Fugitive's therapist tells of struggle and recovery Ex-activist chose to surrender

September 17, 1993|By New York Times News Service

CORVALLIS, OREGON — CORVALLIS, Ore. -- They came together 16 months ago, a small-town Oregon therapist and a fugitive from a quarter-century-old bank robbery and murder.

The therapist, Linda Carroll, said she had never seen a psyche so battered as that of the fugitive, Katherine Ann Power. It was impossible for her to believe that this bespectacled cook with the terrific polenta recipe, a person who would cry at any mention of family, had spent 14 years as one of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 10 most wanted fugitives.

Power, who pleaded guilty Wednesday in Boston to charges of manslaughter and armed robbery in 1970, told Ms. Carroll she was paralyzed by depression. Over the next year and a half, she told her story: of a Catholic girl from a family of seven children, winner of a Betty Crocker Homemaker Award in high school, who went on to rob a bank to protest the Vietnam War.

The robbery resulted in the killing of a father of nine, a Boston policeman named Water Schroeder Sr.

And for 23 years, more than half of it in the settled security of the central Willamette Valley, Power lived a lie.

In Oregon, she was Alice Metzinger, a name she had taken from anSee infant who died in 1949, the same year Power was born. Alice Metzinger became a cooking instructor at the local community college, a mother who made cookies for her son's sports team, a jogger seen daily on the path along the Willamette River.

But this life was becoming unbearable, disconnected from her family and her real past, the relentless fear, and the truth of what she had done, Ms. Carroll said.

So together, the therapist and the middle-aged 1960s radical decided to bring Power in from the cold.

A long process

It was a process that developed in stages over the past year. Power's marriage to Ron Duncan, a meat cutter and bookkeeper, who had been her boyfriend for 13 years, helped it along. So did her participation in a mock trial for Vietnam-era war crimes, in which she played the public defender of a soldier who had confessed to killing innocents in Vietnam.

Slowly, starting with a few close friends, she began telling people who she really was.

Finally, she was ready to turn herself in and reclaim her name and her past. After a potluck party here Sunday, at which she disclosed her secret before a gathering of 40 friends, Power flew to Boston and was arraigned in court, one of the last Vietnam-era fugitives whose case remained unresolved. She is being held in Suffolk County Jail awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 6.

"My goal was never to turn her in," Ms. Carroll said in an interview yesterday. "It was to get her well. What happened with the law was secondary. She started to see her life through the lens of this depression, and when that happened, the fog lifted. She wanted to turn herself in."

Ms. Carroll said she was discussing the details of private therapeutic sessions, normally a breach of ethics, with Power's consent. Indeed, Power had urged her to tell the story publicly, the therapist said.

In a statement issued Monday, Power said she had "a lifelong, untreated condition of endogenous clinical depression."

Ms. Carroll said that Power was taking an anti-depressant medication, trazodone hydrochloride, for the ailment.

Over a period of time, its cumulative effect is to gradually elevate the patient's mood.

That type of depression is the most common, said Dr. Patrick J. McGrath, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He said it may affect 10 percent of the women in the United States. Symptoms include loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, loss of energy, suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in pleasurable activities and insomnia.

But Power and Ms. Carroll both said the depression was not the reason she became an urban terrorist.

The authorities in Massachusetts said Power drove the getaway car in the 1970 robbery of a Brighton bank, a crime that netted $27,000. Three male accomplices and Power's roommate at Brandeis University, Susan E. Saxe, have all been caught, convicted and sentenced to prison terms.

Power also faces federal charges from the theft of 400 pounds of ammunition from a National Guard armory in Massachusetts.

The transformation from high school honors student to one of the nation's most-wanted fugitives began at Brandeis, where Power was on a four-year scholarship. In Denver, her home town, she was the 1967 valedictorian at Marycrest High School, a Catholic institution that no longer exists.

She wrote a student column and even then was known as a cook witha future; her recipes helped her win a homemaker award.

"Then she goes off to Brandeis and there are all these little rich girls in matching outfits and she doesn't belong," said Ms. Carroll. She said Power suffered debilitating bouts of depression, feeling worthless and suicidal, for most of her life.

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