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Killer in `Onion Field' case violates his parole

February 19, 2007|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

Jimmy Lee Smith, who helped kill a police officer in an onion field outside Bakersfield more than 40 years ago, has violated parole and is being sought by law enforcement authorities, officials confirmed Sunday.

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman, Jonathan Parsley, said Smith, 76, has been at large since Dec. 22.

Parsley said he could not specify what parole condition Smith violated.

Smith and Gregory Powell were convicted and sentenced to death in the March 1963 kidnap-murder of Los Angeles Police Officer Ian Campbell.

The officer was abducted at night from a Hollywood street with his partner and driven to a field southwest of Bakersfield, where Powell shot him to death. Powell also fired at Campbell's partner, Officer Karl Hettinger, who managed to run into the darkness and survived.

The crime and prolonged trial were the subject of Joseph Wambaugh's 1973 book "The Onion Field," which was later made into a movie.

Smith's death sentence was thrown out in the 1970s when the state Supreme Court ruled at the time that California's death penalty law was unconstitutional.

Smith then was given life in prison, but was first paroled in 1982.

He has since been arrested numerous times, mostly on drug-related charges.

Among other things, Smith did time for stealing cold medicine from a pharmacy while under the influence of drugs.

He went back to prison most recently in June 2005 after admitting that he had violated parole by possessing heroin.

Parsley said Smith was paroled from the state prison in Susanville on Nov. 26.

Parsley said no other details were available.

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