After 23 years, Katherine Power turned herself in. The Vietnam-era radical could no longer bear "the shame and hiddenness' of life on the lam.
So many times, more times than she could even remember, she just walked away without looking back, But this time, it would be different. This time, she would say goodbye.
For close to a decade, she had lived in Oregon's Willamette Valley, in the tolerant college towns of Eugene and Corvallis where no one asked too many questions. She was known as Alice Metzinger--professional chef, wife, mother. She had roots: a white-shingled house, restaurants she had helped start, cooking students she had trained at the local community college, people who cared about her.
More than three dozen friends showed up at her farewell party on Sept. 12. They didn't know where she was going; her invitations had referred only to "parts unknown." Some of the guests had worked with her in different restaurants; they contributed salmon, grilled tuna, salads, breads. Metzinger brought her specialty, polenta and red sauce. They sipped iced tea and a little wine and then she gathered them around her. She seemed like the same Alice: a perfectionist in the kitchen, a devoted mother to her 14-year-old son, Jaime, and a loving wife to Ron Duncan, both of whom stood by her side and watched silently as she spoke.
But it was not Alice who was talking. Alice was a fiction, she explained, and identity stolen from the 1948 birth certificate of a dead baby. She was really Katherine Ann Power, a 1960s student radical turned fugitive who spent 14 years ont he FBI's most-wanted list, where she was described as armed and "very dangerous." She had driven the getaway car in a deadly 1970 bank robbery in Boston; one of her accomplices had killed a policeman, a hero cop, the father of nine children
For 23 years, she hid her past, changing names and cities whenever she felt threatened, deliberately never driving faster than the speed limit, losing contact with her parents and six brothers and sisters in Denver. At 44, she was consumed by guilt and desperately tired. After months of therapy, she had come to understand that she suffered from chronic depression. In a prepared statement, she explained that she was ready to face "whatever consequences the legal system will impose." "Experiencing life without that distorting lens," she wrote, "I am now learning to live with openness and truth, rather than shame and hiddenness." Three weeks earlier she had signed and agreement with Boston law-enforcement officials after a year of negotiations. In three days she would begin her new life as Suffolk County Jail inmate number 9309307.
Her friends were stunned. Many hugged her and said they understood; others weren't sure she was making the right choice. As he left that night, Rod Terry, a Corvallis architect, told her: "If you need to escape, give me a call." This time, she just laughed.
If only...In any life, it is the prologue to regrets. If only Kathy Power hadn't accepted a scholarship to Brandeis University near Boston. if only she had not been entranced by ex-convict Stanley Bond in that fearsome spring and summer of 1970 when it seemed like nothing would stop the killing in Southeast Asia. If only she had said no when she and Bond and the others came up with the plan to rob the bank to get money to buy arms for the Black Panthers. if only Patrolman Walter Schroeder, the good cop, had not been so quick to respond to the silent alarm at the bank. If only she had turned herself in or had been captured 20 years ago, like the rest of them: Bond, two other men and Power's Brandeis roommate, Susan Saxe. She would have served her time by now; no one would even remember her name. Instead, she is a disturbing symbol of another era, an oddly romantic and very dangerous few years when an honors student from a loving family could grow up to be a terrorist and spend two decades anguishing over a life of lies.
When Kathy Power arrived at Brandeis in the fall of 1967, she was primed for academic success. At Marycrest, the best Roman Catholic girls' school in Denver, she was a scholarship student with a 4.0 average, youth columnist for The Denver Post, winner of the Betty Crocker Homemaker Award for her recipes and sewing, and a National Merit Scholarship finalist. "I had such great hopes for her," says Sister Sheila Carroll, the principal at the time. At home, she was the star of her family as well. "None of us were as smart or as great at everything all around as Kathy," says her oldest brother, John. Like other girls at Marycrest, she was involved in the social-justice component of the curriculum, visiting the poor and the elderly. "It was called Leaven, and we urged the girls to act as Leaven in their communities," Sister Sheila says.
