The Washington Post
July 8, 1975
Father, Son Give Up in '72 Killings
By Alfred E. Lewis and Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writers
Charles A. Tuller, and his son, Jonathan, charged
with killing three persons in a bungled 1972 Arlington bank robbery and
subsequent hijacking of an airliner to Cuba, walked into the Washington
field office of the FBI yesterday and surrendered to surprised agents.
Tuller, 51, once a $26,000-a-year Commerce Department
executive, and his sons Jonathan, 20, and Bryce, 22, had returned to the
United States undetected last month through Jamaica, Nassau and Miami after
three days in Cuba.
The FBI said Bryce Tuller was captured July 3 during
an attempted robbery of a K-Mart store in Fayetteville, N.C., and was being
held in jail there under an assumed name, Bart Kelly.
FBI agents said that following the Fayetteville
robbery attempt, Charles and Jonathan Tuller had fled north to Alexandria,
where they used to live, checked into a motel, and then decided to give
themselves up out of concern for Bryce.
"You were in, and there's no sense of us staying
out any longer," the elder Tuller was quoted as telling his older son in
a telephone call from the main cell block of D.C. police headquarters to
the Fayetteville jail yesterday afternoon.
A source in the cell block said Tuller was allowed
to call his son in the Fayetteville Jail and they discussed why they had
returned to the United States after 32 months in Havana. "We're true
Americans and we love our country and that's why we came back," Tuller
was quoted as saying.
Tuller, the self-styled "white middle-class revolutionary"
and his two sons, once active in the radical student movement at Alexandria's
T.C. Williams High School, are scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate
at the U.S. District Court here today.
Law enforcement officials said they expect the three
will soon, be transferred to Arlington County to face charges for the murder
of Arlington policeman Israel P. Gonzalez and bank manager Harry J. Candee
during the aborted Oct. 25, 1972, robbery of Arlington Trust Company's
Crystal Mall branch.
The three Tullers and an accomplice, William White
Graham, 20, who apparently is still in Cuba, also are charged with the
murder of Eastern Airline ticket agent Stanley Hubbard. Hubbard tried
to stop the four men from hijacking a 727 trijet in Houston Oct 29 1972.
Additional charges for attempted bank robbery, air
piracy and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution are also outstanding against
Nick Starnes, special agent in charge of the FBI's
Washington field office, said the Tullers said "they were given money by
the Cuban government" to cover their airfare when they left Cuba June 20
for Jarnaica and thence to Nassau and Miami.
Stames said the Tullers did not have passports nor
did they need them to get back into the United States. Silas L. Jervis,.
spokesman for the immigration and naturalization service, said "frequently
we'll get word to be on lookout for someone," but that "in this case we
did not have a lookout for those people under the name Tuller."
The Tullers told the FBI they arrived in Miami on
June 21. It is not clear how they traveled from Florida to North
Carolina, but a pickup truck rented in Fayetteville was found by Arlington
police in a suburban Virginia motel with a shotgun inside, the FBI said.
Charles and Jonathan Tuller, neatly dressed and
seemingly calm, walked into the Old Post Office building at 12th Street
and Pennsylvania Avenue NW at exactly 1 p.m. yesterday and told a security
guard at the entrance they wanted to see an FBI agent.
They were directed to the 5th floor where they found
an agent and told him they were wanted for bank robbery and for shooting
a policeman in Arlington, said Joseph Dowling, an agent at the field office.
"Will wonders never cease," Dowling said.
"We were shocked, stunned."
Frank Lowie, assistant special agent in charge of
the Washington office, said, "I had just come back from lunch and someone
told me Charles Tuller and his son have just surrendered." Lowie,
who directed the search for the Tullers after the 1972 bank robbery, said,
"I took one look at them and said 'that's them, get an agent up here.'
I've never been so surprised at anything in my life."
Lowie said he had not been active on the case since
the Tullers fled to Cuba because "what can you do when Fidel's got them?
I'm just sorry we never got them before they got out of Houston."
Told of Bryce Tuller's whereabouts by Charles Tuller,
the FBI called Fayetteville to find the third Tuller was jailed under the
name Bart Kelly and held on $10,000 on charges of armed robbery.
The Tullers told the FBI all three participated
in the attempt to rob the K-Mart on the outskirts of Fayetteville, although
police there say only one man--whom they identified as Bryce--actually
entered the store.
Police said the man entered the store shortly after
noon July 3 and went to the manager's office, where he encountered assistant
manager Edward Andrews and a security guard.
The man displayed a sawed-off shot-gun under his
jacket and demanded money. He took Andrews' wallet plus $478 in cash
and then asked that the safe be opened.
When the guard distracted the gunman, Andrews seized
a stool leg lying on a table and hit the gunman over the head. Andrews
seized the shotgun barrel, thrust it under the gunman's chin and threatened
to pull the trigger. The gunman, who had $7 on him when later searched,
let go of the gun and was arrested.
According to police and the accomplice who remains
in Cuba, Charles Tuller and his sons Bryce and Jonathan planned for months
the 1972 Arlington bank robbery that resulted in three murders and the
armed takeover of one of the last U.S. jetliners ever hijacked to Cuba.
They organized the bank robbery to finance a revolutionary
commando organization in the United States. They went on camping
trips to practice with firearms. Bryce Tuller took training as a cable
splicer with the telephone company and then joined the Army to learn about
weapons, first aid and auto mechanics.
