A brief biography of Manson Family member Patricia Krenwinkel
Patricia Diane Krenwinkel was one of the first members of the so-called Manson Family. She met Manson and the women in 1967. Three years later, she was convicted (along with Charlie and two others) of the Tate/LaBianca murders. She is currently the oldest living female inmate in the California criminal justice system.
This article will focus on Pat’s life up to and including joining Charles Manson and his growing Family
In September 1967, Charles Manson was traveling up and down the California coast with two women (Mary Brunner and Lynette Fromme). The three then drove to the Los Angeles area so Charlie could connect with a music producer at Universal Studios.
The following has been excerpted from The Manson Family: More to the Story
Manson dropped Lyn and Mary off with friends and went to visit an old prison buddy who introduced him to two sisters, Charlene and Pat. The women lived together with Charlene’s son, in an apartment near Manhattan Beach. When Charlene learned that Manson didn’t have a place to stay, she offered him their couch. But Charlie quickly moved on her 18-year old sister.
Patricia Krenwinkel was born December 1947 in Los Angeles. Her father worked in insurance and her mother was a homemaker. Patricia and her older half-sister grew up in a suburban, working-class neighborhood.
Pat was especially close to her dad. “A cherished memory from her childhood was walking hand-in-hand with him down the street on weekends to survey, in wonder, the progress of the construction of LAX.” Her mother, a former Southern belle, was solicitous and charitable. Pat recalled, “I remember down-on-their-luck guys coming to our door and asking to work for food. She would always give them something to eat.”
Like Lynette, Pat was an animal lover. She had many pets during her childhood — dogs, birds and hamsters — and was in the Little Wildlife Society.
Yet her childhood was marred by family troubles including her parents’ unhappy marriage. Pat remembered, “My father wanted all my attention… I was the object in a wicked game of vengeance with my mother, bounced across the table, in the center of every argument.” Mr. Krenwinkel also ostracized his stepdaughter Charlene, who became demanding and attention-seeking and developed an early addiction to heavy narcotics by her teens.
Pat was also bullied in school. She was a pudgy child who grew into a shy, withdrawn teen, with an abundance of body hair which she was sensitive about.
During her teens, her parents divorced, and Pat and her mother moved to Alabama. “Pat was miserable there… She returned to Los Angeles to live with her father and attend University High. She made a few friends and her grades were okay, but she described her life at that time as dreary. She started smoking marijuana. After high school, she moved back to Alabama, enrolling in a teacher’s course at… a Jesuit institution in Mobile. After one semester she decided she didn’t want to be a teacher, so she dropped out and returned to L.A. There she moved in with her sister… and landed a job as a claims clerk at an insurance company… While living with her sister, Pat’s social life centered around a group of Marines who were stationed at Camp Pendleton. She dated a couple of them and was drinking buddies with all of them. ‘Sometimes they’d even sneak me onto the base. I loved being with them. One by one they were shipped off to Vietnam and it stopped being fun and games — some of them were dying over there’.”
The Vietnam War was a major influence in the lives of Charlie’s followers. Opposition to the war, including student and civilian protests, fueled a desire for many Americans to opt out of any system — social, economic — that sent poor (and largely black) young men to fight and die overseas. Dropping out of society was de riguer for many people — but ‘dropping’ acid (taking LSD) was another ‘fuck you’ to the powers-that-be, including the stodgy, controlling parents of these kids.
In a 1994 interview, Pat elaborated on her drug use. “I was smoking a lot of marijuana, hash and… had already used acid a couple times. At that time drinking and using drugs did not seem unusual ’cause I was doing it with my high school friends.”
Pat was also a religious person who found comfort in the idea of an all-knowing God. She could quote passage and verse from the Bible and believed that if someone entered her life, it was for a good reason. When she met Manson, she had her crummy job as a clerk and her own drug problems had continued on and off while living with Charlene and her nephew. Often, Pat was the only responsible one in the household. Co-dependent, suffering from low self-esteem, Patricia Diane Krenwinkel was ripe for the picking when she met Charles Manson. He knew exactly what to say to her.
