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Killer May Go Back to Prison

June 11, 2005|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Convicted killer Jimmy Lee Smith of the infamous "Onion Field" kidnapping-murder case could be headed back to prison, prosecutors said Friday.

Smith, 74, faces up to four more years of incarceration if a judge finds that he violated parole by using drugs.

He had been out of jail for about a year after serving a 60-day sentence for heroin possession, and was rearrested Tuesday when a police officer spotted him with a syringe, trying to shoot up, Deputy Dist. Atty. Carol Rash said. Prosecutors decided to ask for parole revocation rather than filing new charges.

Smith's parole violation hearing is scheduled for June 27.

In March 1963, Smith and Gregory Powell kidnapped two policemen from a Hollywood street and drove them to an onion field near Bakersfield.

Powell fatally shot Los Angeles Police Officer Ian Campbell. Officer Karl Hettinger managed to run into the darkness and survived.

The crime and subsequent trial were recounted in former LAPD Officer Joseph Wambaugh's best-selling 1973 book "The Onion Field," which was made into a movie a few years later.

Smith originally was sentenced to death, but that was reduced to life imprisonment after the California Supreme Court ruled that the state's death penalty law was unconstitutional. He was paroled in 1982 but has since been arrested numerous times, mostly on drug-related charges. Among other things, Smith did time for selling heroin and stealing cold medicine from a pharmacy while under the influence of drugs.

Powell is in prison, having been denied parole repeatedly.

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