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[whitespace] Patty Hearst

Patty Cakes

Terror, nostalgia and the SLA

By Gordon Young

AFTER PATTY HEARST was kidnapped in February of 1974, John McConnell wasn't taking any chances. Although only 6 years old, he knew who was responsible for the fate of the publishing heiress, and he was going to take appropriate measures to protect himself.

So he slumped down in his car seat, out of sight, each time his mom or dad drove by a particular building. He was sure it was home to a well-organized band of revolutionary soldiers. In a way, he was right. It was the local headquarters of the Salvation Army.

McConnell, now a 34-year-old researcher at UC-San Francisco, wasn't the only one confused by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Despite its uncanny skill at grabbing publicity, the SLA didn't exactly present a coherent message to the masses. Now, nearly 30 years since its well-documented declaration of war against the U.S. government and its infamous crime spree, the SLA is back in the news. And just as perplexing as ever.

On Jan. 16, former SLA members Emily "Yolanda" Harris, Sara Jane Olson, Michael Bortin and William "General Teko" Harris were arrested for the slaying of 42-year-old Myrna Opsahl during the robbery of the Carmichael branch of the Crocker National Bank on April 21, 1975. A fifth suspect, James Kilgore, remains a fugitive.

The suspects have all denied any involvement in the robbery in past interviews, but in Every Secret Thing, Hearst's 1982 autobiography, she accused Emily Harris of firing the shotgun blast that killed Opsahl. She also wrote that Bill Harris, Olson, Bortin and Kilgore were participants in the robbery. Hearst, who admits driving a getaway car, was granted immunity in the case years ago, freeing her to testify in the forthcoming trial but once again shining the spotlight back on her. The case could hinge on Hearst's credibility as a witness.

"Given that the only person naming anybody individually is Patty Hearst, her testimony seems to be a central issue in everybody's trial," said Stuart Hanlon, Emily Harris' attorney. "She's really, in many ways, the entire case."

The trial, which is expected to take place early next year, highlights all of the old contradictions associated with the SLA and Patty Hearst. Was the SLA a band of idealistic revolutionaries or just a gang of utlraviolent thugs? Was Hearst a willing convert to the cause or was she brainwashed and abused into cooperating?

Patty Hearst From Angel to Outlaw: Patty Hearst at her First Communion.

The SLA never did a great job of clearing up these questions. Its members often resembled a pack of NRA gun nuts misinterpreting the ideals of the 1960s. It's hard to understand, for example, how assassinating Marcus Foster, Oakland's first black school superintendent, demonstrated the SLA's opposition to racism. Perhaps the SLA was practicing a literal form of guerrilla marketing, but by modern public-relations standards, they were a mess.

But the press was mesmerized. "In a matter of months, the Symbionese Liberation Army achieved a notoriety and visibility unparalleled among the extremist minisects, dominating the political extreme, imprinting the whole of the fringe with their own quixotic image," wrote Vin McLellan and Paul Avery in The Voices of Guns, an excellent history of the SLA. "It was they, finally, who gave a wholly American root to the word 'terrorist,' succeeding where so many others had failed. ... The SLA had a genius for public theater. They burst into the headlines on page one, on the network-news prime time, cover stories in magazines. Their fate was sealed, their plot insane, their image fit all the expectations of a public primed."

Emily Harris Ready for Her Close-Up: Made over for her 1975 mugshot, a brown-haired Emily Harris appears to show no remorse.

Kidnapper Crush

I'm not sure what I was primed for, but I, too, fell under some kind of SLA spell as a 9-year-old kid. I became obsessed with the Hearst kidnapping, reading everything I could find on the story. Friends have told me they fantasized about saving Patty from her oppressors. Even today, websites are filled with postings devoted to Patty with grown men waxing poetic about her beauty. Not me. I sided with the kidnappers.

I guess I had what you could call a presexual crush on Emily Harris, a Midwest sorority girl turned terrorist and rechristened as Yolanda in the SLA. Her mug shot earned a spot on my bulletin board, next to Fran Tarkington, scrambling quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, and some of my favorite Wacky Packs stickers. (I'd prefer not to speculate on what this says about my taste in NFL quarterbacks or women; Fran never won a Super Bowl, and Emily is an ex-con.)

