Last SLA Fugitive Caught by FBI, Prosecutors Say

Reuters/November 8, 2002

Los Angeles -- James Kilgore, the last fugitive member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the radical group which kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst, was captured in South Africa on Friday, half a world way from the California suburb where he was wanted for bank robbery and murder.

Lana Wyant, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento County District Attorney's office, said Kilgore, who had spent more than a quarter century on the run, was taken into custody on Friday morning by FBI agents.

Wyant declined to say where Kilgore, 55, was arrested but a lawyer close to the case said he was found in South Africa.

His capture comes one day after four of Kilgore's fellow former SLA members pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the shooting death of a 42-year-old Myrna Opsahl as they robbed the Crocker National Bank in northern California.

William Harris, Emily Harris Montague, Michael Bortin and Sara Jane Olson pleaded guilty during a surprise appearance in Sacramento Superior Court on Thursday and face between six and eight years in prison when they are sentenced on Feb. 14.

All four defendants, who long ago traded their radical ways for life in suburbia, had signed plea deals with prosecutors that spared them a trial and the prospect of life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Friday that Kilgore, who disappeared shortly after the Crocker Bank robbery and had reportedly also blended into suburban life, had been expected to turn himself and negotiate a similar agreement.

'Death to the Fascist Insect'

The Portland, Oregon, native may also face federal charges stemming from explosives found at an SLA hide-out near San Francisco. Kilgore was a high school athlete and cheerleader before he met Olson -- then Kathleen Soliah -- at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The pair moved together to Berkeley, ground zero for 1960s radicals, where he worked as a cook and a house painter before falling in with the SLA.

After the Harrises, Olson and Bortin were arrested in connection with the Crocker Bank robbery in April of 2001 the FBI issued a new, $20,000 reward for Kilgore and enlisted a Philadelphia sculptor to create a bust of what he might look like 27 years on.

Hearst was abducted by the SLA as a 19-year-old college student and briefly became a member of the group before she was arrested for bank robbery and sent to prison. She was granted clemency by President Jimmy Carter, ultimately pardoned by President Bill Clinton and was expected to be a star witness had the SLA defendants gone to trial.

Made up largely of young people from middle-and upper middle-class families, the SLA waged a campaign for violent revolution under the slogan "Death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people.''

Olson, a California native born Kathleen Soliah, eluded police in the 1970s and spent some 24 years on the lam, surfacing in the quiet suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota, where she married an emergency room doctor and raised three daughters in an ivy-covered home. She was arrested in 1999.

She is incarcerated at a California prison and appealing a decision by the state parole board to extend her original five year sentence to 14 years.

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