Thursday, January 28, 2010


Gregory Powell kidnapped and killed an L.AQ. officer in ’63

Associated Press
January 28, 2010

LOS ANGELES — A convicted killer was denied parole Wednesday 47 years after he and a partner kidnapped two Los Angeles police officers and shot one to death in a case made famous by the book and movie "The Onion Field."

A California Board of Prison Terms panel found the 76-year-old Gregory Powell unsuitable for parole after a hearing at the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo. It was his 11th parole hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Alexis De la Garza, who spoke to The Associated Press after the hearing, said the denial's duration would be for three years.

De la Garza said that Powell told board commissioners John Peck and Randy Kevorkian that he has terminal prostate cancer and would like to be released before he dies.

"I've done enough time. I'm a different man and I'm ready to be paroled," De la Garza quoted Powelll as saying.

However, she said the commissioners pointed out that during his nearly half century in prison he has taken no steps to participate in self help, educational or vocational programs.

De la Garza argued that the heinousness of the crime made him unsuitable for parole.

"It was a cold, deliberate crime," she said, "and he had a long time to reflect on it."

The crime was chronicled in Joseph Wambaugh's best-selling book, "The Onion Field."

De la Garza recounted that Powell and co-defendant, Jimmy Lee Smith, kidnapped Officer Ian Campbell and his partner, Karl Hettinger, on a March night in 1963 in Hollywood after they were pulled over in a routine traffic stop. They drove north to a Bakersfield onion field where Campbell was shot five hours later but Hettinger escaped.

Hettinger had been forced to give up his gun but escaped by running into the onion field. He was haunted by that night for the rest of his life, was shunned by his colleagues, and died in 1994 at the age of 59.

Powell and Smith were sentenced to death but their sentences were commuted to life in prison after the death penalty was briefly outlawed in the 1970s.

[Smith was initially released in 1982, but returned to prison several times on drug-related parole violations. In December 2006, he failed to report to his parole agent and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was caught in February 2007 and charged with violating his parole. On April 7, 2007, he died of an apparent heart attack while in custody at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic. He was 76.]

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