FBI offers $20,000 for last SLA fugitive
Agency hopes publicity over Olson trial will lead to capture of James Kilgore
by Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 25, 2001
The FBI, capitalizing on the publicity over next week's murder conspiracy
trial of radical ex-fugitive Sara Jane Olson, offered a $20,000 reward
yesterday for information leading to the capture of her fellow fugitive
James Kilgore, wanted for the past 25 years on federal explosives charges.
Kilgore, who is 53 if he is still alive, was one of a handful of radicals
who helped the terrorist gang known as the Symbionese Liberation Army when
it was fleeing federal agents in 1974 and 1975. The SLA became notorious
after it kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in early 1974 and
converted her to its bank-robbing cause.
"James Kilgore is the last SLA fugitive," Larry A. Mefford, associate
special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco office, said yesterday.
"He has disappeared quite effectively."
His disappearance has been so effective that the FBI doesn't even know if
he is alive or dead. But "we're operating under the premise that he is
still alive," Mefford said.
That being the case, the federal agents turned to renowned forensic
sculptor Frank Bender in Philadelphia to cobble up a bust of how Kilgore
might look now.
Benderwho dubs himself the "Recomposer of the Decomposed, in a Classical
Fashion" specializes in reconstructing skulls of unidentified homicide
victims. One of his most notable cases involved John List, an accountant
who disappeared from his New Jersey home after killing his wife, mother and
three children in November 1971. Living under an assumed name, List was
arrested in Virginia in 1989 less than two weeks after a Frank Bender bust
of the fugitive was shown on the TV show, "America's Most Wanted."
The bust of Kilgore paints a three-dimensional portrait of a man who has
clearly aged past his only known public photographs, which were taken
decades ago. Now, if Bender's bust is right, Kilgore is more jowly and has
The FBI says that while it has no idea of where Kilgore might be, the
agents have concentrated their search in the United States and Canada
because they don't think Kilgore knows any foreign languages.
Mefford said agents believe that while Kilgore has lived under several
different known aliases, the one he is using now is one he has kept secret
for 25 years.
Kilgore was born in Portland, Ore., and his family then moved to San Rafael.
He graduated from San Rafael High School in the mid-1960s, the FBI said,
and then went to the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he
graduated in 1969 with a degree in economics.
Known to be a sports fan and a good athlete, he played basketball and golf
in his youth. The FBI believes he met Olson, then known as Kathleen Soliah,
at UC Santa Barbara and the two of them eventually moved to Berkeley in the
The charges on which Kilgore is wanted carry, at the most, 10 years in prison.
E-mail Michael Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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