Last SLA Inmate Released from California Prison
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The last captured member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the radical 1970s-era group notorious for bank robberies, killings and the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst, was released from prison Sunday, a corrections official said.
James William Kilgore, 61, was paroled from High Desert State Prison after serving a six-year sentence for his role in the murder of housewife Myrna Opsahl during an April 1975 bank robbery.
The victim's son, Jon Opsahl, said Sunday it felt "ironic" and "strange" that Kilgore was released on Mother's Day.
Kilgore was one of five SLA members to serve time for the murder of Opsahl's mother.
"I guess they did their time, paid their debts to society," he said. "Now I guess they can get back to their lives."
State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said parole agents processed Kilgore's release at the Susanville prison.
Kilgore has been granted permission to join his wife in Illinois, where she moved after he was arrested in 2002 in Cape Town, South Africa, after nearly three decades on the run. He has two weeks to report to Illinois parole officials.
Kilgore had eluded arrest longer than any of his fellow SLA fugitives. His cover unraveled after the 1999 arrest of his former girlfriend, Sara Jane Olson, who had become a doctor's wife in St. Paul, Minn. Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, was paroled from a California prison in March.
His release marks "the end of the SLA and the era," said Stuart Hanlon, a San Francisco attorney who represented several SLA members.
The gang of mostly white, privileged would-be revolutionaries led by a black ex-convict also was responsible for the murder of Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster, bank robberies, and the attempted bombings of Los Angeles police cars. Joseph Remiro is serving a life sentence for Foster's 1973 murder.
Kilgore, a native of Portland, Ore., joined the SLA after graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1969. He escaped the 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police in which six of the SLA's original members died.
He disappeared on Sept. 18, 1975, as the FBI arrested Hearst and other SLA members in San Francisco.
He resurfaced as University of Cape Town professor Charles William Pape, even writing a South Africa high school text book titled "Making History" under the alias.
Kilgore married an American woman, Teresa Barnes, and fathered two sons. Barnes, an associate professor of gender and women's studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign, declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press.
Susan B. Jordan, an attorney who represented another SLA member, sad that some romanticized the group, despite the violence, after its members kidnapped Hearst and demanded her wealthy family distribute food to the poor of San Francisco.
"They were an extremely misguided group of idealists. They really believed they could make the world better by what they did," Jordan said. "I just think they tapped into some mythological fairy story."
New York attorney Louis Freeman, who represented Kilgore after his arrest, did not respond to messages left Sunday and in previous days.
Kilgore's pending parole had sparked far less controversy than Olson's release. Her return to Minnesota drew opposition from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the St. Paul police union and divided her neighbors.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League and the National Association of Police Organizations objected to letting Kilgore serve his year of parole in another state, but there has been little reaction in Illinois.
"Mr. Kilgore has never even lived in Illinois," Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles police union, said in a statement. "His last legal residence was in California, and this is where he committed his crimes. ... The community he terrorized has the right and the duty to ensure Mr. Kilgore complies with all terms of his parole, including serving his full sentence here."
Kilgore served his state sentence after finishing a 54-month federal prison term for using a dead baby's birth certificate to obtain a passport in Seattle and for possessing a pipe bomb in his apartment near San Francisco in 1975.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials called Kilgore a model prisoner who tutored other inmates.