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SLA: James Kilgore

By Patrick Mondout

James Kilgore was a member of the early-Super70s American terrorist group the Symbionese Liberation Army. He was the last SLA member to elude justice after emigrating to South Africa on a false passport.

Kilgore was born in Portland, Ore., but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was an honors graduate from San Rafael High School in California. In 1969, he graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a degree in Economics.

James William Kilgore was sentenced in 2003 to 48 months in federal prison for a 1975 bomb offense as well as a consecutive six months in federal prison for passport fraud connected to multiple fraudulent passports obtained by the defendant using the identity of a deceased child.  

Kilgore had been a fugitive for 26 years when he was apprehended in South Africa in November 2002.  He was arrested based on a 1976 federal Indictment in San Francisco for possession of an illegal explosive device.  After being transported to the Northern District of California in late December 2002, Mr. Kilgore pled guilty in 2003 to separate bomb and passport charges. In addition, on May 13, 2003, Mr. Kilgore pled guilty to second-degree murder in Sacramento County Superior Court for the shooting death of Myrna Opsah in an April 1975 bank robbery in Carmichael, California.

Kilgore participated in two SLA bank robberies and a SLA bombing campaign directed against police officers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, California.  He became a fugitive after the arrest of fellow SLA members Emily and William Harris, Steven Soliah, Wendy Yoshimura, and Patricia Hearst on September 18, 1975.  Three days later, a mover hired by James Kilgore to move his possessions from his Daly City apartment, found a pipe bomb or improvised explosive device (IED) and a pistol in a basket in the front hall closet, and daily notified the police. Kilgore's fingerprints were found on the explosive device and on bomb manuals found in the apartment of fellow bomb maker Kathleen Soliah, now known as Sara Jane Olsen.

Forensic sculptor Frank Bender provided an age-enhanced bust of Kilgore to the "America's Most Wanted" television program.

Mr. Kilgore and Ms. Soliah fled to the Milwaukee and Minnesota-St. Paul areas where Mr. Kilgore first obtained a false United States passport in the name of Charles William Paper, who was in fact a deceased 10-month old infant. 

Note: Portions are from the FBI press release on the prosecution of James Kilgore.

References/Bibliography

 

 

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For nearly 30 years, all we had of Kilgore was this pair of photos from his FBI poster


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