On Jan. 17, I saw an older version of Yolanda staring at me from the front page of the Los Angeles Times after her arrest for the Opsahl murder. Harris still takes a good mug shot. She looks straight ahead, her face largely absent of any overt sign of emotion. But her eyes give her away. In both mug shots, separated by a generation, her eyes bore into you and say, "Don't fuck with me." Not what you'd expect from a straight-A Indiana University graduate who is now a successful computer consultant in Southern California.

While it's easier now to disagree with the SLA's warped methods, the passage of time and recent history have made it harder to dismiss its rationale. The core message that the country was racist and controlled by corporate interests seems by today's standards, frankly, like old news. And even leftists who distanced themselves from the SLA in their own time are complaining now that the arrests symbolize a vengeful sickness in America's current political climate.

"The long-gone and much-maligned SLA may seem irrelevant, but a conviction would set a troubling precedent in the event of further actions against other activists," wrote J.H. Tompkins recently in the liberal San Francisco Bay Guardian. "The onetime SLA members and their associates have paid for at least some of their sins, and all have forged new, productive lives. The turn of events is a kind of worst-case scenario for everybody."

I admit that I look back at the SLA with nostalgia, remembering the group as a fascinating exercise in current events, much the same way I fondly recall my collection of Encyclopedia Brown books and the Detroit Pistons wristbands that I wore to school.

Patty Hearst Patty Get Your Gun: Pre-SLA days of backyard innocence.

The Patty Hearst kidnapping has become a pop-culture phenomenon, taking its place alongside pet rocks and bell bottoms. For me, I'd even say it's a happy childhood memory, almost quaint in comparison with today's terrorist events.

Revolutions don't have the same charm anymore. The Technological Revolution is simply boring, and the Islamic Revolution is downright frightening. It never dawned on me as a kid in Flint, Mich., that I should be afraid of the SLA. It was after rich fascists. That didn't apply to me. Plus, it was all happening in California, a place where weird things were supposed to happen--a place worlds away from my factory town. The SLA soldiers were like Evel Knievel: strange, spectacular and distant.

So my first reaction to the arrests was disgust. Don't we have better things to worry about nowadays than this case? After all, Emily Harris had rehabilitated herself. In many ways, she was the kind of person she had once railed against: a middle-class Altadena homeowner. Her former husband, Bill Harris, walked away from the SLA and was a respectable soccer dad living in Oakland. Can't we just let it go?

Jon Opsahl can't. He was only 15 when his 42-year-old mother was gunned down while depositing the weekend collections from the Carmichael Seventh-Day Adventist church. The homemaker and mother of four was taken to a local hospital, where her husband, Trygve Opsahl, worked as a doctor. He tried to save his wife, but she died that morning.

Jon was pulled out of his high school English class and taken to the hospital. After his father broke the news to him, the family ate the sack lunches Myrna had prepared for them earlier in the day.

Jon is now a doctor in Riverside with a wife and three children. He became a self-described "pest" as he lobbied prosecutors to pursue the case. For years, he didn't have much luck. From a legal standpoint, there wasn't much of a case to pursue. And as time passed, it seemed as if the murder didn't fit in with the almost comical, kitschy patina that the SLA had acquired. Many people who followed the SLA in the papers forgot the murder even happened. I know I did.

Wanted Poster Three of a Kind: The FBI saw the SLA as capable of a long-running spree of crime and violence, and quickly made them America's most wanted.

We Love You, Tania

The SLA, which never counted more than a dozen soldiers in its ranks, emerged in Berkeley in 1973. Escaped convict Donald DeFreeze--who adopted the low-key title of General Field Marshal Cinque--led a gang of young, white, well-educated, middle-class zealots who pledged to stamp out "competition, individualism, fascism, racism, sexism and imperialism," according to one of the SLA's innumerable propaganda documents.

Even today's PR flaks and marketing execs. who convinced America that energy deregulation would lower electric bills and that buying dog food online would change the world, couldn't make the SLA palatable to the masses.

Obviously, the name was a problem. Potential converts like young John McConnell were confusing it with other armies with better name recognition. Plus, it was too obscure; people need to make some association with a name before they embrace it.

I confess to referring to the SLA as the Siamese Liberation Army in a grade-school class. I figured they picked the name because Siamese cats are so mean. How was I to know Symbionese was derived from symbiosis and referred to dissimilar organisms coexisting for mutual benefit? I hadn't taken biology yet.

