It was a touching, tragic epilogue to that afternoon in Los Angeles when she and five Symbionese Liberation Army comrades died in the flaming bungalow to which police had laid siege: Camilla Hall had come home to ironically-named St. Peter, Minn., to be laid to rest in a small country graveyard. Behind a cortege of white-robed Lutheran ministers, some 150 friends and relatives walked up a gentle slope to the graveside near the town where she had lived as a girl. There in the dappled light, with sheep barely audible in the neighboring pastures, they sang the hymns of Camilla Hall’s childhood. Then her father, the Rev. George Hall, a Lutheran minister himself, knelt on a brown velvet pillow and carefully placed the small brass box containing his daughter’s ashes in the rich Minnesota soil. His wife Lorena, planted a single pink geranium on the grave of their last child to die.
For the misfortune-plagued Halls, who had postponed their daughter’s burial until the din of SLA publicity had subsided, it was a heartbreaking return to that hillside. Their first-born son, Terry, died of a congenital heart ailment at the age of 6 and was buried therein 1948. His brother Peter followed three years later, struck down by the same congenital kidney disease that killed his younger sister Nan in 1962. Now living in Chicago, where Dr. Hall is pastor of a church in suburban Lincolnwood, the Halls express no bitterness over Camilla’s violent death, but acknowledge their special burden of pain. “It was very, very hard to come back to St. Peter this time,” said Dr. Hall, looking down on Camilla’s freshly sealed grave. “But it’s lovely out here and so peaceful. I’m very glad we came.” Nearby stand two newly placed headstones, reserved for Dr. Hall and his wife.
If the Halls feel any rancor toward anyone involved in the SLA shootout, it is because the FBI has withheld a letter to her mother found under Camilla’s charred body. Although parts of the letter were read to them over the phone, including a birthday greeting to Mrs. Hall, they have never been allowed to see it. Mysteriously, the Halls also speak of a second letter from Camilla, addressed to the Los Angeles Public Defender’s office. Both believe it indicates their daughter did not intend to fight to the death. “We feel she and Nancy (Ling Perry) were trying to break free and give themselves up,” says Mrs. Hall. Although her husband is reassured by a recent report that Los Angeles police are reconsidering their own shootout tactics, he is still struck by the futility of “simply gunning [the SLA members] down.” “It’s really tragic,” he says. “They could be living today. They could be answering our questions.”