Katherine Ann Power (born January 25, 1949) is an American ex-convict and long-time fugitive, who along with her fellow student and accomplice Susan Edith Saxe, was placed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1970. The two participated in robberies at a Massachusetts National Guard armory and a bank in Brighton, Massachusetts where Boston police officer Walter Schroeder was shot and killed. Power remained at large for 23 years.
A native of Colorado, Power turned herself over to authorities in 1993 after starting a new life in Oregon. She pleaded guilty and was imprisoned in Massachusetts for six years before being released on 14 years' probation. While in prison, Power completed her bachelor's degree, and after her release, earned a master's degree at Oregon State University. She resides in the Boston area.
Katherine Power grew up as the third of seven children in Denver, Colorado. Her parents, Winfield and Marjorie, raised their Irish Catholic middle-class family on Winfield’s salary as a bank credit manager and Marjorie's income as a registered nurse. She became a Girl Scout and won a scholarship to Marycrest Girls High School, a Catholic school in Colorado. While in high school, she won a Betty Crocker cooking award, wrote a regular column for the Denver Post, graduated as valedictorian and received a full scholarship to Brandeis University, a liberal arts school in Waltham, Massachusetts.
In 1967, Power enrolled at Brandeis as a sociology major and honor student at a time of anti-Vietnam War protests at the school. She became known for wandering the campus braless and barefoot in an orange-colored smock, for her attendance at Students for a Democratic Society protest rallies and for her involvement in the Brandeis Strike Information Center. She and her room-mate Susan Saxe worked to organize student protests for a committee known as the National Student Strike Force. The two also became acquainted with fellow organizer Stanley Ray Bond, an ex-convict and soldier attending classes at the university on a special program.
Protest and murder
Through their association with Bond, Power and Saxe became involved in a plot to arm the Black Panthers as a response to United States involvement in the Vietnam War. Bond introduced them to former convicts William Gilday and Robert Valeri and together the group plotted to rob the State Street Bank & Trust. On September 20, 1970, the group robbed a National Guard armory in Newburyport, Massachusetts and took 400 rounds of ammunition. They also stole weapons and set fire to the facility, causing about $125,000 in damage.
Three days later, on September 23, 1970, the group robbed a bank in Brighton, Massachusetts, carrying handguns, a shotgun and a submachine gun. The first police officer on the scene, Boston police officer Walter Schroeder, was shot in the back by Gilday when he attempted to stop the robbery. He subsequently died from his wounds. The group escaped with $26,000 in cash that they planned to use to finance an overthrow of the federal government. Power was behind the wheel of one of the two getaway vehicles.
While raiding her apartment after the bank robbery, police found evidence tying Power to both robberies. This included weapons, ammunition and a telephone switchboard from the armory. Power's attorneys would subsequently blame her involvement in the robberies as the result of manipulation by her partner Bond.
Gilday, Valeri and Bond were captured shortly after the Brighton robbery. Bond died in custody while making a bomb as part of an escape bid, while Valeri turned state's evidence and testified against Gilday. Valeri received a jail term of 25 years for the robbery, while Gilday received a death sentence. Power and Saxe eluded capture.
In November 1970, Power and Saxe became the sixteenth and seventeenth persons on the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives list. At first, Power and Saxe traveled together, escaping arrest by hiding out in women’s communes. For part of this time, the two went to ground in Connecticut and Power assumed the name Mae Kelly. Saxe was able to elude arrest until 1975, when she was captured in Philadelphia. She then served five years in prison.
Prior to her surrender in 1993, Power had last been seen in Kentucky in 1974. In 1977, she assumed the alias Alice Louise Metzinger, taking the name from the birth certificate of an infant that had died the year before her birth. In 1979, she moved west to Oregon and gave birth to a son, Jamie, by an unknown father.
As time went by, authorities received few tips regarding Power's location and she was eventually removed from the Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1984. The following year, she settled in the city of Lebanon in Oregon's Willamette Valley with her son Jamie and boyfriend Ron Duncan, a local meat cutter and bookkeeper. While living in Oregon, Power taught cooking classes at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany and worked at restaurants in Corvallis and Eugene. She reached the shortlist for the post of food writer for the Corvallis Gazette-Times and became part-owner of Napoli Restaurant and Bakery in Eugene.
Power had suffered from clinical depression since childhood and confided her fugitive status to her therapist Linda Carroll. She developed the desire to stop living her life under her assumed name and, through therapy that included participation in the mock trial of a soldier charged with killing civilians during the Vietnam War, she began to prepare for her surrender to the authorities. This included her decision to marry Duncan in 1992 and reveal her background to her friends.
In 1993, Katherine Ann Power negotiated a surrender with authorities and ended 23 years of hiding. Negotiations were carried out through her attorneys Steven Black, a public defender, and Rikki Klieman, a prominent Boston lawyer. On September 15, 1993, she pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery and manslaughter in Boston. At the time, her son Jamie was 14 years old and a freshman in high school, while Power was 44 years old. Her husband, Ron Duncan, then adopted Jamie.
In court, Power made the following statement about officer Schroeder:
Power was sentenced to eight to twelve years in prison for the bank robbery, and five years and a $10,000 fine for the National Guard armory crimes. Additionally, judge Robert Banks of Suffolk County Superior Court imposed a probation condition that Power could not profit from her crime. Banks remarked that the sentence negotiated was inadequate. The second five years were to be served concurrently with the eight- to twelve-year sentence, with a possibility of parole after five years. This probation condition also precluded her ability to profit directly or indirectly from telling her story. Power appealed this portion of the sentence on First Amendment grounds, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected the argument and the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari.
In a 1993 public statement, Power said:
Prison and release
While in prison Power completed her college degree in liberal studies through Boston University. In March 1998, Power was eligible for parole after receiving time off for good behavior, but withdrew her request after opposition from the victim’s family. On October 2, 1999, she was released from prison in Massachusetts and placed on fourteen years of probation after serving six years of her eight- to twelve-year sentence. Fifty years old at the time of release, Power then returned to Oregon and the family she formed while a fugitive. Shortly after release she appeared at a public forum on peace at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where she questioned the “violent posture” of some people in the peace movement, including activist Philip Berrigan.
Later, Power enrolled in graduate studies at Oregon State University in Corvallis, where she worked on a master's degree in interdisciplinary studies with focuses on writing, philosophy, and ethics. She also taught freshman composition for the English department. On May 10, 2001, she read a poem she wrote called "Falling from Darkness" in Corvallis (this was also a poetry reading and did also include poems she did not write) and graduated with her MAIS later that year. In September 2001, Katherine Ann Power represented the Oregon State philosophy department in a biotech lecture series. As of 2008, she worked for Cambridge Cares About AIDS in the Boston area.
Since her surrender, Power and her story have been the basis for a variety of books and even a television episode of Law & Order. The episode, entitled White Rabbit, was loosely based on her case. In the show, her character is called Susan Forrest and she is found after money from the robbery turns up in a private safety deposit box after a robbery. William Kunstler appears in the episode playing himself as Forrest's lawyer. The fifth season episode aired on October 19, 1994. Later her story was the basis for Dana Spiotta’s novel Eat the Document (2006).
She also plays a part in David Racine's novel Floating in a Most Peculiar Way (1999).