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Friday, 8 November, 2002, 15:15 GMT
Hearst gangsters admit murder
Sara Jane Olson
Olson and her co-defendants avoided a life sentence
Four former members of the radical Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) have pleaded guilty in a California court to the murder of a bank customer during a hold-up in 1975.

William Harris, his ex-wife Emily Montague, Michael Bortin and Sara Jane Olson, who is already serving 14 years for an attempt to blow up two police cars in 1975, will be sentenced to between six and eight years.

The four admitted second-degree murder in a Sacramento court in a plea-bargain that prevents a possible sentence of life imprisonment.


There has not been a day in the last 26 years that I have not thought of Mrs Opsahl and the tragedy I brought her family

Defendant Emily Montague

The revolutionary SLA's most notorious operation was the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.

The four defendants were arrested in January and charged with the murder of Myrna Opsahl, a 42-year-old housewife shot at the Crocker National Bank in Sacramento.

New forensic evidence allowed the charges to be brought, police said.

Another suspect, 55-year-old James Kilgore, is still at large.

Commuted sentence

Montague admitted in court that she had levelled a sawn-off shotgun at Mrs Opsahl but claimed it had gone off accidentally.

"I was horrified," Montague said. "There has not been a day in the last 26 years that I have not thought of Mrs Opsahl and the tragedy I brought her family."

Patricia Hearst
Patty Hearst was to be the key prosecution witness

Olson was captured in 1999 in St Paul, Minnesota, after more than two decades on the run.

She was living under an assumed name as a doctor's wife, community theatre actress and mother of three.

Patty Hearst had been expected to be the government's chief witness at the trial of the four defendants, which had been set for next year.

Ms Hearst joined the SLA after her abduction and spent time in prison for her part in a 1974 bank robbery before President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence.

She had implicated Olson and the others in SLA crimes in a book about her experiences in the group.

See also:

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