The pithy sound bites popular today weren't the SLA's bag. It issued bewildering, long-winded taped communiqués--often recorded using fake black accents--denouncing "pig propaganda" and bragging about "the bad-ass tactics of SLA guerrillas."

It took several pages, including diagrams, just to explain what amounted to the group's anti-corporate logo: a menacing seven-headed cobra. The SLA's official motto was a marketer's nightmare, unless he happened to be promoting a pest control company: "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people."

Too long, too negative and too dated, even in 1974. This was simply no way to build a strong brand. Or a revolution.

"They were incredibly naive and simplistic," current Oakland School Board member Dan Siegal told the Los Angeles Times in January. Siegal was a Berkeley activist fresh out of law school when he met briefly with the SLA in the '70s. "They had an attitude or view of the world that reminded me of people who didn't read the newspapers or hadn't any sense of history. They actually believed that by carrying out these so-called revolutionary activities they were going to draw great support from a majority of the working class and poor people."

Patty Hearst
Rebel Without A Clue: A debate continues about whether Hearst was a victim or a willing accomplice.

The SLA may not have attracted many converts, but it always managed to garner media attention, especially when it kidnapped Hearst. She was an art-history major at UC-Berkeley who was living with her fiancé, Steven Weed, when she was abducted on Feb. 4, 1974. The 19-year-old resurfaced a short time later as Tania--a full-time urban guerrilla and sometime bank robber who had cast off her old, bourgeois life and joined the SLA.

Hearst quickly became the Bay Area's most famous "leftist," and posters of her wielding a sawed-off carbine in front of the SLA cobra popped up on kiosks and apartment walls throughout Berkeley. The caption read: "WE LOVE YOU, TANIA."

Hearst's conversion was a huge media coup for the SLA. The army had apparently wooed to its side a symbol of the hated ruling-class elite: the granddaughter of the Hearst publishing empire. And they had an unlikely sex symbol as well, who looked innocent and overcome with her own passions at the same time.

"I had a big crush on Patty; I wanted to be her knight in shinning armor," admits Tim Eagan, a 57-year-old former lawyer who is now a cartoonist and graphic artist living in Santa Cruz. "She had that good-looking, blonde rich-girl thing going. I'm a member of the proletariat, so I'm susceptible to that look."

When I mention that I had a crush on Emily Harris, not Patty, Eagan can't help but get in a few jabs. "Oh God, that's like having a crush on one of the Manson girls," he offers.

There's no denying that my fixation with Harris puts me in a distinct minority. Yolanda was largely forgotten, but Hearst become that peculiar American phenomenon known as a minor celebrity. She appears in movies as herself. She has websites devoted to her. She tells interviewers she'd like everyone to forgot her SLA experiences, not acknowledging that they'd also forget about her in the process.

Patty Hearst
Shades of Gray: During her trial for robbery of a Hibernia Bank, Hearst took the Fifth Amendment 42 times.

The pattyhearst.com website has a chat room where those who might politely be referred to as Patty aficionados (translation: kooks) can emote on a subject that's obviously near and dear to them.

One posting claims Patty was killed by her captors, buried at San Simeon and replaced by her older sister. Another alleges that Patty's husband is really a German count and provides this interesting tidbit: "Inspight [sic] of the extreme secrecy regarding the marriage, of which Ms. Hearst became a German Countess by marrying into the family, there was an assassination attempt on The Count's life with his friend, also a Count from Denmark."

The site is also a conduit for Tania lust. "Patty Hearst is an extremely attractive woman," reads one posting. "I've seen pictures of Patty and her appearance in the movie Pecker and she's got VERY SEXY LEGS!!!!!!!" Another takes a while to get to the point: "I would like to research and learn more about this army and the whole debacle concerning Ms. Hearst and one cannot deny that she is a true survivor and look at her now and what she has made of herself now. It is truly awe-inspiring. You can come back. Plus she's hot. She's soooooooo hot. Will be visiting this site often."

Cult film director John Waters was an admirer of Patty long before he cast her in several of his movies. "I was obsessed with Patty Hearst my whole life," he said in a 2000 Next Magazine interview. "I went to her trial. She didn't know me. I was a Patty Hearst fan." (See sidebar.)