BRANDEIS WAS A REVELATION, A campus alive with politics and ideas. True, it wasn't Berkeley, perhaps the epicenter of the youthquake, or Madison, or even Ann Arbor, but it was clearly on the map of student activism. "There was a great deal of soul-searching about the Vietnam War," says Morris Abram, then the school's president. "They weren't violent...This was simply a growing experience for intelligent young people." For many college students of that era, the soul-searching led to mass marches on Washington. A few, especially those threatened by 1-A draft status, took more drastic actions: destroying draft cards, fleeing to Canada. An even smaller group turned violent.
Until the spring of 1970, Kathy Power was only slightly more radical than the mainstream, at least the Brandeis mainstream. "She was moderate," recalls John Weingart, student-body president in 196970 and now a state environmental official in New Jersey. "In the temper of the times, that seemed conservative." But according to Jacob Cohen, chairman of the American Studies department, Power was suddenly radicalized by the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in April. It was a galvanizing moment for students around the country, "like an electric jolt at a time when the war seemed to be winding down," Cohen recalls; Power was "caught up in a big way."
Brandeis was the headquarters of the National Student Strike Force, which organized protests at campuses around the country, and Power and Susan Saxe were leading members. April was a cruel month. During demonstrations, four students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio. For students already highly politicized, it seemed as if the end was near. Cohen remembers a telling incident that summer when Saxe, Power and other students stayed at school to keep the movement going. After they disrupted adult-education classes, Cohen tried to get them to calm down. Saxe exploded: "Why don't you just kill us now and get it over with?" It seems implausibly melodramatic now, but, says Cohen, Saxe accurately reflected a pervasive "sense of hysteria that was a mixture of ideology and pathology."
This was Power's new world view, an apocalyptic vision that had usurped the gentle social-justice mission of the Marycrest nuns. Then, Stanley Bond arrived at Brandeis. He was 25, in a special program to get prisoners a college education. "He came on campus, a romantic, good-looking man with an aura about him, a convict among middleclass bourgeoisie," recalls Richard Onorato, the former dean of students. The rumor was that Power and Bond were lovers, an odd couple brought together by odd times. After a half-hour walk with him around campus, Onorato concluded that Bond was "borderline psychotic." "He was talking about all the pretty young girls that were available," Onorato recalls. At another point, Bond said, "It's such a beautiful day. It makes you want to kill someone." Weingart says everyone thought that Bond "was an agent sent in by the government to discredit the radical antiwar movement."
But what did Power think? Somewhere in her soul, she was still the good Catholic girl, sheltered but eager for adventure. Power has told Rikki Klieman, the Boston lawyer who represents her, that she found Bond "messianic, charismatic, skillful." If Power was leading a dangerous secret life with a new lover, her family back in Denver remained totally unaware. In mid-September, she was in Denver for a family party to celebrate her brother John' s return from the navy. Nobody remembers anything unusual; no one talked about politics.
A few days later, Power was part of the team that set fire to the Newburyport, Mass., National Guard Armory and made of with a truck and ammunition. Steven Black, her Oregon lawyer, says that Power had a hard time carrying out her sentry job; she was so nervous she became physically ill. After that, she was relegated to "support" functions, like driving the getaway car in the bank robbery, her lawyers say. The heist took only two minutes and the haul was relatively modest: $26,000. Police say an ex-convict named Lefty Gilday pulled the trigger; he is now serving a life sentence. Bond apparently met Gilday and the third male member of the gang, Robert Valeri, in jail. Valeri turned state's evidence, helping to convict Bond and Gilday. Bond later blew himself up, officials say, while constructing a bomb in prison.
Power has told her lawyers that she has trouble remembering the exact sequence of events in the first few days after the robbery. She claims she didn't even know Schroeder had been shot until hours later. That night they split up, with Bond, Saxe and Power heading for Philadelphia. Then they drove south. Somewhere, maybe it was Atlanta, Power remembers Bond handing her hundreds of dollars to buy a plane ticket. They agreed to meet in Detroit, and Bond gave Power a suitcase to carry for them. Power got as far as St. Louis, where she was standing in fine to book a flight for Detroit when there was a loud explosion at the luggage carousel only a few feet away. Unbeknownst to Power, says Black, Bond's suitcase had contained a loaded shotgun. Police filled the room and Power panicked. She headed straight out the door and got on a bus, eventually ending up in Detroit where she met up with Saxe. Bond was arrested shortly later in Colorado; by then the other two men were already in custody.
