From the Los Angeles Times, September 6, 1975:

LIKE A GYPSY IN RED

'Squeaky' Picked a Spot—and Then Just Waited

By George Skelton and Larry Stammer
Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO—Clothed like a Gypsy woman in red, Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme wandered among the gathering crowd and settled on a front row stand in the shade of an orange tree.

She carried a .45-caliber automatic pistol with four bullets in the clip but none in the chamber. No one knew it then.

"Is this where the President is coming through?" she asked an evasive policeman.

Satisfied it was, she turned to Karen Skelton, 14, and remarked: "Oh, it's a beautiful day!"

In about five minutes, President Ford would leave the Senator Hotel, walk across the street and up a capitol sidewalk, passing by Fromme and hundreds of other Sacramentans on his way to visit with Gov. Brown and legislators.

Several times, "Squeaky's" eyes glanced toward the upper story windows of the Senator Hotel, where armed Secret Service agents were perched.

She wore a red turban around her hair, a long red dress and carried a red purse.

"She looked like a Gypsy," recalled Miss Skelton, who stood next to her. "And she was calm the whole time—afterward, too."

Another witness, who was frightened and asked not to be identified, remembered that "Squeaky's" eyes "looked glassy, just didn't look normal. But, then, there are so many weirdos around."

Basically, however, this was a Middle America crowd that gathered on a steamy, hot day to catch a brief glimpse of the first President to visit California's capitol in 11 years.

A half hour earlier, Mr. Ford had finished addressing more than 1,000 California business leaders at an annual breakfast.

Now, state civil servants taking a break from their desks, youngsters playing hooky from school and senior citizens who lived nearby all stood—some on tiptoes—beneath towering elms, magnolias, and pines as Mr. Ford began making his way across the street.

He shook every hand that time would allow.

"Hi, pleasure to meet you." "Thank ya." "Pleased to see you here." "Hi."

Mr. Ford is one of the least security-minded Presidents—or even presidential candidates—in recent history, UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas would write later. The President, she said, "plunges into crowds with the enthusiasm of a man without fear."

Near the orange tree waited Fromme, 26, the first female member of the Charles Manson "family." [sic]


Ford continued to greet people.

Fromme made a move toward the President, as if to reach for a hand.

Suddenly, witnesses reported, "all the color just left his face."

The President saw the gun.

Secret Service Agent Larry N. Buendorf, 37, wrestled it from Fromme.

"All of a sudden I heard a commotion and saw a piece of red come out of the crowd and hit the ground. They were all around," recalled lawyer Alex Saldamando.

"Then they stood her up. Her eyes just had this sort of glaze, like a person in deep shock, totally oblivious to what was going on. They slammed her up against a tree and frisked her.

"Somebody called out, 'What's your name, what's your name.'"

"Easy fellows, don't batter me," Fromme yelled to officers. "The gun didn't go off.

"It didn't go off," she continued, screaming. "Can you believe it? It didn't go off.

"Why are you all protecting him? He's not a public servant.

"He's not working for the people. You're not getting what you've paid for."

There was a wild dash for the east Capitol steps. Five agents grabbed the President, by the coat and arm, virtually lifting his body, shielding him from the crowd.

"I saw the President hunch forward and I thought he was tripping again, and then all the Secret Service men started yelling, 'let us through, let us through," said Carol Wilson of Sacramento.

Once inside the governor's office, the President never informed Brown of his narrow escape from death.

"He didn't bring it up at all. He looked very calm, very self-composed," Brown later told newsmen. "He showed no visible sign of being disturbed."

Finally, when a presidential aide began talking to Mr. Ford about the near-tragedy, the President explained to Brown what they were referring to.

"I saw a hand coming from behind several others and obviously there was a gun in that hand," Mr. Ford said later.

"I was very thankful to the Secret Service for doing a superb job. But once I saw they had done it, I thought I better get on with the rest of the day."

"In no way," he insisted, "will this prevent me or preclude me from contacting the American people as I travel from one state to another."

At Fromme's small apartment, on the third story of a Victorian house a half dozen blocks away, police took into custody her two roommates, Sandy Goode [sic], 31, and Susan Kathryn Murphy, 33. They were later released.

"She talked a lot about death," said a neighborhood acquaintance, Chris Daughterty, 24, referring to Fromme. "She asked me if I was afraid of dying. A lot of times she didn't make sense."

Fromme and Goode [sic] moved to Sacramento two years ago to be close to Manson, who was then incarcerated at nearby Folsom Prison. Since then, Manson has been transeferred to San Quentin near San Francisco.

Primarily, however, neighbors described Fromme and her roommates as quiet types.


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