A former Symbionese Liberation Army member – and UCSB alumnus – was released from a California state prison yesterday.
Arrested in 2002, James William Kilgore, 61, served a six-year sentence for the 1975 murder of Myrna Opsahl, a 42-year-old housewife, and other related crimes. The SLA was a radical 1970s-era group infamous for bank robberies, murders and the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. He is the last SLA captive to be released.
A native of Portland, Ore., Kilgore joined the SLA following his graduation from UCSB in 1969. During his time at UCSB, Kilgore was a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.
Kilgore was one of five SLA members to go to prison for Opsahl’s murder, which occurred during a bank robbery. He was arrested in 2002 in Cape Town, South Africa, after evading authorities for nearly three decades. During his time in lock-up, California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said, Kilgore was a model prisoner who tutored fellow inmates.
The trail to Kilgore’s arrest began when he fled a 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police that ended in the death of six original members of the SLA. Kilgore then disappeared in 1975, escaping to South Africa where he assumed the alias of Charles William Pape. He became a University of Cape Town professor, and even wrote a South Africa high school textbook called “Making History” under his fake name. He eluded arrest longer than any other SLA member, but his former girlfriend Sara Jane Olson, a fellow SLA member and UCSB alumna, blew his cover.
In 1999, Olson – formerly known as Kathleen Soliah – was arrested after living under a false identity in St. Paul, Minn. for decades. In 2001, she pled guilty to two counts of possessing explosives with intent to murder and she was paroled from prison earlier this year.
Kilgore has been cleared to serve his parole in Illinois where his wife, Teresa Barnes, currently resides. Barnes is an associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and the couple has two children.
His wife met him after his release, and parole agents allowed them to travel directly to Illinois. He has two weeks to report to parole officials there.