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Mass Slayer Seeks Release From Mental Facility

Law: Ed Allaway killed seven in 1976. Hospital officials back his request. Victims' relatives object.

May 25, 1998|THAO HUA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When janitor Ed Allaway stormed into the library at Cal State Fullerton 22 years ago and gunned down seven people, the worst mass killing in Orange County's history, some believed he should pay with his life.

But an Orange County Superior Court judge instead ruled that Allaway was insane and therefore innocent, and he was committed to a mental institution.

Next month, the 59-year-old Allaway will argue for his freedom. And he has a chance of getting it.

Backed by a panel of psychiatrists, Allaway will ask a judge to transfer him to an outpatient program, which essentially releases him to society, with some supervision. Allaway has made this request before, but this is the first time hospital officials are recommending his transfer to a group home.

"He's doing well, well enough for the hospital to recommend outpatient," said attorney John Bovee, who has represented Allaway since 1992. "And it's a safe bet that the hospital treated this case more critically because of the political ramifications."

But several relatives of those who died in the barrage of bullets on July 12, 1976, said they are appalled and painted a picture of Allaway as a sociopath who got away with murder and is still a danger to the public.

"I don't want my father's death to have been in vain," said Pat Almazan of Upland, daughter of Frank Teplansky, a graphic artist who was killed. "As long as there's a chance that he'll be released--and I feel that he's very close to that--there will not be closure there for me."

Allaway also killed two other custodians, a photographer, a retired professor, a library assistant and an audio technician. Two others were wounded.

At the edge of campus, a memorial still reminds passersby of that fateful summer morning when Allaway, toting a .22-caliber rifle, entered the library through a side door, descended a flight of stairs to the basement and walked from office to office, shooting some people and sparing others, witnesses testified at his trial.

He chased two custodians, Debbie Paulsen and Donald Karges, down the hall and shot them. Bruce Jacobson, the audio technician, was shot at point-blank range after hitting Allaway on the head with a metal statue. Allaway then gunned down professor emeritus Seth Fessenden and photographer Paul F. Herzberg.

After taking a service elevator to the first floor, he shot Teplansky and Stephen Becker, a library assistant and the son of Ernest A. Becker, one of the university's founders.

By the time Almazan got to the hospital, her father was unconscious. He had been shot three times in the back, with one bullet striking his head.

"I remember putting my hand in his, and he squeezed my hand," she said. "He died holding my hand. I can never forget that scene, ever."

Allaway, in previous interviews, has said that although he knows that the shooting spree occurred, he can't remember pulling the trigger. A former Baptist Sunday school teacher, Allaway said he went crazy because co-workers had taunted him about pornographic movies that, they erroneously told him, featured his then-22-year-old wife. Allaway also said he was deeply offended by the obscene graffiti and homosexual activities he encountered in a men's restroom, he said.

"I would walk in to clean, and the men would say, 'Let's make it a threesome' or something, and I would say, 'Gosh no, I'm trying to make a buck, leave me alone,' " he recalled in a 1987 interview.

His attorney, Bovee, contends Allaway is ready for a normal life outside the barbed-wire fence of Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, where he has lived since 1995.

The attorney said Allaway is "cautiously optimistic" about the hearing June 15 before Judge Richard L. Weatherspoon in Orange County Superior Court.

If Allaway succeeds, the county's correctional mental health officials will determine which group home he will move to and the extent of supervision he will have. In any case, the move would allow Allaway to hold a job in the community. The next step after the outpatient program is full release, a move that even Allaway's attorney deemed extremely difficult to achieve.

"It is my belief, or opinion, that Ed could look forward to most and maybe all of his life under community supervision," Bovee said.

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