The sister of slain actress Sharon Tate is raising concerns after a state parole panel found Patricia Krenwinkel, one of Charles Manson's followers and a participant in the infamous 1969 murder, suitable for parole.
Debra Tate, who has represented the Tate family at every Manson "family" parole hearing since 1998, told The Times the most recent hearing was impacted by technical issues that she worries will lead to an incomplete transcript being sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Krenwinkel, 74, is California's longest-serving female inmate and was sent to death row in 1971 after a Los Angeles jury convicted her of killing Tate and six others in Manson's followers' two-day rampage across Los Angeles.
After the state’s highest court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, Krenwinkel’s sentence — along with those of the group's other members — was commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The tentative decision will be reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings' legal division, which can take up to 120 days, according to a statement Thursday by Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "If the decision becomes final, the governor will have up to 30 days to review it."
Tate worries about that review process.
"I am an extremely forgiving person by nature, but I am not convinced that these people have been rehabilitated one iota," she said.
Sometime before the virtual hearing, she and other victims' family members received letters stating that if they encountered any connection issues, they would forfeit their right to attend the meeting, Tate said.
She told The Times her video connection to the hearing was dropped and she missed a portion of the first half of the proceedings. She eventually reconnected by phone.
But as another victim's family member spoke, Tate noticed the audio feed was cutting in and out, making it impossible to understand. The issue wasn't fixed.
Now, Tate said, the transcript will list large portions of that victim's family member's comments as inaudible.
"All the governor gets is a written transcript," she said. "Do we leave these kinds of blanks in regard to a human being that took active participation in one of the most brutal murders in American history? Charles Manson stated that she was the one most like him. That was Charlie’s assessment of Patricia Krenwinkel."
Tate said she is motivated to speak out, not only for herself, but for all the families still impacted by the murders. She said she has no hate for Krenwinkel, but she does have serious and lingering concerns about public safety should she be released.
In a statement to The Times on Friday, Thornton said the corrections department has a longstanding commitment to victims, their families and survivors.
She said the parole board reviewed the audio recording of Thursday's hearing and officials were "able to hear and understand all victims’ statements and does not anticipate there will be any problems with creating the transcript," which usually takes about 30 days.
Thornton noted that all hearing participants can submit written statements and said the governor will have access to and review the complete record of the case, including the transcript, court and prison documents, parole records, risk assessments and all victim input that's submitted to the governor's office.
Krenwinkel's attorney, Keith Wattley, said that, under the law, his client "has so thoroughly completed that transformation that she must be released, even if we are horrified by what she did."
The attorney said that questions over technical difficulties were an attempt to divert attention away from whether Krenwinkel poses a threat to public safety.
On Aug. 9, 1969, Krenwinkel and other Manson followers stormed the Benedict Canyon home shared by Sharon Tate, 26, and her movie director husband, Roman Polanski. Tate and four others were stabbed and shot to death. Krenwinkel testified to chasing coffee heiress Abigail Folger with a knife and stabbing her 28 times.
The next night, Krenwinkel and others killed Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their Los Feliz home.
Both homes had walls smeared with blood, and Krenwinkel used blood to scrawl the words “Death to pigs.”
Her latest appearance before the parole panel was her 15th, Thornton said.
In 2016, Krenwinkel’s attorney made new claims that she had been abused by Manson or another person. Officials later rejected that bid for freedom.
A spokesperson for Newsom's office said the governor carefully reviews all parole decisions "to determine whether a parole grant is consistent with public safety."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.