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Jailed California Woman Dies in Israel : Mideast: Settler Rochelle Manning, 54, was awaiting extradition for trial in a letter-bomb murder. She was a friend of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred about 30 Arabs.

March 19, 1994|MICHAEL PARKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JERUSALEM — Rochelle Manning--a radical Jewish settler who was awaiting extradition to California for trial in the letter-bomb murder of a Manhattan Beach secretary--died Friday in an Israeli prison, a government spokesman said.

Manning, 54, had fainted after morning prayers at the prison outside Tel Aviv. She lost consciousness and died 45 minutes later of an apparent heart attack, said Dubi Ben-Ami, a Prisons Authority spokesman.

An autopsy is planned, as Manning did not have a known heart condition.

Manning, who immigrated to Israel in 1986, had lived in Kiryat Arba, a militant Jewish settlement near Hebron in the West Bank, where she and her husband were close friends of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, another American immigrant, who massacred about 30 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque three weeks ago.

In an interview a week ago with the weekly newspaper Kol Hair, Manning recounted that Goldstein had told her in January how depressed he had grown after the upsurge in attacks on Jewish settlers in Kiryat Arba and Hebron, particularly the murder of a close friend and his son.

"He told me he felt he was going crazy," Manning said in the interview. "He was terribly hurt by the murder (in December) of Mordechai Lapid and his son Shalom. . . . He was the last person I would think could do something like that (the Hebron massacre), but on second thought he was the only one who could have done it."

Israel's Supreme Court earlier this month turned down Manning's final appeal against an extradition order returning her to the United States to stand trial in the 1980 death of Patricia Wilkerson, who was killed when a bomb hidden in an electrical appliance exploded.

Manning's husband, Robert, was extradited to the United States last July, convicted in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles of conspiracy to murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Prosecutors alleged in that trial that the bomb was intended for Wilkerson's boss, Brenda Crouthamel Adams, at the Prowest Computer Corp. and that the Mannings had been hired by Los Angeles real estate broker William Ross, who had a protracted business dispute with Adams.

Rochelle Manning was tried with Ross for the murder in 1988, but the jury couldn't reach a verdict.

She was arrested in 1991 in Israel, and for three years she fought extradition. Ross recently was returned from Canada to Los Angeles, where he awaits retrial.

The Mannings had been active with Ross in the Jewish Defense League, founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, which has provided many of the members of Israel's extremist Kach movement.

Israel banned Kach this week as a "terrorist organization."

In Kiryat Arba, the Mannings were regarded, with Goldstein, as among Kach's most radical supporters; Israel Army Radio said neighbors described them as "Bonnie and Clyde" for their willingness to use arms against Palestinians.

Kach advocates the use of violence to drive Arabs from the biblical Land of Israel.

But friends expressed great sorrow at Rochelle Manning's death.

"We have maintained she was innocent," said Rabbi Kenny Cohen, who had known the Mannings in Los Angeles as well as in Kiryat Arba. "We are saddened that the government of Israel and its people did not stand up for her. I think everyone here knew she was innocent, including people in the (Israeli) government. . . . But no one had the courage to say, 'We are not sending her.' "

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