Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was one of Manson’s most devoted followers—but it was her link to another man in American history that landed her behind bars for decades.
On Sept. 5, 1975 Fromme removed a semiautomatic .45-caliber pistol from her thigh holster and aimed the weapon at President Gerald Ford as he was shaking hands with the public outside the California State Capital in Sacramento. A Secret Service agent wrestled the gun away from the 26-year-old before any shots were fired, but Fromme would go on to serve 34 years in prison for the assassination attempt before getting paroled in 2009.
Fromme told producers of the Oxygen special “Manson: The Women” that she had been trying to approach Ford because she wanted to talk with him about the Californian Redwood trees.
She believed the Redwoods “were in danger of falling” and wanted to get Ford’s attention, so she brought a gun along for the encounter.
According to Fromme, lumber companies at the time were clearing hills around a creek causing erosion and water to overflow the banks, threatening the root system of the large trees. She initially brought her concerns to a general with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but she said he told her he was only doing what he had been ordered to do.
Fromme decided to elevate her concerns to a higher ranking official when she learned Ford was planning a visit to the area.
“I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll go and talk to him and then I thought he’s not gonna talk to me’” she said. “’He’s not gonna stop when he’s on his way. He’s not gonna stop and I thought well, maybe I’ll bring a gun.”
Fromme had also wanted to get the Manson followers who had been convicted of murder “back to court” and hoped to persuade the President.
“I had all these thoughts about what I wanted to accomplish, and I just put the gun out and stuck it in there,” she told producers.
Fromme said she had already considered whether she really planned to shoot Ford.
“I said um, ‘I’m gonna go see what’s necessary,’ and so from a very simplistic point, I did get his attention,” she said. “And I did a long time for it.”
Although there were bullets in the gun, none were found in the chamber, according to The Associated Press.
Ford later said he never even saw the shooter’s face during the assassination attempt in the crowded Sacramento park.
“It was simply the hand with the weapon in it, at a height between my knee and my waist, approximately,” he said according to NBC News.
Security Service agents were quick to apprehend Fromme at the scene.
“They had me on the ground, and I was telling him, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay. It didn’t go off. It’s okay,’” Fromme told producers, describing herself as “relaxed.”
Fromme was sentenced by a federal jury to life in prison for the assassination attempt. An additional 15 years was added to her sentence after she escaped a women’s prison in West Virginia in 1987 in an attempt to get closer to Manson, who she believed was sick and dying at the time, the AP reported.
Fromme was granted parole in 2008 for “good conduct time” but wasn’t released until the following year.
Now, more than 40 years later, Fromme said she still doesn’t regret the act.
“It’s hard to be sorry if you’re going by your heart,” she said.
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