Son wants ex-SLA fugitive charged with mother’s killing

The Associated Press
Tuesday March 13, 2001

SACRAMENTO — A quarter-century after his mother was shot to death in a Carmichael bank, Jon Opsahl wants a former fugitive and others charged with the killing. 

“The real people that committed the crime should be held accountable in a criminal court,” said Opsahl, 41, one of the four children of Myrna Opsahl. She was killed while depositing church donations at Crocker Bank in 1975 during a bank robbery allegedly committed by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in the 1970s. 

Opsahl started talking to prosecutors and victims’ advocates after the 1999 arrest of Sara Jane Olson. Olson, formerly Kathleen Soliah, is alleged to have taken part in an SLA plot to kill Los Angeles police officers with pipe bombs in 1975. 

Opsahl said he didn’t know about the evidence until after Olson was arrested. And now he is believes Olson and others should be charged with her death. 

“My outrage started just last summer,” said Opsahl, a doctor at Loma Linda University Medical Center.  

“Twenty-five years after we were told that there was no physical evidence, we find out there is all kinds.” 

Investigators matched pellets taken from Myrna Opsahl’s body to ammunition found in a San Francisco area house used by the SLA, Opsahl told The Sacramento Bee for a story published Monday. Additionally, he said, authorities recovered money from the robbery and clothing used in the heist. 

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office reopened its investigation several times over the years, but after each review determined there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges in Myrna Opsahl’s death. 

In February, the FBI and Sacramento County Sheriff said they would re-examine the evidence. 

Hearst has linked the Carmichael robbery to the SLA. She wrote in a 1982 book about her SLA kidnapping that Olson and five others were involved in the Carmichael robbery and Emily Harris shot Myrna Opsahl. 

Harris, who was convicted of kidnapping and paroled in 1982, lives under a new name in Southern California. 

Olson attorney Stuart Hanlon said there’s no evidence linking Olson to the killing. 

“Until that changes, there’s not much to say,” the San Francisco lawyer said. 

Olson, a federal fugitive for 24 years, faces trial in April on attempted murder charges of planting pipe bombs under two LAPD police cars. The bombs didn’t explode. 

In February, attorney J. Tony Serra said the defense does not concede that Olson was a member of the SLA. 

“We’re not here to defend the ideology or political strategy or activities of the SLA,” he said in arguing against the admission of some evidence at one pre-trial hearing. 

But it wasn’t until Olson’s arrest that Opsahl began his quest for answers. 

“Our way of dealing with it was to put on the stiff upper lip, stay with routine,” said Opsahl, who was 15 when his mother was killed. He has now posted a Web page on his mother’s case.