The Berkeley apartment where Hearst was living when she was kidnapped is featured in California Babylon: A Guide to Sites of Scandal, Mayhem and Celluloid in the Golden State, by Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus. The website leisuresuit.net includes director Paul Schrader's Patty Hearst on its list of "Hot Marxist Guerilla Chick" movies. In a review of the film, Jordan Hoffman complains, "Unfortunately, Patty Hearst has no scenes with any actual lesbian sex, but there are many references to it as well as wonderfully charged moments of lustful eye contact (which is probably more sexy than hard-core smut anyhow)."

Patty Hearst Pardon Me: After being convicted of a bank heist, Hearst served 21 months of a seven year term, before President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence. President Bill Clinton pardoned her before he left office.

The online auction site eBay is filled with Patty Hearst memorabilia--"WANTED" posters, books, T-shirts and posters--but Tim Eagan isn't interested. "I just mooned over her on TV," he says. "There was no capital outlay on Patty. My heart was there but not my wallet."


Turning Symbionese: Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart in film and music.


Prosecuting the Past

For her part, Hearst began arguing shortly after she was captured by the FBI in September 1975 that she couldn't have been a more inappropriate choice to be a celebrity revolutionary. Despite condemning virtually all aspects of her former life while on the run with the SLA, she began depicting herself as a serious student who was not interested in--and even ignorant of--the radical politics of the times. When lawyer F. Lee Bailey defended Hearst for her role in the robbery of San Francisco's Hibernia Bank, he portrayed her as a typical college student concerned primarily with her studies and her upcoming marriage.

The jury didn't buy the portrayal of her as a brainwashed innocent forced to participate in crimes by her revolutionary kidnappers. Hearst was found guilty of the bank heist and later sentenced to seven years in prison. President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence after she served 21 months, and last year, President Bill Clinton pardoned her shortly before leaving office.

Patty Hearst Broken Bond: Hearst and Steven Weed, once engaged, broke up following the kidnapping by the SLA. He was there the night it happened.

Now Hearst is likely to be at the center of yet another SLA trial--this time as a star witness for the prosecution--as a result of the June 1999 arrest of alleged SLA member Kathleen Soliah, who was apprehended after being featured on an episode of America's Most Wanted.

Soliah had changed her name to Sara Jane Olson and was living quietly as a mother and homemaker in Minnesota. She was convicted in January for her role in planting bombs under Los Angeles police cars and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. Olson's case helped rekindle the investigation of the Crocker National Bank branch robbery and the murder of Myrna Opsahl.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles contend that money from the robbery may have financed other terrorist activities, including the bombing attempts that earned Olson a conviction. They publicly called on Sacramento County prosecutors to pursue the case. They were joined by Jon Opsahl, who, over the years, had researched the case, met with investigators and created a website (myrnaopsahl.com) that highlighted his mother's life and laid out the evidence against Emily Harris. He had unsuccessfully pushed five consecutive Sacramento district attorneys to file charges.

The moral imperative to pursue Myrna Opsahl's killers was there, but a strong legal underpinning was not. Federal prosecutors already had tried one alleged SLA member for the robbery without success. In April 1976, Steven Soliah, Kathleen's brother, was acquitted in federal court in Sacramento. Prosecutors chose not to put Hearst on the stand, perhaps because her performance at her own Hibernia Bank trial had been so poor. Hearst took the Fifth Amendment 42 times, and her testimony was considered devastating to her case. But while the charges in the Crocker robbery largely correspond with Hearst's assertions in Every Secret Thing, new scientific analysis appeared to convince Sacramento County prosecutors to finally pursue the case.

"Using forensic testing procedures not available until recently, the FBI laboratory linked the lead pellets that killed Mrs. Opsahl to shotgun shells found in an SLA hideout in San Francisco," Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully said.

Patty Hearst LawBreaker, HeartBreaker: Hearst and Bernie Shaw--still married--got their marriage license in 1979.

Attorney Stuart Hanlon, who calls Hearst's book "fiction," still believes she's the key to the prosecutor's case. "There is some circumstantial evidence, but at best it might attempt to tie a group of people to the event, not an individual," Hanlon said.

Hearst's reputation certainly has changed since her 1976 trial. Married to one of her former bodyguards, she lives in Connecticut and has two children. She has, in many ways, become the rich, respectable socialite she was raised to be. But it is Hearst's past that will matter most if she testifies.

