In a decision suggesting that the brutal Sharon Tate murders are unforgivable, a parole board panel refused to consider releasing Patricia Krenwinkel, who told the board she killed for the love of Charles Manson.
The two-member panel made clear Thursday that it was the horror of the killings, one of the most notorious of the 20th century, that led them to reject the bid for parole in spite of Krenwinkel's efforts to change her life.
They said that the murders of seven people in an extremely atrocious manner had impacted the entire world as evidenced by letters which came in from around the globe urging that she be kept behind bars.
"These crimes remain relevant," said parole commissioner Susan Melanson. "The public is in fear."
Melanson and Deputy Commissioner Steven Hernandez issued their decision after a four-hour hearing and more than an hour of deliberations at which Krenwinkel wept, apologized for her murderous deeds and said she was ashamed of her actions.
Members of victims' families also cried and recalled their suffering after the murders and called for her to be kept behind bars. Melanson said the notoriety of the crimes and their viciousness weighed heavily in the decision.
"This is a crime children grow up hearing about," she said, and noted that Krenwinkel failed to understand the worldwide impact.
"The panel concludes that she is not suitable for parole and would present an unreasonable danger if released," she said. She referred to seven victims who were brutally murdered over two nights in a crime which she said could be classified as a hate crime because of overtones of wanting to foment a race war.
"This was a depraved act by a group of individuals who find it difficult to explain their actions," she said.
The panel had the option to deny parole for up to 15 years. Melanson said they felt that was unnecessary and commended Krenwinkle for making progress in her life behind bars, participating in self-help programs and other positive contributions.
"While we want to commend you for the positive, you are unsuitable for parole and require an additional seven years of incarceration," she said.
Krenwinkel was told she could request a parole hearing earlier if her situation changes.
Krenwinkel, who has been imprisoned longer than any other woman in California, told the parole board earlier Thursday that she threw away everything good in herself and became a "monster" after she met Manson.
In reference to Krenwinkel's claim that she was seeking approval from Manson when she killed, Melanson said "The panel finds it hard to believe a person can participate in this level of crimes and can't identify anything but 'I wanted him to love me."
Krenwinkel, one of Manson's two surviving female followers, has maintained a clean prison record in her four decades behind bars, but her chances for release appeared slim following parole rejections in other Manson cases.
During her hearing, the 63-year-old was soft-spoken and contrite in response to board members' questions, describing the downward spiral of her life after she met Manson.
"Everything that was good and decent in me I threw away," she said.
It was her father, she said, who helped her realize during his visits to her in prison, "what had happened, and the monster I became."
She said she tells those she counsels in prison, "I am someone you would never have wanted to be, and here are the steps you can take to never go to the dark places I have been."
Krenwinkel's claim that she is rehabilitated was met by anger and opposition from Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira and families of the victims, who argued for Krenwinkel's continued incarceration.
"If she truly had remorse, she wouldn't come to these parole hearings, and would say, 'I accept the punishment," Sequeira said.
Debra Tate, sister of Sharon Tate, then tearfully recounted the pain her family endured from the killings. She denounced Krenwinkel for never having written a letter of apology to the families.
"I want to believe the human condition is capable of change," Tate said. "I believe in the possibility of reform. But I know what I am looking at, and I don't see it here."
She told the board through tears that, "Whatever decision you make I will live with. But every time I sit in this chair I have to think, what will happen if they come out? What will society do?"
Anthony Di Maria, the nephew of Jay Sebring, who was killed along with Tate, cried throughout his words to the board, and said the parole hearings "send us back to hell, year after year."
"I wish I had forgiveness to give," Di Maria said.
Krenwinkel was convicted along with Manson and two other female followers in seven 1969 murders, considered among the most notorious crimes of the 20th century.
None of those convicted has ever been paroled and one of them, Susan Atkins, died in prison last year after being denied compassionate release when she was terminally ill with cancer.
Leslie Van Houten, 61, the youngest of the women convicted, was long thought to be the most likely to win eventual release. But she was denied a parole date last summer by officials who said she had not gained sufficient insight into her crimes.
Parole boards have repeatedly cited the callousness, viciousness and calculation of the murders committed by members of the Manson Family.
Krenwinkel admitted during her trial that she chased down and stabbed heiress Abigail Folger at the Tate home on Aug. 9, 1969, and participated in the stabbing deaths of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the following night. Both homes were defaced with bloody scrawlings. She was convicted along with Manson, Van Houten and Atkins. Another defendant, Charles "Tex" Watson was convicted in a separate trial.
All were sentenced to death but their sentences were commuted to life when the U.S. Supreme Court briefly outlawed the death penalty in 1972.
In her 40 years at the California Institution for Women, Krenwinkel has earned a bachelor's degree and participated in numerous self help programs as well as teaching illiterate prisoners how to read. In recent years, she has been involved in a program to train service dogs for the disabled.
She said she has made arrangements for the possibility that she could be released, and would change her name and leave the state.
Krenwinkel's lawyer, Keith Wattley, argued at the hearing that the law says if someone is serving life with the possibility of parole, they must be given parole unless they are deemed to be currently dangerous, which he said she is not.
Asked to make her own final case to the board, Krenwinkel wept profusely, wiping her eyes with a tissue, and said, "I'm just haunted each and every day by the unending suffering of the victims, the enormity and degree of suffering I've caused."
Her voice rising in the silent room, she nearly shouted, "I'm so ashamed of my actions. The victims had so much life left to live."
Cult leader Manson, now 75, refused to appear at his most recent parole hearings where he was denied a release date. His multiple disciplinary violations and refusals to participate in rehabilitation activities make it likely that he will never be released.
At times he has said that he does not want his freedom and considers prison his home.