Power and Saxe stayed together for the next few years, living for a time in a feminist commune in Connecticut. A contact from the antiwar movement gave Power a document, probably a birth certificate, which she used to establish a new identity as Sheila Mae Kelly. The former Betty Crocker award winner enrolled in chef's school and started working in restaurants. In the mid-1970s, Power and Saxe moved to Lexington, Ky., and then to the countryside. In 1974, they split up. "Katherine wanted to maintain their fugitive status," says Black, "by dropping the Mae Kelly identity and fading into the woodwork. Susan Saxe didn't want to do that." Months later, Saxe was arrested in Philadelphia and served eight years in jail. She now lives in Philadelphia.
Saxe's arrest scared Power and drove her even deeper underground. For two years she was constantly on the move, making up names as she went along and avoiding the types of jobs and landlords that demand credentials. She worked in Atlantic City and Jersey City in New Jersey, and in Queens, the Bronx and Poughkeepsie in New York. In 1977, a contact offered her the birth certificate of Alice Metzinger, a long-dead baby whose birthday was about 11 months before Power's, Jan. 25,1949. Power then built up documentary evidence of an identity, including a driver's license and a social-security number. She set out for Portland, Ore. "Oregon," says Black, "was as far away as she could go without leaving the country."
POWER EVENTUALLY BECAME COMfortable enough with her identity as Alice Metzinger to begin living a fairly normal life. From 1977 to 1986, she settled for varying periods of time in a series of communities--Portland, Harrisburg, Halsey and junction City--usually working in restaurants. She was no longer alone. In 1979, she gave birth to Jaime; she has never disclosed his father's name. A year later, while working in a nutrition program, she met Ron Duncan, a bookkeeper. The attraction was immediate, he said in an interview with NEWSWEEK. She was, he recalls, "alljoy. We used to kid about her being Sally Sunshine."
Duncan, then 44, was tired of long hours in the office; he joined Power on a wildly itinerant life. Power worked in restaurants and pizza parlors; Duncan boned meat. At some point--Duncan won't say when--she shared her secret, after they had been up all night talking, and drove to watch the sun rise over the Columbia River. He was shocked that a woman so gentle could take part in such a terrible crime, and he was astonished that she trusted him "because fugitives daren't trust."
To friends, they seemed like just another of the aging hippie couples who had sought refuge in the area around Eugene and Corvallis -except for one oddity, their shared love of hunting. They liked to seek out game birds, Duncan says, and Power was never hesitant with a shotgun. "Human beings are hunter-gatherers," he says. "We never shot anything we didn't eat."
Around 1985, their life changed dramatically. The year before, the FBI had taken Power off the most-wanted list. Power took a job as a chef at Linn-Benton Community College near Corvallis. College Services Dean Brian Brown said that Alice Metzinger had impeccable experience on her resume and sterling recommendations. She was quickly promoted to instructor.
During this period, Power and Duncan paid $30,000 for a house in nearby Lebanon. Their neighbors say their greatest distinction was their casual attitude toward lawn maintenance; they rarely mowed. So Darlene Lindgren, who lives next door, says she and her husband took over when the grass got too high. "I'm waiting for when she comes home," Lindgren says. "I will continue to keep up the lawn."
In 1989, Alice Metzinger started a successful restaurant, Napoli, in Eugene with her friend Paula Scharf. The two women shared an emotional bond. Scharf was an orphan; Metzinger also seemed to be without a family. At the college and the restaurant, she was a stern taskmaster. "Her standards were incredibly high," says Keri James, who used to work at Napoli. "She's very big on sanitation. One day, somebody in the kitchen put a bottle of soda they were drinking down on the counter. She was furious. She said, 'You might as well spit on the counter!' She spelled it right out: 'Your lips were on the glass. There's condensation on the bottle. The water runs down the bottle and onto the counter'."