The story of their meticulous preparation was earlier
revealed to The Washington Post by a young friend of the Tullers who, frightened,
dropped out of the plans, and by William White Graham, who drove the getaway
car from the Arlington bank and helped the Tullers hijack the jet to Cuba.
Graham was interviewed by telephone from his hotel in Havana in January.
"It never entered their minds that anything would
go wrong," said the friend who dropped out of the scheme. "But they
said from the very start that if anyone in the bank didn't completely cooperate
with them, then that would be it, they would shoot them immediately."
The first sign of trouble at the Crystal Mall branch
of the Arlington Trust Co. that morning was when the phones went dead.
"It's a perfect time for a robbery," one customer told the assistant manager.
Aided by Bryce's telephone company training, the
two Tuller sons had dressed as telephone repairmen and climbed into a company
manhole 100 feet from the bank. They cut several combined telephone
and burglary alarm lines. The company truck and uniforms they used
had been stolen from a C&P garage in Alexandria.
While their father, dressed in a business suit,
posted himself in the bank lobby, Bryce and Jonathan walked into the bank
about 10:30 a.m. and asked to see manager Harry J. Candee. Candee
took them to a back room where they said the trouble was and there met
bank teller, Gladys Willier, who was taking a coffee break.
A customer, noting the phones were dead, saw Arlington
patrolman Israel P. Gonzalez, 27, out on the Crystal City Mall and summoned
him into the bank.
In the back room, the two Tuller sons told Candee
they intended to rob the bank. Reportedly, Candee made a sudden,
quick movement that led Jonathan Tuller to shoot him three times.
Mrs. Willier was wounded behind the right ear and fell down beside Candee.
The Tullers forced the assistant manager, who had entered the room, to
lie beside them and then they tried to leave the bank.
Gonzalez saw them and drew his pistol. Jonathan
Tuller, according to Graham, shot the policeman six times, while Gonzalez,
dying, wounded Bryce Tuller in both hands.
The killing of Gonzalez, Graham said in the January
telephone interview with a reporter, "was self defense...Revolutionaries
aren't murderers...If he was Cuban-born (Gonzalez was) and wearing the
midnight blue (policeman's uniform) and a badge and a gun, he was a gusano
(the Cuban term for counter-revolutionary worm)."
The Tullers dashed out a back door, and drove off
in a car, then switched soon to another car.
According to Graham and the FBI, the four men drove
for four days through the south, stopping at a friend of Charles Tuller's
in Epes, Ala., and reaching Houston the night of Oct. 28.
Their plan to hijack a jet did not form, Graham
said, until they reached Houston and found "a whole helluva lot of police
around," the result of the killing of a policeman outside a restaurant
there two days before.
"You can imagine the paranoia coming in and seeing
a whole lot of police activity," Graham said. "You know, police cars all
over the place and plain clothesmen all over the place."
But the four men drove to the airport, 'bought one
ticket on a flight scheduled to leave for Atlanta and Syracuse shortly
after midnight. When Charles Tuller tried to push past ticket agent
Stanley Hubbard, 34, and lead his young compatriots onto the Boeing 727
Jet. Hubbard grabbed his arm.
In an act Graham later would call "overkill," the
elder Tuller shot Hubbard several times and the four dashed on board the
airplane. At about 2 a.m. it took off with the crew and 13 passengers
held at gunpoint.
The plane refueled, in New Orleans. All four
men, including Bryce Tuller, whose hands were bandaged, held guns.
During the flight to Havana, Charles Tuller repeatedly
harangued the passengers over the loudspeaker system about the virtues
of Cuba. Is was "the only place that a person could enjoy the benefits
of freedom," the elder Tuller was quoted as saying. He described
himself to the passengers as a "white middle-class revolutionary."
According to Graham, the four men were taken into
custody by the Cuban authorities when they arrived. The jet-liner
was allowed to return to the United States with its remaining passengers.
Graham and Arlington police said the four men were
released from some form of Cuban detention--which Graham declined to describe--about
three months after their arrival. They found living quarters and
jobs in Havana, Graham said.
"I have completely broken with them (the Tullers),
Graham said in the January interview. "I don't see them. I don't
have anything to do with them. I don't want to be associated with
them." He would not elaborate, other than to say the elder Tuller
became mentally unbalanced and went into wild rages after arriving in Havana.
Charles Tuller's divorced wife, Edith, who declined
through a friend to be interviewed yesterday, has said her husband had
been seeing a psychiatrist for several years. A former business associate
has said Charles Tuller was deeply affected by the death 40 years ago of
his 4-year-old brother, killed when he ran into the path of a tractor trailer
in New Jersey. Tuller's father, the associate said, laid the responsibility
for the death on Charles, then 9, who was with his brother at the time.
William White Graham's mother said yesterday her
son, who six months ago was studying at the University of Havana, was now
working as the night foreman at a print shop in Cuba. She said he had not
explained in his letters his change of status, other than to say it was
involuntary. A woman with an American accent who answered the telephone
at Graham's hotel in Havana said he was at work.
A State Department spokesman said he had no idea
why the Tullers might have left Cuba at this time, although he pointed
out that other hijackers suddenly have left the island as relations between
Cuba and the United States have gradually improved in recent years.
Three individuals charged with hijacking were arrested
in San Juan a month ago after leaving Cuba via Barbados, according to the
State Department. The three, charged in two separate 1971 hijackings,
were said by the State Department to be the first alleged hijackers to
be sent home by Cuba since it signed an anti-hijacking agreement two years
Contributing to this story were Washington Post
staff writers Ron Shaffer, Martin Weil and Laura Kiernan.