Gregory Powell, Onion Field Killer, Dies In Prison At Age 79

Gregory Powell, the infamous “Onion Field” killer whose story was chronicled in both a book and a movie, has died in prison at the age of 79.

KABC reports that Powell, who was serving a life sentence for his 1963 kidnapping of two LAPD officers (one of whom he murdered), died Sunday after a battle with prostate cancer at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

Powell and his partner, Jimmy Lee Smith, had been pulled over by the two plain-clothes officers on March 9, 1963 for making an illegal U-turn. The two armed men disarmed the officers and drove them to an onion field near Bakersfield.

Hettinger was able to get away, but Campbell was shot and killed.

Powell was arrested the night of the murder, and, Smith was arrested the following day.

Both were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but their sentences were commuted to life in prison after California’s death penalty was declared unconstitutional in 1972.

According to KTLA, Mr. Powell had been scheduled for release in 1982, but an outpouring of public opposition, including a 31,500-signature petition, led the parole board to rescind his release. He continued to come up for parole, but was denied each time — the 11th and last time on January 27, 2010.

“To have released the man who kidnapped and callously executed Officer Ian Campbell would have been a travesty of justice,” L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley said in a statement at the time.

As for Mr. Smith, who was depicted in the book as a follower, he was paroled in 1982 but was subsequently arrested numerous times, mostly on drug-related charges.

Jimmy Lee Smith died April 7, 2007 of a heart attack at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic where he was being held for failing to report to a parole officer.

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