SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The last Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive wanted in a deadly 1975 bank robbery was arrested Friday in South Africa, a day after four former comrades -- now graying and middle-aged -- pleaded guilty to murder in the case.
James Kilgore, 55, was seized at his home in the luxury Cape Town suburb of Claremont, 27 years after the Californian went underground.
He had entered South Africa five years ago under the name Charles Pape and had landed a post at the University of Cape Town as a lecturer, said police spokeswoman Mary Martins-Engelbrecht. Kilgore's wife is also a lecturer there.
South African police tracked him down with help from Interpol, Martins-Engelbrecht said.
Through his lawyer, Kilgore had been trying to negotiate his surrender and a plea bargain similar to those worked out by fellow members of the SLA, the '70s radical group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. But Kilgore was arrested on his original 1976 federal warrant, for possessing a pipe bomb, before a deal was reached.
"It's good news," said Dr. Trygve Opsahl, whose wife, Myrna Opsahl, was depositing a church collection when she killed by a shotgun blast during the holdup of the Crocker National Bank in suburban Sacramento. "When you're dealing with a fugitive that's overseas, anything could happen. I understand there was something in the wind."
During their SLA days, Kilgore was the longtime boyfriend of Sara Jane Olson, one of the four former radicals to plead guilty on Thursday. Olson changed her name from Kathleen Soliah and went underground after the robbery; she was captured in 1999 in St. Paul, where she living as a doctor's wife.
"He's been away 20-30 years. He wants to surrender," said Stuart Hanlon, an attorney for Emily Montague, another one of the four former SLA members to plead guilty. He said an attorney for Kilgore on the East Coast, whom he declined to name, had been negotiating the surrender.
U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said the deal the others made did not depend on Kilgore's surrender. He and Hanlon both said the four did not provide the information that led to Kilgore's arrest.
"The coincidence is terrible," Hanlon said.
A University of Cape Town spokeswoman had no comment on the arrest.
All five defendants were charged last January in the holdup, based on what prosecutors said was new forensic evidence. Olson; Montague, who admitted pulling the trigger; her ex-husband, Bill Harris; and Michael Bortin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder under an agreement that will bring prison sentences of six to eight years Feb. 14.
Olson is already in prison and will serve her sentence after completing her 14-year term for a 1975 attempt to blow up two Los Angeles police cars.
Kilgore received an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara and worked as a cook and house painter during his radical years. In her 1982 book "Every Secret Thing," Hearst called Kilgore an intellectual and voice of reason in those frantic days.
The FBI had offered a $20,000 reward and unveiled a bust and computer-enhanced photographs of what a clean-shaven, gray-haired Kilgore might look like now.
He was also featured on TV's "America's Most Wanted," and tips poured in -- more than 200 in the past two years. At the time, authorities believed he had blended into an American neighborhood. There had not been a single confirmed sighting of Kilgore in more than two decades.
FBI Special Agent Mark Mershon said authorities had indications Kilgore had been somewhere in Africa since the early 1980s and followed up on a new tip that surfaced about 10 days ago. Electronic surveillance was not involved, he said.