The last captured member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the radical 1970s-era group notorious for bank robberies, killings and the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, was released from a California prison Sunday morning.
James William Kilgore was paroled from High Desert State Prison in northeastern California after serving a six-year sentence for the murder of suburban Sacramento housewife Myrna Opsahl during an April 1975 bank robbery.
State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said Kilgore was met by his wife after parole agents picked him up at the Susanville prison and processed him there.
That allowed the couple to travel directly to their home in Illinois, rather than have Kilgore wait to check in Monday with a parole agent in Sacramento before leaving the state. He now has two weeks to report to Illinois parole officials.
Kilgore's wife moved to Illinois after he was arrested in 2002 in Cape Town, South Africa, after nearly three decades on the run.
Kilgore, 61, 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 built a new life as a doctor's wife in St. Paul, Minn. Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, was paroled from a California prison in March and returned to her Midwestern home.
Besides kidnapping Hearst, the group of mostly white, privileged would-be revolutionaries led by a black ex-convict 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 a 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. He was so bold as to write a South Africa high school text book entitled "Making History" under that alias.
There he married an American woman and fathered two sons. His wife, Teresa Barnes, is now an associate professor of gender and women's studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign. She declined comment when reached by The Associated Press.
"It is the end of the SLA and the era," San Francisco attorney Stuart Hanlon said of Kilgore's release. "He's the end. He's the last case that was outstanding."
Hanlon has known and represented several of the SLA members over the years, and corresponded with Kilgore in prison.
"He's always felt terrible about what happened in Sacramento," Hanlon said. "They didn't want to go to prison, but they wanted it resolved."
Attorney Susan B. Jordan, who represented another SLA member, recalls 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 repeated telephone and e-mail messages left on 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 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 San Francisco-area apartment in 1975.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials say Kilgore was a model prisoner who tutored other inmates. Even Jon Opsahl, whose 42-year-old mother was shot to death by another SLA member as she deposited a church collection 34 years ago, expressed sympathy in a recent interview for a man he called an idealist who "got in with the wrong crowd."
"I wish him well and I'm glad he served his time," Opsahl said.