Parole board rejects 'Onion Field' killer's compassionate release
Concluding a fabled chapter in Los Angeles crime history, the state parole board has rejected the final bid for the release of Gregory Powell, the notorious “Onion Field” killer whose 1963 kidnapping and murder of a Los Angeles police officer shocked the city and shattered the myth of the untouchable cop.
Powell’s doctor had determined that the 78-year-old inmate, who has been imprisoned since the slaying, is dying of prostate cancer and has six months or less to live, making him eligible for "compassionate release." But during an hourlong hearing in the state capital Tuesday, no one spoke on his behalf and, in fact, authorities said he prefers to die in prison.
Members of the victim’s family and representatives from law enforcement told commissioners that that was just fine with them.
“The only way Gregory Powell should leave prison is in a body bag,” said Pat Corral, a niece of Ian Campbell, the slain officer.
In 1963, Campbell and his partner, Karl Hettinger, had pulled over Powell and accomplice Jimmy Lee Smith. Powell pulled a gun and disarmed Campbell, then forced Hettinger to give up his weapon. Powell and Smith took the officers to a deserted onion field near Bakersfield, where Powell executed Campbell. Hettinger escaped.
On Tuesday, the parole board voted 10-1 against referring Powell's case to a sentencing court for compassionate release, effectively exhausting the legal process.
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Gregory Powell after his arrest in 1963. Credit: Los Angeles Times