- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Five former members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, including former fugitive Sara Jane Olson, were charged yesterday with killing a woman during a bank robbery 27 years ago.
Three of the former members of the SLA, the 1970s California-based Marxist terrorist gang, were taken into custody at their homes, authorities said. Olson, 55, known as Kathleen Soliah at the time of the robbery, turned herself in last night in Los Angeles. The fifth suspect remained at large.
Olson, Emily Harris, ex-husband Bill Harris, Mike Bortin and James Kilgore were charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of a bank customer during a 1975 holdup in the suburb of Carmichael, authorities said.
Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully said authorities had obtained more evidence in the case but declined to give details.
"Based upon the review of both old and new materials, I believe there is now both direct and circumstantial evidence sufficient to file charges and begin criminal proceedings for the murder of Myrna Opsahl," Miss Scully said.
In a book, newspaper heiress and SLA kidnap victim Patricia Hearst claimed she was waiting in a getaway car during the holdup. She placed Olson and Mr. Bortin at the scene and said it was Mrs. Harris who shot Mrs. Opsahl. None of them was ever charged in the case.
The case has been the subject of numerous investigations, and Dr. Jon Opsahl, the son of the victim, had lobbied prosecutors for years to file charges.
"Our family has waited for 26 years for this day," he said yesterday. "I'm very happy that my mother's murder is getting the attention it deserves and I trust that justice will be served."
Mrs. Harris was arrested at her home in Los Angeles, her ex-husband was taken into custody in Oakland, and Mr. Bortin was arrested in Portland, Ore. Mr. Kilgore has remained at large since the 1970s. Arraignments were scheduled for tomorrow.
The charges came two days before Olson's sentencing for her role in a failed 1975 attempt to blow up Los Angeles police cars. Olson has denied any role in the holdup.
One of her attorneys, Shawn Snider Chapman, said that during the two years she investigated the Olson case, "All I've learned and all I've read is that they consider this to be an unprosecutable case. All these people have been snatched from their homes for nothing."
Unlike Olson, who was captured in Minnesota in 1999 after two decades on the run, the three SLA figures arrested yesterday were not fugitives. Their whereabouts had been known to authorities for years.
The 1975 holdup of the Crocker National Bank led to the slaying of the 42-year-old Mrs. Opsahl, a mother of four who was shot while depositing a church collection.
At the time, the robbers were widely believed to be members of the group that kidnapped Miss Hearst as a 19-year-old from her Berkeley apartment in February 1974. The kidnappers demanded that her parents, Randolph and Catherine Hearst, distribute millions of dollars worth of food to the poor.
During her captivity, Miss Hearst joined the SLA. Two months after the kidnapping, she was photographed carrying an assault rifle during an SLA bank holdup in San Francisco the robbery for which she eventually was tried, convicted and sent to prison.
Six SLA members were killed in a shootout and fire on May 17, 1974. Miss Hearst didn't re-emerge until Sept. 18, 1975, when she was arrested in San Francisco.


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