From the Sacramento Bee, September 5, 1985:

"Squeaky" Still Says She Didn't Intend to Kill Ford

Bill Lindelof
Bee Staff Writer

President Gerald Ford smiled amid a cluster of grim-faced Secret Service agents as he strolled down L Street under a cloudless blue sky.

The date was Sept. 5, 1975, and Ford was on his way to meet then-Gov. Jerry Brown for the first time. The president wanted to speak to Brown about federal-state differences on welfare, and also to size up the governor as a potential presidential candidate.

The crowd was applauding when he walked into Capitol Park and reached to shake the hands of the people standing behind a rope that lined the sidewalk. He noticed the woman dressed in red before she thrust her hand under the arms of other spectators.

What he didn't notice was that in the hand of the woman in red was a 45-caliber pistol pointed at his belly. Ford reached to shake her hand at about the same time Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme pulled the trigger. [sic]

Secret Service agents pounced on Fromme as she yelled, 'Do you believe it? It didn't go off.'

To this day, Fromme, a disciple of convicted mass slayer Charles Manson, says she had no intention of killing Gerald Ford.

But the prosecutor and judge who sent her to prison say the only reason/ Fromme did not kill Ford that day was because she didn't pull the gun's cocking mechanism back far enough.

'Nelson Rockefeller came within a 32nd of an inch of becoming president of the United States,' said Donald Heller, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Fromme.

'I have no doubt in my mind that when she strapped on that gun she meant to killthe president,' he said. 'She just did not pull the slide back all the way to load a cartridge into firing position.'

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. MacBride, who sentenced Fromme to life in prison, is also convinced she meant to kill Ford. 'If she had killed the president of the United States, it wouldn't have bothered her one bit,' he said.

In the book 'American Assassins,' author James W. Clarke said Fromme's reason for her actions 10 years ago today was to stand trial so that she could call Manson as a witness for her defense.

Media attention would 'at long last reach the world. She viewed him as a Christ figure.'

Fromme, incarcerated at a federal women's prison in West Virginia, recently turned down a chance to go before a parole board. Nine years ago, she decided not to appeal her case after being convicted as the first woman ever to attempt the assassination of a president.

Fromme still insists she had no intention of killing Ford. 'The potential was present but not the intent,' she told The Bee this week.

'The potential is present in all human beings,' she said. 'Obviously the intent wasn't. At least I don't think it was.'

John Virga, her lawyer during much of her trial, said he does not believe Frommeintended to kill Ford. 'The Manson family are killers,' he said. 'If she wanted to kill him, the man would be dead. They simply are killers. She wanted a forum.

'She wanted to have people listen to her about Charlie Manson. She realized if she killed the president, nobody would listen to her. If you go out and assassinate the president, nobody in the world is going to listen to you. It's too cruel.'

Fromme laments today that she might have done a disservice to Manson.

'I begin to think it may have hurt him more,' she said. 'We've put all this attention on him and leave him carrying the blame without benefit of much support. Just like the ones in 1969 - he's now called a mass murderer, yet he has never killed anyone.'

Manson is serving a life sentence for the 1969 slayings of actress Sharon Tate and eight others.

Fromme said she went to the park looking for Ford because he was attending a 'business convention.' Actually, Ford was in Sacramento to address the Host Breakfast, a large gathering of business leaders.

Fromme, a self-proclamined environmentalist, was offended by the thought of Fordand the business leaders gathering in Sacramento, the city in which she settled to be near Vacaville, where Charlie Manson was imprisoned.

'He just came to a damn business meeting,' she said. 'I was irritated and upset.He was the head of the country. I knew he would not give me 10 minutes of his time if I asked to speak with him to tell him what I thought was going on with the air and water.

'I decided something must be done on behalf of the Earth. The business of business is to despoil the Earth for money. I don't think the kids need to suffer because of what business does to the Earth.'

Her trial on the charges was one of the most colorful courtroom dramas ever in Sacramento. It included Fromme chastising Judge MacBride for duck hunting and also saw the tiny but feisty defendant hurl an apple across the courtroom.

MacBride said the apple hit U.S. Attorney Dwayne Keyes just after the prosecutorhad made closing remarks before Fromme's sentencing. 'She hauled off and threw asoft, mushy apple at him,' MacBride said. 'It practically exploded off his temple.'

Prosecuting and defense attorneys were charmed by Fromme, the woman Manson called 'Red' and others called 'Squeaky.' But prosecutor Heller, now in private practice, said she certainly had a dark side as well.

Sandra Good - also at the West Virginia prison, for writing threatening letters to corporate presidents -and Fromme have been described as the most dedicated ofManson followers. For example, the day after Manson carved a 'X' in his forehead, saying he had been 'X-ed' out of his trial, they did the same. And when Manson appeared in court with his long hair shaven off, they shaved their long locks.

'She can be very sweet and very intelligent,' Heller said of Fromme. 'but I havereal reservations about letting her out. If she ever gets out and wants to get Charlie on the front page she could do that by blowing things up.'