“He said, ‘You should never be ashamed of your body.’ I couldn’t believe it. I had always been ashamed of my body. No one had ever called me beautiful. I started to cry’.”
Patricia thought she had not only met the man of her dreams, but that she’d just begun a serious, monogamous relationship. She was shocked when, a day later, Manson introduced her to Mary and Lyn at a party. But she swallowed her pride and pretended nothing was wrong with sharing her new man with two other women.
Watching Pat huddling close to Charlie as he played the guitar, Lyn thought the other woman seemed sad and frustrated with her life. So, she took Pat for a walk on the beach and told her about ‘the Gardener’ and their life of freedom, love and acceptance. Pat and Lyn then discovered that they’d briefly attended the same high school, cementing their bond. Lynette encouraged Pat to join them.
Pat had felt responsible for her sister all of her life and now, her sister’s child as well. She felt guilty at the idea of leaving them. But all Charlene had done was abuse her good will and Pat was at the end of her rope. She felt ugly and unwanted, but Lyn was quick to tell her that Charlie wanted her, that she had a place with them. Then Lyn called Charlie over and told him to go be with Pat.
Lyn and Mary took off for a few days while Charlie and Pat further explored their relationship.
“I wanted to please,” Patricia confessed. “I wanted, for the first time, to feel safe.”
On September 9th, Manson had his first meeting with Kaufman’s friend from Universal Studios, Gary Stromberg. Three days later, Pat abandoned her car, sister, nephew, job and apartment to join Charlie and the other women. As it has been shared in other publications, she left behind her final paycheck when she quit her job but brought a Chevron gas credit card which her father continued to pay for the next two years. Lyn also had occasional use of her father’s Standard Oil card during those early months together.
Mary was initially upset about adding one more woman, but Lyn was excited. “Charlie had asked us if Patty could come along and the truth was that she just fit. A stabilizer amongst women, a listener who demanded no attention for herself, an inspiration and conscience toward our own better attitudes, she was so easy to like that Mary couldn’t stay mad.”
That didn’t mean there weren’t squabbles. Stuck together in the van, the women bickered over little things and competed for Charlie’s attention. They listened, as Charlie made his canny observations and slowly, they began to lose their autonomy, their sense of self, their inhibitions.
But Manson was only part of the draw. “‘I really liked Mary and Lynette,’ Pat said. ‘In many ways my attachment to them, and later to the other women, was as important to me as my relationship to Charlie’.”
Charlie had read the Bible many times, during his years of incarceration. Most people in prison read the Bible — it can be a source of strength and provides examples of how people might overcome suffering. Jesus Christ, who was not just the Messiah but also a political enemy of the state, was someone that Manson had admired during his own years in jails and prisons. Now, with the inclusion of Patricia Krenwinkel, he found another soul that could keep up with his knowledge of the Gospels. They spent many hours in that van reading and reciting from the Bible.
During these drives, they sometimes talked about the symmetry of Charlie’s life and the life of Christ. Neither knew their true fathers. Both experienced trials and tribulations. Mary, Lyn and Pat were like the apostles. And Charlie was giving of himself to them, for a greater good yet to be determined.
Their first journey after Pat joined was to Reno. There, Manson visited a brothel and experimented with getting the girls to ‘work’ for him. The experience was unpleasant, with Pat hassled by her john. Charlie gave up the pimping and they went back on the road.
- The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications (featuring the following citations: [1, 4, ] The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder by Nikki Meredith ©2018 Citadel Press; [2, 6, 9] Patricia Krenwinkel quoted in The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder by Nikki Meredith ©2018 Citadel Press;  Letter from Patricia Krenwinkel, quoted in Reflexion by Lynette Fromme ©2018 Peasenhall Press;  Patricia Krenwinkel from the program “Turning Point” © 1994 American Broadcast Company (ABC);  Patricia Krenwinkel, from the documentary “My Life After Manson” ©2014 Quiet Little Place Productions;  Reflexion by Lynette Fromme ©2018 Peasenhall Press