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Women who tried to kill Ford still locked up

- Los Angeles Times

Published: Sun, Dec. 31, 2006 12:00AM

Modified Sun, Dec. 31, 2006 02:52AM

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They are joined in a strange sisterhood by a pair of unhinged acts: In the autumn of 1975, 17 days apart, each tried to assassinate President Ford, who died this week at age 93.

Today, Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore are serving life sentences in federal prisons in Texas and California, respectively. The once headline-grabbing names have become historical footnotes who embody the extremism of a tumultuous era.

Three decades ago, Fromme was a slender red-haired flower child from Santa Monica, Calif., a Charles Manson handmaiden who gouged an "X" into her forehead in devotion to the murderer.

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Moore was an overweight accountant, divorced numerous times and mother of four. Of her attempt on Ford's life, she said: "There comes a point where the only way you can make a statement is to pick up a gun."

The assassination attempts -- Fromme's in Sacramento, Calif., and Moore's in San Francisco -- contributed to "an atmosphere of lawlessness" in Northern California, said Kevin Starr, a University of Southern California history professor. They were compounded by such other infamous 1970s events as the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the murder of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and the mass suicide of the Jonestown cultists.

Fromme, now 58, was the first woman in history to try to assassinate a U.S. president when on Sept. 5, 1975, she burst through a crowd gathered at the state Capitol, dressed in a nun's robe, with a .45-caliber pistol strapped to her left leg.

She pointed the weapon at Ford from 2 feet away. The gun was loaded, but there was no bullet in the firing chamber. A Secret Service agent disarmed her and slapped her in handcuffs.

At her sentencing, when the federal judge said he believed she would have killed Ford if she could have, Fromme shouted: "You fool! I'm trying to save your life!" She later threw an apple, hitting the federal prosecutor.

Currently held at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, Fromme has been eligible for parole since 1985 but has yet to request her freedom.

Moore fired at Ford on Sept. 22, 1975, as the president left a speaking engagement at the St. Francis Hotel. Her single shot from a .38 revolver missed Ford after Oliver Sipple, a disabled Vietnam War veteran, grabbed her arm and pulled her down.

Moore, 76, is being held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, about 40 miles from San Francisco. She could be released after Sept. 21, 2007.

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