The Washington Post
January 7, 1975
Hijacker, Wanted in Murder, Enjoys Cuba Life
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
A former Alexandria high school student who participated
in an Arlington bank robbery and subsequent airline hijacking, leaving
three people dead, says he has been going to college in Havana for more
than a year land living in a hotel with room service.
In a 78-minute telephone interview with The Washington
Post, William White Graham, now 20, said he has been studying at the University
of Havana since October, 1973, about a year after he arrived in Cuba on
a hijacked airliner from Houston.
Graham said he knew little of the fate of the other
three local men--former Commerce Department official Charles A. Tuller
and his sons, Bryce and Jonathan--who are accused with Graham in indictments
here of murdering a bank teller, an Arlington policeman and a Houston airline
ticket agent during the 1973 robbery and cross-country escape to Cuba.
Graham said Charles and Jonathan Tuller actually shot the three murder
"I have completely broken with them," said Graham,
speaking, he said, from the telephone in the hall outside his fifth-floor
hotel room. "I don't see them. I don't have anything to do
with them. I don't want to be associated with them. See, I
consider myself a kind of revolutionary and their actions have graphically
demonstrated that they are nothing of the kind. As a mater of fact,
they are quite the opposite."
Since Graham arrived in Havana he has worked on
a volunteer construction crew building an apartment house in the Havana
suburbs, and enrolled in college where he is studying languages and history
and is free to go swimming on weekends.
Arlington Police Lt. Walter L. Hughes said he had
been told that the three Tullers and Graham were released from some form
of Cuban detention about three months after their arrival and that the
Tullers were also living and working in Havana. Graham and the Tullers
have been in communication with their families in the United States by
telephone and letter, several of Graham's relatives said.
Charles Tuller's former wife, Edith, according to
one account, had spoken to her sons and said "the boys are doing fine."
There was no further word on Tuller, 51, once a $26,000-a-year federal
government executive, other than a report reaching Graham that he had been
hospitalized last year after a heart attack.
During the interview, Graham told how the group
fled after the abortive Arlington bank robbery Oct. 25, 1972, and--despite
brushes with police--drove 1,500 miles without detection to Houston where
they hijacked an Eastern Air Lines jet four days later.
The disclosures by Graham, his family and
the Arlington police are the first to be made about the fate of the four
skyjackers since The Cuban government said then that they had been
arrested and that their case was "under investigation." The jetliner
takeover by Graham and the Tullers on Oct. 29, 1972, was the second-to-last
successful hijacking from the United States to Cuba before the signing
of an antihijacking agreement between the two countries in February, 1973.
The last involved a Southern Airways jet and occurred two weeks later.
Since the agreement there has been only one known hijacking to Cuba, that
involving a small private plane forced from Tampa to Havana last month.
Although Cuba and the United States agreed, with
some exceptions to prosecute or extradite persons guilty of hijacking airplanes
or ships after the agreement was signed, the Cubans "made it clear they
were not in favor of retroactive agreement to return the people who were
already there," a U.S. State Department official said.
Graham said he missed his family and friends and
wanted to come back to the United States. But, he said, the only
way he could do that was "under a general amnesty, and that's impossible."
Graham said he had considered returning to the United
States under cover to become a revolutionary commando. He said he
and the Tullers had planned the bank robbery in the first place to finance
a revolutionary commando organization in the United States.
"I miss being in the struggle, physically," he said
of his life in Communist Cuba, "I miss being directly in the struggle."
Graham confirmed an earlier account by a young friend
of the Tullers that the group had planned the bank robbery for months,
going on camping trips to practice with firearms and sending Bryce Tuller
and Graham into the army to learn about weapons, first aid, and auto mechanics.
The bank to be robbed was the Crystal City branch
of the Arlington Trust Co. Slain in the botched attempted, which
was cut short before the robbers could grab any money, were bank manager
Harry J. (Bud) Candee, 33, and Officer Israel P. (Speedy) Gonzalez, 27.
The ticket agent shot to death in the Houston airport in the Oct. 29 hijacking
was Stanley Hubbard, 34.
Graham said he broke off with the Tullers in part
because of the killings of Candee and Hubbard, who were both unarmed.
"It was overkill," he said. "Revolutionaries aren't murderers."
But the shooting of Gonzalez, who managed to wound
Bryce Tuller in both hands before he died, "was self defense," Graham said.
"All revolutionaries would accept that...All militants have formed the
clear conception of who the enemy is and against whom they must use their
Although Gonzalez' wife appealed to both the United
Nations Cuban delegation and Cuban Premier Fidel Castro for action against
the killers of her Cuban-born husband, Graham said Cuban officials never
mentioned Gonzalez' nationality to them.
"I thought he was a Chicano," Graham said.
"If he was Cuban-born and wearing the midnight blue policeman's uniform
and a badge and a gun, he was a gusano." (Gusano is the Cuban term
for counter-revolutionary worm.)
Graham said he had also broken with the Tullers
because he concluded after the hijacking that Charles Tuller, who had been
under psychiatric care for several years, was mentally imbalanced.
"He went into wild rages" after arriving in Havana, Graham said.
"He never showed this before."
Graham's relatives said he has indicated he and
the Tullers were closely supervised and questioned intensely for the first
three months of their stay in Cuba. Graham, however, declined to
say anything about his first few months in Cuba other than that he was
at an "improcessing" center.
He declined to say whether he or the Tullers had
been in jail or prison. He said Bryce Tuller, now 21, was rushed
to a hospital when they arrived for treatment of his wounds.
After three months, Graham said he went to work
in a voluntary "microbrigade," a construction crew of 30 to 40 men building
an apartment house in the Havana suburbs. After the building was
completed, he enrolled at the University of Havana to study Spanish.
This week, Graham said, the university was in the
midst of exams. He was preparing for tests in Spanish grammar, Spanish
literature, Latin, Cuban history and Spanish history.
During less busy times, Graham said, he is free
to go to the beaches east and west of Havana or swim in the university
pool. The only restriction on foreigners that he mentioned was prohibition
on service in the Cuban military.
Graham's relatives said later he and other foreigners
cannot buy clothes in ordinary Cuban shops and must go to special diplomatic
commissaries or have relatives send clothing.
The Post telephoned Graham Sunday afternoon, using
a number provided by his father who now lives in New Brighton, Minn.
After a two-hour wait while an international operator placed the call,
Graham answered and agreed to be interviewed and answer personal questions
that established his identify.
State Department and FBI spokesmen said they could
provide no specific information on the whereabouts and activities of Graham
and the Tullers.
One State Department official said it was unusual
to hear of an American hijacker at Havana University, but Graham said he
had met others.