Many people are familiar with the name Patricia Krenwinkel, one of the Manson family members who went on a murder spree in California in 1969. But what they may not know is Krenwinkel’s connection to Alabama.
Patricia Dianne Krenwinkel was born December 3, 1947, in Los Angeles, California. Her father sold insurance and her mother was a homemaker. Krenwinkel’s parents divorced when she was 17, and her mother moved to be near family in Mobile, Alabama, while Krenwinkel stayed behind with her father in California.
She moved to Alabama briefly to attend the Jesuit school, Spring Hill College in Mobile. She considered becoming a nun but soon dropped out of school and returned to California.
In 1967, the self-conscious young woman would visit Manhattan Beach and meet Charles Manson, the first person she said who made her feel beautiful. She soon moved to Spahn Ranch where the remainder of Manson’s followers lived.
While part of “The Family,” Krenwinkel was known as “Katie.” On August 9, 1969, when she was 21 years old, Krenwinkel accompanied Susan Atkins and Charles “Tex” Watson on a mission to murder the occupants of 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, which at that time was owned by actress Sharon Tate and her director husband Roman Polanski. Tate was eight months pregnant and, with her husband away directing a film, she had several friends staying at the home to keep her company.
Krenwinkel dragged coffee heiress Abigail Folger from a guest bedroom into the living room and began stabbing her. When Folger escaped and ran screaming onto the lawn, Krenwinkel gave chase, caught her and continued stabbing until Folger’s white nightgown turned red.
The remainder of the home’s occupants were brutally murdered by the other members of the group, including Tate, despite her pleas for the life of her unborn child. The next night, Krenwinkel again followed Manson’s orders when she accompanied Manson, Watson, Atkins, Steve Grogan, Leslie Van Houten and Linda Kasabian to the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Only Watson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten participated in the stabbing deaths of the couple while the other family members waited outside.
The next week, police arrested Manson Family members after spotting stolen car parts at the ranch. After the group was released on a technicality, members of the family began leaving. Manson moved the family to Barker Ranch but police soon caught up with them and the group was arrested in October 1969, again for auto theft. They were not suspects in the brutal murders until Susan Atkins talked to a cellmate, who reported the confession to authorities.
Manson told Krenwinkel she should return to Mobile to live with her mother. After authorities learned of her involvement in the murders, Krenwinkel was arrested in Mobile in December 1969.
Indictments followed on seven counts of first-degree murder and one count conspiracy to commit murder. However, an attorney for Krenwinkel claimed her arrest came before warrants were received charging her with the crimes.
According to a December 5, 1969, article in the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, Mobile Police Capt. Don Riddle admitted the warrant for Krenwinkel’s arrest arrived two days after her arrest. Mobile Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Hocklander ruled the arrest was not illegal but Krenwinkel continued to fight extradition. At the time, she said she fled to her mother’s home because she was afraid Manson would kill her. In February 1970, she waived extradition and voluntarily returned to California to stand trial.
According to the book “Helter Skelter” by Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, Krenwinkel’s mother Dorothy testified at the penalty phase of the trial, saying, “I did love my daughter; I will always love my daughter and no one will ever convince me she did anything horrible or terrible.”
Bugliosi also wrote that letters from Krenwinkel’s father and from her favorite priest at Spring Hill College were introduced on her behalf during the penalty phase.
Like the other family members to stand trial – Atkins, Watson, Kasabian and Manson – Krenwinkel was found guilty in 1971 and sentenced to death. When California outlawed the death penalty in 1972, her sentence was commuted to life in prison. She is reported to be a model prisoner who works on numerous outreach projects.
She is currently the longest-incarcerated female inmate in California.
One of the victims of the Manson Family was Jay Sebring, who was staying with Sharon Tate – his former fiance – the night of August 9.
Sebring was born Thomas John Kummer in Birmingham, Alabama, but his family would soon move to Michigan. Kummer changed his name to Sebring and became a celebrity hairstylist. His clients included the Doors’ Jim Morrison, who also would die young, Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, and Kirk Douglas.
He was only 35 years old when he was brutally murdered.