"Patty Hearst was like everybody growing up in that time," Hanlon said. "She wanted something changed. She was probably very bored with her life and did a lot of things that young people at that time did."

Complicating the case is the fact that the Crocker National Bank robbers wore wigs and covered their faces with ski masks and scarves. This has led to conflicting accounts of who might have killed Opsahl, if the SLA was involved at all. A November 1975 story in Rolling Stone by Howard Kohn and David Weir claimed the FBI, "in leaks to the media," once considered Bill Harris the gunman.

More recently, the May 20, 2001, New York Times Magazine presented a more sensational scenario. "But sources familiar with the evidence in the case say that Hearst's book and her statements to the FBI are inconsistent with eyewitness reports at the scene," wrote Maryanne Vollers. "These describe a killer who looks as much like Patricia Hearst as like any other member of the gang. And soon after Hearst's robbery trial in San Francisco, her family quietly paid the Opsahl family $200,000 to settle the matter."

But Hearst was undeterred in a January 22 interview with CNN's Larry King. She accused the SLA of pursuing "their own little jihad" and seemed eager to testify. "You have to be honest," Hearst said. "That's why I published the book. I have never wavered from it. I don't have any skeletons in my closet. I'm not afraid to go in front of a jury."

Patty Hearst Hollywood Calling: Patty Hearst, the actress, in the John Waters film, 'Pecker.'

Meeting Emily

Emily Harris hardly had the résumé you'd expect of an urban guerrilla. She was the pretty, blonde-haired daughter of a wealthy engineer. She was smart and popular. When I read she had briefly been a teacher, I imagined her taking over my grade school class. Somehow, I envisioned an armed terrorist being an improvement over Sister Laurette.

Harris's middle-class work ethic re-emerged in prison. After she and Bill Harris were sentenced to eight years for kidnapping Hearst, she waged a hunger strike to land a spot in the computer-training program at the women's facility in Frontera. After her release, she divorced Bill and started a successful computer-consulting business. She bought a nice, four-bedroom house with her longtime partner in 1995 for $265,500. She was 54 when she was arrested.

Harris landed in the Sacramento County Jail, and bail was set at $1 million. I figured she wouldn't be going anywhere for a while, so I decided to try to talk to her. The SLA arrests were a great story, and I thought I just might luck into an interview that no one else had pulled off. If I succeeded, I didn't plan on mentioning my youthful fixation to her. I was sure her attorney wouldn't set up an interview for me, so I drove to Sacramento on Sunday, Feb. 17, and hoped for the best.

My girlfriend, Julie, drove down with me. She planned to do some shopping while I hung out at the jail. I figured it would take half an hour to get rejected, but the line inside the jail was unusually long. I found out the computer was down, and there would be no visits until 1pm. It was 11:35am.

While I was waiting, I noticed three kids making cards on the back of visitation forms with the short yellow pencils the jail supplies. "Dear Dad, You'll Get Out of Jail Soon." When I finally made it up to the desk to have my request processed, the deputy punched the information into the computer. "You can't see this inmate," he said, looking slightly surprised. "She made bail. She's getting out today."

"What?" I said. "Are you kidding?"

I'd had a conversation with a defense attorney at a party the night before. He said $1 million bails are set precisely so the defendant can't post it and stays in jail. So much for free legal advice secured at parties.

I then recalled seeing a woman with a reporter's notebook outside earlier. This would explain it. When I walked outside, she was standing with a photographer and another scruffy-looking guy with a beard. I figured they'd known all along. I walked up and tried to get some information, completely forgetting they might view me as competition.

"Hey, are you guys from the Sacramento Bee? Are you here for Emily Harris' release?"

"Who are you?" the reporter asked. She didn't look too happy. "We can't talk to you," the photographer added. The guy with the beard just looked away and didn't say anything.

I called my girlfriend on her cell, and she offered to bring lunch over. I waited about 10 minutes and went back to the reporters, telling them I wrote for an alternative weekly and my story might not run for another month or so. I wouldn't be stealing their scoop.

I felt like Columbo as I told them I was here attempting a long-shot interview and had stumbled onto Harris' release. I tried to build sympathy by telling them I just wanted to find out if they knew when she'd get out so I wouldn't have to make my girlfriend wait all day.

"How do we know you won't call some of your daily buddies in San Francisco?" the reporter asked.

