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Registered: 07/26/04
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Altamont 'cold case' is being closed
    #4220734 - 05/26/05 12:54 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

Altamont 'cold case' is being closed
Theory of second stabber debunked by Sheriff's Dept.

May 26, 2005 - sfgate.com

More than three decades after the killing brought a dark cloud over the 1960s free-love era, Alameda County sheriff's investigators have shot down a theory that a second Hells Angel took part in the fatal stabbing of a Berkeley man that ended the Rolling Stones' infamous concert at the Altamont Speedway.

Meredith Hunter, 18, described by friends as a flashy dresser with a big Afro, was swarmed by members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club on Dec. 6, 1969, as the Stones performed "Under My Thumb" after arriving late to the windswept pastures off Interstate 580.

Alan Passaro, a then-21-year-old Hells Angel hired as a security guard for the free event, was arrested and tried in the slaying, but a jury found him not guilty of first-degree murder in January 1971. The panel concluded that Passaro acted in self-defense because Hunter was carrying a gun in the front row.

The front-row melee was caught on tape as part of the movie "Gimme Shelter," named after the ill-fated concert that was billed as "Woodstock of the West" and drew about 300,000 fans.

After carefully reviewing footage from the disastrous event in the past year, sheriff's investigators debunked a theory that a second Hells Angel stabbed Hunter several times after Passaro did so twice.

Passaro, who whooped "Yeeoww!" when his not-guilty verdict was read in the Alameda County courtroom, drowned in 1985. Sgt. Scott Dudek said he spoke with Passaro's attorney and both agreed that "there never was a second stabber," the sergeant said.

"I'm not reopening the case unless credible new information comes forward that we can actually verify and leads us to a different pathway," Dudek said Wednesday.

Dudek said he is closing case number 69-SO2262, decades after an event in which one man high on LSD drowned in a nearby canal and two others were crushed by a runaway car. Some 30 people were injured.

"What I remember hearing was that Altamont Pass had this huge crowd of people and law enforcement had a lot of problems out there, culminating in this homicide," sheriff's Lt. Dale Amaral said Wednesday; at the time, Amaral was a Newark police officer.

When Dudek took over the crimes against persons unit in 2003, he began reviewing "cold cases" -- unsolved crimes -- and realized that despite Passaro's aquittal, the case was never closed because of the "second stabber" theory.

Hunter's relatives said Wednesday that they had always held out hope that someone would be convicted in the case.

"I'm hoping to see justice," said Hunter's sister, Dixie Ward, 63, of Oakland. "I'm hoping that people will be held accountable. The problem is the wounds that have been reopened are still devastating to the family."

Hunter's mother, Altha Anderson, 80, of Berkeley, said, "It's just something that just goes on in your mind. You just never forget it."

An autopsy showed that Hunter was high on methamphetamine when he died, and there had been talk that the Hells Angels -- hired as stage guards in exchange for $500 in beer -- thought he was a threat to the band because he had a gun.

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