Who is Sara Jane Moore?
Sara Jane Moore is an American woman who attempted to assassinate US President Gerald Ford in San Francisco in 1975. Born and raised in a family of humble origins, Moore’s early life was an ordinary one. A string of disastrous marriages and flitting careers saw her end up in San Francisco, where she grew attracted to the ideas of radical leftists in the San Francisco Bay area. After joining as a member of the radical underground, Moore also worked as a volunteer bookkeeper for People in Need and as a paid informant for the FBI. However, as her politics grew more intense, the need for change engulfed her and she decided to do something revolutionary. On September 22, 1975, Moore attempted to kill President Ford outside a San Francisco hotel while posing as a bystander. Her attempt to kill the president failed as the bullet narrowly missed the president, and Moore was immediately pinned down to the ground. Soon enough, she was put on trial and sentenced to prison. She attempted an escape in 1979 but was captured within hours. She resigned herself to a life in prison and worked as an accountant in the drapery factory. After serving her sentence for over 30 years, she was released on parole in 2007 and has since lived a quiet life.
Childhood & Early Life
Sara Jane Kahn was born on February 15, 1930, in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S.A, to Ruth and Olaf Kahn. She was one of the five children in the family. Her family traced their roots to Germany and were devout Christians. Sara later began practicing Judaism.
She spent her early years in Kanawha County, West Virginia, and studied at Stonewall Jackson High School. She was described as a quiet child who was fond of music and drama. She was a member of the drama club in school and took part in plays.
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Assassination Attempt & Trial
Sara Jane Moore had studied nursing but primarily worked as an accountant and a bookkeeper. She moved to San Francisco in 1974 after a painful separation from her husband. Here, she volunteered with the organization ‘People in Need’ as a bookkeeper. At the same time, she also worked as a paid informant to the FBI.
Moore’s time in San Francisco changed her fundamental beliefs about the system. She was increasingly influenced by the radicals in the San Francisco Bay Area. She had even joined the radical underground in hope for change and constantly thought about this.
In 1975, things took a drastic turn when she made up her mind to do something “revolutionary.” She decided that violence as a medium to incite change was necessary and thus, decided to kill the president.
On September 22, 1975, she decided to take action. Moore first posed as a bystander in the crowd and later aimed a gun at the president just as he was walking out of St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. When she fired the gun, the bullet whizzed past Ford’s head and narrowly missed killing him.
After missing on the first attempt, Moore raised her arm for the second time but her attempt was thwarted by Oliver Sipple, a former marine, who dived and grabbed her arm. However, the bullet went off and hit a taxi driver, John Ludwig, who survived.
When the police got to her, the records indicated that she had previously been picked up on an illegal handgun charge a day before the incident. However, she was released. After the incident, her gun and ammunition were confiscated.
When asked about her motives, Moore stated that she had hoped to trigger a revolution with this event.
The shocking news of an ordinary housewife attempting to kill the president took the media by storm. Many tried to pin her as a radical terrorist, but psychiatrists and behavioral therapists concluded that her behavior was indicative of her need for attention.
All her psychological examinations proved her fit and sane to stand a trial. Moore pleaded guilty at the trial, and she was sentenced to life in prison in 1976. At the time of her sentencing, she stated that she was both sorry and not sorry and her reaction was an expression of her anger.
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In 1979, four years into her trial, she escaped from Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia by climbing up the barbed fence. However, she was captured later.
Upon her capture, she was transferred to another facility and was shifted to the federal women’s prison in Dublin, California. In prison, Moore worked as the Lead Inmate Operating Accountant. Despite being eligible, she was repeatedly denied parole for many years.
On 31 December 2007, she was released on parole after serving thirty-two years of her sentence. Moore was 77 years old at this point and had expressed her regret about the attempted assassination. She added that she was glad that she did not succeed.
Life After Parole
In 2009, the American journalist Geri Spieler published the book ‘Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford’, which chronicled the life of Sara Moore. Spieler had corresponded with Moore for around 30 years when Moore was imprisoned.
She was also seen on the ‘Today’ program on NBC in May 2009, where she discussed her life and tribulations in prison. Later in 2017, she appeared in the radio program titled ‘Oliver Sipple’ on Radiolab.
Today, she continues to give interviews to many and has expressed regret over her behavior. Moore has stated that she no longer believes that violence is necessary to achieve something.
Family & Personal Life
Sara Jane Moore’s early past hasn’t been explored in detail. It is, however, known that she was married thrice and was already a mother of five children before she came to settle in Danville. She called herself “Sally.” She previously lived and worked in Arizona and southern California.
In 1967, she met Willard Carmel at a social gathering in Walnut Creek. Carmel was a doctor at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center and was recently divorced. Moore wanted to settle down and the duo decided to marry soon.
She moved in with Carmel along with her son, Frederic, from a previous marriage. However, things ended badly with Carmel and within four years of their marriage, she filed for a divorce. Carmel decided to counter-file and the court granted Carmel an annulment in 1972.
After a protracted legal battle, Moore finally moved out and ended up in San Francisco’s Mission District in June 1974. It was during her time here that she was deeply influenced by the radicals and became a member of the leftist groups, which led her to decide that violence was necessary to bring about change.
Since her release in 2007, Moore has been leading a quiet life and has decided to stay off the radar. In one of her interviews, she mentioned that she wants to write a book about her life.
Moore is one of the only two women who have attempted to assassinate an American president. Lynette Fromme, the other woman, had also attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford seventeen days prior to Moore’s attempt.