California officials are considering whether the self-described right-hand man of murderous cult leader Charles Manson should be released from prison. It would come 47 years after he orchestrated the killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others.

A panel of parole commissioners was holding a hearing Thursday to decide if 70-year-old Charles "Tex" Watson should continue serving his life sentence at Mule Creek State Prison, 50 miles southeast of Sacramento.

It's his 17th parole hearing for the murders of Tate, who was eight months pregnant, and four others at her Beverly Hills home in 1969.

The next night, Watson helped kill grocery owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

A book he wrote in prison says he joined the cult believing Manson offered "utopia." It says he now ministers to other inmates.