TRUE CRIME: The Very Strange Story of Sqeaky Fromme
How did an ordinary Southern California girl grow up to earn a footnote in history as the first female to attempt to assassinate a U.S. president? To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, it was a long, strange trip.
(Lynette) Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Lynette Alice Fromme was born in Santa Monica, California, to a homemaker and her aeronautical engineer husband. As a youngster, Lyn showed an aptitude for dance and was accepted into the Westchester Lariats, a prestigious dance company that toured and occasionally performed on The Lawrence Welk Show. She was an A and B student in school, and she befriended the late Phil Hartman at Orville Wright Junior High School. Hartman would later describe Fromme as "very sweet, very shy."
But what her classmates didn't know was that Lyn's home life was turbulent.
Her father was verbally and physically abusive to her and her mother. Fromme eventually had to quit dancing because her father wouldn't allow her mother to drive her to class. Fromme started "cutting" herself before the term became an actual medical diagnosis; she'd burn her arms with cigarettes and drive staples into them at precise three-inch intervals. Fromme eventually left home and encountered a drifter at Venice Beach in 1967 who seemed to understand her torment. "You hate your father, don't you?" the stranger named Charles Manson asked her. Immediately enchanted, Lyn accepted Charlie's invitation to travel north with him and Mary Brunner, another girl he'd picked up.
Charles in Charge
The beginnings of Charles Manson's notorious "Family" were in place, and as more miscreants joined the group, Lynette remained Charlie's number one girl. When the gang moved onto the 500 acre Spahn Ranch in Chatsworth, California, Charlie assigned Lyn to be George Spahn's companion, so that the Family could live there rent-free. George was in his 80s and almost blind, but he fell victim to this nubile teen who not only took care of his household, but also tended to his other "needs."
How Ford Almost Got Assassinated
Once Manson and several other Family members were arrested for the Tate/LaBianca murders, Squeaky became the de facto head of the Family. She kept a vigil on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse during the trial and told reporters simply "I'm waiting for my father." In the aftermath of Helter Skelter, several Family members reported to prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi "Of all the girls in the Family, Squeaky loved Charlie best." After a few years on Death Row, Manson suddenly adopted a pro-environment platform, and Lyn was there to support him. She became an environmental activist and somehow determined that President Gerald Ford was evil because of an off-hand joking statement he'd made in a speech about the number of trees that had been destroyed to print the latest round of government regulations. On September 5, 1975, Ford addressed a group at a breakfast meeting in Sacramento, California, and then proceeded to walk the block from his hotel to the state capitol to meet with Governor Jerry Brown. The sidewalks along the way were crowded with people, and one of those "admirers" suddenly raised a hand holding a gun. A bystander grabbed her wrist seconds before a Secret Service agent wrestled the gun from Squeaky's hand.
Sandbagging Her Case
Fromme might have escaped the resulting trial with lesser charges, since it was determined that her antique .45 didn't have any bullets in the firing chamber when she'd aimed it at the president. However, her behavior in court did nothing to advance her case"¦she refused to testify on her own behalf and she hurled an apple at U.S. Attorney Dwayne Keyes' head during the proceedings, nailing him right between the eyes. Lyn was eventually sentenced to life in prison. She is still in love with Charlie and managed to escape from a federal prison once in an effort to be with him.