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Opinion: Why Newsom won’t ok Manson follower’s parole

The murderous mastermind Charles Manson lies dead and buried in a location known only to a few, the secret intended to prevent that site from becoming a shrine for cult followers who still pore over every move he and his “family” made during their 1960s heyday, but he keeps popping back into the headlines every few months.

That’s because Manson’s surviving, still-imprisoned followers continually apply for parole and their requests are repeatedly okayed by California’s Parole Board, leaving it up to successive governors to make sure these heinous criminals remain where they belong, behind bars.

Gavin Newsom’s turn at this has come up a couple of other times, and he’s up again right now. He has until late October to review the file of killer Patricia Krenwinkel and decide whether to let the 74-year-old walk or make another contribution to keeping all the Mansons in prison.

It’s not that folks like Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten and Charles “Tex” Watson and Bruce Davis, vicious killers all, and all now in their 70s, figure as much of a danger to society if paroled. Few 70-year-old parolees ever become violent.

Their companion and getaway car driver Linda Kasabian has never gotten in new trouble as she’s moved from place to place after escaping any jail time because she turned state’s evidence during the early’70s Manson family trial.

What keeps the remaining Manson minions in prison now is that, as former Gov. Jerry Brown once put it while denying parole to a “family” member, “ In rare circumstances, a murder is so heinous that it provides evidence of current dangerousness by itself. This is such a case.”

The Manson crimes primarily took place in two locations during August 1969. Krenwinkel admittedly participated at both, chasing coffee heiress Abigail Folger around the Beverly Hills-area estate of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski, before stabbing her numerous times, leading to Folger’s death. The next night, she joined the Manson raid on the Los Feliz district home of grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in Los Angeles, scribbling anti-police slogans on a wall in Mrs. LaBianca’s blood.

It happens that the latest parole recommendation landed on Newsom’s desk during a reelection campaign in which Republicans are blasting him for allegedly being soft on crime.

Republican challenger Brian Dahle, a state senator from Lassen County, promises to send more funds to police and sheriffs and replace Newsom-appointed parole board members who he says have been too accommodating to dangerous felons. Dahle also would push to change Proposition 47, a 2014 ballot initiative Newsom supported, that reclassified some felony drug and theft offenses as misdemeanors and raised from $400 to $950 the amount for which thefts can be prosecuted as felonies.

Newsom would play into Dahle’s hands were he to parole a Manson murderer like Krenwinkel. He would take heat similar to what Brown’s father, 1960s Gov. Pat Brown, took for vacillating over the execution of the so-called “red light bandit,” Caryl Chessman, who kidnapped and raped multiple women after abducting them from their cars while they stopped for traffic signals.

While Newsom lived nowhere near the Tate or LaBianca homes and, now 54, cannot possibly remember the murders and the widespread panic they spurred in Southern California when he was a small child, he knows the history well and has declined parole for other Manson followers.

By her own testimony one of the most vicious of the Manson murderers, Krenwinkel maintains she has changed, her attorney arguing that “she has so thoroughly completed that transformation that she must be released, even if we are horrified by what she did.”

That’s essentially the claim made for every imprisoned follower of Manson, who always denied ordering any killings.

But the argument has never flown before, and even though Newsom’s message denying parole will say nothing about it, the political situation makes a release this year all but impossible.

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Email Thomas Elias at His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


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