Tag Archives: Joseph Wambaugh

LOS ANGELES: `Onion Field’ killer dead

Gregory Powell, the last of the two `Onion Field’ killers, has died, to the regret of no one, apparently.

Powell and his accomplice, Jimmy Smith, killed LAPD Officer Ian Campbell in a Central Valley onion field. Campbell’s partner, Karl Hettinger, never truly recovered from the event.

Joseph Wambaugh was then an officer in LAPD and took a leave to write one of the all-time great true crime books about the case. The book was memorable for many things, but mostly, I thought, for its portrayal of Hettinger, who died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1994. The book launched Wambaugh’s career as a true-crime writer.

The movie about the case, with James Woods as Powell, was also powerful stuff.

I wrote an obit of Jimmy Smith when he died in 2007, for which I interviewed Wambaugh.


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Filed under Los Angeles, Prison, Storytelling