“Helter Skelter” is a true crime book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, which was published in 1974. The book is about the 1969 murders committed by Charlie Manson and his followers, the Manson Family. This Super 70s is about the aftermath of being brain-washed by a cult.
Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme was a member of the Manson Family. She was born in Santa Monica, California; her father was an aeronautical engineer and her mother a homemaker. As a child, Fromme was a performer with the Westchester Lariats, a popular local dance group, which began touring the United States and Europe in the late 1950s. The dance group even appeared on “The Lawrence Welk Show” and performed at the White House. Fromme was in the 1959 touring group.
By 1963, Fromme was into heavy drug and alcohol use and even though her grades were poor, she managed to graduate high school and go on to college, but her college life only lasted two months, before an argument with her father left her homeless.
In 1967, Fromme met Charles Manson in Venice Beach, California. She was suffering from severe depression and he had just been released from federal prison. A unexpected meeting lead to a conversation that would change Fromme’s life forever.
Fast-forward five years to September 5, 1975, according to Fromme (in a later interview) she went to Sacramento's Capitol Park to talk with President Gerald Ford about the plight of the California redwoods. She was dressed in a red robe and armed with a Colt semi-automatic pistol loaded with four bullets. She pointed the gun at Ford, but there was not a bullet in the firing chamber. Secret Service agent, Larry Bender, immediately restrained and handcuffed Fromme. She was able to scream a few sentences to the on-scene cameras, emphasizing that the gun "didn't go off". In a later interview with “The Sacramento Bee,” Fromme said she deliberately ejected the cartridge in her weapon's chamber before leaving home that morning - investigators later found a bullet to fit the gun in her bathroom.
She was convicted of the attempted assassination of President Ford and under a 1965 law was sentenced to life imprisonment for her attempted assassination. She was released from prison in August 2009 after serving only 34 years, but will remain on parole for the rest of her life.
Seventeen days after the first assassination attempt on President Ford, a second attempt was made on September 22, 1975, this time by Sara Jane Moore. Moore was a native of West Virginia, and was a former nursing school student and an accountant. She had married and divorced five times and had four children before she turned to revolutionary politics in 1975.
Moore worked at the organization People in Need (PIN), created by Randolph Hearst to help feed the poor. He is the father of Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) kidnapped victim, Patty Hearst. She was recruited by the FBI to infiltrate certain political groups to collect information.
In early 1975, Moore had been evaluated by the Secret Service and declared not a threat to the President. The day before the attempted assassination, police arrested her by on an illegal handgun charge and the police confiscated her .44 caliber pistol and 113 rounds of pistol ammunition. She was released the same day and immediately went to buy another gun.
When Moore attempted to assassinate President Ford outside the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, she was only about 40 feet away. A bystander, Oliver Sipple, who was a decorated veteran, quickly subdued her but not before she was able to fire a single shot. This bullet hit missed Ford's head by six inches, but slightly injured a taxi driver who was standing inside the hotel.
Moore pleaded guilty to attempted assassination and was sentenced to life in prison. In 1979, Moore escaped from the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Virginia, but was recaptured only hours later. She spent the remainder of her term at a federal women’s prison in Dublin, California.
On December 31, 2007, at the age of 77, Moore was released from prison on parole after serving 32 years of her life sentence. Ford had died from natural causes on December 26, 2006, one year and five days before her release. During an interview immediately after her release, Moore stated, "I am very glad I did not succeed. I know now that I was wrong to try." But in a 2009 interview with Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” she said, "I am glad that I didn't kill [Ford], but I don't regret trying." She will be under supervised parole until 2013.
For more information on Sara Jane Moore, check out Geri Spieler's book "Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford."