Who is Lynette Fromme?
Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme is an American woman who, in 1975, attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States. She was also known as one of the members of the infamous Manson Family. As a youth, she was part of a local dance group named Westchester Lariats. In 1963, she moved to California with her family and began using alcohol and drugs. She met Charles Manson four years later and soon became part of his close circle. Following Manson’s arrest in 1969 for the Tate/La Bianca murders, she carved an X on her forehead, just as he had, to show her solidarity with the enigmatic criminal. She would later contact Aryan Brotherhood to follow through a deal Manson had previously made and would later be implicated in murders committed by the members of the Brotherhood. Fromme was eventually released due to a lack of evidence against her. She decided to move to Sacramento, California, where, in September 1975, she pointed a gun at Ford. The Secret Service officers immediately disarmed her, following which she was arrested. Charged and convicted for her crime, Fromme was sentenced to life imprisonment. She served 34 years in various correctional facilities and was ultimately paroled in 2009.
Childhood & Early Life
Lynnette Fromme was born on October 22, 1948, in Santa Monica, California, to Helen (née Benzinger), a homemaker, and William Millar Fromme, an aeronautical engineer and a graduate of the New York University.
Growing up, she was a member of the Westchester Lariats, a beloved dance group in her locality. They toured the US and Europe in the late 1950s, even making an appearance on The Lawrence Welk Show following which they were introduced to the then President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
She and her family relocated Redondo Beach, California in 1963 and Fromme soon became addicted to both drugs and alcohol. She studied at Redondo Union High School, graduating in 1966.
Her father encouraged her to pursue higher education. She enrolled at the El Camino Junior College in Torrance, California but eventually dropped out after a few months. Following this, she had an argument with her father, leading him to throw her out of his house.
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Association with the Manson Family
Having been rendered homeless, Lynette Fromme went through severe bouts of depression in 1967. She first met Manson during this period and became fascinated by his philosophies.
Travelling with Manson, she became a part of his close circle, the infamous Manson Family. Besides her, there were several other young members, including Bruce Davis, Nancy Pitman, Catherine "Gypsy" Share, Sandra Good, Susan Atkins, Mary Brunner, and Paul Watkins.
They moved into a Southern Californian property called Spahn Ranch. Its owner, George Spahn, began calling her “Squeaky”, after the sound she used to make whenever he touched her.
During Manson’s trial in 1969 for the murders of Tate / LaBianca, Fromme and the rest of the family members began to campaign outside the courtroom. Following the examples of Manson and other accused members, she and the others carved Xs on their foreheads. While she never faced any murder charges for this particular set of killings, she was sentenced to a short imprisonment for trying to stop witnesses from testifying against Manson and for contempt of the court, as she refused to testify herself.
After moving to Sacramento, California with Sandra Good, so that they could be near Manson, who was housed at Folsom Prison then, Fromme began working on an extensive book on the Manson Family. However, she eventually dropped the idea after realising how incriminating that could be.
While being incarcerated, Manson made a deal with the Aryan Brotherhood. They would protect him in prison and in return, the remaining women of the Manson Family would be in regular contact with them. Manson reportedly instructed the women to send nude pictures of themselves to the imprisoned members of the brotherhood.
Fromme, Pitman, and a friend named Priscilla Cooper began living in Stockton, California with the recently released Brotherhood members Michael Monfort and James Craig. The group ran into James and Lauren Willett at a cabin near the town. The former convicts made James dig his own grave before killing him. After James’ body was found, Fromme, the ex-convicts, and others were arrested. A search of the property also led to the discovery of Lauren’s body. A little girl, thought to be Willetts’ daughter, was also discovered.
Investigators found that Lauren had been killed accidentally. Craig and Monfort were charged with James’ murder. As for Fromme, she was never charged, despite spending two and a half months in police custody. In a press conference from San Joaquin County jail, she stated that she had been travelling all over California so she could meet up with Brotherhood members and stay close to Manson. After her release, she moved back to Sacramento with a family member named Sandra Wood.
In March 1975, she reached out to Danny Goldberg, the vice president of the recording company that handled Led Zeppelin, during the group’s North America tour, telling him to warn guitarist Jimmy Page of “bad energy”. Furthermore, she stated that she had foreseen immediate danger in Page’s life and had come to warn him. Goldberg eventually told her to write a note which he promised he would deliver to Page. According to later stories, the note was burned.
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Attempted Assassination of President Gerald Ford
On September 5, 1975, the US President Gerald Ford was supposed to speak at the 49th annual Sacramento "Host Breakfast," an annual gathering of wealthy California business leaders to be held in the Sacramento Convention Center.
During this period, Fromme had become concerned about California's giant coastal redwoods, which she believed was in great danger due to automobile smog. She decided to bring the matter to the government’s attention by murdering its symbol, the president himself.
On the morning of 5 September, she put on a red dress, found a Colt M1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol to arm herself, and headed towards the California state capitol grounds. Fromme positioned herself at the first row of a crowd of spectators. As Ford approached to shake their hands, Fromme pulled out the gun from the leg holster and pointed it at Ford.
The Secret Service agent Larry Buendorf immediately disarmed and detained her. It was found that while she had four rounds of bullets in the gun, there was none in the chamber. She later revealed that she had intentionally emptied the chamber earlier.
Charged with the attempted assassination of the President of the United States, she refused to follow the instructions given by her defence attorneys. In 1975, she was convicted and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Later Life & Release from Prison
Lynette Fromme is one of the very few of the Manson Family members who never disavowed Manson. She was moved to the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin in Dublin, California in 1979 after she attacked a fellow inmate.
She managed to run away from the Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, in Alderson, West Virginia, on December 23, 1987 to see Manson after she learned that Manson had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. She was recaptured two days later and sent to the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
She had been eligible for parole since 1987 but time and again waived her right to request a hearing. She was eventually paroled in July 2008, but had to spend extra time behind the bars because of her failed escape attempt. Fromme got out on parole on August 14, 2009. She currently resides in Marcy, New York.
In the 1970s, actress and comedian Laraine Newman portrayed Fromme in an episode of NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’.