The Sacramento Bee is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. This story is part of our ongoing coverage.
The domestic terror group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army became notorious with the February 1974 kidnapping of 19-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst from her Berkeley apartment.
But a nationwide manhunt for members of the group missed the fact that they had been hiding out in Sacramento for seven months starting in the fall of 1974.
Members of the radical anti-government group lived in a series of rental homes on T and W Streets and Capitol Avenue while hiding out from authorities seeking them for a series of bombings and robberies.
After being forced to live in a darkened closet and subjected to abuse by her captors, Hearst had joined up with them as they plotted a new series of thefts and robberies in Sacramento.
On April 21, 1975, Hearst and five other SLA members pulled off a robbery of the Crocker National Bank branch on Marconi Avenue just west of Fair Oaks Boulevard.
The robbery netted the SLA $15,000, but killed Myrna Opsahl, a 42-year-old mother of four who was there to deposit offerings from her church’s Saturday services and was hit with a shotgun blast.
With Hearst acting as a getaway driver, the gang escaped to their Capitol Avenue safe house and, eventually, left Sacramento.
Two disappeared as fugitives for decades, and the others were arrested on unrelated charges.
Hearst was jailed on other charges but later had her sentence commuted by President Jimmy Carter. She was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
None of the others faced justice in the Opsahl slaying until 2002, when Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully filed charges after saying new evidence had been found.
After more than a year of legal wrangling, four of the former SLA members pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Self-styled SLA “field marshal” Bill Harris got seven years; his ex-wife, Emily Montague, who carried the shotgun that went off and killed Opsahl, got eight years; and Kathleen Soliah (who had been a fugitive living under the name Sara Jane Olson) and Michael Bortin each got six years.
A fifth defendant, James Kilgore, was arrested later while living as a fugitive in South Africa and agreed to a six-year sentence.
Vaudeville acts in Sacramento included Marx Brothers
February 1918: Sacramento was just big enough to attract the best performers vaudeville had to offer, and most of the big ones – from Sophie Tucker to Al Jolson – showed up here. The good thing about vaudeville was that if you didn’t like the first act, there was always something different in the next, as exemplified by this review from Feb. 20, 1918:
Music, comedy and cleverness judiciously are mixed for entertainment purposes in the enjoyable Orpheum Bill, which closes a two-days’ engagement at the Clunie-Orpheum with the performance tonight. Not a dull spot on the program or a lapse from action and interest is noticeable from the growl of the biggest bear in the first act to the final curtsey of the woman who juggles in the last number. All is nice and pleasing.
Much of the high class of the bill is due to the novel offering of the four Marx Brothers in “Home Again,” an elaborate musical and comedy sketch that runs for three-quarters of an hour, affording two of the men opportunity to exploit great comedy talent in the impersonation of Italian characters, giving the same two the chance capture the audience with their ability as pianists, and showing the versatility of one who is a master performer on harp ...
Good enough, in fact, to later earn the nickname “Harpo.”
The Sacramento Bee 1959 editorial cartoon by Newton Pratt: