Real Name: James William Kilgore
Aliases: Jim Kilgore
Wanted For: Murder, Terrorism
Missing Since: April 28, 1975
Details: In 1969, James Kilgore began dating Kathleen Soliah. She joined a band of extremists known as the Symbionese Liberation Army or SLA. In 1974, Soliah introduced Kilgore to group members Emily and Bill Harris. He soon became involved in the organization. He helped create fake IDs for several of the members and began orchestrating bank robberies. They claimed that they committed the robberies so they could finance their plan to overthrow the government. In late February of 1975, SLA members held up the Guild Savings and Loan in Sacramento. On April 21, 1975, Kilgore, Soliah, the Harrises, and Michael Bortin decided to rob the Crocker National Bank in Carmichael, California. At the same time, forty-two-year-old Myrna Opsahl and two of her friends arrived at the bank, planning to deposit money from their church group.
As the women waited in line, four members of the SLA surrounded them, wielding several weapons. They demanded that everyone get down on the ground. However, Myrna was frozen in fear. When she did not get down fast enough, Emily shot her once with a shotgun. Despite her being mortally wounded, the SLA members refused to let her get help. The members appeared to be following a rehearsed script. When the members fled the bank, they got into a getaway car driven by Patty Hearst. Hearst, a newspaper heiress, had been kidnapped by the SLA fourteen months earlier.
The robbery netted around $15,000. Bill Harris was allegedly the mastermind behind the heist. By the Summer of 1975, they changed their M.O. and began placing pipe bombs around San Francisco. They also worked as house painters. In August of 1975, Soliah, Kilgore, and Bill Harris traveled to Los Angeles to plant more bombs. They filled the bombs with concrete nails and gunpowder. While in Los Angeles, they planted a pipe bomb underneath an LAPD patrol car. However, the triggering mechanism failed and the officer escaped injury. Another bomb was found underneath another patrol car.
Kilgore, Soliah, and Harris returned to San Francisco to join the other SLA members. FBI agents received a break when a man recognized several SLA members as house painters that he had recently hired. Within hours, Kilgore and the others were under surveillance. On September 18, 1975, agents followed one of the members to a safe house on Presida Avenue. Bill and Emily Harris were arrested at the house. After a second safe house was identified, several SLA members, including Patty Hearst, were arrested.
Agents learned that Soliah and Kilgore were painting a nearby house. However, they left before they could be arrested. When agents searched Kilgore's apartment, they found boxes filled with bomb-making materials. FBI technicians linked the materials to the bombs left in Los Angeles. His fingerprint was also found on one of the bombs. Several SLA members were charged with the attempted bombings. However, Kilgore and Soliah could not be located. Also, the members were not charged with Myrna's murder. Eyewitnesses could not positively identify them as the assailants.
In June of 1999, however, Minnesota police arrested Soliah, who was living under the assumed name Sarah Jane Olsen. She was returned to Los Angeles to face charges related to the bombs left under the police cars. Her testimony, along with advances in forensic science, led Sacramento DA Jan Scully to re-examine Myrna's murder case. New forensic testing connected the shotgun pellets that killed Myrna to a shotgun found in an SLA safe house. Former SLA members Patty Hearst, Wendy Yoshimura, and Steven Soliah were granted immunity from prosecution. They also identified the perpetrators. On January 16, 2002, police found enough evidence to charge Soliah, Kilgore, the Harrises, and Borton with murder. The others have been arrested, but James Kilgore has eluded authorities.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the July 12, 2002 episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
Results: Captured. On November 8, 2002, after twenty-eight years on the run, James Kilgore was arrested while working at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Since married with two children, he was extradited back to the United States to serve trial. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder and received a six-year-sentence in prison. He is currently out on parole.
Kathleen Soliah, Bill and Emily Harris, and Michael Bortin all pleaded guilty to Myrna's murder. Emily, who admitted to accidentally shooting Myrna was sentenced to seven years in prison. Bill was sentenced to eight years, Kathleen to six years, and Michael to six years. Soliah, Bortin, and the Harrises have all been released on parole.
- James Kilgore at Wikipedia
- SLA at Wikipedia
- James Kilgore on Unsolved Archive
- SLA Bank Slaying Is Still Seared Into Memories
- Victim's Son Helped Bring About SLA Arrests
- 4 Ex-Symbionese Liberation Army Members Plead Guilty to Murder
- Former SLA members plead guilty in 1975 killing
- Four in radical group of 70s are sentenced in murder
- '70s radical Sara Jane Olson released from prison
- Children of SLA victim reflect on Kilgore