After 23 years in hiding, Katherine Power relinquishes her freedom
By MARGARET CARLSON/WASHINGTON--Reported by Joelle Attinger/New York, Sam Allis and Tom Witkowski/Boston and James Willwerth and Miko Yim/Corvallis
To her mother she was never Alice Metzinger, the teacher and restaurant consultant who lived an exemplary life in Oregon. To her mother she was Kathy, a daughter she had last seen 23 years ago on a weekend visit from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The National Merit scholarship finalist, the winner of a Betty Crocker Homemaker award, the valedictorian of Marycrest, her Catholic high school in Colorado, Katherine Ann Power was the family's "pride and joy," says her older brother. She gave no hint that she was anything but a sweet and bookish child happy to be with the large Power brood.
That weekend in 1970 would be the last time anyone in her family would see her -- until last Tuesday. In the intervening years, she would be the object of the largest womanhunt in FBI history, one that kept her on the 10-most-wanted list for 14 years. But in the past decade, she was largely forgotten. She fell off the list. She even disappeared from the records at Brandeis. Says Catherine Fallon of the alumni office: "She is not in our data base. It's like she never was here." Her reappearance and surrender in Boston last week produced a surge of images among those who had lived through the turbulent '60s and early '70s -- flower children, protest marches and violence in the name of peace. Power was an apparition from another time, an era whose idealism now seems musty and quaint except when it went badly awry. Power still felt the agony of her deeds, and she finally relinquished her freedom to the memory of a crime that would not let go of her conscience.
Through the years, the only memory the Power family had of their daughter was yellowing newspaper clips they had sorrowfully added to a family album the day their daughter-turned-radical robbed a bank. A policeman, the father of nine young children, was murdered. As the years passed, one brother feared that Kathy's parents "would die before there was a chance to mend fences." But last spring they received a call from an FBI agent working on the case. She was negotiating with a woman who might be their daughter. What questions could she ask that only the real Katherine Power would know?
Ask this mysterious woman who the neighbors were on one side of the house in which Kathy grew up, her parents said. What were their habits? Who was the friend in eighth grade who had a life-threatening illness? Who was the relative who used to take Kathy fishing? The woman answered the questions correctly; so on Sept. 5, 1993, her parents and siblings not only learned Katherine Power was alive, but also that she was married and had a teenage son. Katherine's mother cried.
In Oregon, the woman who called herself Alice Metzinger was struggling with secrets. She had become so worn down that in May 1992 she made her way to a night class on depression at Albany General Hospital. Therapist Linda Carroll remembers laying eyes on her for the first time. "I've never seen anybody in such psychic pain," recalls Carroll of the woman who raised her hand to ask a question but began to sob so hard she couldn't get the words out. At the last session, Metzinger went up to Carroll and told her she would like to come to her office. "She was pure depression," says Carroll, who was given permission by her patient to talk publicly. By then, Metzinger could not sleep and thought of suicide. Apart from depression, Carroll was convinced there was something more. "I knew she had a story, and that if I was going to work with her she was going to have to tell it."
Metzinger's story was more shocking than anything Carroll could have imagined. To friends and neighbors, she was mild-mannered Alice, who had moved to Oregon's Willamette Valley 15 years ago with her infant son Jaime (she has never named the biological father). She became involved with a local meatcutter and bookkeeper, Ronley Duncan, and established herself as a valued consultant to the area's gourmet restaurants. She trained cooks at M's Tea & Coffee House, where she was famous for her Friday special -- black beans and rice with Martinican sauce.
But the name "Alice Metzinger" had been lifted from the birth certificate of an infant who died the year the gourmet chef was born. Metzinger was really Katherine Ann Power. Before coming to the Northwest, she had lived underground for nine years in women's communes. Before that, she was a straight-A sociology major, who had become a central figure of the Brandeis Strike Information Center, a clearinghouse for information about student strikes all over the country. Professor Richard Onorato, then dean of students, recalls that she had broken into the student-council office to steal stationery to print a political statement. "If that had been all that had happened, it would be something to remember and smile about."
But she would go so much further. She had become more radicalized in the spring of 1970 when Nixon sent troops into Cambodia and four Kent State student protesters were killed by the National Guard. Power had also fallen under the spell of Stanley Bond, an ex-convict who had enrolled in an inmate-education program at Brandeis. Three hours after meeting him, Onorato says, "I went to the dean of faculty to object because within a half-hour's conversation with him I thought this boy was borderline psychotic." But to Power he was a romantic revolutionary who could help the movement secure its goals. Along with Bond, her roommate Susan Saxe and two other ex-convicts, a plot was hatched to hold up a Brighton bank to get money to buy explosives to melt down the wheels of trains that carried weapons. Those weapons would then be used to arm the Black Panthers.
