‘Squeaky’ Fromme Missing from Prison
ALDERSON, W.Va. (AP) _ Police accompanied by dogs patrolled mountain roads and combed woods today for Lynette ″Squeaky″ Fromme, who escaped while serving a life prison sentence for the attempted assassination of then-President Gerald Ford.
Jesse South, chief deputy U.S. marshal, said authorities in all 50 states were notified of Fromme’s escape.
Fromme, 39, was discovered missing from the Alderson Federal Prison for Women at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday during the nightly prison check, said Warden Ron Burkhart. Other inmates reported last seeing Fromme about 10 minutes before the check began, he said.
Sara Jane Moore, who tried to kill Ford 17 days after Fromme’s attempt, escaped from the same prison eight years ago but was quickly recaptured.
Fromme, a disciple of mass murderer Charles Manson, was not believed to be carrying weapons, officials said. Burkhart said Fromme has been eligible for parole since September 1985, but waived her rights to appear before a parole board and elected to remain in prison.
About 12 hours after Fromme’s disappearance, prison officials had completed a search of the institution’s 69 buildings and began re-searching the structures, Burkhart said.
The campus-like prison is located on 96 acres of grounds on the outskirts of this town of 1,300 residents in hilly southeastern West Virginia.
The search, involving more than 50 local, state and federal officials, encompassed at least 10 square miles, prison officials said. The weather was described as clear, with a light wind and temperatures in the 50s this afternoon. Readings were in the 30s early today.
The Secret Service and U.S. marshals also began interviewing people with whom Fromme has recently had contact, Burkhart said. If Fromme isn’t found by Friday, officials likely will begin ″an intelligence-gathering operation″ rather than continue a search of the Alderson area, he said.
State police and Greenbrier County sheriff’s officials said early this morning they were patrolling roads in the area for Fromme, but had not set up roadblocks. The police dogs belonged to local jurisdictions, officials said.
″Sooner or later I’m confident we’ll get her back,″ Burkhart said. ″In the world there aren’t many places for a Lynette Fromme to go.″
It has been officials’ experience that if inmates do escape into the surrounding mountains that they eventually emerge and are picked up on area highways, he said at a news conference this morning.
Prison officials had no clue how Fromme had escaped, he said. ″There’s no physical evidence of how she got out or where she went.″
Burkhart also denied that prison security was lax because of the upcoming holiday.
Fromme’s escape is the 15th within the last two years at Alderson. Twelve of the inmates were recaptured, but two others besides Fromme - a Nigerian and Colombian jailed on drug charges - remain at large, Burkhart said.
Prison officials said they had no idea why Fromme decided to escape.
″I just saw her yesterday. She seemed OK to me but she’s kinda strange,″ said Associate Warden Maureen Atwood. ″We’re not ruling out anything at this point.″
The federal prison’s other 985 female inmates were accounted for, Atwood said. The correctional center houses maximum-, medium-and minimum-securit y inmates.
Fromme was convicted in the Sept. 5, 1975, assassination attempt in Sacramento, Calif., the first of two attempts on Ford’s life in a month.
Ford was unharmed when a Secret Service agent grabbed a semi-automatic .45- caliber pistol aimed at him by Fromme on the grounds of the state Capitol.
In San Francisco 17 days later, Ford escaped injury when Moore, a 45-year- old political activist, fired a revolver at him. She eventually pleaded guilty and received a life sentence.
In 1979, Moore also escaped from the Alderson prison, but was recaptured hours later, about 25 miles away, in near-zero temperatures.
Moore now is housed at a federal women’s prison in Pleasanton, Calif.
After Fromme’s November 1975 conviction, she became the first person sentenced under a special federal law covering assaults on U.S. presidents, a statute enacted after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
She boycotted the sentencing, as she did most of the trial.
Fromme served 2 1/2 years at the West Virginia prison after her conviction. She was moved to Pleasanton in June 1978 after prison officials said she had become a ″model inmate.″
But she was sent back to West Virginia in 1979 as punishment for striking another inmate with a hammer while the two tended a prison garden.
Manson is serving a life sentence in San Quentin prison in California for the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and eight other people in two consecutive nights.
Sandra Good, another Manson follower and Fromme’s onetime roommate, was also housed at the Alderson prison. She was paroled Dec. 2, 1985, and moved to Vermont. She had been convicted of making threatening telephone calls to business officials.
Neither Fromme nor Good was charged in the Tate killings.
Author Mary Neiswender, who has closely followed Moore and Fromme, described Fromme as ″the cornerstone″ in keeping Manson cult members in communication with each other.
Neiswender said Manson followers, most of them in prison, continue to keep in touch ″in a roundabout way, through third parties.″
″Squeaky was probably one of the most devoted members of the family and did the most to keep it together when it started falling apart,″ Neiswender said from Los Angeles. ″She’s probably the cornerstone of the family now, keeping it together.″