- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | The last former fugitive 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 the murder of housewife Myrna Opsahl during an April 1975 bank robbery.

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 lawyer 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. Another SLA member, Joseph Remiro, is serving a life sentence for Mr. Foster’s 1973 murder.

Kilgore, a native of Portland, Ore., joined the SLA after graduating from the University of California at 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 Ms. 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 textbook titled “Making History” under the alias.

Kilgore married an American woman, Teresa Barnes, and fathered two sons. Mrs. Barnes, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, declined to comment when reached by the Associated Press.

Susan B. Jordan, who represented another SLA member, said 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,” Ms. Jordan said. “I just think they tapped into some mythological fairy story.”

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials called Kilgore a model prisoner who tutored other inmates.

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,” Mr. Opsahl said.

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