The Washington Post
July 15, 1975
Tullers Chose to Risk Jail Rather Than Live in Cuba
By Ron Shaffer and Athelia Knight
Washington Post Staff Writers
Bryce Matthew Tuller, sought for three murders and
for hijacking an airliner to Cuba in 1972, returned voluntarily to this
country last month because he, his father and brother found that life under
the Castro government "was a living hell,' an Arlington County police detective
Along with his father, Charles, and a brother, Jonathan,
Bryce Tuller was kept in solitary confinement for months in Cuba, received
no clothing and little to eat, and spent their nearly three years confined
to a life of boredom and labor in sugar cane fields, Det. Ernie Light quoted
Bryce Tuller as telling him in a long conversation over the weekend.
"They had wanted to leave Cuba from the first day
they got there," Bryce Tuller reportedly told Light.
They were forbidden by the Castro government to
leave until last June 20, when Cuban authorities suddenly told them to
gather their few belongings. The Tullers were given $1,400 in cash,
the real and false identification papers they had brought with them to
Cuba, and plane tickets to Jamaica, Light said Bryce told him.
Although they face the prospect of a lifetime in
prison, the Tullers came back to the United States "because nothing in
this country can be as bad as what we went through in Cuba," Light said
Bryce told him during a car ride Saturday from North Carolina to the Arlington
The Tullers re-entered the United States on June
21, according to the FBI. Charles Tuller, now 51, and Jonathan Tuller,
20, surrendered to federal authorities in Washington last week after Bryce,
22, had been arrested and charged with attempted armed robbery in Fayetteville,
N.C. He volunteered to return to Arlington.
In his first court appearance yesterday, Bryce Tuller,
wearing what he said were the same clothes he wore during his flight to
Cuba, told Arlington Circuit Court Judge Charles S. Russell that "I plan
to enter a plea of guilty," to the Arlington charges against him.
He also said that he did not want a lawyer to represent
Russell, who advised Tuller of his legal rights,
said he would "still need considerable counseling," and set a hearing for
Thursday to consider bond and Tuller's request to be without counsel.
Charles and Jonathan Tuller are being held on $10
million bond each, and are being held in the custody of U.S. marshals at
an undisclosed location in Maryland pending an extradition hearing in D.C.
Superior Court on Aug. 6.
All three Tullers have been indicted by an Arlington
circuit court grand jury for the murder of Arlington policeman Israel P.
Gonzalez and bank manager Harry J. Candee during the aborted Oct. 25, 1972,
robbery of the Arlington' Trust Company's Crystal Mall branch.
The Tullers also are charged with the attempted
murder of Gladys Willier, a bank employee who was wounded during the attempted
holdup, and with attempted armed robbery. They are also sought by
Texas authorities for the murder of an Eastern Airlines ticket agent and
the hijacking of a Boeing 727 airliner to Havana four days after the Arlington
It was during the hijacked flight that Charles Tuller,
a self-styled, white, middle-class revolutionary, harangued passengers
that Cuba was "the only place that a person could enjoy the benefits of
What the Tullers found in Cuba was "unbelievable,
beyond anything they had imagined," Light quoted Bryce Tuller as
When the stay in Cuba was over, Bryce Tuller, once
described by faculty members at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria
as a radical and strident activist for student rights, had become "totally
anti-Communist," Light said.
"He said he never understood the system in the first
place, but now he does," Light said.
When they arrived in Cuba, authorities were most,
concerned with stripping the Tullers of weapons, Light said Bryce recalled.
There followed three months in solitary confinement in conditions so dismal
some other prisoners were forced to eat rats.
After their release from solitary confinement, they
were given rooms at a rundown hotel, without running water, and were given
"credit cards" for the purchase of rice and fish, which was the staple
of their diet, Light said Tuller recalled.
"He said they were literally starving to death,"
Light said. During their court appearances, the Tullers have appeared
drawn and underweight.
Bryce Tuller, Light said, reported that the Cubans
work 16 hours a day, that there are block captains, or informers everywhere
to report or allege anti-Castro activity, and that there were nightly firing
squad executions in a Havana courtyard.
"Everyone in Cuba is a prisoner," Light said Tuller
told him. "He said he saw suicides, people jumping out of windows
and going splat on the street in front of him, and police standing by and
leaving the bodies there for 10 or 12 hours."
The Cuban people were suspicious and afraid of the
Americans, Light said Bryce Tuller told him, and most of the time the Tullers
"just sat, doing absolutely nothing." On a few occasions, the Tullers
"were requested" by Cuban authorities to cut sugar cane and they complied,
Light said Bryce Tuller told him.
Charles Tuller had a heart attack during his stay
in Cuba, Bryce reported, and because the three men were given no clothes,
Jonathan caught pneumonia.
The Tullers' trip to Cuba "was not a planned thing,"
Light quoted Bryce Tuller as saying. "They did not commit the crime
with the intention of going to Cuba; they went there as a last resort,"
Light said. "Bryce said once they were there they wanted to move
on to parts unknown."
Bryce Tuller's description of life in Cuba contrasts
sharply with that of William White Graham, an alleged accomplice of the
Tullers in the bank robbery and hijacking. Graham, in a telephone
interview with The Washington Post from his Havana hotel room in January,
said he had room service, had enrolled in college, and was free to go swimming
and to the beach on the weekend.
During the long trip from North Carolina to Arlington
and during their lengthy conversation, Light said, Bryce Tuller showed
no emotion. "He was just like an average guy," Light said.