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Ex-Teacher Is Given 2 Years in Bombings

June 09, 1987|JANE APPLEGATE | Times Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES — A Dana Point teacher who was part owner of a chain of private schools was sentenced Monday to two years in federal prison for hiring a band of Alabama mercenaries to harass two former employees who she believed had vandalized her schools.

The mercenaries blew up cars in San Bernardino County in August, 1985, belonging to former employees Robyn Rishoff of Etiwanda and Harriet Russo of Ontario.

Because Charlotte Ruth Wyckoff, 52, already had served nearly a year in jail awaiting sentencing, she will serve only an additional year in custody. She pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the bombings.

'A Funeral in Many Ways'

"This has been a nightmare and a funeral in many ways," a tearful Wyckoff told U.S. District Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler.

David E. Kenner, Wyckoff's attorney, said that Wyckoff has lost her expensive home, her lucrative business and her state teaching credential. He said she is working as a laboratory administrator in an undisclosed city for $1,390 a month.

"This was a long, strange, if not bizarre, case," said Stotler, who also ordered Wyckoff to pay about $4,000 in restitution to one of the teachers whose car was firebombed by the mercenaries. Stotler called the bombing plot an "unbelievable fiasco."

Wyckoff and a partner, Elizabeth Leta Hamilton, 39, who was sentenced earlier to seven years in prison, owned a chain of seven private schools known as the California Learning Centers in Orange and San Bernardino counties. After several of their schools were vandalized, Wyckoff and Hamilton contacted Franklin J. Camper, who owned a mercenary-training camp in Alabama.

They asked him to come to California to provide "unconventional security" for themselves and their schools, Wyckoff said at the hearing at which she pleaded guilty. Last week, Camper was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in the bombings.

Camper associate William Hedgcorth, 23, was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy and arson, and Camper's girlfriend, Lee Ann Faulk, 28, was acquitted of conspiracy charges.

After her sentencing Monday, Wyckoff said she thought it was "fair."

Stotler also sentenced two other defendants in the case Monday. Paul Johnson, 43, of Birmingham, Ala., was given two years in prison, and James Cuneo, 23, of Long Island, N.Y., was sentenced to 18 months.

Johnson and Cuneo once worked as instructors at Camper's mercenary camp. They were accused of participating in the actual bombings.

Pleads for Mercy

Cuneo pleaded for mercy Monday, saying he came under Camper's spellbinding influence when he was a misguided youth of 17.

"When I met Frank Camper, I was very irresponsible," Cuneo said, his voice breaking. "I had no direction in my life. I was in a fantasy world looking for shortcuts to being a man.

"Frank Camper made me feel like a man for a while until I ended up in Terminal Island (federal prison) and reality hit me in the face. There are no shortcuts."

At his trial, Camper claimed that the bombings were a maverick plan by Cuneo and Johnson and were carried out without his knowledge. Camper contended that he was a patriot who ran his mercenary camp as a cover for super-secret U.S. government operations.

United Press International contributed to this story.

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