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Life after Manson: Patricia Krenwinkel talks piecing her life together again

My Life After Manson

By Olivia Klaus

I vividly remember entering the California Institution for Women for the first time in 2001. As the prison guard slammed the gate behind me, I wondered if I had made the right decision to become a volunteer for an inmate support group. But my nerves were eased by a woman who introduced herself as "Krenny." Welcoming me into the group, she seemed quiet and insecure -- yet also exuded an inner strength. I had no idea how she got here and didn't ask.

It was only several years later, while documenting the support group for a documentary film, "Sin by Silence," that I learned Krenny's full name: Patricia Krenwinkel. I was astounded. She was one of the infamous Charles Manson followers, convicted of seven murders. She eventually approached me to go on camera with her story.

In this Op-Doc video, Ms. Krenwinkel provides her first on-camera interview since 1994, reflecting on her life before and after Manson. This week is the 45th anniversary of her crimes.

In 1969, at age 21, Ms. Krenwinkel was a member of Mr. Manson's cult in Los Angeles. His group, which he called the "Family," included more than a dozen men and women who adhered to a bizarre mixture of hippie culture and apocalyptic paranoia. Seeking to inspire a race war, Manson ordered Ms. Krenwinkel and other members of his group to commit a series of murders. Over the course of two nights, they savagely murdered seven people, inflicting more than 130 stab wounds. One of them, the actress Sharon Tate, was eight and a half months pregnant. At their trial, the women shamelessly admitted their crimes and flaunted their allegiance to a leader they loved, but who clearly controlled their minds.

Over the years, I had gotten to know this woman -- and our many conversations about life, love and politics had revealed slivers of a dark past. But not until her on-camera interview, featured in this Op-Doc, did I fully comprehend her journey of self-discovery. In prison, she has struggled mightily to reconcile two parts of her life: the 21-year-old girl who committed crimes to win the approval of the man she loved; and the 66-year-old woman who lives each day haunted by the unending suffering she has caused.

Ms. Krenwinkel is now the longest serving woman in the California prison system. She says she takes full responsibility for her actions -- finally, she says, she is a woman she can accept. But is society ready to accept her back? She is next eligible for parole in 2018.

Related Topics:
Doomsday Cult
Helter Skelter
United States Death Row Inmates

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eaglephoenix2 August 05 2014 at 1:22 PM

Parole shouldn't be in the picture. Originally they were given the death penalty, then California changed that. If she has accepted full responsibility, she should understand that she needs to be behind bars for the rest of her life. Thats acceptance.

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20 replies
mzladysmiling August 05 2014 at 1:06 PM

If she truly want to accept responsibility, she wouldn't
be even trying to probation...
Life should mean life....
You know, where you go out feet first in a pine box....
Continue your work behind bars and leave living
on the outside for those who are free of criminal behavior...
Just my humble opinion....

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12 replies
sutt202 August 05 2014 at 1:18 PM

So Sharon Tate's children would have been close to 45 by now. Oh, wait!! He never even made it to his birth because of this monster. I'm a bleeding heart liberal but I have no sympathy at all for any of Manson or his followers.

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21 replies
skevwe August 05 2014 at 12:59 PM

She should have fried!!!

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7 replies
marilyn August 05 2014 at 1:08 PM

She is right where she needs to be.

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4 replies
wjmsheps August 05 2014 at 1:06 PM

Parole in 2018 - YIKES! I hope that one is denied! ~ Marie

Flag Reply +83 rate up
10 replies
petermacso August 05 2014 at 1:16 PM

"Life after Manson" should be 6 feet UNDER! - PERIOD!

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3 replies
yamel86 August 05 2014 at 1:08 PM

A good example of what drugs will do for you.

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9 replies
squirt8148 August 05 2014 at 1:08 PM

A total waste of good air

Flag Reply +60 rate up
5 replies
Joy August 05 2014 at 1:21 PM

She is a perfect example of how easily someone can become indoctrinated into a crazy paranoid mindset. So many people are at risk. We need some balance in this country and we need it now. I fear for the future.

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28 replies
aol~~ 1209600

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