Among Jaime's friends and their parents, she was known as a relatively strict but loving mother. With Pamela Payne, mother of 14-year-old John, there was no need for a false identity; Payne never called her Alice. "I'd call up on the phone and say, "Is this Jaime's mom? Oh, hi, this is John's mom." When she saw Power on TV last week, "my husband said to me, 'Well, honey, what's her name?'And I said, 'Jaime's mom." John was impressed that jaime's mom made him do serious chores every Saturday, like cleaning the bathroom floor and mopping the kitchen. He was also impressed by the cake she made for his birthday last year: there were little pieces of bubble gum in the frosting. Duncan says that while Power cherished her family life, she could also be thrown into a depression by reminders of what she had given up. She refused to have Thanksgiving, he says, and found the changing of the seasons painful because "Jaime doesn't have any knowledge of her childhood and the experiences in Denver with the sun melting the snow." Black says she had recurring nightmares that she would be asked to sign her name and social-security number and would slip up and sign "Katherine Power."
Power took her first steps toward reconciling her past and her present when she met therapist Linda Carroll in May 1992. She wept at a class Carroll gave on depression at a local hospital. In subsequent private sessions, Power described her symptoms: waves and waves of almost unbearable sadness, each one stronger than the last. Carroll, who spoke to the Corvallis Gazette-Times with Power's consent, says that when a period of depression struck, Power would try to fight back with intense work, exercise and prayer. Nothing seemed to help. After many sessions, Carroll says, Power realized that her emotional difficulties would never end until she gave up her life as a fugitive. She started taking the antidepressant medication Trazedone. "It caused an extraordinary change," says Duncan. "She began to reconstruct her own personality." She also started talking to Black, an acquaintance of Carroll's, about surrendering. He told her she would have to hire him as an attorney before telling him any details of her case. "She retained me for a dollar, but only had 95 cents in her pocket," says Black. "I lent her the nickel."
Black, 46, a public defender, was an ironic choice. A Vietnam fighter pilot, he, too, had ghosts to exorcise. A year ago Power helped him stage a mock trial at the Benton County Courthouse during which Black put himself on trial for "war crimes" he thought he had committed, explaining how his zeal for killing had grown to such a degree that he didn't care if he hit civilians. Power, who acted as Black's defense attorney, sobbed when some "jurors" pronounced Black not guilty by the standards of the times but guilty by 1992 standards. Black sentenced himself to community service.
AT THE SAME TIME, BLACK WAS negotiating the terms of Power's surrender To avoid detection, he had an attorney friend in Alaska make the first call to law-enforcement officials in Boston. Eventually, he started talking directly to Klieman, whom he selected based on friends' recommendations, calling her in hotel rooms around the country or at pay phones in Boston. Several months ago the FBI rounded up pictures of Power's family. Klieman photocopied them for Power. In the meantime, Power got her life in order. She sold her share of Napoli and went to work for M's Tea and Coffee House. A year ago she finally married Duncan; last month he officially adopted Jaime.
Negotiations reached a critical point in midsummer. Investigators later told Black that a renewed hunt for Power had centered on Oregon where a computer check had found 400 women of approximately the right age and height (Power is 4 feet 11). "The noose started to tighten," says a law-enforcement official. But Duncan says his wife would never have been captured. "The authorities were not close, no matter what they say," he claims. Power signed a plea-bargain agreement on Aug. 25, but delayed her surrender to be with her son when he started high school. The night before she appeared in court, she was reunited with her parents and one of her sisters at a Cambridge, Mass., hotel. Her father, Winfield, a 75-year-old retired businessman who has suffered a stroke and a heart attack, had prayed for years that he would see his daughter again. Now he pledges to stand by her: "Would a parent forsake his child?" She is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 6; prosecutors expect that she'll be eligible for parole in about five years.
As the Power family celebrates, another family mourns. Four of Walter Schroeder's nine children are law-enforcement officers, including Denver Sheriff's Deputy Edward Schroeder. "I just can't forgive," he says. "I'm not happy with her attitude, the way she was smiling when she went into court." It's no coincidence that Schroeder chose Denver. "I thought I might play a part in her capture someday," he says. He often fantasized that she'd be brought into the jail where he guards federal prisoners: "I wondered what I'd do."
After all these years, it's hard to know whom to feel the most sympathy for: the children who lost a father, the family who lost a daughter, the young woman who lost her way in the tumult of the '60s. And there are others suffering now: a husband with a wife in jail, a son separated from his mother. Even with the best of intentions, some things can never be made right.