Cancer Claims Life Of 'Onion Field' Killer

Gregory Powell, 79, Abducted, Killed Pair Of Los Angeles Police Officers

“Onion Field" killer Gregory Powell, who abducted a pair of Los Angeles police officers in 1963 and killed one of them, has died in prison after a battle with prostate cancer, state officials announced Monday.

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Powell, 79, died Sunday at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, according to Andre Gonzales of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Powell fatally shot LAPD Officer Ian Campbell in a notorious slaying that was made famous in a book by Joseph Wambaugh that was made into a movie. On Friday, the intersection of Carlos Avenue and Gower Street in Hollywood was dedicated in honor of Campbell, and was renamed "Ian Campbell Square."

On March 9, 1963, Campbell and his partner, Karl Hettinger, were kidnapped at gunpoint from the intersection after questioning two robbery suspects during a traffic stop. The suspects disarmed and abducted the officers, driving them to a remote onion field near Bakersfield. Campbell was shot to death, but Hettinger managed to escape.

Powell was arrested on the night of the murder and his accomplice, Jimmy Lee Smith, was arrested the following day.

Powell and Smith were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment after California's death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in 1972. Smith was paroled in 1982, but was back in custody for various parole violations before dying of an apparent heart attack in a county fail in 1997.

Powell was denied a final bid for parole in October 2011 after pleading for compassionate release on grounds that he suffered from terminal prostate cancer.

Campbell was an avid bagpiper. After his death, the instrument became a standard part of funerals for LAPD officers killed in the line of duty.

Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League – the union for LAPD officers, issued a statement saying officers "have never forgotten the horrific crime committed by Gregory Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith."

"Gregory Powell was a cold-blooded murderer who avoided the death penalty, but he won't escape God's judgment," Izen said. "While Officer Ian Campbell can never be brought back, nor the damage and heartache caused by Powell and Smith be undone, justice was upheld when the parole board denied Powell's request for compassionate release and ensured he drew his last breath while confined behind prison bars."

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