"I don't really have any pals at the Chron," I told them. "I know some people at the Examiner, but I really don't think they cover things like this anymore." Mocking the Examiner is always a popular theme among reporters, and they laughed.

"We're not sure when she'll get out," the photographer finally said. "They told us it could be several hours. All we know is that it could be any time between 1pm and midnight."

Julie walked up carrying food, in a sense confirming my story. "My alibi appears," I said.

"You know, I was just thinking what a stupid idea this whole plan was when you called and told me she made bail," Julie said. That got more laughs, and I was really feeling like Columbo now.

"It was a stupid idea," I agreed. "The only way it would work out now is if Emily Harris walks out of the jail."

As I said this, I gestured toward the jail door, and there, unbelievably, was Emily Harris, wearing black pants and a purple moleskin blouse and looking like a well-coifed middle-aged shopper at Andronico's in Palo Alto. She was smiling, if not beaming, and appeared to be looking around for someone she knew.

We all kind of stood there for a second. Then the photographer started shooting. The reporter introduced herself and explained, "Stuart went to make a phone call." It finally dawned on me that the guy with the beard was Harris' attorney, Stuart Hanlon. He probably gave the Bee a scoop to butter them up in preparation for the trial.

"Well, I'm glad somebody recognized me the day I get out of jail," Harris said.

"You look good," Julie chimed in, surprised at how fresh and respectable Harris looked after a month in the can.

What the hell was going on? Reporters don't introduce themselves. Girlfriends don't compliment murder suspects on their outfits.

I asked Harris if she was surprised to make bail, and the Bee reporter scrambled to get her notebook out.

"It was a pleasant surprise, but I was always hopeful," Harris said. "It's definitely not a situation I take for granted, and I intend to make every day count, that's for sure."

Then Hanlon reappeared, walking down the sidewalk, holding his cell phone. Harris yelled, "Stuart!" and ran up and hugged him. I tagged along, but Hanlon said this wasn't a good time for questions. Then a black Lexus RX300 SUV roared up, followed by a teal BMW. "Get in the car!" a woman yelled from the SUV. Harris and Hanlon both jumped into the Lexus and roared off, followed by the Bee reporters in their white company cars.

Almost immediately, a slightly addled woman with bleach-blonde hair who I remembered waiting in line inside the jail came over and demanded change for the pay phones. "Who was that?" she asked me. "Somebody important?"

Bill Harris Man or Manson?: Bill Harris, Emily's husband, was arrested in Oakland in September 1975.

Childhood Ghost

Mareva Brown had the lead story in the Sacramento Bee the next morning, accompanied by a big photo of Harris hugging Hanlon. The Bee claimed to have landed an "exclusive interview," even though the second paragraph contained Harris' quote in response to the question I asked outside the jail.

Oh, well. I did get to meet Emily Harris. It was like bumping into a ghost from childhood. She brought back good memories, especially in contrast to my adult life. She reminded me of what I was like when I pored through Time Magazine reading about the SLA before a game of Whiffle Ball. The lyrics to a Camper Van Beethoven song about Patty Hearst called "Tania" suddenly made more sense to me.

    Oh, my beloved revolutionary sweetheart
    I can see your newsprint face turn yellow
    in the gutter
    It makes me sad
    How I long for the days when you came
    to liberate us from boredom
    From driving around from five to seven
    in the evening
    My beloved Tania
    We carry your gun deep within our hearts
    For no better reason than our lives
    have no meaning
    And we want to be on television

The feeling didn't last long, especially as I read more about the Opsahl family. Jon turned 42 this year, the same age his mother was when she was cut down by a blast from a double-barreled shotgun. He still regrets the way he left for school the morning his mother died, filled with adolescent anger that there were no pens around the house for him to do his homework.

"I left without telling her 'I love you.' It was kind of a low moment," he said.

Jon now works at the same hospital where his parents met. He expressed relief that charges have finally been filed, but he has no illusions about the possible outcome of the upcoming trial.

"It's not a slam-dunk, but all I've ever asked is that the known killers be held accountable to the state's best abilities," he said. "The conviction is secondary."

I soon realized I missed my chance to ask the question that really matters. The question that trumps reporter's intuition, childhood crushes, youthful nostalgia and pop-culture fixations. I should have asked Emily Harris who killed Myrna Opsahl.

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From the April 11-17, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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