SLA Robs Bank, Kills Woman
By Patrick Mondout
The remaining and new members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA)
robbed the Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, California getting away
with over $16,000. During the robbery, bank customer Myrna
Opsahl was shot to death.
Hearst, the kidnapped
heiress who was eventually granted immunity from prosecution for this
crime, stated that Emily
Bortin, and James
Kilgore actually committed the robbery, while she and Wendy
Yoshimura (who was also later granted immunity, along with Steven
Soliah) were getaway drivers and William
Harris and Steven Soliah acted as lookouts. Kathleen Soliah reportedly
kicked a pregnant woman who had been ordered to lie down. The woman
eventually had a miscarriage.
According to Hearst and other witnesses, Emily Harris fired the shot
that killed Myrna Opsahl. Hearst's memoirs reveal Harris attempting to
justify her actions, "Oh, she's dead, but it doesn't really matter.
She was a bourgeois pig anyway. Her husband is a doctor."
Not only was her husband a doctor, but Dr. Trygve Opsahl was the
surgeon on duty when she was rushed to the Eskaton American River
Hospital. She was already dead when he was called to the operating room.
Hearst also claims that Bill Harris boasted about the shooting shortly
"This is the murder round," he bragged as he extracted from
his pocket the brass base of a shotgun shell, its plastic jacket cut
away. He joked about it, but no one laughed. "If it hadn't been for
good ol' Myrna, one of our comrades would be dead now. Good old Myrna,
she took all the buckshot."
The "one of our comrades" lines refers to the fact that James
Kilgore was walking right behind Opsahl at the time and was fortunate to
have not been hit by the trigger-happy Emily and her sawed-off shotgun.
The shotgun, it was revealed in Hearst's memoirs, was purchased at a
Sacramento gun show.
(Above) A coupon for the
gun show from the Sacramento Bee.
(Below) Myrna's bullet-ridden dress.
Courtesy of the
MyrnaOpsahl.com/Sacramento Police Department.
This was not the SLA's
first bank robbery nor was Myrna Opsahl the
first person they had murdered. Opsahl, a 42 year old mother of four,
was unlucky enough to have been dropping off church funds at the local
bank with a pair of friends when the terrorists entered. Unlike when the SLA
terrorists died in a shootout with police, there was no memorial rally
in Berkeley for Myrna Opsahl. Nor were there any fund-raising cookbooks,
like the Soliah/Olson team produced for her legal defense fund.
Steven Soliah was the only one charged with the crime during the 20th
Century. He was put on trial in 1976 but prosecutors, who didn't believe
Patricia Hearst's version of the events nor view her as a credible
witness, did not use her as a witness. Steven also had a alleged former
girlfriend, Emily Tobach, as an alibi. Tobach, who happened to be Kathleen
Soliah's roomate from a few years earlier, used to visit prisoners quite
often - just as SLA members had. In fact she was at such a prison visit
during the robbery - when she said she had been with Soliah.
Unfortunately, this evidence was revealed the day after the jury
got the case. With little else to go on, the jury acquitted him.
Her death and the lack of prosecutions led to a lengthy campaign for
justice by her son Jon, who demanded for years that Sacramento District
Attorney Jan Scully file charges. A break came when ammunition found in a
former SLA safehouse matched up with that taken from Myrna Opsahl. This
led to the January 2002 arrests of Emily
Harris, and Kathleen
Soliah, and Michael
Kilgore was later extradited from South Africa for his role in the
murder. After years of denying it and claiming the police were on a
witch-hunt, Emily Harris admitted to firing the fatal shotgun blast, but
claimed it was an accident.
Not until they had all pleaded guilty and were looking for leniency
from the judge did any of them acknowledge the Opsahl family or
attempt to apologize. (The Hearst family quietly gave $200,000 more than
two decades ago.)
- Shana Alexander, Anyone's
Daughter: The Times and Trials of Patricia Hearst,
- Carolyn Anspacher & the San Francisco Chronicle, The
Trial of Patty Hearst, Great Fidelity Press, 1976.
- Marilyn Baker, Exclusive!:
the inside story of Patricia Hearst and the SLA, Macmillan
- Mary F. Beal, Safe
House: A Casebook Study of Revolutionary Feminism in the 1970's,
Northwest Matrix, 1976.
- Jerry Belcher & Don West, Patty/Tania,
Pyramid Books, 1975
- David Boulton, The
Making Of Tania Hearst, Bergenfield, N.J., U.S.A.: New American
- John Bryan, This
Soldier Still At War, (on Joe Remiro) Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
- Patty Hearst with Alvin Moscow, Patty
Hearst: Her Own Story, New York: Avon, 1982. This was the title
after the movie came out. Original title: Every Secret Thing.
- Sharon D. Hendry, Soliah:
The Sara Jane Olson Story, Cable Publishing, 2002.
- Janey Jimenez (U.S. Marshal who escorted Hearst between prison and the
court during the trial) with Ted Berkman, My
Prisoner, Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1977.
- Jean Brown Kinney, An
American journey: The short life of Willy Wolfe, Simon and Schuster,
- Vin McLellan, Paul Avery, The
voices of guns: The definitive and dramatic story of the twenty-two-month
career of the Symbionese Liberation Army, one of the most bizarre chapters
in the history of the American Left, Putnam, 1977.
- John Pascal, The
Strange Case of Patty Hearst, New American Library, 1974.
- Findley & Craven Payne, Life
and Death of the SLA, Ballantine, 1976.
- Robert Brainard Pearsall, Symbionese
Liberation Army: Documents and Communications, Rodopi, 1974
- Fred Soltysik, In
Search of a Sister 1976.
- Steven Weed, with Scott Swanton. My
Search for Patty Hearst, New York: Warner, 1976. Weed was Hearst's
boyfriend at the time of the kidnapping. That was the end of their
- Video: Patty
Hearst, based on Every Secret Thing, directed by Paul
- Video: The Ordeal of Patty Hearst (1979) (TV)
- Video: Patty Hearst: The E! True Hollywood Story (2000) (TV)
- Video: Neverland:
The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army aka Guerrilla:
The Taking of Patty Hearst, Directed by Robert Stone, 2004,