhattan Beach, she found an office job as a processing clerk.
Early years of "The Family"
She met Charles Manson in Manhattan Beach in 1967, along with Lynette Fromme and Mary Brunner, who were already known as "Charlie's Girls". In later interviews, Krenwinkel stated that she had slept with Manson the first night they met, and that he was the first person who told her she was beautiful. Mesmerized by Manson's charisma and starved for attention, she decided to go to San Francisco with him and the other two girls, leaving behind her apartment, car, and last paycheck.
As the Manson Family grew, Katie (as Krenwinkel was now known) and the others went on a drug- and sex-filled 18-month tour of the American west in an old school bus. She would later recount an idealized version of The Family's early days: "We were just like wood nymphs and wood creatures. We would run through the woods with flowers in our hair, and Charles would have a small flute". In the summer of 1968, Krenwinkel and fellow Family member, Ella Bailey, were hitchhiking around Los Angeles when Beach Boys founding member and drummer, Dennis Wilson, picked them up. After being invited to his home while he continued on to a recording session, Krenwinkel and Bailey were able to contact the Family and tell them of their new "crash pad". When Wilson returned later that evening, he found Manson and the rest of the Family eating his food, sleeping in his bedrooms, and partying inside and outside his home. After causing Wilson financial problems, Manson and the rest of the Family left his mansion.
After the hippie movement wound down in 1969, Krenwinkel and the Family decided to live in isolation from the rest of society. They persuaded the blind and elderly George Spahn to allow them to live on his property, and converged on Spahn's Ranch in the hills above the San Fernando Valley. Krenwinkel acted as a mother figure to the Family's several illegitimate children and was seen as an intense and devoted follower of Charles Manson.
Patricia Krenwinkel was a participant in the infamous murders on August 9, 1969 at 10050 Cielo Drive, home of actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski. After fellow Family member Charles "Tex" Watson shot and killed teenager Steven Parent in his car in the estates' driveway, Watson, Susan Atkins, and Krenwinkel entered the house, surprising all inside. When mayhem ensued, Krenwinkel dragged coffee heiress Abigail Folger from her bedroom to the living room, fought with her, and stabbed her. When Folger tried to escape following the first round of stabbing, Patricia was said to have chased Folger as she ran outside screaming. According to Patricia, she pinned Folger to the ground and further stabbed her; the victim pleaded with her to stop by saying, "Stop, I'm already dead". Katie continued to stab her so brutally that Folger's white nightgown appeared red to police investigators the following day. After stabbing Folger, Krenwinkel went back inside and summoned Watson, who also stabbed Folger. During her trial, Krenwinkel said, "...I stabbed her and I kept stabbing her." When asked how it felt, Krenwinkel replied: "Nothing, I mean, what is there to describe? It was just there, and it was right."
On Manson's orders, Krenwinkel participated willingly in more killing the following night. Along with Manson, Watson, Atkins, Steve Grogan, Leslie Van Houten, and Linda Kasabian, Krenwinkel went to the home of Southern California grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. After Manson and Watson tied up the couple, Manson left, giving orders to Van Houten and Krenwinkel to join Watson and kill the LaBiancas. Leaving Manson, Atkins, Grogan and Kasabian in the car outside, the trio proceeded to torture and kill the couple. Mrs. LaBianca, who was being held in the master bedroom, could hear the screams and struggling of her husband, who was being held in the living room, as Watson began stabbing him. She began to struggle. Once again wielding a knife, Krenwinkel attempted to stab Rosemary LaBianca while Van Houten held her down. However, her weapon was a dull kitchen knife and she was unable to actually stab the struggling woman. She and Van Houten called to Watson, who came into the master bedroom and stabbed her with a bayonet the group had brought. They also then repeatedly stabbed her.
According to Watson's book, Will You Die for Me?, he carved the word "WAR" on the abdomen of Leno LaBianca's corpse, although the act is sometimes attributed to Krenwinkel. Watson further claims that while he was washing off the LaBianca's blood in the couple's shower, Krenwinkel repeatedly stabbed the dead Leno LaBianca and left a carving fork embedded in his abdomen and a small steak knife protruding from his neck. In an interview, Krenwinkel admitted to stabbing Mr. LaBianca with the fork and leaving it in his abdomen. Both utensils were taken from the LaBiancas' kitchen. Krenwinkel then wrote "DEATH TO PIGS" in blood on the wall, and "HeaLter SkeLTter" [sic] on the refrigerator. When later questioned, Krenwinkel claimed that the only thing going through her mind at the time was that "Now he won't be sending any of his children off to war." Before hitchhiking back to Spahn Ranch, the trio stayed a while in the LaBianca home—eating food, showering, and playing with the LaBiancas' two dogs. Meanwhile, Manson, Atkins, Kasabian, and Grogan drove around Los Angeles looking for someone else to kill, to no avail.
