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Date: Sat, 09 Nov 2002 19:08:46 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Symbionese Saga Comes To An End
Symbionese Saga Comes To An End
Nov. 8, 2002
SACRAMENTO, Calif., (AP) --
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
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
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 his fellow
members of the SLA, the ^A'70s radical group that
kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.
But Kilgore was arrested before a deal was
"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."
It was not immediately known if there was a
connection between the guilty pleas entered
Thursday and his arrest the very next day.
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
The four former SLA members said they were
pleading guilty to the killing of a bank customer to
escape the lingering guilt over their 27-year-old
They pleaded guilty to murder Thursday in the
shotgun slaying of a bank customer during a
1975 holdup, virtually ending one of the most
notorious and violent sagas of radical 1970s
The four are William Harris; his ex-wife, Emily
Montague; Michael Bortin; and Sara Jane Olson,
who is already serving 14 years behind bars for
a 1975 attempt to blow up two Los Angeles
police cars. Each will get six to eight years in
The defendants, now in their 50s and most with
families and children, were once members of
the radical group that became prominent when it
kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in
1974. Kilgore, 55, has been a fugitive since the
Montague admitted in court that she pulled the
trigger in shooting 42-year-old Myrna Opsahl
during an April 21, 1975, robbery of the Crocker
National Bank in suburban Sacramento.
Montague received the longest term of eight
Opsahl's death was "a very violent, horrific
senseless crime," said prosecutor Robert Gold.
Montague, 55, fought back tears and said the
shotgun discharged accidentally.
"I was horrified at the time," she said. "There
has not been a day in the last 27 years that I
have not thought of Mrs. Opsahl and the tragedy
I brought on her family."
She also denied ever calling Opsahl a
"bourgeois pig," as Hearst alleged in her 1982
book, "Every Secret Thing." Montague said she
didn't want anyone to think she considered
Opsahl's life insignificant.
All four former SLA members apologized to
Opsahl's family, sitting in the front row of the
"I say that from the bottom of my heart," said
Harris, 57, of Oakland. He faces a seven-year
sentence, unless he can convince prosecutors
and Judge Cecil Thomas to lower it to six years,
which Thomas called "an uphill battle."
Olson, 55, of St. Paul, Minn., will receive a
six-year sentence, which she would serve
after she finishes her sentence for the Los
"I never entered that bank with the intent of
harming anyone," Olson said. "I am truly sorry,
and I will be sorry until the day I die."
The state Board of Prison Terms in October
lengthened Olson's original prison term for the
attempted bombing by five years, citing the
potential for violence and harm from the multiple
Bortin, 54, of Portland, Ore., also received a
During the robbery, Bortin said in court
Thursday, he held a handgun that he "waved a
little bit" and was the one who announced it
was a robbery.
Bortin said the actions of the revolutionary band
did "horrible damage" to people who peacefully
protested social conditions.
Thursday's guilty pleas and courtroom
statements essentially mirror Hearst's account
of the robbery that netted $15,000, but wound
up with an unintentional shooting.
"Her reaction is basically gratitude that this
chapter in her life may now hopefully be
finished," said George Martinez, Hearst's
Before the pleas, prosecutors had been building
their case in the 27-year-old robbery and
murder. They cited new forensic evidence in
bringing the charges after the 1999 arrest of
Olson, who had moved to Minnesota in the 1970s, changed her name from Kathleen
Soliah and became a housewife and mother. The other three suspects were
in January of this year.
After the court hearing, Michael Mason, the FBI's Sacramento-based special
agent-in-charge, had said the case would remain active until Kilgore was
promising, "We will not rest until he, too, is brought to the bar of justice."
Gold cited several reasons for accepting the pleas, including "evidentiary
that existed even when the case was fresh. Gold also explained that while the
defendants were violent criminals at the time, for the last 20 years or
defendant has led an otherwise law-abiding life" and is no longer is a
Formal sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 14. All the defendants can withdraw
pleas if the parole board disputes the agreements, authorities said.
Gold said the Opsahl family agreed to the case's resolution as long as the
each publicly admitted responsibility for Myrna Opsahl's death.
Opsahl's son, Jon, who was 15 when his mother was killed and led the fight
her killers prosecuted, said, "I am happy about all of this. I'm glad this
whole thing is
over, and that truth and justice prevailed in the end. That is what this
case is all
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