The Onion Field Killer is dead

Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger Photo by Greg Meyer

Photo by Greg Meyer

The Onion Field Killer is dead. Gregory Powell, a.k.a. the Onion Field Killer, died of prostate cancer at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville which is part of the state prison system.

In 1963, Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith killed LAPD officer Ian Campbell in an onion field near Bakersfield. Campbell’s partner, Karl Hettinger, managed to escape and ran for help. As a result, he was taunted and bullied by his own colleagues and suffered severe trauma. He passed away at a very young age.

From the LA Times: “So Powell shot Campbell in the mouth. Then either he or Smith shot four more rounds into the officer as he writhed on the ground, killing him.

Karl Hettinger, Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Karl Hettinger, Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In the chaos of those moments, Hettinger fled. Bullets flew in his direction, but it was a cloudy night with only intermittent glimmers of moonlight. While the kidnappers — now murderers — fumbled for a flashlight and more bullets, Hettinger ran several miles to a farmhouse, where he called for help.”

He may not have pulled the trigger on Hettinger but Powell is indirectly respoinsible for Hettinger’s death. “I still get uneasy… I still can’t sleep very well,” Hettinger said at the time, his voice breaking and his fists clenched. “I can still see their faces…

It is easy to judge Hettinger who always said that he did not want to give up his gun but Campbell already had a gun pushed into his back. The scorn that he had to endure was unjustified and contributed to his mental decline. Karl Hettinger died of a liver disease in 1994 at the young age of 59.

Rest in peace to both Officers Campbell and Hettinger.