Gilday Dies in Prison

Shot Officer, Kidnapped Local Woman

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 20, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- William "Lefty" Gilday, a man who in 1970 robbed a bank, shot and killed a Boston patrolman and kidnapped a Hampton woman while on the run, died in prison last Friday at age 82, according to prison officials.

Gilday died Sept. 10 in a Boston hospital after suffering from an advancing case of Parkinson's disease. He was serving a life sentence for his involvement in the 1970 Brighton Bank heist and the killing of Boston Patrolman Walter Schroeder.

He made headlines locally because after the robbery and shooting he led police on an extensive manhunt to Hampton Beach after he was spotted at William Kennedy's restaurant at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Cusack Road.

A day later, on Sept. 25, 1970, he was accused of kidnapping 79-year-old Ruth Leavitt Palmer from her home on Mill Pond Lane.

According to Hampton Union archives, Gilday forced her to ride with him to Salem, N.H., where he released her unharmed.

He remained on the run until the following Monday, when he was caught by police near Worcester, Mass.

Gilday, a former minor league baseball player, was part of a 1960s radical group known as the Weather Underground.

The group, formed largely by college-aged students, sought to protest the U.S. government's Vietnam War policies by using violent tactics.

According to the FBI, Gilday and friends were a "radical, revolutionary group dedicated to attacking the United States military system and undermining police powers."

The group was connected with an assault on the National Guard armory at Newburyport, Mass., on Sept. 20, 1970, which left the armory heavily damaged by fire and explosions.

On Sept. 23, 1970, Gilday was one of five who robbed the Brighton branch of the State Street Bank and Trust Company in Boston.

The goal of the bank robbery, according to court documents, was to gain enough funds to help finance their movement against the Vietnam War.

The group stole $26,585 and shot Boston police officer Walter Schroeder, who had been alerted of the bank robbery by a silent alarm.

Two of Gilday's associates were quickly captured, but the other three, including himself, eluded police.

It led to a massive manhunt as law enforcement officers sought Gilday and two associates, Susan Saxe and Katherine Power.

After eight days on the run, Gilday was captured.

Gilday was sentenced to death for the murder, which upon appeal was reduced to life in prison.

Saxe and Power were put on the FBI's Most Wanted list and eluded an FBI manhunt for years before finally being apprehended.

Saxe was arrested in Philadelphia in 1975 and served seven years in prison, while Powers eluded police for 23 years. She turned herself in to Oregon police and was sentenced to eight to 12 years in prison and was released in October 1999.

Gilday has long denied involvment in the shooting, but in an interview with the Boston Globe in June, he apologized for his role in Schroeder's murder.

[The Associated Press contributed to this report.]