Parole for the man who killed Ian James Campbell and indirectly Karl Hettinger? He is known as the “Onion Field Killer.”
On March 9, 1963, Gregory Powell and his accomplice, Jimmy Lee Smith, drove around Los Angeles looking for a liquor store to rob. Officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger were on patrol in Hollywood. They pulled the two thieves over.
What should have been a routine stop turned lethal. Powell drew his gun and pointed at Campbell. Together with Smith, they disarmed both officers, took them hostage, and drove them to a remote onion field. The officers were forced out of the car and ordered to stand with their hands above their heads. Then Powell asked them if they were familiar with the “little Lindbergh Law? When Campbell said yes he was murdered.
The little Lindbergh Law a.k.a. the Federal Kidnapping Act allows federal officers to aid in kidnapping cases as local authorities cannot cross state borders to continue pursuit. In some states, kidnapping will become a capital offense if the victim was physically harmed in any way. That is why Powell asked Campbell whether he was aware of this law.
Hettinger managed to escape but the murder of his partner haunted him for the rest of his life. He was scorned by his fellow officers and a police training video used him as an example of what not to do when stopping and approaching a car. The bullying and ridicule led to alcoholism and severe emotional trauma. Hettinger was forced to resign from the LAPD in 1966 after he committed theft. He died of a liver disease in 1994. He was only 59. Jimmy Lee Smith died in 2007 at the age of 76.
Powell (75) will face a California state parole board tomorrow morning. He is expected to ask the panel for parole after almost 50 years in prison. He has been denied parole 11 times. The Los Angeles Police Protective League will ask the panel to deny parole again.
According to many, Powell has never shown any remorse for Campbell’s murder and indirectly for destroying Hettinger’s life.
UPDATE: In Jan 2010, parole was denied. Powell is housed at California Men’s Colony, a minimum and medium security detention center. A department of corrections spokesperson said he has had several rules violations. He can seek parole again in three years.