While that was bad enough, the heist turned tragic when Boston police officer William Schroeder, 42, responded to a silent alarm and William Gilday Jr., one of the ex-cons, who was parked as a lookout across the street, unloaded his submachine gun into Schroeder's back. In the eyes of the law, Power might as well have committed the crime. Like many other states, Massachusetts has a rule that says if someone is killed in the course of a serious crime, all participants can be charged with murder. The three men were captured, but Saxe and Power got away.
Power was not a wide-eyed nonviolent radical who had fallen into a bad crowd. Power herself was ready, if not willing, to kill for her cause. In her Back Bay apartment, police found three rifles, a carbine, a pistol, a shotgun and a huge store of ammunition. She is accused of having fire-bombed the National Guard Armory in Newburyport, Massachusetts -- just days before the bank robbery.
When the enormity of Power's past emerged, Carroll sent her patient to a psychiatrist for antidepressant medicine called Trazodone. Although Power had problems peculiar to her, she also suffered from a chemical imbalance that had plagued her father years earlier. Carroll also sent her to a lawyer, Steven Black, who would eventually engage a prominent Boston attorney, Rikki Klieman.
As Power got stronger, she married Duncan, with whom she had been living for 13 years -- and shared her secret with him. She allowed acquaintances to become friends and did hopeful things like paint her house. But she became frightened by the death she knew would have to happen if she were to become whole again -- the death of her life as Alice Metzinger. "The challenge of working with her," Carroll recalls, "was that her future had a dead end."
Lawyers Black and Klieman began 14 months of negotiating with the authorities -- a year that gave Power time to gradually reveal herself to those who had come to love Alice Metzinger. On Sept. 12, Alice Metzinger held a going-away party, where she announced that she was headed for prison. Her friends showered her with gifts of good-luck charms, a stone and a feather, and a map of the night sky, which Robin Llewellyn, a co-worker at the coffee shop, says was given to her so that "she can experience the outside without being outside." Power's husband told TIME, "When she would be asked about her past, she would just not talk about it. But she wanted her life back. She wanted her truth back. She wants to be whole."
Last week Kathy's parents flew to Providence, Rhode Island, and registered under false names at the Sheraton Commander Hotel on the fringes of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. On the afternoon of Sept. 14, Kathy knocked at their hotel-room door and re-entered her parents' lives. They had time for four hours of catching up, exchanging tales of nephews and nieces and teenage grandchild. The following morning Kathy surrendered at Boston College law school in Newton. A few hours later, the Powers watched as she pleaded guilty to charges of armed robbery and the reduced charge of manslaughter.
In court, she described her torments over the death of officer Schroeder. "His death was shocking to me, and I have had to examine my conscience and accept any responsibility I have for the event that led to it." But she added in her only public statement, "The illegal acts I committed arose not from any desire for personal gain but from a deep philosophical and spiritual commitment that if a wrong exists, one must take active steps to stop it, regardless of the consequences to oneself in comfort or security."
By that evening, Kathy Ann Power, who had been Alice Metzinger, had assumed yet a third identity: inmate number 9309307. Instead of the gourmet food she had earned a living cooking, she had tuna and canned soup in her cell at Nashua Street Jail. (Of Power's accomplices, Gilday is serving a life sentence for pumping the shots into patrolman Schroeder. Her former roommate Saxe is now working for a Jewish charitable organization in Philadelphia; captured in 1975, she served seven years. She sent a note to Power last week asking for a reunion, and Power has said yes. Stanley Bond is dead. He blew himself up in 1972 while trying to build a bomb to blast himself out of prison.)
Power's husband says she plans to make a formal apology to the Schroeders at her sentencing on Oct. 6. The officer's family remains bitter about the crime. "It's always been with us. We think about it every day," says Francis Schroeder Jr., who still has vivid memories of policemen lining the hospital corridor to give blood to his dying uncle. But, says Duncan, "she did not return out of guilt. She's here to answer, not assuage their sorrow." His wife, he adds, has asked if she can get into "some victim-perpetrator reconciliation program."
Power has trouble remembering the first part of her life as a fugitive. "This vagueness hasn't gone away," says her husband. "Her memories have not returned in any detail." As part of her surrender agreement, she will continue to receive the antidepressant Trazodone. "This is vital," says Duncan. As for himself, he plans to raise their son Jaime as a single father. But, he says, "it will be an empty life." He still calls his wife "Alice."
Copyright (c) TIME Magazine, 1995 TIME Inc. Magazine Company; (c) 1995 Compact Publishing, Inc.