While the Los Angeles police were busy investigating any leads they could find, back at Spahn Ranch rumors of the involvement of Katie and the others in the now-famous murders began to circulate. Due to an unrelated investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, parts of stolen cars were spotted in and around the ranch by helicopter. One week after the murders on August 16, 1969, Krenwinkel, Manson and other Family members were rounded up by police and arrested on suspicion of auto theft. Because of a date error, the search warrant was later ruled invalid and the group was released. Following this incident, the Family started to lose members one by one, due to the raid, the possible involvement of the Family in the Tate-LaBianca murders, and the newly-rumored murder of Spahn Ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea.
Because of the August 16th raid, Manson decided to move his "Family" to another ranch, this time near Death Valley. Barker Ranch now became home for the Family, including Krenwinkel. During their stay from August through October, the group spent its time converting cars it had stolen into dune buggies, but it didn't take long for law enforcement to catch up with Manson and his followers. On October 10, 1969, the group was once again arrested. This time, Krenwinkel's father bailed her out of jail, but she immediately returned to Barker Ranch. Upon her return, Manson (who was not present at the October 10 raid), ordered her to go to Alabama and live with her mother until he sent word for her to come home. The orders to return never came, however, because of Manson's subsequent arrest on October 12 at Barker Ranch.
Meanwhile, still in jail, Susan Atkins began to tell all about their involvement in the Tate-LaBianca murders to cellmate Veronica "Ronnie" Howard. Because of Atkins' confessions and Howard's disclosure, Krenwinkel was arrested near her aunt's home in Mobile, Alabama on December 1, 1969. The following day, Krenwinkel was indicted for seven counts of first-degree murder and one count conspiracy to commit murder. After her arrest, Krenwinkel claimed that she had gone to Alabama because she feared Manson would find her and kill her, hence her attempt to fight extradition to California. Finally in February 1970, she waived extradition proceedings and voluntarily returned to California to stand trial with defendants Manson, Van Houten, and Atkins. Watson was tried separately at a later date after unsuccessfully fighting extradition from his home state of Texas.
Krenwinkel's trial attorney, Paul Fitzgerald, suggested that although her fingerprints were found inside the Tate home, she might just have been "an invited guest or friend." Seemingly unfazed by the possibility of a guilty verdict and a death sentence, Krenwinkel reportedly spent much of the trial drawing doodles of devils and other satanic figures. All during the trial, she remained loyal to Manson and the Family. Demonstration of this unity included walking hand-in-hand with Atkins and Van Houten, singing songs written by Manson, as well as shaving their heads and carving an "X" in their foreheads, just as Manson was doing.
At the end of the nine-month trial, Krenwinkel was convicted of all counts and sentenced to death on March 29, 1971. She and the other two women were transferred from Los Angeles to the California Institution for Women (CIW) near Corona, California.
The death sentence imposed on Krenwinkel (as well as Manson, Watson, Atkins, and Van Houten) was automatically commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court's People v. Anderson decision invalidated all death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972. At the beginning of her new life in prison, Krenwinkel remained loyal to Manson and the Family, but in time began to break away from them. In distancing herself from Manson, she has maintained a perfect prison record, and received a Bachelor's degree in Human Services from the University of La Verne. She is active with prison programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and along with these involvements, she has also taught illiterate prisoners how to read. Reportedly, Krenwinkel writes both poetry and music, plays the guitar, plays on a prison volleyball team and gives dance lessons.
Krenwinkel, still incarcerated, is now at the California Institution for Women in Chino, California. In an interview conducted by Diane Sawyer in 1994, Krenwinkel stated: "I wake up every day 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." During that same interview, Patricia expressed the most remorse for what she did to Folger, telling Diane Sawyer, "That was just a young woman that I killed, who had parents. She was supposed to live a life and her parents were never supposed to see her dead."
During a 2004 parole hearing, when asked who she would place at the top of the list of people she has harmed, Patricia Krenwinkel responded, "Myself." She was denied parole following that hearing because, according to the panel, Krenwinkel still posed an "unacceptable risk to public safety". In total, Krenwinkel has been denied parole thirteen times; her last hearing was in January 2011. The two-member parole board said after the hearing in Los Angeles that the 63-year-old Krenwinkel would not be eligible for parole again for seven years. The panel said they were swayed by the memory of the crimes, along with 80 letters which came from all over the world urging Patricia Krenwinkel's continued incarceration.
Patricia Krenwinkel was portrayed by actress Christina Hart in highly acclaimed made for TV film Helter Skelter (1976), and 28 years later in the film's remake by actress Allison Smith. She was also portrayed by Leslie Orr in the 2003 film The Manson Family and by Kaniehtiio Horn in Leslie, My Name Is Evil (2009).
- Woo, Elaine (2009-09-26). "Susan Atkins dies at 61; imprisoned Charles Manson follower". latimes.com. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
- Vronsky, Peter (2007). Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters. Penguin. p. 420. ISBN 0-425-21390-0.
- Jensen, Vickie, ed. (2011). Women Criminals: An Encyclopedia of People and Issues. ABC-CLIO. p. 503. ISBN 0-313-06826-7.
- Atkins, Susan (1977). Child of Satan, Child of God: Her own story. Logos International. p. 175. ISBN 0882702297.
- "Manson follower Patricia Krenwinkel denied parole". CNN. 21 January 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2012.