‘Onion Field’ Killer Jimmy Smith Arrested in Assault : Crime: The parolee is accused of threatening a man with a knife. He served 19 years for his role in the 1963 slaying of Officer Ian Campbell.


Paroled “Onion Field” police killer Jimmy Lee Smith was arrested in Van Nuys after he allegedly threatened a man with a butcher knife, Los Angeles police said Wednesday.

Smith, 59, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, two weeks after a man complained that Smith had threatened him, Lt. Warren Knowles said. Smith, who police said was under the influence of heroin at the time of his arrest, was held without bail because the arrest violates conditions of his parole.

It was the latest in a series of arrests for Smith since he was paroled in February, 1982, after serving 19 years in prison for his role in the March, 1963, slaying of Los Angeles Police Officer Ian Campbell.

Campbell and his partner, Officer Karl Hettinger, were abducted in Hollywood by Smith and Gregory Powell and driven to an onion field south of Bakersfield. Powell killed Campbell and shot at Hettinger, who escaped in the darkness. The crime and ensuing trial were recounted in Joseph Wambaugh’s best-selling 1973 novel “The Onion Field,” which was made into a movie.


Since his parole eight years ago, Smith has been arrested five times, three times on drug charges. He was convicted of selling heroin in 1984, and he was returned to prison three times, for periods ranging from six months to a year, for violating his parole.

Police said the latest arrest followed a dispute between Smith and his former roommate, Marcia Peltier, 49, of Van Nuys, who had ordered him to move out of her apartment in early April.

Knowles said that on April 17 Peltier found all four of the tires on her car flat and later confronted Smith, who threatened her. The following day, when Peltier approached the car with a friend, Dana Ruvolo, 37, of Van Nuys, they saw Smith standing next to it, Knowles said.

“They challenged him on what he was doing there,” Knowles said. “He pulled a rather large butcher knife from his waistband and lunged at Ruvolo.”

Ruvolo picked up a brick to defend himself. Smith backed off and fled, Knowles said. A police report was taken on the incident and Powell was arrested Tuesday when patrol officers who knew him from previous encounters saw him on Zombar Avenue near Saticoy Street.

Powell and Smith were twice sentenced to death for the police killing, but the sentences were reduced to life in prison when the state Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Powell is still serving a life sentence.